The Writer's Corner
musical ramblings during the beginning of this story. I could
not satisfy my writing muse until I wrote as directed, I kept
seeing the expansive scenery from Quigley Down Under as I
was writing. The timeframe for this story would be between
seasons four and five.
Leagues from Home
Three riders doggedly pushed the cattle; two continually riding
their mounts from the one side of the small herd to the back,
before returning to the side where they started. Intently
watching the lead cows and the trailing cattle, taking their cue
from the moving animals to know where they were needed. The
riders moved the small herd of thirty white-faced Hereford
cattle; pushing them towards the lush grasslands closer to their
destination. The third rider tagged along as a make-shift drag
rider with the two packhorses laden with supplies.
Like a conductor in front of an orchestra; the two outriders had
an innate ability to know what needed done and when, all without
discussion. Each silently instructed their horse by pressing
their legs against its flanks, urging the horse on or allowing
them to slow up, turning the horse with a flick of the reins or
shifting their weight in the saddle.
The quiet a cappella bellows floated somewhat out of rhythm and
in contrast to the tempo of the shuffling hooves and swatting
tails. The unique melody was a harbinger of an unrehearsed
symphony, as though every section -- strings, woodwinds, brass,
or percussion -- muddled their way through their first read
without any attention to how their part affected the piece as a
whole. Occasionally, the cacophony of the herd was overpowered
by the tympani of hoof beats as one rider raced after a errant
cow attempting to make an escape, the cymbal crash came as the
rider hollered, “YEEAW!” and used the end of their lariat to
quirt the cow in an effort to turn them back to the herd.
Nature decided to add her own overture of which the riders
didn’t appreciate the direction her tune was flowing. The rain
started as if brushes flickering across the head of the cymbal,
but soon changed to a soft roll across a snare drum. The bellows
of the cattle continued, but the dusty shuffling changed to
sucking and plopping sounds as the rain fell; changing the dry,
hard ground into a sticky, muddy mess before they entered the
The only blessing the riders acknowledged was the cattle
bunching tighter together allowing the riders to slightly relax
in the saddle. Relaxing somewhat, each rider sat as best they
could to encourage the rain to run from the brim of their hat
onto their rain poncho--if they held their head just right. If
not, the rain ran down their neck and under their collar. From
their knees down, their pants were soaked through, as were their
gloves and boots.
Having talked with fellow rancher Oat Jackford, Lucas McCain
knew that within the hour he, his fourteen year old son, Mark,
and the drifter, Aaron Provo, he’d hired to handle the
packhorses, should come to the opening of a canyon where they
could settle the herd for the night. A bonus to this location
was a cave large enough for the horses and riders to bed down
and get out of the weather. Looking to his son on the far
right-hand side of the herd, Lucas acknowledge his son’s glance,
held up his left index finger, indicating one, followed by a
circle, indicating an hour. The youth’s discouragement showed
when he hunched his shoulders and lowered his head; quickly he
sat straight in the saddle as the rain poured down his neck,
causing him to shiver. Forcing a smile to his face, Mark McCain
nodded to his father.
Looking further back, Lucas noticed the uncomfortable way Aaron
sat in the saddle. Riding back, Lucas moved his horse beside the
“Aaron, we should be at the location where we plan to bed the
cattle down for the night, hopefully within an hour.”
“If you say so,” the man’s teeth chattered as he spoke.
“You’re doing a good job with the pack horses -- and Mark and I
appreciate your coming with us.”
“I need the money Mr. McCain.”
Two hours later the rain had surged as if a roll on a bass drum,
as thunder rumbled across the land painting a dull picture of
grey. Thankful the shower was not intense with lightning bolts
and crashing thunder, the riders settled the cattle just beyond
the canyon opening. The cattle busied themselves by enjoying the
lush grass, uncaring of the changing weather.
The tall rancher followed his slender son, and the drifter, as
they led the horses into the confines of the cave. Each tended
to their mount and the packhorses, stripping their gear and
rubbing them down, before they addressed their own needs. The
horses were hobbled before the riders walked over to the fire
pit used by previous tenants, Lucas set out to start their own
fire, Mark set out fixings for coffee and supper, while Aaron
set out their bedrolls.
The rain continued and night fell, casting a somber mood over
the landscape and the riders.
Relaxing back in his bedroll with a full stomach, Lucas opened
his eyes upon hearing, “I’ll flip you for early nighthawk, Pa,”
stated Mark. Lucas watched his son warm himself over the flames
dancing from the crackling wood.
“I don’t think we need to worry about riding nighthawk in the
canyon tonight son. That’s why Oat suggested we bed down here,”
answered Lucas as he sat up and poured a cup of coffee and
handed it to his son. “It’s got plenty of sugar,” he stated upon
seeing his son’s grimacing face. “You need to warm up on the
inside as well as the outside.”
Taking a sip of what he generally considered a bitter brew Mark
welcomed the warmth that spread through him. “Thanks, Pa.”
Lucas nodded; noticing that beyond his son, Aaron was already
asleep in his bedroll.
Lucas woke and estimated it was approaching midnight to find his
son’s bedroll empty. “Mark?” he called, sitting up, looking
“Over here, Pa,” Mark called from the opening of the cave.
Lucas climbed from his bedroll, picked up his rifle and walked
over to his son. “Something up with the herd?”
“Na, just couldn’t sleep. I know you said we didn’t need a
nighthawk because the cattle are in the canyon, just didn’t seem
natural to not keep an eye on them.”
“I understand. How about I take the next watch?”
“Sure Pa. You’ll wake me later? I don’t mind taking the next
watch. Doesn’t seem fair to ask Aaron since you said it wasn’t
“Okay, you go get some sleep.”
Lucas watched as Mark set his rifle down before he added more
wood to the fire. The glow of the fire flickered over Mark as he
settled down in his bedroll, turned on his side, and pulled the
cover over his shoulders.
“Would you believe this Margaret?” Lucas asked as he looked out
the cave opening and closed his eyes. “He’s growing up to be a
young man we can both be proud of. I so wish you were here to
see him, to help me raise him.”
The weary riders had been pushing cattle on the trail for six
days when Cloudcroft came into view; each one thinking of what
they would do once the cattle were delivered to the buyer,
fervently praying they wouldn’t have to push the herd on to the
Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation.
“Do you think the Indian Agent will have his own drovers to push
the cattle Mr. McCain?” Aaron Provo asked as Lucas McCain
settled his horse Razor at the back of the herd for a few
Lucas looked over at the haggard young man; he estimated the
man’s age at twenty-eight. Aaron stood just a little over six
feet, two inches tall; dark curly hair that fell to his collar,
with a brooding expression reflected in his dark eyes. Lucas
appreciated the way the man handled the two pack horses while
under saddle, but on the ground the man nervously moved around
them. The man’s limp was more pronounced around the horses than
when he was walking away from them.
“That’s what was written in the contract. We’re only responsible
for getting the cattle to the stockyard in Cloudcroft,” answered
Lucas. “But things can always change. It’s been over three weeks
since we received confirmation of the contract and we’ve been
out of touch while on the trail.”
“I just want a nice hot bath, a good meal, and to sleep in a
soft bed, as soon as possible,” Aaron replied.
“You’re not the only one!” Mark called as he turned his horse
BlueBoy to return to the right flank of the herd.
From vague outlines on the horizon, the town of Cloudcroft took
shape. However, the riders didn’t have time to think about it as
all their attention focused on the cattle that had turned
“They sense some things up!” Lucas hollered as a cow attempted
to escape the left.
“I’ll get this one!” Mark called after a cow running off to the
By the time father and son returned with their quarries, another
cow here or there attempted to make good their escape. After so
much time on the trail, Razor and BlueBoy knew what was required
and reacted almost before their riders could ask.
In time, the cattle seem to consign themselves to their fate, or
they were just too tired to be contrary. With a vigilant eye,
the McCains watched their herd for any sign of trouble.
A moving blob appeared in the distance and as they neared
Cloudcroft they distinguished the figures of five riders on
horseback racing on an intercept course.
“Keep them steady Mark!” hollered Lucas above the increased
bellows of the cattle. “Tighten up on the lead cow!”
Lucas watched as Mark mirrored his movements, hoping to prevent
The riders from Cloudcroft slowed up and eventually stopped,
waiting for the drovers to push the cattle to them.
“Keep them moving!” called the sharply dressed man to the four
riders with him who started to move out to encircle the herd.
“PA?!” called Mark, hesitating to reach for the rifle in his
“It’s okay boy! I’m Nathan Ironwood. I’m the buyer you’re here
“Mr. Ironwood,” Lucas stated as he halted Razor and extended his
hand towards the man.
“Mr. McCain, you made great time.” Turning his attention away,
Ironwood called, “Pate, get after that one!” Watching the young
Apache race after and return the cow to the herd, Ironwood
addressed Lucas, “Sorry about that. I know they’re not mine
until I pay you for them, but thought you could use a hand
getting them into the stockyard.”
“I really appreciate it. My boy and I could use a little time to
relax in the saddle,” Lucas stated as he pulled his hat from his
head, pulled a handkerchief from his back pocket, and wiped his
“Quantra, get that one!” Ironwood shouted before speaking to
Lucas again. “If they’ve been this contrary the whole trip, I
“Haven’t caused us too much trouble until about a mile or so
back,” commented Lucas, returning his hat to his head.
“Well, let’s let the boy’s keep after the cattle while you and I
settle in to ride drag,” Ironwood suggested.
Lucas nodded his head in agreement.
Standing in his stirrups, Ironwood called out to the Apache
Indian standing on the gate as it swung closed behind the last
cow in the pen, “How many?” The man flashed both hands three
times indicating thirty. “Mr. McCain, seems you’ve held up your
end of the contract.” Distracted the Indian agent called out,
“Mondola, let the riders out one at a time, the McCain boy
Lucas watched as Mark and BlueBoy slowly made their way through
the milling cattle to the gate; he breathed a sigh of relief as
they exited the pen.
“We did it, Pa!” exclaimed Mark as he sidled up next to Lucas.
“We sure did, son,” Lucas answered.
“Yes, you did. Now, I must state that I’ve been somewhat lax in
my own duties,” Ironwood stated. “I still need to finish the
bill of sale and secure the bank draft for payment. I’m sorry,
but it will require that you spend the night at the hotel in
town. The bank is already closed for the day.”
“That might be a hardship,” Lucas answered, keeping the smile
off his face as he watched his son’s face brighten at the
mention of the hotel. “That means my boy, here, will have to get
“Ah, Pa! It’s not like I’m a little kid anymore. I’m really
looking forward to a bath, scrubbing this trail dirt off and
lying in a nice, soft bed,” Mark answered good-naturedly.
“And the hotel restaurant has a very good cook,” Ironwood
Turning his attention back to the Indian agent Lucas asked,
“What time and where should we meet you in the morning?”
“Say nine, thirty, at the bank? We can sign the contract there
and I can hand over the draft at the same time.”
“We’ll see you there.” Lucas reached out to shake the man’s
hand, and waited afterwards as the man reached out to shake
Mark’s hand, before they left the stockyard.
Riding to where Aaron Provo waited, Lucas asked him, “Well, what
are your plans now?”
“Well, I was supposed to meet my brother here…” Turning in the
saddle to look around, he sat back and faced Lucas, “But he
doesn’t appear to be here, yet.”
“Well, I can go ahead and pay you the ten dollars I promised you
for helping with the packhorses,” Lucas stated as he reached for
his saddlebag and pulled out his wallet.
“You don’t have to wait until the morning?” Aaron surprisingly
“No, I’ve the cash to pay you.” Lucas pulled the money from his
wallet and handed the cash to Aaron. “And here’s a little extra
for your supper tonight.”
“Thank you Mr. McCain, I really appreciate it!” Aaron answered
as he handed the packhorses’ lead ropes to Lucas.
“By Aaron,” Mark stated as the man rode away.
“Ready for that hot bath and supper, Mark?”
Smiling, Mark replied, “Sure am.”
Having signed his name in the hotel register, Lucas accepted the
key to the room from the desk clerk. As they walked up the
staircase to the second floor, Lucas stated, “You get your
clothes out of your saddlebags while I arrange for your bath.”
“Pa, I think I’m old enough to arrange my own bath,” Mark
“You have enough money to tip the concierge?”
“Tip the what?”
“The attendant, the man who’s going to fill the tub with hot
water and provide the towels…” Lucas answered, raising both
“Guess I’ll let you arrange my bath,” Mark answered, shaking his
head as he entered the hotel room in front of his father.
“Aaron!” yelled a cowboy over the crowd of noisy patrons in the
Golden Spur saloon. “Over here, Aaron!”
Aaron looked around the room until he found the man belonging to
the voice; standing beside a table in the back corner of the
room, motioning with his arm and hand over his head for Aaron to
make his way to him.
Taking evasive action to move around the rowdy crowd watching an
intense poker game, Aaron made his way towards the corner table.
“Trey, when’d you get here?” Aaron asked.
“Brother, we’ve been here since early this afternoon!” the man
Anyone watching would have guessed a family relationship between
the two men; Trey had the same brooding eyes as his younger
brother. It didn’t matter that the man stood slightly taller and
his build a little heavier, what drew the people’s attention was
the way in which he carried himself… some would say arrogant,
others would infer his intentions were cold and calculated.
“Join the gang, Aaron,” Trey encouraged as he ordered one of the
men around the table to get his brother a chair. After
introducing his brother to his friends, he yelled to the barkeep
to bring another round to the table.
The Golden Spur saloon barkeep was a portly man of middle-aged
years, hair fringed around his balding head. The stained apron
he wore was a testament to the long hours spent serving the
multitude of cowboys and the likes who entered the
establishment. Bearing a tray with six mugs of beer, the man
held it high above the crowd while he made his way to the table.
After setting the mugs on the table, the man picked up the coins
proffered and slipped them into his pocket before returning to
Looking around the room, Aaron asked, “You fellas pissed off
them saloon gals already?” saddened that none of the skimpily
dressed women came with their drinks.
“Ain’t none you’d be interested in, too much paint trying to
hide their ages,” the man earlier introduced as Deuce Hollendar
stated as he took a heavy draught and wiped his mouth with the
back of his hand.
If possible, Deuce Hollendar was even of slighter build than
Aaron Provo, however, he didn’t have the height. Sandy
blonde-haired, with a bristled mustached sitting below his sharp
nose and cheeks; his ruddy complexion spoke of years spent
outside in harsher environment. The cut of his clothes and
demeanor indicate he might have once served in the army.
“You want women, you go to Miss Matilda’s,” teased Abe Moffett.
Standing somewhere in height between Aaron and Trey, Abe weighed
almost half again as much Aaron, his arms muscles bulging under
the sleeves of his shirt. The man’s hair was dark and he wore a
mustache, with a full beard that hung just below his Adam’s
apple. Moffett’s clothes indicated he too had spent years
outside of any city or town. Any casual observer might have
thought him to be a mountain main.
“Miss Matilda’s?” queried Aaron as he sat back and enjoyed his
“Miss Ma-til-da’s,” answered Zeke Hanson; all of twenty years
old and full of his own good looks. Strawberry blonde hair, baby
smooth cheeks, and a well-muscled chest that was just as smooth
was visible through the opened top three buttons of his shirt.
As the youth spoke, his hands outlined Miss Matilda’s voluptuous
body. “And she’s got girls, all shapes and all colors. Take yer
Hearing a throated growl, Aaron noticed the final man in the
group, Silas Waiscott; a former slave, with the darkest color
skin that Aaron had ever seen. The man’s hair was shaved close
to his skull and he wore the faded remains of a blue-coat
uniform, pants and jacket. While watching the quiet man, Aaron
decided he never wanted to be alone or on the wrong side of the
man whose eyes appeared to pierce right through Zeke. Aaron
Having satisfied more of his thirst, Trey asked, “What kept ya?
I thought you’d a been here before now.”
“Made some money on my way over from North Fork,” Aaron answered
as he drank and other long pull of beer.
“That some cattle baron we seen ya ride in with?” Zeke asked,
letting out a belch without offering an apology.
“Na, just some sodbuster got a contract with an Indian agent to
provide cattle for that Indian reservation.”
“Can’t see you as no drover, especially for a sodbuster,” Trey
glared. “You can do better than that.”
“I know I can brother, but money is money, and I needed money to
get here,” Aaron answered. “Sides, all I did was haul along the
pack horses. Got paid ten dollars for less than a week’s worth a
work, and he gave me two dollars more for supper tonight. Made
better wages than most ranch hands and didn’t have to really do
anything but ride along. And he paid for the provisions, so it
didn’t cost me one plug nickel to get here.”
“Ya hungry boy?” Trey asked.
“I got two bucks for a steak supper, you bet I’m hungry,” Aaron
Curtly shifting his head toward the double-winged doors, Trey
stood from the table and led the group out of the Golden Spur
Knocking on the door to the room housing the bathtub, Lucas
called, “Mark, you done in there?” Not receiving a response,
Lucas knocked louder and called his son’s name again, only to
have the door opened by the attendant.
“I’m sorry Mr. McCain, I was adding water to the lad’s tub, he
was quite…” looking sheepishly embarrassed, the man stated, “he
was in dire need of a bath. The physician here in town…”
Interrupting, Lucas pushed the door open, “What happened to my
son?” demanded Lucas.
“PA!” exclaimed Mark, pushing the washcloth into the water in
order to cover himself.
“Mark, are you okay?” Lucas asked as he stepped around the
“Pa, please…” begged Mark.
“The attendant stated the doctor,” explained Lucas.
“Mr. McCain, I’m sorry if my word indicated something that
wasn’t… what I was trying to say was, our physician is dedicated
to seeing people, especially children, bathe more than just on
With an indignant tone, Lucas replied, “We do bathe on more than
just Saturdays.” Seeing the man’s eyebrows arch in disbelief,
Lucas explained, “Sir, we’ve been on the trail, pushing a herd
of cattle for six days; so please forgive our lack of
Wanting to help defend his Pa, Mark stated, “Yeah, we bathe on
more than just Saturdays, because today is Friday.”
Refraining from grinning, Lucas turned to his son, “Mark when
you’re through with your Friday bath, get on back to our room.”
“Yes, Pa,” answered Mark, his visible cheeks tinged red.
“After I’ve had my bath, we’ll go to eat supper in the
Being reminded of how hungry he was, Mark vigorously began
scrubbing himself clean and washing his hair. Ten minutes later,
the boy returned to their hotel room, plopped himself down on
the bed while watching his pa grab his toiletry kit from his
“You stay in this room until I return,” Lucas admonished.
Entering the restaurant with his hand on his son’s shoulder and
his Winchester in the other, Lucas followed the waiter to their
“Pa, ain’t that Aaron over there? Can I go say hi?” Mark asked
as he pointed to another table on the opposite side of the room.
“Mark, he’s with his friends. I’m thankful that he was able to
help us, but we don’t really know him.”
“Sorry, Pa,” Mark answered dejectedly.
At the table on the opposite side of the room, Trey Provo looked
up at the tall man walking across the floor with a young boy
“Hey Aaron, ain’t that your sodbuster?” Trey asked.
All eyes at the table turned to watch the father and son take
“Yeah, that’s Lucas McCain and his son Mark,” answered Aaron.
Deuce Hollendar gagged on his drink upon hearing the names,
“McCain? You rode here with Lucas McCain?”
“Yeah, so what?” Aaron inquired.
“Did you see his rifle?” asked Zeke Hanson. “That’s it, ain’t
it? He always got it with him.”
“Brother, you didn’t say you rode with Lucas McCain,” spat Trey.
“What’s it to ya? He’s just a sodbuster with cattle,” Aaron
All merriment went out of Abe Moffett’s voice when he answered,
“Lucas McCain ain’t just a sodbuster with cattle. You really
don’t know who he is?”
“No. I told ya, he needed help getting cattle here and was
willing to pay for my time,” Aaron answered, his face searching
the others for understanding.
“Brother, Lucas McCain is The Rifleman… That there rifle? He’s
faster with it than most men are with a six shooter.”
“Not me,” came the bass voice of Silas Waiscott whose eyes
narrowed while watching Lucas McCain leaned his rifle against
the table, between his son and himself, before setting his hat
on the far side of the table. “Ain’t no body faster than me.”
Aaron listened as his brother’s friends began to tell the tales
they had heard of Lucas McCain, The Rifleman, and his rifle. In
rapt attention, Aaron couldn’t believe he’d ridden all that time
with the man and had not known who his employer was. As time
passed, something began to niggle in his mind as the tone of the
conversation changed. Not really knowing the others, but hearing
his brother laugh, Aaron relaxed back to finish enjoying his
supper and chalked his feeling up to the men’s warped sense of
The restaurant unnaturally quieted as Lucas McCain stood,
collected his hat, his rifle, and his son. Heads titled forward
to keep voices from spreading beyond the tables in which they
“Let’s go son,” Lucas stated as he placed his hand to Mark’s
back to encourage him to walk on.
“Pa? Those people… Why’d they get quiet all of a sudden?”
“People talk son. Sometimes loud, sometimes quiet.”
“Mr. McCain!” called the waiter to get Lucas’ attention.
Lucas stopped and turned towards the hurried man who approached.
“I’m sorry to bother you, but the cook did want me to convey his
appreciation… It means a lot to Horace to have a man, such as
yourself, eat his cuisine,” blabbered the man.
The shake of Lucas McCain’s head was barely perceptible, but
Mark saw it and he realized now why the people had quieted. In a
way, he felt proud that these people knew his pa, but as he
looked around the room, he felt disquieted as the people
continued to stare and proceeded to whisper with their hands
trying to block their mouths from being seen. A brief shiver
fluttered through Mark’s spine when his eyes settled on Aaron
Provo and his new friends.
“Tell your cook, it was a good meal. Thank you,” Lucas stated as
he again placed his hand to Mark’s back and motioned his son to
Lucas and Mark McCain had long settled into their beds in the
hotel when six men approached Miss Matilda’s. The imposing
structure seemed out of place in Cloudcroft, Silas Waiscott
shuddered, took a deep breath and hesitated.
“C-Come on S-Silas,” a slightly inebriated Zeke called while
walking a twisting line to the establishment. “Ya ain’t gonna
let a little plantation stop ya from having,” belch “fun
Understanding the man’s reluctance to move forward, Deuce
Hollender stepped to his side, “Silas, your master…”
“I ain’t got no master,” the man stated through gritted teeth.
“Your former master is long dead. Don’t let this building get to
you. You’re not in the south, you’re in New Mexico Territory.
The war is long over… You’re a free man.”
“I’m a free man,” Silas’ deep bass voice repeated. Those four
words encouraged the man to stand taller and step forward.
“You might be a free man,” Abe Moffett began to tease, “But it’s
gonna cost ya tonight to be with one of these beauties.”
Upon entering the parlor, Aaron was awe struck, as Zeke had
proclaimed earlier, there were girls there of almost every shape
and every color. Aaron blushed at the girls who looked as if
they were just out of school and blushed even deeper at the
women who could show the greenest of men what it meant to be
with a woman. The curves that shown above the neckline of the
dresses and pushed out at their bodices left little to the
imagination, but his eyes drew to one with demure bearing.
“Don’t let her looks fool ya,” purred a voice coming up behind
Aaron. “She knows exactly how to please a man and take pleasure
in it. I don’t hire no children; every one of my gals is a
Addressing all the men, “I’m Miss Matilda, and welcome to my
humble establishment.” Calling and motioning over to the demure,
“This is Leila.” And she paired her off with Aaron.
Deuce’s eyes fell to a well-endowed, raven-haired woman who Miss
Matilda called, “Angeline.”
Abe Moffett eyed on a well-rounded woman, with sandy colored
hair; he felt his blood quicken as the woman approached after
Miss Matilda called, “Agnes.”
Miss Matilda called, “Veronica.” The blonde woman’s hips
sashayed, left and right, as she approached Zeke Hansen.
Standing in front of Zeke, she pulled his hat from atop his head
and ran her long fingers through his hair; all the while
pressing herself against him.
Silas Waiscott focused on the tall, light-coppery-skinned beauty
who entered the parlor. Though she wasn't as 'endowed' as the
others, her beauty countered any assets she lacked. Years back,
Silas remembered another beauty such as the one who stood before
him. He remembered their wedding night and how it was that
months later, she became 'well-endowed' as the life of their
child grew within her womb. He knew that just because a woman
wasn't shapely didn't mean she didn't know how to please a man.
Silas also remembered the night the Overseer came, telling him
the Master had sold his pregnant wife. Her cries echoed in his
head as he watched her being dragged from their quarters,
begging and pleading. The bite of the whip across his back was
nothing compared to the wrenching of his heart.
“Dominique, I believe this gentleman would like to meet your
acquaintance," Miss Matilda stated, and smiled.
After watching the five others head up the grand staircase, Trey
turned around as the voice behind him purred, “And that leaves
you, sir -- a bit if a mystery in your pleasures.” She trailed
the palm of her left hand along Trey’s broad back, walked around
the man, then trailed the tips of her fingers across his strong
Taking the woman’s hand in his, Trey lifted the woman’s hand to
his mouth and placed a light kiss upon the open palm, “Matilda,
ain’t no other woman can satisfy me like you can.”
“Don’t let Ted hear you saying that,” Matilda answered, turning
on her heels and leaving Trey standing alone. “He’s up here.”
At the top of the grand staircase, Matilda lead the way down a
hallway, the opposite direction all the others had taken. She
stopped outside a closed door and knocked, waiting for an
invitation to enter.
Trey followed Matilda through the doorway, revealing an opulent
office. A heavy mahogany desk stood in front of a wide window,
bookcases lined two of the four walls, in the midst of one of
the bookcases, stood a door marked, Private. Trey’s eyes
continued to take in the room, surprised at the rich carpet
spread across the floor, softening the sounds of the boots
walking across, he had previously noticed as they entered the
well-stocked bar off to his left.
Having spoken to the man sitting behind the desk, Matilda
returned to the bar, passing Trey she mouthed, “Later.”
“Trey Provo, long time no see,” spoke the man as he stood from
behind the desk, walked around it, and approached, hand held
“Cassidy,” Trey replied taking the man’s hand and shaking it as
politely as he could possibly get away with.
With an acceptable smile, Trey took a seat in front of the desk,
while Ted sat opposite him, and Matilda sat behind her desk.
Ted Cassidy. To Trey Provo, the man was an enigma, yet a man
whose style of dress shouted that he commanded respect. As for
respect, Trey’s respect was an act. He despised the man who
wouldn’t do his own dirty work, a man who acted more respectable
than he had a right to. Trey had seen this type of man before,
and eventually, those men crumbled into the loathsome living
they had tried to escape.
Paying less than full attention as the man babbled on, Trey
allowed his mind to wonder to ‘later’ behind that Private door.
Cassidy drew his attention to present when the subject matter
piqued his curiosity. The reason he and his gang were in
“Matilda says that you and your boys are perfect for the job,”
Cassidy stated after setting his glass of brandy down on the
front of the desk.
“Depends on the job, and our percentage of the cut, and the
risk,” Trey answered.
“Fifty thousand dollars, split seventy-five, twenty-five.”
Cassidy sat back in his chair and watched as Trey calculated the
“I suppose me and my boys won’t be getting the seventy-five?”
Trey hinted, raising his eyebrows.
“And why would you expect to receive that much? I think I’m
being plenty generous as it is,” Cassidy breathed.
“And if The Rifleman was thrown into the fray? How much more
would you be willing to pay to get him out of the way?”
“The rifleman? Why would Lucas McCain, a sodbuster interest me?”
asked Cassidy with an air of indifference.
“The fact that you know about a ‘sodbuster’, by name, just gave
you away. He’s here you know,” Trey sat back, pleasantly pleased
Cassidy looked to Matilda for confirmation.
“Ted, my girls have told me that some of ‘our guests’ are
talking about him being here, but he’s not been within these
“He’s always butting in where he doesn’t have any business… How
long’s he here for?” inquired Cassidy.
“I know for a fact he’s meeting that Indian agent at the bank,
at nine-thirty tomorrow morning.”
“This does change things,” Cassidy answered, a sly grin made its
way to his face.
Being the last to leave the parlor, Silas followed Dominique up
the stairs and down the hallway, past the closed doors and
hushed conversations. The sounds of boots dropping to the floor
and the creak of bedsprings gave hint to what the others were
doing. But within the room that was Dominique’s, events
progressed very differently.
Entering the room, Silas casually walked over to sit on the bed
as Dominique pointed. The room dimmed to a point that the flame
of the lantern was barely visible, as if being seen by someone a
far distance away, trying to get home.
Climbing upon the bed and sitting on her knees behind her
customer, Dominique waited while he unbuttoned his jacket and
shirt. She pulled the garments from his shoulders and inhaled
sharply upon seeing the scars borne on his back. Gently her
fingertips traced one of the deeper lines. Silas tensed and sat
“I’s a sorry… It bena long time…” Dominique offered as mixture
of an explanation or a question.
“It was a long time ago… Another life…” Silas answered, the
remorse sounded hauntingly in his deep bass voice.
“Don’ mean no disrespec’… Jus’ tha’ ya remin’ me so much a me
own past,” Dominique replied. “I cared fo’ ma husban’ times when
da Overseer say da Masta wanna pleased wi’ ‘is work.”
Dominique moved closer to the man and began to massage his
shoulders and back, to relax him before…
Dominique’s hands took Silas’ memories back to happier times,
times when he took his wife to their bed, times when he actually
enjoyed the pleasures of being with a woman. “Many times I
received the lash for the same reasons... Enola was a good
woman… tended to me.”
“Enola?” Dominique asked “She yer mammy?”
“No, my wife.” Silas’ eyes closed.
Climbing from the bed, Dominique hurried to the lantern on the
dresser, turning the wick bright.
“Your name!” she sharply demanded.
“It doesn’t matter.”
“If your name is Silas, it matters,” Dominique stated, falling
on her knees in front of the man who sat upon her bed. With her
hands on his knees she looked up at his face. “I beg you,
please… tell me your name.”
Silas looked into the face of the woman, saw the longing in her
eyes and heard the change in her speech.
“For the love of God… Has twenty years changed us so much that
neither of us recognize the other?!” Dominique demanded to know.
“Silas, please… has your heart hardened so much that you don’t…”
“Matilda said your name was Dominique,” replied Silas.
“But before… Before I was sold and taken from my husband, my
name was Enola.”
“It can’t be…” Silas stated in disbelief. “How? Why?” Silas
threw her hands away as he stood from the bed.
With tears in her eyes Dominique answered, “My new master… He
was proud to own me... Silas, he said I was exquisite and had to
have an exquisite name…”
“Our child… a daughter,” quieted Dominique.
“What of her?”
“My new Master… Hester was torn from my arms when she was six
months old, as I was torn from yours. I don’t’ know where she is
or if she’s even alive.”
“How did you end up… here?” Silas demanded to understand.
“After the war… A black woman, alone… In the south?” she didn’t
know how to express twenty years of heartache and hurt, and
doing what it took to survive. She also didn’t know how to tell
her husband the full truth of what happened during the ensuing
“You could have gone north,” Silas angrily retorted.
“You could have gone north!” Dominique countered back. “I do
what I have to do to live!”
“In a brothel?! Men pay for your favors!”
“You’re here! You paid for my favors! How dare you judge me?!”
“But when I first came in here, you talked… as…”
“Yes, I talked as an ignorant former slave…” interrupted
Dominique as she stood and threw her arms wide in exasperation
before letting them fall to her sides. “Men don’t want
intelligent conversation from a whore, I give them what they
“I didn’t expect to find my wife! Have you stooped so low… to
denigrate yourself? When we were together, you never…”
“As you so eloquently stated, that was a lifetime ago. Yes, I
can speak and act as an educated woman! My next master’s wife
insisted that we learn proper grammar and courtesy and such; she
felt it was her duty to care for us. She treated us with respect
as did her husband! They provided for their workers. Never was a
whip taken to the men, never was a child separated from its
mother’s breast! There are good people out there and Matilda is
one of them! Matilda appreciates an educated woman working for
her; we’re not simpletons. All of us can handle ourselves better
than the whores over at the Golden Spur. She saved my life!”
“At what cost?!” demanded Silas. His anger etched his face and
made concrete his body.
Not knowing what else to say, Silas walked back to the bed and
picked up his shirt and jacket, slowly dressing.
“You’re leaving?” inquired Dominique. “I’m not good enough for
“I won’t make love to my wife in a brothel.” Silas turned and
faced Dominique, “Enola is welcome to come with me, I want to
take her away from here. Tomorrow… Enola, I’ll take you away
“Tomorrow? Why not now?” Enola asked.
“I have a job in the morning. My friends and I have a job to do…
Please… I’ll come back for you, just tell me that Enola will
wait for me and no one else.”
“You had best leave,” Enola stated as she opened the door to the
Silas quietly left the room and Miss Matilda’s; he didn’t hear
Enola whisper behind her closed door, “I’ll wait for you.”
The Friday night stage from Ruidoso, New Mexico arrived in
Cloudcroft early Saturday morning, as the sun was enticing the
sky from black to a rosy blue. Stepping from the stage, a
dapper-dressed man turned to address the driver and the shotgun.
“My bags, good man. Be care…ful!” he proclaimed as the bags were
dropped to the hard-packed ground.
“Mister, if it weren’t for you, we’d be on schedule. Ain’t got
no time for ‘policities’,” the driver answered.
“Come along Giles,” the dapper man stated, casting his eyes
upwards to the second man to exit the stage.
“Yes, sir. Presently,” Giles answered.
Aaron Provo exited Miss Matilda’s and watched the spectacle
across the street. The dapperly dressed man adjusted his bowler
hat, before tugging down his suite jacket, again, he walked away
leaving ‘Giles’ to gather the luggage. Giles, dressed similarly,
but not as smartly as his employer, picked up the luggage and
Employer and employee sat in the hotel restaurant, the employer
impatiently waiting for their waiter to come take their order
for breakfast. The sight of a tall man and the youth at his side
and the fuss the waiter and hotel manager were making of the
pair angered the dapper man.
“Mr. Pettigrew,” Giles spoke. “They seem to be someone of
importance. Who do you think they are?”
“You don’t know?” sounded a voice from the table next to them.
“WE have only just arrived in this ‘town’, and have not been
properly introduced to your citizenry,” Mr. Pettigrew
“That there’s The Rifleman. Can you believe it? Him and his
rifle are here… In Cloudcroft,” said the simply dressed man,
indicating he was quite possibly a farmer.
“The Rifleman?” asked Pettigrew.
“I’ve heard of him, Mr. Pettigrew. He has a reputation as a
“A gunman? Using a rifle?” Pettigrew queried in disbelief, his
eyes drawn to the rifle placed upon the tabletop where Lucas and
Mark sat down.
“I’ve heard it said he’s faster with that rifle than any man
with a six-shooter,” answered the farmer. “Been in many a gun
fights. Been wounded in a few, but most o’ the time, whoever
stands agin him gets planted… six feet under if you get me
“And the boy?” asked Giles.
“Heard tell that’s his son.”
“It’s of no consequence to me,” Pettigrew answered, impatient
with the man’s eagerness to tell all he knew. But inside,
Pettigrew’s mind was working, a gunman, traveling the
countryside, his son in tow… it wasn’t right. The dapper man
envisioned the horrors to befall the youth as his father
carelessly dragged him from one gun battle to the next… All for
what…A reputation? Money?
Pettigrew watched as Lucas McCain and his son left the
restaurant at nine-fifteen.
At nine, twenty-five father and son stood outside the entrance
to the bank, greeting the Indian agent.
“Perfect timing, Lucas, Mark. I hope the beds at the hotel were
satisfactory,” the man inquired.
“They were more than satisfactory,” replied Lucas.
“Well, I believe we have all the necessary paperwork inside in
order to complete our transaction,” Ironwood stated, opening the
door, allowing the McCains to enter in front of him.
Leading the way across the bank floor, Ironwood opened a door to
an office, inside he said, “Lucas, I’d like to introduce you to
Hank Williams, our bank manager. Hank, this is Lucas McCain and
his son, Mark.”
The bank in Cloudcroft was a little more lavish than their bank
in North Fork. The man stepping from behind the oak desk greeted
Lucas with a smile, “Mr. McCain, a pleasure to meet you. When
you return home, would you give my regards to John Hamilton?”
“You know Mr. Hamilton?” Mark eagerly asked.
“I do. He and I are old acquaintances, and neither of us will
say exactly… how old,” Mr. Williams stated, a gleam in his eyes.
“I thought it was only women who never revealed their age,” Mark
“Mark,” chastised Lucas.
“That’s okay, Lucas. You don’t mind that I call you Lucas?”
Seeing Lucas shake his head no, he continued, “I kind of asked
for that. Please, won’t you both have a seat?” Williams motioned
to the two chairs sitting in front of his desk. “One moment,
Mark, I’ll get a chair for you.”
“That’s not necessary,” Mark attempted to say as the bank
manager brought over a chair from against the wall.
With everyone properly seated, Ironwood stated, “Lucas as we
agreed in our wires, here is the contract for thirty head of
prime Hereford cattle that you were to deliver to Cloudcroft.
Your delivery has held up your end of the contract and all that
now remains is for you to sign this bill of sale, and…” Ironwood
reached for the piece of paper on top of the desk, “I’ll
authorize Hank here to issue this bank draft.”
Lucas dipped the pen into the inkwell before he signed his name
to the bill of sale and handed it to the bank manager. Nodding
his head, Williams handed over the bank draft to Lucas McCain.
Mark leaned sideways in his chair to look at the draft.
“That’s a lot of money, Pa,” commented Mark.
“Yes, yes it is,” replied Lucas. Turning to address the two men
in the office, Lucas stated, “I’m thankful we could conduct this
contract with a bank draft instead of cash. But… Would you be
able to wire the money to our account in North Fork?”
“I don’t see why not,” answered Williams. “Lucas, go ahead and
sign the back of the draft, I’ll make out a deposit slip with
instructions to wire it to North Fork. I won’t be able to
confirm the transaction until Monday; I don’t believe that John
keeps Saturday hours.”
“No, sir,” answered Mark.
“Regardless, I’ll go ahead and have a receipt created on your
Williams took the draft and the deposit slip, and walked out of
his office. Through the open door, Lucas heard Williams instruct
the teller exactly what he expected. A few minutes later,
Williams returned to his desk and handed Lucas the receipt.
“Now is there anything else I can assist you gentlemen with?”
Williams asked of Lucas and the Indian agent.
“Not that I can think of… You Lucas?” Ironwood answered.
“No, I think this…” Lucas broke off his statement upon hearing a
commotion in the teller area of the bank.
“Excuse me, it appears my next deposit has arrived early. We
weren’t expecting delivery until noon today. Gentlemen, I must
insist that you leave. I don’t mean to be impolite; it’s just
that this delivery is… Lucas, a pleasure to meet you… and your
son. Nathan, I’ll see you tomorrow at church.”
With the finality of his words, Lucas, Mark, and Ironwood left
the office and the bank.
“Pa?” Mark asked as the stepped to the boardwalk on the far side
of the main street. “The Sheriff and his deputy…”
“What about them?” Lucas distractedly responded.
“Those are money bags they’re carrying into the bank… And it’s
just the two of them.”
“Yes… It is…” Lucas gripped his rifle even tighter as his eyes
scanned the street. It worried him that a delivery of such a
vast sum of money would happen in broad daylight, in the middle
of town, without additional men to act as guards.
Eyes scanning the boardwalk on either side of the main street,
Lucas’ brain began to process the facts; bank transfer of a
large amount of money, the only lawmen were handling the
transfer, where were the additional men? Lucas hoped to see
rifles jutting out windows in some of the second story buildings
as he looked up, but the windows were closed. It appeared the
only other person interested in what was happening was the
driver of the wagon being unloaded, however, his gun was still
holstered and his rifle rested against the bench seat, while he
casually rolled a cigarette.
Without concrete proof that a bank robbery was imminent, Lucas’
second sense continued warned him something was not right.
Several shots were fired down the street; the shots too far away
from the bank for Lucas to determine if this was part of the
robbery, but still…
Having double clutched his rifle, Lucas watched as the lawmen
stepped from behind the wagon and approached him; the bank
manager, shortly behind.
“What’s the meaning of this?!” demanded Sheriff Wade Pattison
while drawing his gun and approaching Lucas.
“The shots came from down the street,” answered Lucas, his eyes
never resting on the approaching men.
Even with the brief look Lucas had cast over the lawman, he knew
they were a force to be reckoned with. The Sheriff was an
imposing figure; not as tall as Lucas, but carrying enough
weight to make any normal ruffian or drunk think twice about
challenging him. Green eyes contrasted vividly with the man’s
shocking red hair and mustache. The deputy, compact in stature,
appeared to be a scrapper, a man who knew how to take advantage
of any man out who would underestimate him based on his size. He
also wore his gun belt slung a little lower down his left hip,
but not quite as low as a gun fighter. Together the two lawmen
made an imposing picture of security for the town.
“Wade, this is Lucas McCain. He’s here from North Fork…”
“He was in the bank…” interrupted Pattison.
“He was transacting…”
Their attention was still drawn to the direction from which the
sound of the shots originated when more shots were fired behind
“Mark, get to the hotel!” Lucas ordered his son as they took
cover around the corner of the general store. “Now!”
Sensing Mark obeyed his order, Lucas readied his rifle as he
slipped behind several barrels of apples in front of the general
store. The majority of the citizens of Cloudcroft appeared to
abandon their routines as they ran for cover within the
structures along the street. The Sheriff and his deputy returned
across the street to the bank, to take cover behind the wagon.
The volley of shots continued, knocking the driver from the seat
when he failed to realize a robbery was in motion. The deputy
went down in the street with a shot to the left side of his
lower back; the man continued to crawl to reach under the wagon
as hoof beats thundered near.
The Sheriff and Lucas fired towards the outlaws, covering them
in a cross fire; and while they had the outlaws in a cross fire,
the three outlaws in the street had them penned down as well.
Many well aimed shots from both sides missed their marks as the
skittish horses fought against their riders. Lucas ducked as a
bullet struck the barrel he hid behind. Sighting his rifle over
top of the barrels, Lucas fired and watched as an outlaw grabbed
his shoulder. Two men carrying sacks stamped with the bank’s
name ran out the doorway, jumped on two of the riderless horses,
and began shouting “RIDE!”
More shots were fired as the outlaws raced from town; Lucas
stepped from behind the barrels and into the street, firing at
the retreating figures. Another outlaw ran to the middle of the
street, vaulted into the saddle of the remaining riderless
horse; the gang continued firing wildly in an effort to make
good their escape.
From the front balcony of Miss Matilda’s, Enola screamed,
“SILAS! GOD NO!” as the riders raced from town.
Lucas felt fire sear the right side of his chest and heard a
grunt to his left, looking he watched as the Sheriff crumpled to
the ground, red spreading down the side of the man’s neck.
Lucas’ focused all his effort on breathing in and out as his own
blood began to spread across the front of his shirt. One foot in
front of the other, Lucas staggered as he made his way to the
wagon before he finally collapsed.
When the sounds of gunfire ceased and the dust began to settle,
Cloudcroft became curious; her citizens warily stepped from the
various establishments to survey the damage inflicted.
Bank manager, Hank Williams, was first to yell, “Get the
doctor!” as several men ran first to the lawman before checking
on the others who they would ultimately call fallen heroes.
Having left the town courthouse, Horatio Pettigrew was drawn to
the commotion in the center of town. Running down the boardwalk
he was shoved aside as others ran past him, their own curiosity
overshadowed their own common sense.
Walking through an alleyway, Pettigrew proclaimed, “I knew it! I
knew it!” as he encountered the still body lying just off the
boardwalk. Turning the youth over, he gasped at the thick blood
running across the boy’s temple, “Gunshot,” he mumbled.
“We need a doctor!” yelled Giles. “Someone help!!”
People continued to rush past the opening of the alley to get
the heart of the action, while Horatio Pettigrew ordered Giles
to pick up the youth, “We’ll see that he gets to the doctor.
Come, Giles.” The man’s voice was clipped in a staccato rhythm.
Having spent years dealing with difficult teenagers, Giles
easily lifted the slim form of the fourteen year old boy into
his arms and followed behind his employer as they made their way
to the clinic.
Lying the youth on one of the examination tables, Giles went to
locate anything he could use to stop the flow of blood from the
ugly head wound.
“Sir, go see if you can find a nurse,” stated Giles, at this
time not caring about the improprieties of him giving an order
to his employer.
“I’m surprised the doctor didn’t come out upon our entering,”
“Sir, he’s probably with the others – tending to whatever
“A physician does not leave his hospital ward unattended. You of
all people should know that. A physician needs to be where
others expect him to be!” declared Pettigrew.
“Sir, forgive me for being so blunt, but this is not the
Pettigrew Home for Wayward Boys. This is a town and the doctor
has a right to practice as he sees fit. Besides, whatever
happened could have seriously injured someone; the voices
Giles returned his attention to the youth lying unconscious on
the examination table; the boy’s face was almost as white as the
towel with which Giles used to clean away the congealing blood.
Outside the closed doorway to the clinic, someone shouted, “Get
the door!” The hurried boot steps that sounded on the wooden
planks paused as the door opened with such force Horatio
Pettigrew jumped when it hit the wall.
The doctor instructed the men to carry the first of the wounded
men through a back doorway, to his surgical room.
“Doctor, this boy here needs your attention!” Pettigrew
declared, trying to make himself heard over the noise of the men
entering the clinic.
“He’ll have to wait. I have other patients in more dire need
than he,” the doctor answered as he made his way past the dapper
“Mr. Pettigrew, if you would help me,” asked Giles. He’d seen
what his employer had not, in his estimation it would be a
miracle if the boy’s father survived the night.
“That is the physician’s duty,” Pettigrew retorted.
“But we have a duty to this lad, we need to help him until the
Resigning himself to action, Pettigrew stepped closer to the
table in an effort to also avoid the next throng of men carrying
in the deputy and proceeding to the surgical room. From outside,
the two men heard someone else yell, “Get the sheriff to the
Turning their attention to their charge, Giles and Pettigrew
tended to the youth, cleaning the blood from his face before
wrapping a bandage around his head.
“You said something sir?” Giles asked as they laid the boy down.
“Yes, I said, I knew it. I just knew it. This boy’s father has
such callous disregard for the life God gave to him. A father’s
first duty is to protect his child… And what does this man do?!”
As Pettigrew droned on and on, his voice rose in anger and
pitch, “This man travels from town to town, exposing his son to
dangers. For God’s sake Giles, this boy was shot! All because of
“Sir we don’t know that!” defended Giles. He’d witnessed the
many occasions his employer would rant and rave. And he knew
what would soon happen.
“Don’t we? That… that farmer at breakfast… he said the man was
known as The Rifleman. You don’t get a name like that by staying
home and raising your son! We’ve read stories in the Chronicle
detailing some of the man’s exploits. Though I never figured I’d
ever meet the man.”
“Sir, I need to dispose of these rags, would you keep an eye on
the boy?” Giles asked, hoping to dissuade his employer from his
current train of thoughts.
Returning to the front room in the clinic Giles watched how his
employer had transformed from a strong advocate against any
injustice he perceived into a compassionate man, holding the
boy’s hand and rubbing his thumb over the top.
Hours had passed and still the door to the surgery remained
closed. The sun had traversed from mid-morning to well past
noon, before footsteps were heard approaching the clinic. The
bell over the doorway jingled as it announced the door opening.
Giles looked up at the visitor; the man entering wore a three
piece suite with a gold watch chain hanging from a vest button
before it disappeared into one of the vest pockets. It did
surprise Giles as he observed the mustache and goatee upon a
“Judge Keller,” Horatio Pettigrew stated upon seeing the man
“Mr. Pettigrew,” Judge Keller acknowledged.
“I’m glad you’re here,” Pettigrew stated as he stood to approach
the judge. “I wish to make a petition before your court.”
“Not now, Mr. Pettigrew. I’m here as a member of the town
council to see about the injured men.” He cast his eyes over the
unconscious boy lying on the examination table in the front
room. “Was he also injured during the bank robbery?”
“The bank was robbed? I knew it. This boy’s father is not only a
menace to his son, but also to society. Judge, I beg of you… We
must do everything in our powers to ensure this innocent child
is protected from the unlawful acts of his father.”
“Mr. Pettigrew, I understand your concerns, however…”
“Your Honor, from the amount of time that his boy’s ‘father’ has
been in surgery, it is highly doubtful that he will survive the
night. I must protest and declare that you convene an emergency
session in order address an immediate injunction granting me
full custody of this child.”
“Mr. Pettigrew, I will consider such a motion, only if it is
properly presented before my court… but not until then.”
“I understand. I’ve already obtained the name of a councilor and
was preparing to see him when this… travesty occurred. Until
later, Your Honor,” Pettigrew stated as he returned to Giles.
“I’m going to see Mr. Caleb O’Donnell to begin our petition.”
“Mr. Pettigrew, I beg of you. Please do not do this,” pleaded
“WE have no recourse. If we step aside, then we are as guilty as
that boy’s father! I will not be part of allowing a child to be
condemned to such a life as his father would see him live.”
Closing his eyes, shaking his to the left and right, Giles
deeply exhaled and silently prayed as his employer left the
Horatino Pettigrew had not returned to the clinic before the
door to the surgery opened. It was evident just how weary the
physician was by his slumped shoulders and shuffling of feet.
“Dr. Webster?” inquired Judge Zeller.
“Judge Zeller, I didn’t know you were here,” answered the
“I’ve been here for about forty-five minutes. I came to see how
Deputy Vestor is doing, as well as the other man.”
Walking over to his desk, the physician heavily sat down in his
chair and leaned forward, his hand reaching to open a lower desk
drawer. Withdrawing a bottle and two glasses, the physician
turned and asked, “Care to join me?”
“No Doc, but don’t let that stop you,” replied Judge Zeller.
Waiting for the physician to pour the brandy into a glass and
drink it’s contents to sooth his nerves, the judge gauged what
might have happened behind the closed door.
“Deputy Vestor will be out of commission for a few weeks to
come. The bullet tore up the muscles in his back as well as his
intestines. Took me a long time to make sure I caught every hole
before I sewed him up.” The doctor took another sip from his
glass before he sat back in his chair, eyes closed.
“And the stranger?”
“Oh yes… the stranger. If he is who I think he is, his name is
Lucas McCain… from North Fork I believe. I overheard bits and
pieces of what Hank Williams was saying as he helped carry the
man in here. Well as far as Mr. McCain’s condition… It will be a
miracle if he survives the night. One bullet to the left cavity
of his chest, piercing his lung and causing it to collapse; if
the bullet had struck just a half inch more to the right and it
wouldn’t have mattered; he’d be dead by now.”
“What about the boy?” the judge inquired.
“The boy? What boy?” Dr. Webster turned to look around his
After hours of grueling surgery, this was the first time the
doctor realized he had another patient in potentially serious
condition. Setting his glass of brandy to his desk, the doctor
walked over to where Mark McCain lay on the examination table.
“Is the boy asleep?” asked the physician as he reached for his
watch and the boy’s wrist.
“His name is Mark McCain,” answered Giles. “You operated on his
“Oh,” answered the doctor as he looked at the unconscious youth.
“No doctor. I believe his is unconscious, still. He’s been this
way since we found him. He has quite a deep laceration across
his temple. I cleaned it out as best I could with alcohol. If
the boy had only been passed out, I do believe he would have
awoke during my ministrations,” answered Giles.
“Hmmmm,” the doctor murmured, returning his watch to his pocket.
Setting his hand to the boy’s forehead he paused, “No fever.”
Reaching for the lantern on the side table, the doctor held it
over Mark’s face and peered into the boy’s eyes as he used his
thumb and forefinger to open the eyelids one at a time.
“Sluggish at best.” Continuing his examination, he gently
maneuvered his hands and stopped when he found a large bump on
the back of the boy’s head. “I do believe the boy had suffered a
serious concussion; probably a combination of the bullet graze
and striking his head when he fell.”
“And your diagnosis for the boy?” Judge Zeller asked.
“For now, sleep is the best thing for him. I’ll keep an eye on
him through the night. Should he not wake by the morning, then
I’ll grow more concerned.”
“Thank you for the prognoses for the boy and his father; it will
have an interesting bearing upon an upcoming court case. Doc, I
should warn you that you will probably be called to testify.”
“But I didn’t see the bank hold up!” protested the physician.
“I know that, the court case will be Horatio Pettigrew
petitioning for custody of this young man away from his father.
At least someone will be looking out for the boy’s best interest
at until his father recovers,” commented Judge Zeller. “Or, if
the father passes on… the paperwork will already be in place.”
“I wish you would decline the petition,” humbly stated Giles.
“Sir, if you have anything to add concerning this case, you will
have time during the hearing; that will be the time to address
the court.” Turning to leave the clinic, the judge bid both men,
After checking his critical patients one more time, Doc Webster
dimmed the lanterns in his surgical suite before he exited the
room. Stepping into the front office, he walked over to the
young man and placed his hand to his forehead, pleased that
fever had not risen.
“Just keep the infection away, I really don’t need three
patients in such dire straits,” commented the physician as he
returned to his desk.
Increasing the light shining from the lantern on his desk the
doctor pulled out his journal from his upper right hand desk
drawer and proceeded to write an account of the day’s events and
the trials he experienced as he fought so save the lives of the
The clock on the wall struck ten o’clock when the physician sat
back, ready to close his journal for the night. Through the
slightly opened window he listened to the gentle sounds of the
night; crickets chirping and horses slowly plodding along the
street as each cowboy left town to return to the ranch upon
which they worked. In the far distance Doc discerned the tinny
sound of the piano at the Golden Spur saloon and could hear
there was still an active crowd within the building.
Standing up, the man stretched his aching back before walking to
the front door of his clinic, opening it, and stepping to the
boardwalk. His mind drifted to the last fifteen years of his
life, and all that he had witnessed… Seeking adventure, he’d
headed west after graduating from medical school; his grand
ideas of helping to civilize the land by bringing basic medical
and surgical talents to a town in need drove his desire to leave
New York behind. Maybe he had been fool hardy; in the east
physicians could name their prices and be selective in the
clientele they serviced, but in the west…it was no better than
the so-called surgical hospitals that butchered the lives of
young soldiers upon the battlefields as brothers fought brothers
and fathers fought sons. Was it worth it… Giving up the prestige
associated with his father’s practice, the invitations to social
galas, the grand houses and carriages…
He knew it would be difficult to establish his practice, but
after fifteen years, he’d hoped it would get easier and he could
refine his clinic. But life always had different plans… “No… man
has different ideas. Until this land is truly civilized, this is
the way it will be.”
Above, the night sky hung darkened without a moon, the faint
glittering of stars made their presence known as the occasional
cloud covered over and move beyond.
Returning to the clinic, he stopped by the boy’s head when he
heard a slight moan and watched as the boy’s right hand
twitched. For a moment he smiled, but it quickly left his face
as he realized the boy was reaching a crisis of some kind.
Struggling from the depths of his nightmare, Mark fought against
the demons who reached for him, who taunted him, who laughed at
his pain. He cringed as the pain exploded in bright whiteness in
an attempt to drive him back to the darkness, to give up on
waking. Thrashing his head from side to side as an escape only
worsened the pain and nauseated him.
“No,” moaned Mark.
“Come on boy, you can do it. Listen to my voice. You need to
wake up,” encouraged the physician in a soothing tone, hoping to
lead the boy to consciousness. “You’re doing good, Mark. Just
listen to my voice and follow me. Come on son. You can do it.”
“Pa?” Mark called breathlessly. The pain prevented his return to
sleep and the churning in his stomach was incessant.
Barely perceptible, the physician saw the eyelashes flutter as
Mark strove to wake.
“That’s it son, come on. Open your eyes,” the doctor repeated.
With eyes opened and out of focus, Mark didn’t see who was next
to him, he just knew someone kind was there, “Gonna be sick.”
The contractions of his stomach compounded his woes.
Quickly the physician reached for a bowl and picked it up with
one hand, while helping the youth turn onto his side so he could
retch. Wave after wave struck the boy, emptying his stomach of
all its contents and continued until the boy’s reserves were
spent. Feeling the boy go limp in his hand, the doctor set aside
the bowl and helped the boy lay down.
“Not a pleasant experience; is it,” he toned as he walked over
to the stand holding a water pitcher and several glasses.
Returning to his patient he lifted the boy’s head and held the
glass to his mouth and said, “It’s water, rinse it around in
your mouth and then spit it out.”
Several rinsings later, Mark lay back exhausted. “Pa?” he asked
as he turned his head toward the sound of someone walking across
“Your Pa’s sleeping son, as you should be,” suggested the
physician, pleased his patient had woke, but eager for the boy
to sleep so he wouldn’t have to lie when he answered the
questions he knew would come.
In a fading voice the doctor heard, “Pa…” as his patient
relinquished his grip on consciousness and fell asleep. Before
walking to his own room for the night, the doctor pulled a cover
over his patient’s shoulders; and briefly watched the slow
rhythmic rise and fall of his chest.
Aaron Provo rode to the right of his brother as they raced from
Cloudcroft; with the sun to their right, they headed northeast
towards the town of Ruidoso. With their mounts tiring, they
reined them in from the furious gallop to a slow trot, followed
by a meandering walk.
Looking back over his shoulder, Aaron halted his horse when he
noticed Abe Moffett struggling to stay upright in the saddle.
“What happened?” he asked.
“Just a little fun,” Trey answered as he continued to ride.
“A little fun, that’s what you said last night. How does a
little fun turn into Abe getting shot?!”
“You didn’t tell him,” accused Deuce Hollender as he rode past
“Tell me what?!”
“We robbed the bank,” Silas answered as he halted his horse and
pushed Abe upright in the saddle.
“Trey. Trey! He’s your friend, you aren’t gonna help him?” Aaron
The others in the group turned their horses and faced the three
behind them. Trey motioned his horse forward and stopped next to
“Brother he knew the risks. ‘Sides, look at him… losing all that
blood… He ain’t got long to live. We all accepted the risks when
we signed on.”
“Risks? You didn’t tell me about no risks! You didn’t tell me
you were going to rob the bank!” declared the younger brother.
“All you said I needed to do was to fire of some shots as a joke
to the sheriff.”
“Don’t talk about me as if I’m not here,” Abe stated, grabbing
his shoulder by his armpit and pressing tighter.
The others ignored their friend’s words.
“Yep, the jokes on him, too,” taunted Trey.
“What do you mean?” Aaron asked, feeling his stomach drop.
“I shot him,” Silas answered. Aaron turned upon hearing the deep
bass voice say, “He’s probably dead by now.”
“Murder! You killed…”
“Brother…” Trey’s voice was stern. “What do you think we did for
a living?” Looking his brother straight in the eye he dared him
to argue. “Why do you think I wanted you in Cloudcroft?”
“I thought it was for the fun of it… Miss Matilda and… and…
“Matilda’s was just a way for me to meet up with Cassidy and
organize how to rob the bank,” Trey said as he sat back in his
“You’re an… outlaw? I didn’t know…” guilt riddled Aaron’s voice
as he thought back to how he had always idolized his older
“Couldn’t be helped -- You needed the operation to save your
leg. Had I not robbed my first bank you’d be walking around with
Unable to comprehend exactly what his brother was saying, Aaron
tried to repeat the words back. The words sounded even colder as
he spoke them.
“Pa said it was a loan from the bank. Pa said you got a loan
from the bank!” dared his brother to go against their father’s
“Yep, only I didn’t have to repay it,” laughed Trey. “And I have
you to thank for everything. Had that horse not thrown you and
trampled your leg, I would have never have found out how much
fun it is robbing a bank. And the bank in Cloudcroft was loaded.
Why we can probably retire with what we hauled out of there.”
“What about Cassidy?” Deuce happened to ask.
“What about him?” snapped Trey.
“How’s he gonna get his cut,” asked Silas.
“I want my cut now,” Abe Moffett stated, his eyes briefly
pleaded before they rolled back into his head and he collapsed
from his horse.
“Guess everyone’s portion just increased,” Trey laughed as he
turned to ride away.
“Trey! You can’t be serious? You’re just gonna leave him? You’re
gonna take the money…”
“Damn right! I worked hard for this money. I risked everything
for this money. Deuce, Silas, Zeke, we all risked EVERYTHING!”
“I don’t want nothin’ of it. What would Pa think? What would
“What do you think killed her? She knew…” Trey announced, his
cold voice indicated he didn’t care. “If you’re out, you’re out.
We part ways, here… brother.”
“Go, Trey, I don’t know you no more.”
“So long brother!” Trey called as he, Deuce, Silas, and Zeke
Aaron has never known the disappointment that stabbed at his
heart. All his life, ever since he was sixteen and that blasted
horse had stomped on his leg, his brother was a figure larger
than life; stronger than pa. As the clouds and the fading sun
painted vivid colors across the western horizon, Aaron thought
back and his heart dropped, he begged for night to fall and
match the shade he felt.
“What do you think killed her? She knew…” echoed in his head.
His brother had effectively killed their mother, ‘what about
Pa?’ Aaron wondered as he turned his horse away, taking Abe’s
mount with him.
Doctor Webster had already checked his patients for a second
time before the hustle and bustle of the town announced a new
day had dawned.
Settling himself to drink a cup of coffee, the physician
grimaced when he heard the knock on the door and the bell
announced the person was entering.
“Doc,” stated Judge Zeller as he entered. “I know it’s rather
early, but that Pettigrew fellow is fairly insistent cuss in
wanting to see this young man is protected from his father’s
actions. Besides petitioning the courts here in Cloudcroft, he’s
copied the territorial governor in the case.”
“Just tell me where and when?” sighed the doctor, knowing full
well the ‘where’.
“This morning, my chambers at the courthouse, ten o’clock,”
replied the judge.
“Just send someone for me if my testimony will really be
required, I don’t relish leaving any of my patients unattended.”
At ten o’clock, within the judge’s chambers sat a number of
people designated as interested parties, with the most critical
of witnesses absent. Judge Zeller looked to the two men sitting
side by side across the desk from him. Caleb O’Donnell sat next
to Horatio Pettigrew, heads leaned towards each other in quiet
discussion. Sitting alone across from the judge was the town’s
solicitor, Avery Jenkins appearing anxious to get on with the
As the town clock stuck the hour, all heads turned towards the
“Gentlemen, this is a hearing and not a court case, but
regardless there are procedures to be followed. My findings will
have the same bearings as if this had been a court case. Do you
all understand and agree to find my terms binding?”
The three gentlemen agreed.”
“Good. Now… I have received a petition to grant an emergency
injunction removing the male minor, Mark McCain, from the
custody of his father, Lucas McCain. This petition was filed by
Mr. Horatio Pettigrew of the Pettigrew Home for Wayward Boys.”
Having little time to prepare a counter case, and the fact that
both the interested parties were unavailable, Avery Jenkins put
up a token defense… at least it was a defense in all appearances
as far as he was concerned.
“On what grounds is this petition filed?” Jenkins asked.
Caleb O’Donnell had expected this to be the leading question and
was prepared to answer, when Pettigrew began to speak, O’Donnell
placed a restraining hand on the man’s arm and shook his head,
“Mr. Pettigrew filed the petition in an effort to spare the
boy’s life. In his opinion, the father has carelessly placed his
son in grievous danger.” He had chosen his words carefully in
avoiding the word ‘save’, he knew that only the doctor would
save a life, if it could be saved. However, there were multiple
layers upon which a boy’s life could be spared, spared a life of
being dragged from town to town, spared from seeing his father
die, spared from being collateral damage should the father live
and this happen all over again.
“What do the parties involved in this matter have to say
regarding the reason for the petition?”
Caleb O’Donnell spoke, “As you very well know, both principal
parties lie unconscious at the doctor’s clinic, having suffered
“Can Doctor Webster verify this fact?” asked Jenkins.
“He can and has agreed to make himself available, if you insist.
However, if he were to appear it would mean leaving all three of
his patients unattended for the duration he would be required to
give testimony,” answered Judge Zeller.
“I won’t require the doctor’s testimony, I’ve heard enough
gossip from the people around town to know what happened during
the hold up.” Looking through the sheets of paper in a folder on
his lap, Jenkins asked, “Is this the first time the father has
been critically injured?”
“No it is not. If the court requires, we can prove through
various accounts and from reliable sources that this is not the
first time Mr. McCain has been injured while participating in a
gun fight,” O’Donnell told the judge.
“Thank you, as we all have probably read various reports over
the years, we will not require you to provide documented proof
of these fights,” announced Judge Zeller.
“If it pleases the court,” O’Donnell stated. “The only proof
that we feel needs to be acknowledged is the fact that both
father and son are at the doctor’s, both fighting for their
lives. Had Mr. McCain not participated in this gunfight and thus
jeopardized the life of his son, this hearing would be a moot
point. I request, Your Honor, that you find in favor of my
“I hesitate to rescind a father’s right to raise his son…
However, it is apparent that in the immediate future, this
father is in no condition to raise his son, should he survive...
And the son does need an advocate to ensure that his needs are
addressed… Mr. Jenkins, I am sorry but I must find in favor of
Mr. Pettigrew. Custody of Mark McCain immediately transfers to
The hearing concluded as Judge Zeller thumped his gavel twice
upon the top of his desk.
As the men left his office, Judge Zeller felt humbly satisfied;
he had upheld the law and allowed the case to proceed and the
facts divulged. The case was swift, but the facts were the
facts; anything to prevent the interference of a special judge
assigned by the Territorial Governor.
Stopping to rest their mounts, Zeke, Deuce, and Silas waited for
Trey to speak, anything for them not to suffer his wrath after
the earlier argument he’d had with his brother.
“What?!” Trey demanded when he realized the others were looking
“Just waiting on you, boss,” Zeke answered in his carefree
“Are we going to split up like planned?” Deuce inquired.
“Not yet. Not until we reach Ruidoso,” answered Trey.
“I need my part of the money now,” answered Silas.
“What for?” demanded Trey.
“Your wife?!” squealed Zeke.
“That gal at Miss Matilda’s… she’s my wife. I want to go back
“And if you get caught?” Trey asked.
“I won’t.” Silas’ words were a statement of fact.
“How much to you need?” Trey asked as he opened one of the bags
containing the money.
“Just what I originally signed on for, only now, its split four
ways instead of six… Make it three thousand dollars.”
Taking the money offered, Silas tipped his hat and rode away.
Exiting the judge’s chambers, Pettigrew motioned for Giles to
“We need to make arrangements, as soon as possible. I want to
leave hear with the boy,” announced Pettigrew.
“You were successful?”
“Did you have any doubts? The evidence was plain in front of
everyone. The father lies mortally wounded in the clinic. The
boy critically wounded… There wasn’t much argument against
parental custody being terminated.” Walking at a rapid clip, the
dapper man continued. “Now, we need to hire a guide and a wagon
to get us back to Ruidoso. We need provisions… I’ll leave the
provisions to you.”
“And where will you find a guide?” asked Giles.
“You leave that to me. Be ready within the hour to leave.”
Flabbergasted, Giles watched as his employer walked towards the
Golden Spur saloon.
“I must protest,” declared Doctor Webster. “This boy is in no
condition to be moved.”
“You, yourself said he had regained consciousness. I don’t see
the problem,” announced Pettigrew.
“Yes, he had regained consciousness, once. He hasn’t regained
consciousness significant to ascertain if there is any permanent
damage to his mental faculties.”
“That is of no concern of yours. From now on, Mark McCain is my
legal responsibility and I intend to see that he is as far away
from the man who is to blame for this tragedy as soon as
possible. Which means, I want him bundled up, and in the back of
that wagon,” Pettigrew pointed towards the window, indicating
the loaded wagon in front of the clinic, “in the next five
The two men sat next to each other on the high bench seat, Giles
urged the horses forward with a slap of the reins on their rumps
while the unconscious youth lie in the back, made comfortable
with a bed of deep straw and covered with blankets. In front of
the wagon, rode Jedidiah Jones, a self-proclaimed guide, a man
greedy enough to tell anyone what they wanted to hear, as long
as the price was right.
Standing on the boardwalk, the doctor and the judge watched the
small procession leave their town.
“I wonder why that Giles didn’t speak at the hearing?” casually
queried the Judge. “He seemed like he was so against the
“Cornelius over at the hotel told me he overheard them arguing
last night. Guess the man valued his employment more than he
valued his honor,” mumbled the doctor as he turned to go inside
and tend to his two remaining patients.
“Do you think the boy will be alright?”
“Who knows...” replied the physician. “The fact that he hasn’t
fully regain consciousness for any length of time doesn’t really
“Has he woke at all?” asked the judge.
“Only long enough to be sick and call for his father.”
“What did you tell him?”
“He fell back asleep. As you saw him…” The physician shrugged
his shoulders indicating the patient was no longer his concern.
“I only hope they have an excellent doctor at that Pettigrew
Home for Wayward Boys.”
As the activity of the town’s resident along the street
increased, both men parted to return to their own
“What do you mean, ‘they’re gone’?” demanded Nathan Ironwood.
The man stood behind the simple wooden desk in his office,
leaning forward, heavily upon the knuckles of his fisted hands;
he was frustrated upon hearing the news.
“Just what I said,” answered the young man nervously standing in
front of the Indian agent. “I checked their bunkhouse and it’s
empty. I checked their barn and their horses are gone.”
“What about the stockyard. It could be they’re working.”
“No they’re not.” The tone of the youth’s voice held a hint of
Nathan Ironwood watched the man shift his hat in his hands,
nervously shift his weight as he stood. ‘Man?’ Nathan thought to
himself. ‘He can’t be more than seventeen.’ The dark haired
youth with weathered skin was slight compared to the others of
the Mescalero tribe, but he was eager to learn the white man’s
ways and thus Ironwood had hired him to be his assistant.
“What else?” Nathan asked sensing he had not been told
“Uh… A…About five head of… cattle are… uh… missing from the
“Missing? How do five head disappear?”
“Keeno, what?” Nathan asked, but with sincerity. He knew the
young Indian in front of him was struggling with whether to tell
what he knew. “Son, if your friends are behind the theft of the
cattle, your keeping quiet will not help them.”
“They didn’t steal them!” Keeno protested.
“But they did take them.”
“And without permission.”
Keeno again nodded. “But the cattle were for our tribe, weren’t
“Yes, yes the cattle are for the people of your tribe. Do you
know what Pate and Quantra planned to do with the cattle?”
Keeno shifted his weight on his feet and continued to stare at
the ground upon which he stood.
“Son, you have to tell the truth.”
“They were going to…”
“To what?” Nathan compassionately asked, walking around his
desk, stopping in front of the young man, and placing a hand
upon his shoulder.
Looking into the face of the man who stood before him, Keeno
quietly spoke, “You have to understand, we’ve all grown up
hearing stories of the great buffalo hunts. How warriors
provided for the tribe…”
Holding his hand up, to indicate Keeno need not explain any
futher, Nathan allowed his head to fall back, before he forced
it up right on his shoulders, gently shaking it left and right.
“Go get our horses saddled.” As Keeno turned to leave the
office, Nathan called him. “You do know where they’re
re-enacting this great hunt?”
“Yes sir. Mr. Ironwood… I’m sorry.”
“Why are you sorry?” the Indian agent curiously asked.
“I should have come to tell you last night.”
“We’ll talk about that later.”
“Are you mad at me?” Keeno inquired, his guilt apparent.
“No son, I’m not mad at you, but I am disappointed in the lot of
Mueglion (pronounced Moog-lee-own) sat upon his horse
overlooking the four riders stopped in the valley below. He
watched as they rested their horses and talked. A few minutes
later, he watched as one man stepped from his horse, pulled down
his saddlebags, and handed something to the dark skinned man who
rode with them. After shaking hands with the other three, the
dark skinned man rode back the way he came. As for the other
three, Mueglion watched as they dared continue on towards the
land his people held sacred. Turning his horse, the Indian brave
rode towards where the others waited.
In the language of the Apache he spoke to the others, “One turn
back, others continue towards Sacred Land.”
“And if they cross?” asked one of the braves.
“I am tired of the white man taking and taking, thinking they
can do as they please!” declared Mueglion.
“No more!” yelled another brave.
“Their blood shall be spilled!” Mueglion announced.
“But on our Sacred Land?” queried another brave, appalled at the
idea of white man’s blood upon their land.
“No! We shall not let them set on foot upon our Sacred Land! We
ride! Wipe out the ones who have forced our people to suffer.
They shall suffer worse than we have suffered!”
As one, the mob of twelve riders turned their mounts and rode
towards the three men that were the object of their hatred.
Ironwood and Keeno rode behind the young Mescaleros as they
returned to their village. People, young and old, stopped what
they were doing to watch as they passed the cooking fires and
the frames with hides tanning, as well as the lodges.
The group stopped in front of the lodge at the center of the
village with the most activity, as if counsel were shortly to
begin. The exterior of the lodge indicated the resident was
someone of importance. As the bear skin hanging over the opening
moved, an older Indian stepped into the brilliant light of the
afternoon sun. The man’s once black hair was streaked with grey
as it fell past the shoulder blades on his back. With an
ornately adorned blanket wrapped around his shoulders, the chief
stopped next to the lance thrust into the ground, with a large
war bonnet hanging atop.
Stepping down from their horses, Ironwood was the only one to
approach the chief, and greeted him warmly.
“Greeting, Mugua. It pleases me to see you looking so well,”
Ironwood announced before giving a gracious bow to the elder.
“Mr. Ironwood, welcome to our village.” Upon seeing the four
young men behind the Indian agent fail to respect his presence,
he asked, “They have done wrong?”
“I’m afraid they have...”
“Have they harmed another? Will they face white man’s
“The only ones they have harmed are your people.” Ironwood
proceeded to tell the elder chieftain the mischief the boys had
“We are hunters! Those cattle are not the buffalo, but we must
eat,” argued Quantra.
“You will eat, but if you are intent in killing the cattle
Mugua stopped Ironwood, “There is an old Apache proverb, ‘Give a
brave a cow and you will feed him for a day. Teach a brave to
hunt and you will feed him for a lifetime’.”
“We have the same saying, only it’s about fishing,” Ironwood
casually laughed his answered in reply.
The chief did not accept the saying in as good a nature as it
was intended. His eyes focused on the young band of Indians,
their stand indicated their guilt.
“Mugua, I understand what you’re trying to say, but if you would
listen to me. I have no real objections to why the boys did as
they did. I understand, I really do. But… if you could see what
I’m trying to accomplish for your people. I was going to
slaughter several of the cows that were past prime breeding and
the others were to be bred. If we allow the strongest of the
cattle to breed, your people can raise and expand the herd, and
when the herd is large enough then the young braves can ‘hunt
them’. As with the buffalo, if the cattle are too few when you
hunt, soon there is nothing left to hunt. How do you feed your
people then?” pleaded Nathan Ironwood. “These cattle are only
“How do I feed my people now? I cannot control my young braves
much longer. Already they hold their own counsel… They are ready
to fight… They want to fight…”
“Mugua, these boys are young and impetuous.” Ironwood stated in
their defense. “They put up no resistance when I found them. As
for their punishment… They shall work with the butcher to finish
slaughtering the cattle and make sure each family is provided
“It is not these boys I worry, Mr. Ironwood. I fear for the
others!” The elder Indian’s voice rose in pitch, only to lower
again in shame. “The others who look to my son, Mueglion.”
Ironwood increased his focus upon the older Indian chief, trying
to understand what the old man was trying to convey.
“Mr. Ironwood, I am old… I am tired of fighting… But the young
braves… They live for the ways of old. I thank you for your
understanding towards these young ones, but Mueglion and eleven
others left before daybreak… I was told their ponies were
painted for battle.”
Alarmed at what the chief said, “Where were they going?!”
“I do not know.” The old man turned away and returned to his
Thrilled to have gotten away from Cloudcroft with the money from
the bank and without signs of pursuit, Trey, Deuce, and Zeke
remounted their horses and continued to ride toward Ruidoso.
Allowing Trey to ride in front of them, Deuce and Zeke quietly
discussed the past thirty-six hours.
“Doesn’t seem right…” Zeke absently spoke.
“What doesn’t seem right?” Deuce absently asked back; his body
swaying in movement with his horse’s gait.
“Ace, Silas… It don’t matter that Trey’s brother up and left us…
But Ace dying like that. And Silas…”
“You’ve not known him as long as I have. It don’t surprise me
he’d go back for her.”
“Silas and I got drunk a few years back… I mean we really tied
one on. Trey split the four of us up for a few months until
things cooled down and Silas and I spent some time together. It
would have been their anniversary. I doubt Silas even remembers
he told me all about what happened back before the war. You ever
see Silas again, you best keep your thoughts to yourself.”
Not wanting to keep quiet, Zeke stated, “I can’t believe they
didn’t send a posse after us.”
“Kind of hard to find citizens willing to step up when there’s
no law to lead them.”
“What’d ya mean?” Zeke asked.
“Well, the deputy took a bullet in the back from Trey, and I
personally shot that SOB of a sheriff.”
“You knew ‘im?”
“Not personal like, but I ran into him.”
“After leaving Miss Matilda’s. I was in a good mood too,”
Deuce’s voice softened as he remembered Angeline, but hardened
when he continued his story. “That SOB tried to run me in, said
the town curfew didn’t allow the likes of me on the streets
after two in the morning.”
“Oh,” replied Zeke. “Hey… do you hear something?”
“What?” asked Deuce as he turned to look in the same direction
the young man looked, while twisted in the saddle. “Hey Trey!”
“Ya what?!” Trey hollered back as the halted his horse.
“The kid here… RIDE!!” Deuce screamed when he too heard the
sounds and saw the band of Indians bearing down on them.
All three riders spurred their horses and slapped their flanks
with the ends of their reins. The horse Zeke rode surged to the
front, its strides longer than the others. Trey’s and Deuce’s
horses surged nose to nose as they heeded their riders commands.
Lather foamed around the saddle pads, sweat gleamed and fell
from their necks, chests, and bellies as the horses exerted
themselves to fee the wild marauders that gave chase.
Sensing his horse faltering, Deuce slipped the thong from the
hammer of his gun before drawing the weapon from the holster.
Turning clockwise in his saddle, he fired and wasted his first
few shots; but after that, it didn’t matter as the bullet from a
Spencer repeating rifle penetrated deep between his shoulder
blades. The horse continued its frantic flight for numerous
strides before the dead weight of its rider slipped from the
saddle, bouncing and rolling before finally coming to a
The brave slowed his own horse as the dead man’s horse veered
away and slowed. Grabbing for the dragging reins, the horse,
flanks heaving, did not resist as it picked up a trot as the
brave followed the others.
Lying closer to the neck of his horse, Trey urged on his mount,
yelling and cussing in a blind panic.
The Mescelaro braves rode horses born and bred from centuries of
living in the desert land, nimble and quick of hoof. The
foremost brave enjoying toying with their quarry, and found the
next rider easy pickings as he fired his own Spencer rifle at
the man and raised the weapon over his head in triumph as the
body slammed into the ground. Halting his horse, encouraging it
to rear, the man celebrated his actions before taking after the
man’s horse to claim it as his own. After retrieving the horse;
he stopped and waited.
Several other braves continued after the last remaining rider,
several shots struck the rider, but did not knock him from the
saddle. The man encouraged his horse to run, either ignoring the
pain or his panic made him unaware to the fact he had been
struck. Several more bullets stuck Zeke before the fatal bullet
struck his head. Slowly he slipped from the saddle, oblivious to
the fact his life was now over.
The twelve braves celebrated by yelling and bragging of their
victory as they rode for home.
Upon another hill, Silas watched in horror as the band of
Indians killed the men he had called friends. Yet, he gave
silent thanks that he had chosen to return to Cloudcroft for his
Deciding to wait until nightfall in an effort to avoid the
Indians, Silas settled down and hoped that sleep would soon come
so he could dream of being in his wife’s arms once more.
Doctor Webster entered the back room of his clinic, his mood
brightened upon seeing one set of eyes look to him.
“Well, this is a good day,” commented the doctor.
“Doc?” asked Deputy Dave Vestor in a scratchy sounding voice.
“How do you feel Dave?”
“Back hurts. Pattison?”
“I’m sorry, son. But… the sheriff was killed by those bank
robbers. He suffered a bullet to the neck, he bled out before
anyone could do anything.”
“He was a good man…” Vestor commented as his thoughts drifted to
the man who had helped guide his career in law enforcement.
“Who’s he?” Vestor asked of the tall man lying unconscious in
the other bed in the room. “Is he one of them?”
“No, he’s someone who came to your aid. The name’s Lucas
“Bullet to the chest. It was easy to extract, but infection set
in. He’s not regained consciousness yet.”
“Oh,” Vestor offered. The deputy was quiet for a few minutes
before speaking again, “Doc? What’s my prognosis?”
“If you take it easy for a few weeks, you should fully recover.
Your injury was a little trickier to treat, but thankfully no
infection. If you do as I say, I’ll probably release you to your
little wife tomorrow.”
The deputy’s eyes widened.
“She’s with my wife over at the diner getting something to eat.
You know, she didn’t need the added complication of you getting
shot on top of her pregnancy.”
“She’s okay, isn’t she?”
“Yes, she is. But she too will have to do as I say in order to
keep that child of yours from making an early appearance.
Daneeta McGovern has already been hired to help take care of you
and your misses until that little one gets here.
Doc Webster’s ears heard the slight moan from the other bed in
the room. “Well, seems my other patient is deciding to wake up
Stepping to the man’s side, Doc set a gentle hand on the man’s
shoulder as an offering of comfort as the man struggled to
consciousness. Slowly the man’s eyelashes fluttered as the
surface of the eyelids moved indicating the man’s eyes were
moving. With a slight shake from left to right, his head changed
positions on the pillow.
“Easy Mr. McCain. You’re in my medical clinic. Come on. Open
“Waatter,” moaned Lucas as his mouth obeyed the commands his
brain had tried to send out for several hours.
With a cup of water held to his lips and thankful for the hand
behind his head, Lucas sipped on the cool water.
“Good man. Had enough?” the doctor asked as he removed the cup
from Lucas’ mouth, pleased when he nodded.
“Mark?” Lucas asked. His eyes still not open.
“You need your rest Mr. McCain.
“My boy, Mar…” Lucas slipped into sleep, the laudanum laced
water did its work.
The following morning Judge Zeller stepped into the clinic to
have his ears assaulted by the angry voice coming from the back
“WHERE’S MY SON!” the judge heard as he entered the back room.
“He’s in good hands, Mr. McCain. You need to focus on getting
healthy and all this shouting isn’t good for you. Please… drink
this water,” insisted the doctor as he reach one hand for the
back of Lucas’ head and the other positioned the cup towards
Having none of the doctor’s efforts to change the subject from
his son, Lucas batted away the cup containing the water,
ultimately soaking into the suit jacket worn by Judge Zeller.
Absent-mindedly, the judge brushed away the water drops from his
“WHERE’S MY SON?!” demanded Lucas McCain as his attention now
focused on the man having just entered the room.
“Where’s Vestor?” Judge Zeller asked.
“Discharged him earlier this morning,” answered the doctor.
“You’ll answer his question, but NOT MINE?! Tell me where my son
“Mr. McCain, as the doctor stated, your son is in good hands and
is being looked after until such time that you can regain
custody of the boy.”
Thankful for the distraction the judge offered, without warning,
the doctor plunged a needle into Lucas’ arm and empties the
entire contents of the syringe.
“HOW DARE YOU?!” Lucas belligerently called out, and a few
moments later the sedative took effect and Lucas slipped into
the drug-induced sleep.
“He’s going to be quite upset with you when he wakes,” taunted
“I know, but at least for a few more hours his body can heal
itself,” replied the doctor and he disposed of the syringe in
the trashcan by the door. “He’s going to be upset that I sedated
him, but based on what I just witnessed…” the doctor looked to
the judge a raised both eyebrows.
“He going hate what you did. I get the impression he’s more
ferocious than a momma bear protecting her cubs…”
“So? I did what was in the best interest for the child. He can
always repetition the courts to regain custody.”
“So you say…”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I don’t think the courts will have anything to say… He’ll
probably do all his talking with his Winchester. Now, if you’ll
excuse me. I’m going to go enjoy a beer at the Golden Spur.”
Turning to the judge as he placed his hat upon his head, he
asked, “Care to join me?”
“Yeah,” replied the judge.
Night was settling across Cloudcroft when a solitary rider
halted his horse in front of the courthouse and looked up to the
one window with a lit lantern, indicating the room might be
occupied. Looking left and right before dismounting, the rider
quietly stepped to the boardwalk and into the courthouse.
The man didn’t wait for an answer to his knock before he opened
the door, once inside he removed his hat and his long, black
hair fell down his back.
“Who are you?!’ demanded the man sitting behind the huge desk.
“Judge Zeller, I am U.S. Marshal Sam Buckhart.” The marshal
opened the front of his jean jacket to reveal the badge pinned
to his shirt. “I am here at the request of the territorial
governor in the matter of Mark McCain.
“That matter has already been resolved,” replied the judge as
his attention returned to the paperwork on his desk.
“Resolved? In what manner? I was led to believe that Lucas was
unable to speak in his own defense.”
“His defense was presented by Avery Jenkins, our town
“What of the boy?”
“I don’t see what cause you have to come here and ask about my
judicial proceedings. I did what I felt the governor would want…
I had the best interests of the boy at heart.”
“Where is Mark McCain?” Buckhart’s tone of voice intensified.
“I approved the petition for emergency termination of parental
rights and gave custody to Horatio Pettigrew. He will see that
the boy recovers and is properly cared for, not hauled around
like excess baggage as his father traipses from one gun battle
to the next.”
“The Governor will not be pleased with you,” Marshal Buckhart
coldly announced, keeping his own emotions reined in.
“For Pete’s sake, O’Donnell had no business including the
territorial governor in our town’s affairs! Besides, I did what
was required in order to protect the life of a young boy. His
father certainly couldn’t protect him! It was in the boy’s best
“And who spoke on behalf of Lucas? Who spoke on behalf of Mark?
Who spoke their truth?!” Buckhart demanded as he slammed his
fist upon the desk that was the only thing keeping him from
acting upon his hatred of the man and strangling him.
“Their truth was apparent, both suffering gunshot wounds and
fighting for their lives! No one needed to tell us anything!”
Hearing the challenging tones behind the voices on the other
side of the door as he walked down the hallway, Lucas burst into
the room causing the door to slam into the wall with a
resounding crash. The lawman inside the office had begun to turn
at the sound of the irregular boot steps striking the wood floor
in the outer hallway. The marshal was not the least bit
surprised upon recognizing the stubborn determination of the man
who staggered through the door.
Looking over his shoulder to the judge, “Once the Governor reads
my report, I am sure you will not be pleased with his response,”
Sam Buckhart stated, as he moved to keep the tall rancher from
falling to the floor.
“WHERE’S MY BOY?! demanded Lucas as he tried to push away from
the marshal. Pain from his wound and anger in his heart poured
forth as he was prevented from reaching the judge.
Turning to help his friend, Sam Buckhart supported Lucas and
left the judge’s chambers.
“Buckhart, where’s my boy?” Lucas begged of his friend.
Lucas’ memories went back to the first time he ever met the man
now helping him (Episode: The Indian). He remembered how he
tried to convince the Indian who led another Indian whose hand
were bound, both riding their horses across the land, that it
was up to the white man’s law to punish the other for any wrong
doing. Lucas continued to speak in exaggerated English to the
Indian, trying to convey he had no right to treat the other
Indian in such a manner. Buckhart produced his badge and
explained in perfect English that under the powers bestowed upon
him by the United States Government, he had the authority to
bring the Apache prisoner to stand trial on a charge of murder.
Lucas’ next encounter with Sam Buckhart was after he had entered
Sweeney’s saloon in North Fork; with his long hair tucked up
under his cowboy hat, wearing the clothes of a white man; he
drank with those toasting his success in capturing the no-good
savage. While outside the saloon, young Mark McCain innocently
divulged the true heritage of Marshal Buckhart; and the town
immediately turned against the lawman. In the end, it was found
that a white man was behind the murder and Lucas forced the town
to recognize and accept the authority of Sam Buckhart as a U.S.
Marshal and allow him to arrest those responsible and transport
them to see justice. By the time the marshal left North Fork,
Lucas had learned of Sam Buckhart’s past, that he had been taken
in as a young Apache by a white man who served in the military;
and that he was a graduate of Harvard College.
The second time Sam Buckhart arrived in North Fork, Mark McCain
had been kidnapped by an Indian chieftain, Chaqua, whose own
young son had died several months earlier (Episode: The Raid).
Lucas’ thoughts reflected how much the Apache lawman had tried
to help him while trying to find his son. Even though Lucas, due
to a head injury could barely sit in the saddle, he valiantly
trailed after those who knocked him unconscious and took his
son. Lucas found the Indian camp, with Marshal Buckhart lying
tied up on the ground and his son sitting, looking forlornly, on
a fallen log. In the still of the night, as they lie by their
campfire, Chaqua and his brother, Artek, heard Lucas’ stealthy
approach and sprang into action. Crying out, “You took my boy!,
Lucas strangled Chaqua to death after having shot Artek.
Lucas’ reverie returned to the present when Sam assisted him to
sit on one of the bench seats in front of the courthouse.
“Lucas, Mark is not here. He was taken,” Buckhart voiced
“Taken where? By whom?”
“I do not know all the details; but you need to see the doctor.
Your wound is bleeding,” Buckhart announced upon looking at the
bandage wrapped around his friend’s chest, and seeing signs of
blood seeping through the material.
“I don’t need any doctor,” spat Lucas. “I need to find Mark.”
“I will find him Lucas. You need to heal.”
“Sure you are… Just like last time,” answered Buckhart. He too
remembered the pain in Lucas’ eyes upon learning his son had
been kidnapped; while at the same time Buckhart was inspired by
the man’s determination in finding his son against long odds.
Buckhart recalled his own humiliation in being captured by Artek
and taunted as a ‘tame’ Apache. He regretted he had not been
able to rescue and return the young Mark McCain to his father,
but that the father had ended up rescuing both of them, even
though nearly out of his mind having suffered a severe
concussion from the blow to his head administered by Chaqua.
“Mr. Jones, how much farther until we stop?” called Horatio
Pettigrew as he sat up straighter on the bench seat of the
buckboard and arched his back in an attempt to alleviate his
“Whenever you’re ready, but me… I’d prefer to wait until we
reach the cover of that grouping of boulders there in the
distance,” answered Jedidiah Jones as he pointed to the location
on the distant horizon.
Jedidiah Jones was a man of middle years and fairly
non-descript; a man who most people would never remember if they
ever met him. His face and style of clothes were bland in
contrast to the appearances of Pettigrew and Giles.
Looking over his shoulder, Pettigrew looked into the canopy
covering the wagon, and gazed at the still form lying on the
mattress, covered with a light-weight sheet.
“How is he sir?” asked Giles, his eyes focused on the horses
pulling their conveyance.
“Do you really think it was wise of us to take him so soon? I
mean the doctor…”
“The doctor…” spat Horatio. “The doctor would have kept that boy
there and forced him to suffer as his father perished. It is for
the best. Believe me. When he wakes, he will be thankful that we
spared him the anguish of watching his father die before his
“He might survive?” Giles hesitantly offered, not sure if he
should have said his piece.
“Survive? The man was still unconscious, more than twenty-four
hours after being shot.”
‘So is the boy,’ Giles answered only in his mind.
The end of the day still offered enough light to allow the men
to set up camp for the night. After they had eaten their meal,
Giles slipped into the back of the wagon and encouraged the boy
to wake as he had done so many times throughout the day. He was
thankful the boy’s body recognized the need to swallow as the
water from the canteen flowed into his mouth between his parched
lips. He waited to see if the boy’s stomach would regurgitate
its contents as it had the first few times.
Laying Mark McCain’s head back upon the pillow, Giles exhaled,
“Dear Lord, please watch over this young man and his father. I
know I should have spoken at the hearing, but I know I can do
more good for the boys Mr. Pettigrew brings to his home than I
can if I was fired for speaking the truth.”
Pleased the water would not make a return appearance; Giles
replaced the cap on the canteen, climbed from the wagon, and
walked over to check the horses before slipping into his
The fire cackled against the rhythm of the crickets, offset by
an occasional owl or wolf calling to a mate.
Unable to sleep, Jedidiah Jones sat up and slipped a flask from
his saddle bag lying on the ground next to him.
“Mr. Pettigrew will not tolerate that,” Giles quietly spoke as
he rolled over and spotted the man’s actions as their campfire
reflected brightly off the silver container at the man’s lips.
“It’s just a small nip to ward off the chill of the night.”
“Alright, but don’t let our employer see you.”
Having taken not his first sip of the night, Jones was in a
talkative mood, “You have a last name?”
“Excuse me?” Giles asked, curious why the man wanted to know his
“Well, to everyone else back in Cloudcroft ‘he’ called them Mr.
this or Mr. that. Hell, even me he calls Mr. Jones. But you… Are
you some kind of indentured servant? Cain’t be kinfolk, least I
don’t think you’d be calling your brother Mr. Pettigrew all the
“I have a last name, and as my employer, whether I’m an
indentured servant or not, he calls me as he sees proper.”
“Well, I don’t think it right. You got as much right to that
man’s respect as the next, including me.” Jedidiah raised his
flask in a mock salute before taking another lengthy sip.
“So it would seem…” Remembering back to a different time in his
life, Giles mused, “When we were younger, we called each other
by our first names, but then… then the realities of our stations
in life were pressed upon us. I am the humble employee and Mr.
Pettigrew is my employer. I dare not forget my place in life.”
“But you gotta last name, doncha?” Jones pressed on, his
inebriated state forcing him to slur his words.
“Malloy, Giles Gerrard Malloy; named in honor of my
“Pleased to make your acquaintance Mr. Malloy… Pleased to meet
your acquaintance,” Jones slurred as the alcohol pulled him to
Lucas refused to return to the doctor’s clinic, but did agree to
check into a room at the Presidential Hotel, a meager building
that aspired to be more as the surrounding community grew.
“Lucas, you rest,” Sam Buckhart stated as he helped Lucas to the
bed in the room.
“Buckhart, you know what’s going on, tell me… who took Mark and
“I will find out all I can and let you know, but first you must
rest. The doctor will be here shortly to check you have not
injured yourself further while being so foolish. I will return
Buckhart had felt mad at the judge earlier, but upon his
discussions with the town’s doctor and solicitor, Buckhart was
As he returned to the hotel Buckhart felt an obligation to tell
his friend the truth, yet he contemplated not… Was his friend
strong enough to hear the truth? ‘I will tell him. How he
responds will prove whether he is strong enough to help,’ the
lawman thought to himself.
As he entered the hotel, Sam saw the good doctor sitting in the
lobby and the man stood upon seeing the marshal enter.
“Marshal Buckhart,” offered the doctor. The guilt he felt was
evident in his demeanor.
“How is Lucas?” Buckhart asked, without returning any
“He’ll be fine. He strained a couple of the stitches causing the
wound to bleed. The fool man, he could have severely set his
recovery back had it not been for you.”
“Lucas McCain is NOT a fool. He is a father who loves and will
defend his son. Had it not been for you and your town, Lucas
would have taken the time to recover. For what the man did on
behalf of your community and this is how you treat him… “
“But we didn’t do anything!”
“As long as you understand that you did nothing. Nothing to stop
a man who had no right to interfere in the lives of Lucas and
Mark McCain; you allowed him to take the boy away from his
father. I do not envy you.”
“Why… why should you envy me?” asked the doctor, worried at the
implications behind the words.
“Twice Mark has been kidnapped, and all but one of the men
responsible are dead. The other man has only been in jail for a
few months serving a ten year sentence. Does that give you a
clue to the kind of man Lucas McCain is when it comes to his
“But he’s a gunfighter…”
“NO!” barked Buckhart while he grabbed the front of the
physician’s jacket and pulled the man close. Under muted, but
angered breath, Buckhart said, “Lucas McCain is first and
foremost a loving father, raising his son. Secondly, he is a
rancher who will stand up to right, or prevent, a wrong! Think
on that!” Buckhart pushed the man back towards the chair he had
previously sat in and left the man sprawled in the seat as he
headed towards the staircase.
Once Lucas awoke for the afternoon and was able to recognize his
friend, he said nothing, but let his demeanor tell his friend he
would wait as long as it took for the lawman to divulge all he
“Lucas I would prefer to wait until you are stronger to tell you
what I have learned, however…” Buckhart raised his hand to
prevent his friend from interrupting him. “However, the boy is
your son and you have the right to know what happened.”
“I want the truth, Buckhart. The whole truth,” answered Lucas,
his voice warning he would accept nothing less than the truth
and would not appreciate a ‘sugar-coated’ version.
“The truth Lucas,” agreed Buckhart as he gave a slight nod of
his head as he sat down in the chair in front of the lace
covered window. “A busy-body of a man named Horatio Pettigrew
from Rio Rancho, New Mexico arrived in Cloudcroft the day before
you were shot. After the bank robbery, he found Mark injured...”
Buckhart paused, waiting for Lucas’ anger to boil over; he
watched the sharp intake of breath and the blood veins pulsating
at Lucas’ temple. “From the reports made available to me, a
bullet grazed Mark across the temple and struck him unconscious.
It appears that earlier, Pettigrew saw you and Mark, and…”
“And what?!” Lucas demanded.
“Your rifle. From what I understand, it appears he only saw and
heard what he wanted to. He did not verify any of his
assumptions to ascertain whether they were valid facts or rumor.
He believed you were a gunfighter, traipsing from town to town,
dragging your son along. The man petitioned the courts for an
emergency hearing to terminate your custodial rights for your
“He can’t do that!”
“He can and he did. We can be thankful that his attorney thought
to try to bolster his own standing in the political community
and notified the territorial governor regarding this petition,
and that is how I became involved. Had he not…”
“Go on, what happened to Mark?” Lucas demanded; eager to know
“The town’s solicitor weakly represented your case. I believe
the judge was anxious to prevent the governor’s interference so
he quickly granted the hearing. No one objected the petition.”
“How could I?!”
“It appears they wanted the hearing over and done with, and just
went through the motions so everything would appear above board,
so to speak. Judge Zeller signed custody of Mark over to Horatio
Pettigrew of the Pettigrew Home for Wayward Boys.”
“He’s not an object! To… to be traded like cattle!”
Buckhart grew pleased in what he saw in the tall rancher,
instead of collapsing and growing weak, with each statement,
Lucas McCain grew stronger, more determined, the physical damage
done by his injury seemed to fade from memory.
“They left that afternoon. They have been gone for two days.”
Knowing he needed to be better rested, Lucas said, “I’ll do as
you suggested earlier, I’ll continue to rest tonight. But we
leave at first light to find my son! You do know where to locate
this Pettigrew Home for Wayward Boys?”
“I do Lucas, and I am sure that is where they are taking your
son. We leave in the morning. The doctor will provide bandages
and medicine to ensure you stay healthy enough.”
“Alright, first light.”
“I will prepare everything necessary for our trip. Until the
morning…” offered Buckhart as he took his leave.
After the marshal left the hotel room, Lucas lay back on the bed
and replayed all that he remembered from the morning of the bank
robbery, to waking in the doctor’s office, to storming into the
judge’s chambers. His memories emboldened him to take out after
those who took his son.
A hint of dawn’s arrival painted the eastern horizon a faint
pink, when three horses and two riders made their way from
Cloudcroft. Prior to leaving, Lucas allowed Doctor Webster one
final examination where he placed a heavier gauze pad over the
incision site and bound his chest tight enough to prevent
Before allowing the marshal to mount, Dr. Webster quietly spoke,
“Marshal, I know I can’t stop Mr. McCain from riding with you,
but you have to understand…” The doctor gulped in recognizing
the look the Indian gave him indicating that he needed to speak
quickly, “Right now, his need to find his boy is overriding his
body’s need to recuperate. It will only last so long… I don’t
know how long he’ll be able to ride or how long he’ll be able to
keep up… He needs to be in my clinic.”
“If I had my way, he would be… But… I know Lucas. He will push
himself past any physical discomfort to find Mark.”
“It’s not just physical discomfort… If you want to prevent him
from killing himself, make sure he rests regularly, eats plenty,
and drinks too. I also want you to give him this medication when
you stop at night. It will help him sleep. Hopefully, it will be
enough to offset this fool’s errand…”
“Be thankful I am a lawman… Your words tempt me to strangle the
life out of you…” warned Buckhart.
With that, Buckhart mounted his dark bay horse, picked up the
lead to the packhorse, nodded to Lucas and rode away. Once
outside the boundaries of the town, both horses picked up a
ground-covering lope, reacting to the determination of their
riders to get to their destination; the packhorse had no choice
but to keep pace.
Giles startled awake early the following morning upon hearing,
“Pa? Pa, where are you?” and recognizing the anxious tremor in
the boy’s voice that came from inside the covered wagon. Quickly
rising to his feet, Giles proceeded to enter the wagon and tend
to the young man who was their charge.
“It’s okay. You’re safe.”
“Pa?” Mark called again, struggling to open his eyes.
“Here, let me lift your head and you drink what I give you.
You’ll feel better afterwards… to have a little something on
your stomach,” Giles stated as he held the canteen to the boy’s
“Don’t wanna… get sick,” moaned Mark as he moved his head away.
“You won’t, you kept the water down the past four times I’ve
given it to you. Come on now, be a good boy and drink up,”
Giles smiled as Mark drank a healthy amount of cool liquid.
“Thanks,” Mark whispered as Giles lowered his head back to the
“Well, young man. How are you feeling this morning?” Giles
Lifting his hand to his head and rubbing it along the bandage,
Mark answered, “Head hurts.” Opening his eyes, Mark glanced at
the objects that were inside the covered wagon with him before
he returned his attention to the man kneeling beside him. “What
“What do you remember?” Giles asked. He was an avid reader of
psychology literature and it always indicated it was best to
determine just how much someone knew before divulging the facts.
“Not much… I remember feeling pain…and then darkness. I think…
My head aches, but not just here…” again Mark rubbed his temple.
“Don’t try forcing yourself to remember, just let it come to
you. But I can confirm that you were injured. It appears you got
caught in the cross-fire and a bullet grazed your temple. I
believe you also suffered a concussion because of it. That’s why
you have the headache. It will ease once you’ve eaten and start
to get up and around.”
Mark looked intently upon the man with him; the boy’s expression
indicated he was confused.
“Are there any questions I could answer for you?”
“Are you my Pa?” Mark asked.
“Am I your…”
“GILES!” hollered Horatio Pettigrew from outside the wagon.
“Just lie back and try to sleep some more. I’ll wake you so you
can eat breakfast with us.”
“Sir, if you’re not my pa, who are you?”
“I’m someone who cares about what happens you to. Just lie
“I don’t know how long I’ve been asleep, but I really need to
“Oh, dear. I’m sorry, I didn’t even think about that.”
“GILES!” yelled Pettigrew.
Raising his voice, Giles replied, “I’m in the wagon.”
The cover at the back of the wagon fluttered as Horatio
Pettigrew peered inside. “Well, good morning,” he called in
greeting upon seeing Mark’s eyes open.
“Good morning, sir,” Mark politely answered.
“Sir, he woke, he’s drank a good amount of water and kept it
down; and now… He needs to relieve himself.”
“Then help the boy to his needs and be quick about it. Once he’s
back in the wagon, I expect you to start breakfast.”
“Yes, sir, Mr. Pettigrew.”
Having assisted Mark to walk to a stand of trees, Giles knew the
young man would appreciate some privacy, so he stepped away,
“Just call me when you’re ready to return to the wagon.”
“Mr. Giles,” called Mark.
“Ready so soon?”
“No, but… Is Mr. Pettigrew my pa?”
“No son, neither of us are your father. But, Mr. Pettigrew does
have legal guardianship over you. You were placed into our
custody by the courts.”
“Then you don’t know anything about my parents?”
Giles knew he needed to ask the question. “Do you remember your
name?” There was a long paused before he heard, “No sir. Can you
help me back to the wagon?” Mark’s request sounded small and
Giles helped Mark walk back to the wagon and gave him a
steadying hand as he climbed inside.
Peering into the wagon, Giles chipperly stated, “Don’t fret
about it. I’m sure that once your headache fades, your memory
“If you say so. I think I want to sleep some.” Mark lay down on
the mattress and pulled the sheet over his shoulders.
Turning away from the wagon, Giles walked to the campfire where
Pettigrew and Jones sat, waiting for him to prepare breakfast.
As he walked, he argued with himself, should he or should he not
inform his employer about the boy’s amnesia.
“Sir, I’ve some disquieting news regarding our young ward.”
“What about him? He’s alright, isn’t he? He was awake and
talking…” Pettigrew inquired.
“Yes sir, physically, other than a headache, he appears to be
“Then what is it?” Pettigrew asked with a hint of irritation.
“He doesn’t remember his name.”
“Earlier he asked if I was his father, and then if you were.
When I asked him if he knew his name, he said no.”
Pettigrew inhaled and relaxed, he didn’t think the news could be
“Sir?” Giles asked to get his employer’s attention. He couldn’t
read the man’s body language; at least it wasn’t the reaction he
“Giles, think of it man… The boy doesn’t remember his name,
doesn’t remember who he is or his past. We don’t have to put up
with him fighting us every step of the way over his father.”
Pettigrew’s smile increased.
After traveling for several hours, Sam Buckhart called a halt to
their trip and stepped from his horse. He surveyed the location
and was pleased to see a copse of trees providing adequate shade
and a small stream that wound its way across the landscape to
allow the horses to quench their thirst.
“I’m fine, Buckhart,” admonished Lucas, still sitting astride
his black horse Razor.
“You may be, but I need a break and the horses do too. Do not be
so stubborn, McCain. A fifteen minute break is all we need,”
answered Sam as he led his horse and the packhorse to the
stream, loosened their cinches, and took down his own canteen to
satisfy his thirst. The lawman smiled as Lucas realized the
wisdom of Sam’s words.
“I know, I know. We’ll get where we’re going quicker by taking
care of ourselves and our horses,” Lucas stated as he walked
Razor to the stream and mimicked the marshal’s actions.
“Lucas, we will get the boy back. Last night, I wired the
territorial governor that I had sent my report. I am sure he
will reverse Judge Zeller’s decision and return Mark to your
custody. I am also certain that the judge may not be one for
“Can the governor rescind Zeller’s appointment?”
“He can, and he has in the past. Your governor has a strong
sense of right and wrong, and to hold a hearing without
testimony from those most impacted by the decision is tantamount
to judicial negligence. And the defense did not even meet the
most basic requirements…”
“Do you know if Mark was okay, when they left?”
“From what I understand, Mark had only regained consciousness
once before the hearing. The doctor gave him some water which he
was unable to keep down. He had not reawakened before he was
loaded into the back of the covered wagon. I am sorry, Lucas.
But we will find him.”
“Leave Pettigrew to the governor.”
“Why should I?”
“Because the governor has already ordered an investigation into
the Pettigrew Home for Wayward Boys… He has heard rumors. This
is not the first time the man has petitioned the courts to gain
custody of a child… The governor wants to know that these boys
are properly being cared for…”
“And if not?”
“The governor has men in transit to investigate, and if they
find the standards lacking, the boys will be transferred to
other facilities, but I am sure there will be hearings to
confirm whether their parents are suitable to regain custody.”
“Is this home a labor camp for children?”
“That I can not answer. I do not know.”
As promised, only fifteen minutes had passed when they were in
the saddle again and traveling.
Long shadows cast from the morning sun darkened sections of
Cloudcroft’s main street as Judge Zeller walked along the
boardwalk on his way to the hotel restaurant for breakfast.
Before entering the establishment, he stopped upon hearing his
name called out; he turned to see Nathan Ironwood running
towards him, waving his arm and hand in the air to attract the
“Nathan, what’s got you riled so early this morning?” Judge
Zeller inquired as he cross his arms over his chest, waiting for
the man to approach.
“We’ve got trouble!” Nathan’s words rushed out, as he tried to
catch his breath.
“What kind of trouble?”
“Indian trouble,” whispered Nathan.
“Not here!” hissed Zeller as he grabbed the Indian agent’s arm
in an effort to propel the man along the walkway and to his
chambers in the courthouse. As the two men hurried along, under
his breath the judge mumbled, “If it’s not one thing it’s
another… Damn the governor for interfering… Damn O’Donnell for
notifying the man… Damn Horatio Pettigrew… Damn that U.S.
“Excuse me?!” squealed Nathan as the judge pushed him into a
chair in his chambers.
With a resounding slam, Judge Zeller closed the door to his
office and stepped to the sidebar where several decanters
containing brandy and whiskey sat. He picked up a large glass
tumbler and poured a full glass of whiskey and drank half before
he poured another half a glass for Nathan Ironwood. Turning, he
walked over to his desk, handed the glass to the Indian agent
and sat down on the corner of his desk.
“Now, what’s this all about ‘Indian trouble’?” inquired Judge
“I was at Mugua’s camp yesterday. A few of his boys were caught
“Boys?! Damn it man, you get me all upset over mischief caused
by boys?!” The man’s exasperation and frustration was quite
plain to see as his face reddened.
“No, that’s just what took me out to the camp… Mugua is having
trouble keeping about a dozen of the young warriors in line…”
“A dozen… who? Which ones?”
“His son, Mueglion and his followers… They up and left camp, it
was reported their ponies were painted…” worriedly answered
“Damn, damn, damn… It would have to be him…” Taking another long
drink of whiskey, Judge Zeller asked, “Do you know what they’re
“No, only that they left camp the morning after the bank was
robbed and haven’t been seen since.”
Several miles away from where those bound for the Pettigrew Home
for Wayward Boys camped, Silas Waiscott felt comfortable in
starting a small fire to ward off the chill of the early morning
and to heat some coffee for his consumption.
Having drank his fill and anxious to return to his wife, Silas
quickly doused the flames with the remnants of his coffee and
quickly covered it over with dirt to prevent the smoke from
alerting the Indians from the day before of his presence.
Saddling his horse, Silas mounted and set out for Cloudcroft;
keeping his horse to a slow pace to prevent it from kicking up
dust or making noise as one of the metal shoes struck the
occasional rock upon the ground, anything to prevent the Indians
from knowing about him.
Keeping his eyes alert and actively scanning his surroundings as
he rode, Silas was surprised to see smoke from a campfire
indicating there were other travelers nearby. The man struggled
with whether to alert the travelers to the band of Indians or to
continue on his way to return to his wife because in his past he
encountered bigotry all because he was a black man, a former
slave. How many others had bore their weapons upon him because
of the color of his skin? How many times had he been chased
away… The decision was taken out of his hands when the first cry
of attack sounded.
Dismounting from his horse, Silas crawled to the rise of the
hill that separated him from the attack and watched as a dozen
Indians rode down on the small camp. He watched as the better
dressed of the two eastern tinhorns fell after taking a bullet
to the chest. The man Silas presumed to be their guide, quickly
turned and ran, drawing his gun and firing wildly. He stumbled
and tripped over roots exposed from the ground, only to get up
and run again. He fell one last time as a bullet delivered its
The Indians yelled and shouted at their success before turning
their attention and their weapons to the last man in the camp.
The third man, Silas saw run towards the covered wagon; he
presumed it was to retrieve a weapon of some kind or an attempt
by the man to hide from the marauding Indians riding through
their camp. Silas was surprised to that ipon reaching the back
of the wagon, the man turned and raised his hands in surrender.
Silas heard the man calling out, but couldn’t hear the words the
“Please, we’ve done nothing wrong!” Giles declared having
realized that he needed to do everything possible to save the
life of the youth who lay in the back of their wagon. If he were
to climb in back, the Indians were bound to come after him.
Mueglion approached the wagon, rifle resting on his knee, and
said, “Just being here is wrong. This is our land, long before
you and your lies drove the buffalo away. No more! This is our
land! We take it back!”
The brave fired one shot and smiled as the man crumpled to the
ground. Turning to his braves Mueglion yelled, in Apache, “Take
horses! We ride!”
When one of the others asked about taking what was inside the
wagon, Mueglion stated, “We need nothing of the white man. The
buzzards will pick their bones dry. Let their wagon stand as a
warning to others who dare cross our land.”
“How much longer?” inquired Lucas as they rested their horses
and ate their evening meal.
“We should arrive in Rio Rancho in two days ride, if we keep to
this pace and route.”
“Two days too long,” muttered Lucas as he drank from his cup of
“It could have been otherwise, Lucas,” commented Sam.
“Yes, that judge could have declined to hear the case,” Lucas
“No, Mark could have been sent there because you had died.
Lucas, you are still not fully healed, or even healed enough to
be riding with me.”
“I won’t turn back! I’m going!” argued McCain.
“I know you are, but for that reason, I insist you take the
medicine prescribed by the doctor.” Sam held another tin cup
filled with water mixed with the sleeping powder. “It will help
you sleep and while you sleep, your body can heal. I’ve also
mixed in an herb used by the Apache to help ward off any
“And if I don’t drink it?” dared Lucas.
“I will be responsible to haul you back to the doctor in
Cloudcroft and delayed in returning your son to you…”
“Some friend you are,” Lucas sarcastically answered.
“I know,” Sam seriously replied. “And it is because I value our
friendship that I will insist.” Again, Buckhart held the cup to
Lucas, his facial expression indicated he would not take no for
The sun was setting behind the western hills when Lucas pulled
the blanket over his shoulders and closed his eyes; the
medication having effectively forced him into a much needed
Sitting beside their morning campfire, Sam allowed Lucas to wake
naturally, knowing the man should not be in the saddle but
instead in a bed at the doctor’s clinic. He smiled as the man
started to move around under the blanket as the effects of the
medication fully wore off.
“Good morning Lucas,” greeted Same.
“Morning. What time is it?” Lucas asked as he tossed off the
“Dawn broke two hours ago…”
“The horses are saddled and waiting, all I need you to do is to
eat something and get some coffee into you. And take…”
“No more sleeping powders!”
“No, I was going to suggest taking the herbs. Again, if you
succumb to an infection…” Sam grinned behind the coffee cup he
held to his lips, he knew how to get his way and still allow
Lucas his dignity.
“What is it?” asked Lucas as Sam halted his horse and the pack
horse. The lawman looked at the sun high overhead before looking
across the landscape.
“What do you think they’re over?”
“I know what I pray they are not flying over…”
Quietly the two men rode, the birds in the sky increased from
mere specs to the large carrions they were.
An hour later, Sam stepped from his horse beside a body on the
ground. Using his toe, the lawman nudged the man and received no
“He’s one of them, I think,” commented Lucas.
“One of them?”
“The ones who robbed the bank in Cloudcroft. The ones
responsible for my being shot, and Mark.”
Having scared several of the buzzards away from the body, Sam
realized that they had flown a short distance away and were now
on the ground.
“Another body, Lucas,” Sam stated as he jutted his chin forward
in Indian fashion to indicate direction.
Leading his mount, Sam walked over to the second body.
“I think that one was Aaron Provo’s brother,” Lucas stated as he
walked up behind the lawman.
“Who was Aaron Provo?”
“A man I hired to help Mark and me get thirty head of cattle to
Cloudcoft, said he was going to meeting his brother there. Mark
and I saw them together later that night we arrived. In fact,
that other man was with…” Lucas looked back over his shoulder,
towards the other body.
“They were to meet there to rob the bank?”
“I can’t believe it…”
For a moment Lucas doubted his abilities to know right from
wrong; he couldn’t believe the man they had hired could be
involved in such a scheme.
“He didn’t seem the type… He seemed so…”
“Innocent?” asked Sam.
“I don’t know that I’d use that word to describe him, but he
seemed so carefree, happy to be meeting up with his brother. I
just can’t believe he’d be involved with anything to do with
robbing the bank.”
“Lucas, there is an old saying that I learned at Harvard, ‘you
can’t judge a book by its cover’. The same goes for man.”
Returning to face the marshal, Lucas saw something lying on the
ground a short distance away and walked over to the items,
picked up the saddlebags, not bothering with the saddle, and
returned to where the marshal stood watching.
“Theirs?” asked Sam.
“Only the saddlebags, I don’t think the contents rightfully
belonged to them, there’s a lot of money inside,” answered Lucas
as he closed the flap.
“Who do you think killed them?” asked Lucas as he watched Sam
carefully survey the scene.
“What do the signs tell you?” replied Buckhart.
Setting the saddlebag next to the dead body, Lucas looked at the
tracks and discerned there was still one shod horse being raced
across the ground with numerous unshod horses following. Fifteen
minutes later they encountered the third body; a man probably
not yet out of his teenage years.
“The trail ends here. You think Apaches?” asked Lucas.
“Mescelaro, yes. Their holy land is not far from here. If these
men had continued to ride, they would have crossed the boundary
within half an hour at a trot. As fast as they were riding,
probably fifteen, twenty minutes.”
“So?” responded Sam.
“Then this is where we split up…” Lucas stated as he walked away
to return to where he had ground tied Razor.
Running to catch up with the rancher, the lawman placed his hand
upon Lucas’ shoulder to turn him around.
“We bury the bodies first. Give your horse a break. A longer
break now means you can ride longer into the night…”
Sam paused, giving his friend a few moments to contemplate his
course of action.
Seeing his friend still struggling, torn with what to do,
Buckhart stated, “We’ve no way to transport the bodies back to
Cloudcroft… We can’t just leave them lying here…”
“Why not!” demanded Lucas, his frustration boiling near the
“It is not the Christian thing to do Lucas.”
“I know… damn you Buckhart,” Lucas mumbled in acquiesce.
“I understand Lucas. But you have to understand I have a greater
obligation to get this money back to where it belongs in
Cloudcroft. And you are not well enough to travel on your own.”
“So, do we bury them together?” asked Lucas, daring the lawman
to say yes.
“No, we bury them where they fell.”
Several hours later, Lucas barely could stand, let alone attempt
to mount his horse. The effort exerted in digging the graves
compounded with the pain from his wound stole what little
reserves the rancher had that had kept him going this far.
“We rest here for the night. In the morning we’ll take the money
back to Cloudcroft,” stated Sam.
“And what of Mark?!” demanded Lucas.
“If they keep to the road they were traveling, he and the others
should be safe. They’ll probably arrive in Rio Rancho by midday
tomorrow.” Knowing his words were not giving the comfort or
solace intended, the marshal stated, “Lucas, Pettigrew went
through a lot of trouble to get Mark, I’m sure he’ll see that
the boy comes to no harm.”
“And if that home is a work camp for children?” Lucas dared his
friend to object.
“Then Mark will work a few days and by the end of the week you
and he will be together. That is IF you take care of yourself.
You still aren’t well enough to travel.”
“That’s your opinion…”
“If you were not so stubborn… Drink!”
Having slipped more sleeping powders and herbs into Lucas’
water, Sam shook his head. He knew he would have a fight on his
hands in the morning; he saw the evidence even if Lucas refused
to acknowledge. The man needed a doctor to restitch his wound.
Silas had hid his horse in an abandoned barn on the outskirts of
Cloudcroft and waited until evening to make his way to Miss
Matilda’s, and to Enola; he couldn’t wait to take her away. The
past was the past and he only wanted to see their future,
The light in the front room parlor had been extinguished for
about thirty minutes when Silas made his way to the side of the
building, below the window that was Enola’s room. He climbed the
trellis to the roof overhang and waited outside the slightly
opened window; he heard voices from inside.
“Now Dominique, you can’t just go off with him,” stated the
“He’s my husband,” pleaded Dominique.
“It’s been what… twenty years since you’ve seen him. How can you
still think that you’re married?” the woman asked.
“Because we vowed until death do we part. I bared my soul to
him; he gave me a life to carry… my Hester. Oh Agnes, every time
I’m with a man, I’m not really with him…” Dominique paused to
remember. “I remember when I was Enola…”
“That was my name long ago…before all the heartache.”
“Do you really still love him?”
“How can I not? I can please any man who comes to my bed, but in
my heart, I’m really trying to remember what it was like when
Silas…” Enola cupped her hands and ran them on top of the fabric
of the camisole that covered her breasts before wrapping her
arms across her stomach. “Back then, women never talked of their
marriage bed and… the pleasures. But I long for those days… To
have a man make me feel the way that Silas did.”
“What’s wrong?” Agnes asked as she sensed there was something
“Agnes, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Men…
Practically every man who walks through that front door is only
looking for one thing… Very few men who come here are skilled in
making love, for most… to them it’s just sex, for their pleasure
only… They don’t care that it can be a two way street, that the
woman also wants to experience those same pleasures… How many
men have you taken to your bed have been as sharing in their
“Only a few… So why didn’t he take you that night? Why didn’t
you go with him?”
“He said he’d come back for me… If Enola would wait for him…
“So that’s why you ain’t come down? There’s been several men who
came calling, asking specifically for you,” Agnes stated.
“That’s why. Agnes, before… Matilda knew I thought him dead. All
these years… I thought him dead. But now I know the truth. How
can I take another man to my bed? I love my husband.”
Outside the window, Silas was thrilled to hear the conversation
and those final words; it took all his control to not break
through the slightly opened window and take his wife to bed
right then and there. No, he had made up his mind; they would
leave Cloudcroft and go somewhere to start a new life together,
as a husband and wife that had so long been denied to him.
Silas heard the woman leave and waited until the light from the
window two doors down the outside of the building faded before
he fully opened the window and climbed in. He froze when he
heard the click from the hammer of a pistol being pulled back
and locked into position.
“Enola, it’s me, Silas.” He heard the ragged gasp exhaled.
“Why didn’t you come through the front door?” she asked as she
lowered the weapon, turned and walked towards her bureau to
place the weapon upon it.
“Because I didn’t want anyone to know I was here.”
“Silas… That was you… The other day… You robbed the bank…”
“I told you we had a job to do.”
“But you killed the sheriff and wounded three others…”
“Does it matter? I heard what you told that woman… You said you
“I do love you… but…”
“Either you love me or you don’t. If you love me, let me take
you away from here. Come with me and I’ll erase everything from
the past twenty years.”
Silas walked towards and reached for his wife and pulled her
close. The closer she came, the more his mind quieted and
refused to countermand his body, his body’s desires were in full
control. While fingering the soft ringlets of curls that fell
around her face, he inhaled the scent of her hair before his
lips found their way to hers, quieting any objections she might
The ardent passion of their kiss burned deep as Enola remembered
her conversation from just a few minutes before; her body
responded. As if newlyweds on their first night, her hands
hesitantly sought the fastenings on his shirt and began to
unbutton them; having pulled the shirttails from the waist of
his pants, she undid the last two buttons before pushing the
shirt from her husband’s broad shoulders.
As Silas sensed his wife’s hands push his shirt from his
shoulders, he reached for the hem of her camisole and lifted it
from her body and over her head. As her arms lowered, Silas
placed one hand under her shoulders and the other reached for
behind her knees as he picked her up to carry her to the bed,
the bed where they would share to reconsummate their marriage.
Having laid his wife upon the bed, Silas slipped her pantaloons
from her hips and down her legs, his eyes feasting upon the body
that he had desired for so long. Slipping his trousers from his
hips, down to the floor, Silas climbed into the bed beside his
Pulling is wife upon him; they lay gently caressing each other.
Together as one, they re-created their wedding night, forgetting
their first embarrassment as both had stood naked in front of
the other after their vows had been said. Silas remembered the
advised from a married slave who told him, “Your marriage bed is
not just about you. Give her pleasure before giving the seed to
the life that she will carry for nine months.”
In the bedroom on the second floor of Miss Matilda’s, they
rekindled their pleasures to a point where neither could stop
the passion that coursed through their souls. For the first time
in twenty years, Enola did not have to imagine the feelings she
once shared with her husband. Twenty years of longing burned
deep and the release caused her pain and pleasure as her husband
satisfied both their desires.
The grandfather clock in the parlor struck three o’clock in the
morning as husband and wife lay wrapped in each other’s arms.
Silas felt at peace for the first time in twenty years upon
hearing the soft breathing of his wife in his arms and feeling
her flesh upon his. He lifted his head from the pillow and
gently kissed the top of her head, the movement and the low,
rumbling thunder from outside slightly rousing her.
“Silas?” she sleepily asked.
“We need to leave soon.”
Pushing herself up, she looked into her husband’s face, “Where
will we go?”
“Away, maybe south...” Silas stated with indecision.
“But I thought going North…” she stopped when she sensed his
body tense. “What is it?” pushing away to rest upon her elbow,
placing her other hand over his heart.
“We can’t go North.”
“Why not? I heard Canada…”
“Too much trouble with Indians, I don’t want to risk losing
you.” Silas rose up to kiss her upon her lips.
“What Indian trouble? Mugua and his people have been at peace.
There’s a treaty…” Enola answered, pulling back from the
“They broke it,” Silas answered.
“Who broke it? How?” Enola asked as tremors of fear took hold of
“Trey and others.”
“Trey? Silas, I don’t understand.” Enola pushed herself to sit
up in the bed next to her husband; the sheet falling from her
shoulders, exposing her bare upper body to her husband.
“Woman…” Silas taunted, trying to push down the fears from his
memories of the attacks as well as the desires of the flesh that
aroused in seeing his wife, the contours of her body highlighted
by the moon as clouds slipped from in front of it and allowed
the moonlight to stream through the open window
“Don’t woman, me,” The fear began to turn to anger. “What
“I didn’t care to go to Rio Rancho with the others, I wanted…
needed you. Later, I heard.. saw a band of Indians attack them.
Abe had already died of a wound from the robbery, but Trey,
Deuce, Zeke, I watched as those Indians rode down upon them and
“How did you get away from them?” fear etched her voice.
“I guess they didn’t see me. There were others, too.” Silas
acknowledged as the horror of the two attacks weighed on his
conscience and wouldn’t let him keep it a secret any longer.
“Others?” queried Enola.
“The next morning, there was a covered wagon and three men… They
had less of a chance than Trey and...”
“Three men? Who?” A memory niggled at the back of Enola’s mind.
“I don’t know… Two looked like tenderfoots, the other… probably
was their guide.”
All fear and anger left Enola as she climbed from the bed and
began to dress. “What of the boy?!” Enola demanded as a loud
crash of thunder reverberated and shook the building.
“Boy?” Silas asked as he sat up and swung his legs off the edge
of the bed and watched his wife dress.
Throwing his clothes to him, Enola stated, “The boy! Zeller gave
custody of the McCain boy to Pettigrew!” as if that should
explain everything. “Dear God in Heaven!” exclaimed Enola as she
sat in the chair next to the window and worked to lace up her
black ankle boots. Frustrated at anything and everything, Enola
slammed closed the window to stop the rain from pouring in,
before she returned to the chair to finish fastening her
“Enola?” asked Silas, standing and pulling up his trousers and
“The day you robbed the bank… a young teenage boy was wounded,
as well as his father… That tenderfoot…” Exasperated, Enola
stood and stated, “We have to inform the deputy!”
“And just how to you propose to do that?!” an alarmed Silas
stated, pulling his shirt over his shoulders, leaving it hanging
unbuttoned at hearing his wife’s words, he walked towards her.
“He’s just a boy! An innocent child! Pettigrew took that child
away from his father, with the courts blessing!”
“What does it matter? We have to leave here, we can go anywhere…
The two of us… We can start fresh…” Silas stated as he reached
for her upper arm and turned her to face him.
Silas was surprised to see the tears streaming down her face,
illuminated with a bolt of lightning, followed by a crash of
“Silas, they took Hester from me… My own child was ripped from
my breast,” Enola cupped both her clothed breasts in her hands
for emphasis, “and sold her!” Enola raised her hands to cover
her face in shame at the memory. Having somewhat composed
herself, she continued, “That boy’s father is out there,
wounded, searching for his son, the son that was ripped from his
heart and given away, just as if he had been a slave, to be
bought and sold as a possession!”
“And just what do you suggest we tell the deputy?” demanded
Silas as he finished fastening his shirt and tucking it in his
Returning to stand in front of her husband, Enola wrapped her
arms around him and rested her tear streaked face upon his
chest. “We don’t have to tell him about your part in the
robbery. We don’t have to tell them about Trey and the others,
but the men with the boy… We have to tell them about the boy.”
“I don’t know…” Silas answered in a whisper, his arms wrapped
around his wife.
“If it were Hester out there… Wouldn’t you want someone to tell
you? Silas, I gave birth to a child that I have no idea where
she is… If she’s still alive.”
The morning sun was still some time from making its appearance
when the rancher and lawman were awakened by thunder rumbling
across the land. In the clear night sky, they could see the
menacing clouds building into thunderheads, the telltale signs
of the rain heading their way. With no shelter available, the
two quickly broke camp, pulled on their raingear, and rode
through the miserable weather as the showers began to
“It is the right thing to do Lucas,” Buckhart spoke as the
horses plodded their way through the sloppy mud that just the
day before had been firm ground. “As I said last night, I am
sure Pettigrew will ensure Mark’s health until we can get to Rio
“I know, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it,” mumbled Lucas
as under his rain poncho he pulled the collar of his jacket
closed and gave a shiver. He wished he could have put up a
stronger fight against returning to Cloudcroft, but the pain
from the wound in his chest, the persistent seeping of blood,
and the ravages of the infection that set fever upon him took
away his strength to argue. And Mark… what good would he do his
son should he set out alone and… Lucas pushed the thoughts from
his mind and focused on staying in the saddle.
Seeing the slumped shoulders and waxy complexion of his
companion, Sam Buckhart realized they were in trouble, Lucas was
coming down with a fever from a possible infection. ‘Damn this
weather,’’ the marshal thought to himself.
Later that day, inside the town’s jail, the deputy listened and
took notes as the black man recounted the story of coming upon a
covered wagon under attack by Indians.
“Why didn’t you come here to report this right away?” Deputy
Vestor asked when he heard when the attack happened and that the
man had been at Miss Matilda’s all night and through the
“I was coming to Cloudcroft to fetch my wife. We spent the night
together, it wasn’t until this morning when I couldn’t get the
images out of my mind that I told her what I’m telling you. She
told me about who she thought was in that wagon.”
“Who do you believe was in that wagon?” Deputy Vestor inquired.
The deputy ignored the sounds behind him of the door opening and
men entering as he waited to hear the woman’s statement, “From
how my husband described the men who were killed by the Indians,
they could only be Mr. Pettigrew, Mr. Giles, and Jedidiah
“There was a dozen Indians; no one could have survived that
attack,” Silas stated.
“You lie!” declared Lucas as he raced forward and grabbed hold
of the front of the man’s shirt, his fevered state making him
all the more irrational.
Anger, fear, hatred; all three expressions played across the
worried father’s face. For those who knew Lucas McCain, they
recognized the moisture tracking down his face was from tears
and not the rain that continued to fall outside.
“I do not lie. I witnessed it.”
“A lying, thieving, murdering bastard can’t speak the truth!”
declared Lucas, still not relinquishing his hold on the man as
Sam struggled to pull Lucas away.
“Lucas, let go!” ordered Sam, grunting with effort to pull his
friend from the man; unbelieving in his battered state that
Lucas could be so strong.
“Then get him in jail!” demanded Lucas as he released his grip
and pushed the man away.
“Why?” asked Deputy Vestor.
“He was with them!”
“With who?” asked the town’s lawman.
“The ones who robbed the bank, shot you, killed the marshal,
shot me, and my boy,” stated Lucas as he listed the man’s
Without emotion, the deputy and the marshal pulled their weapons
from the holsters at their hips and held them upon the man
standing in front of them.
“NO!” screamed Enola as she threw herself at her husband.
Everything had gone as she had hoped, until Lucas McCain and
U.S. Marshal Sam Buckhart had entered the office and ruined
“How did you survive the other attack?” inquired Buckhart.
“He wasn’t there!” Enola called out in defense of her husband,
she saw their future crumble before her eyes.
“Other attack?” the confused deputy asked, trying to follow the
conversation as it changed course as rapidly as floodwaters over
“We found the others, those who robbed the bank. From all
appearances they too had been attacked by a band of Indians. How
did you survive the attack? Did you plan it?” asked Buckhart.
“Plan it? ME?! Working with savages to kill my friends?” Silas
squawked out in his deep bass voice. “Had I not left them, I’d
be dead too!”
“There is no honor among thieves. It would mean more money for
you,” Buckhart stated coldly.
“Look, we split up earlier, I only took what I was originally
promised, nothing more… Not even after Trey decided to cut that
other fellow out -- the one who arranged it all.”
“What man?” demanded Deputy Vestor.
“Don’t know his name, but he spends a fair amount of time at
Miss Matilda’s from what I understand,” answered Silas.
“I don’t care about that! What about my son? Take me to my son!”
demanded Lucas, a flushed anger surrounded the man and appeared
to restore his energy.
“If I take you, you let me go afterwards,” Silas stated, hoping
for a way to avoid the hangman’s noose.
“No deal,” Buckhart announced. “You will stand trial…”
“No! If you lead me to my son, I promise, you’ll go free.”
“Lucas, you have no authority!”
“Mark’s not your son! You have no right…”
“Lucas! The two of us can track; we can follow the tracks and
find the wagon,” insisted the U.S. Marshal.
“After how many days? Mark could still be alive… He can get us
there fast.” Lucas said the words and they sounded just a hollow
and just as desperate to him. “I can’t… Buckhart, if there’s the
slightest chance that he could be alive… I have to do it. For
Margaret… God, I have to give my son every chance to live… I
have to find him.”
“Waiscott,” Buckhart spoke to the man moved to the confines of
the jail cell. “When we find the boy, I cannot set you free; you
will be held accountable for your actions… However, I will speak
to the judge on your behalf; tell him how helpful you were to
Mr. McCain in the search for his son. Upon our return, we will
also investigate the other man for his actions you say were
behind the robbery. That is the best that I can offer.”
“Zeller?” asked Enola, fearful that the man would not give her
husband a fair trial.
“No, I am sure the territorial governor will send another judge
to preside over these events,” answered Sam Buckhart.
“Lucas, I need to get this money back to the bank, and you need
to see the doctor.”
“I’m going after my son!” Lucas argued, even has he struggled to
maintain his vertical bearing.
“And how do you plan to do that?” answered Buckhart before the
deputy could say anything.
“I’ll break him out of jail!” retorted Lucas.
“And what of Mark?” asked Buckhart.
“What about Mark? I’m going to find him!” Lucas snapped.
“You break this lying, thieving, murderous man out of jail; you
will be arrested and tried for jail break. How is Mark going to
react when he hears you are going to prison for ten years…”
The marshal’s words shocked Lucas into submission; injury,
fatigue, and worry were taking a toll on the rancher’s unhealed
body as he slumped into the chair in front of the desk.
‘God, let me wake from this nightmare?’ Lucas prayed in his
mind, yet he knew this was no dream.
“Buckhart, he knows where Mark is… Please…” begged Lucas.
Lucas sat in the chair, unmindful of Doctor Webster’s
ministrations to the wound he had torn open the day before. The
physician muttered under his breath the whole time.
The two lawmen headed to the bank to return the money and
explain all that had transpired. Upon entering the bank, Deputy
Vestory introduced U.S. Marshal Buckhart to the bank manager,
Hank Williams, and the bank founder, Ted Cassidy. After
accepting the saddlebags with the money and listening to a
recount of events and watching the lawmen leave, Ted Cassidy
angrily returned to his office and slammed the door closed
having realized Trey and the others had succeeded in cutting him
out of his share, now that it was back where it belonged, the
Standing outside the bank door, both heard the slammed door and
the glass windows shake in their frames. U.S. Marshal Sam
Buckhart stopped and asked the deputy, “What do you think of Mr.
Sam cocked his head at the curious response to his question.
“You think he’s the man Silas said was behind the robbery to
begin with. He didn’t seem all that pleased at your returning
the money, and he does spend quite a lot of time at Miss
Matilda’s…” Deputy Vestor explained.
“That is up to you to prove, while I am gone.”
“Gone? We’ve got to trap him into admitting his part…”
“No, I have done what I needed to, in returning the money. Now I
must find the son of a friend and see that they are reunited.
When I return, if you have not been successful, I will help you.
But for now, my loyalties lie with Lucas McCain.”
Later that night Sam waited in the outer room of the doctor’s
“He’s got no reserves left,” announced the doctor as he entered
the waiting area. “He’s also running a fever from the
“Doctor, you will do everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, in your
powers to save that man’s life. I want him to be standing in
front of your clinic, healthy, when I return with his son.”
“You can’t be serious! You heard that outlaw! Why… you’ll
probably end up dead yourself. He’s only taking you on a fool’s
Fisting his hand, and pointing his index finger to the doctor
and jabbing it in the man’s chest, Buckhart spoke in a lowered,
graveled voice. “That is twice you have warned me against this
as a fool’s errand. Do not make the mistake of saying it a third
time. I owe it to that man to return his son to him. I failed
once before; I will not fail a second time!”
Morgan Dakkar and Parson Boggs rode their horses in front of
Curly Smythe who drove the double team of horses hitched to a
wagon laden with lumber supplies as they came upon the small
camp and surveyed the carnage before they stepped down to the
Dakkar stood several inches taller than the two men who
accompanied him; the tint of his skin, the bone structure of his
face, and his accent indicated his was of European heritage. The
weathering of his face, especially his eyes, spoke of the
hardships he had endured through the years. His once dark hair
was frosted with silver, giving him an aristocratic appearance.
Even so, he looked perfectly at home in the attire of his
adopted homeland – cowboy hat, boots, spurs, side arm, and all.
Curly Smythe lived up to his nickname; the hair atop his head
was dark and curly, and he too appeared to be of European
ancestry. His age was somewhere in his forties, though to look
at him people would swear he was younger, with his fit
appearance and his chest muscles that were revealed through the
open buttons of his shirt.
Next to the other two men, Parson Boggs looked out of place with
his fair skin and light colored hair. His age was somewhere
between his two companions. His stature spoke of hard work and
good food. He wasn’t overweight, but he carried around a little
more than most of the men who lived and worked at the ranch.
The two younger men walked to the bodies to verify they were
beyond help. To their employer, Curly called out, “Mr. Dakkar,
they’re dead. Do you want us to bury them?”
The man nodded as he picked up the reins to the two saddle
horses and tied them to the wagon. Next, he proceeded to
unsaddle the horses before turning to the team in order to
unhitch them; it would be some time before they continued on to
“I’ll see if they have a shovel in their wagon,” Parson called
out, seeing Curly retrieve a shovel from their own wagon. It
would make quicker work if there were two of them digging
Climbing up the front wagon wheel and looking under the front
seat, Parson wasn’t disappointed in not finding a shovel.
Stepping down he walked around to the back and began to climb
through the covering.
“Well, I’ll be…” and Parson let out a low whistle. “Mr. Dakkar!
You better come see this!” Parson yelled over his shoulder,
stepping down in order to allow his employer access to the back
of the wagon.
Approaching the covered wagon, Dakkar asked, “What is it,
“You ain’t gonna believe me if I tell ya,” the man answered,
shaking and scratching his head in bewilderment. “You just
better see for yourself.”
Dakkar took a moment to consider his options, either demand that
Parson tell him what was inside or just look for himself.
Carefully stepping up, he couldn’t believe it when he found
himself looking into the waking eyes of a teenage boy, trying to
sit up, and absently rubbing at the bandage surrounding his
“Well, hello there,” greeted Morgan Dakkar as he entered the
wagon and knelt in front of the boy.
“Hello,” answered the boy, looking around nervously, as if
searching for someone else. “Who are you? Where’s Mr. Giles or…
or Mr. Pettigrew?”
“I’m afraid that if they are your companions they are dead.”
“Dead?” gulped the boy as fear crept into his eyes. “Did you…”
“No, no… my friends and I did not kill them.” Dakkar offered a
gentle laugh and a genuine smile. “We came upon your camp a few
minutes ago. Curly and Parson are going to bury them. Is the
other man your father?”
“Other man… Oh, he must be their guide.. I… I heard them talking
before I fell asleep.”
“My manners are lacking, you must forgive me; wasn’t exactly
expecting to find anyone alive. My name is Morgan Dakkar, and my
friend standing at the back of the wagon is Parson Boggs and the
other scoundrel who just stepped beside him is Curly Smythe. And
your name is?”
“I told Mr. Giles… I… I don’t remember my name. He said I might
remember… after I slept and my headache went away.” Again the
boy rubbed at his temple.
“What happened here?” Dakkar asked as he moved his hand to the
“He said I was caught in a cross-fire.”
“And if none of the men outside are your family, how did you
come to be riding in the back of their wagon? Were you a
stowaway?” Dakkar cautiously asked.
“No… I’m not a stowaway, least I don’t think I am. Mr. Giles
said something about court custody and Mr. Pettigrew’s home.”
“I see,” mused Dakkar, but not really understanding.
“Sir… Mr. Dakkar, could I please… have some water? I’m kinda
thirsty,” stated the boy, his eyes cast downwards.
“Sure, Curly, get a canteen for the boy. Parson, after you and
Curly finish burying those men…”
“Yes, Mr. Dakkar?” inquired Parson.
“Afterwards, we’ll see about some lunch and getting the boy
settled in the back of our wagon. While you’re busy, I’ll see if
there is anything from their supplies that we can use...”
“Yes, Boss,” Parson eagerly answered.
Curly and Parson worked for several hours digging four graves
and burying the three bodies. When the last grave remained,
Dakkar motioned for the men to leave it until after lunch.
As they ate their lunch, the younger men worried about the
teenager who sat with them in camp; he seemed despondent and
hardly ate. Several times before they had been in similar
situations, finding a lone survivor or two, but the graves the
left always indicated there were none. In the past, their
employer had withheld help to critically wounded men because of
what they were and that they were responsible for the
predicament in which they had found or placed themselves.
Occasionally, their numbers at the ranch grew by one or two.
Both hoped the latter would be the case with this young man,
especially since they had never come across anyone as young as
the boy appeared to be.
Dakkar had a decision to make, and he needed to carefully weigh
the facts as presented to him.
“Do you have any family?” Dakkar asked.
Struggling in his search for something from his past, the boy
answered, “I don’t know. I…” he lowered his head and closed his
eyelids as pain pressed against the back of his eyes, “It’s sort
of out of focus… like a blurry dream, there is a man, and… I can
hear a voice yelling pa… He fell… There was a blood stain on the
front of his shirt … He was shot… in the chest...”
“So you have no family, no name, no past, and no future.”
The boy’s headache pounded harder as he quickly raised his head
at hearing the words.
“Forgive the inadvertent use of the words I spoke, you have no
future that you know of… I don’t see how it can be your fault
that you’re out here, alone. I’ll offer you sanctuary at my
ranchero… But for now, I think we need to clean up this camp and
get you in the back of our wagon. It doesn’t look like you’ll be
awake for very much longer.”
“I am sort of tired, sir… But first…”
Curly laughed at the boy’s reddened complexion.
“I’ll help ya boy. No need to go getting embarrassed about
needing to answer the call of nature.”
As Curly left the campsite with the boy, Dakkar spoke to Parson,
“Take the items over there and put them in the grave to make it
appear that a body was buried beneath the dirt.”
Parson did as instructed, while Dakkar set about erasing any
sign that they had been in the camp, and Curly helped Mark with
his personal needs.
“You’ll like living at Orchha. We’ve plenty of horses and
cattle, sheep too. We raise most all our own food. We only have
to go get supplies a few times a year or when we’re in need of
lumber for projects. Mr. Dakkar is specific in not abusing the
land from which we live. He won’t overharvest the trees and
makes sure for every one we take, we plant a seedling to replace
“I know about cattle,” the boy answered after finishing his
“Ya do? You remember that?” Curly inquired as he helped the boy
walk back to their wagon.
“I thought I did. When you said cattle, it seemed so vivid… up
here,” the boy answered as he raised his hand and pointed to his
“Well, that’s a good thing. Just keep that in mind.”
“Yes, sir,” answered the boy as a yawn escaped.
“Yes, Dakkar was right, you won’t be awake for very much longer.
I’d wager that wound of yours is recent and you probably
suffered a good concussion from it.”
“You a doctor?”
“Naw, but I help Doc Milano when one of us gets hurt.”
“Oh,” answered the boy as Curly hefted him to the back of their
“I’ve set up a pallet of blankets for you to lie on, just close
your eyes and sleep,” Dakkar stated to the boy as he climbed to
the seat of the wagon. “I’ll ride with you Curly so one of us
can keep an eye on the boy.” To the boy he said, “It’ll be well
after dark before we return to the ranch, so don’t worry about
The sun had reached mid-afternoon before the group left the
campsite. All traces of their arrival and departure were
deliberately swept clean, except for the four marked graves. The
sounds and movements over the smooth desert land along with his
injuries lulled the boy to sleep.
“What’s your assessment?” Dakkar asked of Curly.
“I’d say that head wound is recent, probably a heavy concussion
too. That’s why he’s so tired all the time. But at least he’s
waking on his own… That’s a good sign.”
“Is that your professional opinion?” Dakkar teased.
“Yep, and I’m sure Doc will say the same thing when he sees the
boy, too.” Curly nodded and encouraged the horses to a fasted
After his brief discussion with the U.S. Marshal, Deputy Vestor
knew that Ted Cassidy, the bank founder, had to be involved in
the robbery; however, he had to prove it, and prove it in a way
acceptable to a court of law. He knew the man spent an
inordinate about of time at Miss Matilda’s, not with her
exactly, but with many of the other women who called the place
their home. Upon following the madam into her private office,
Matilda had agreed to talk and admitted that she was present
when Trey had his meeting with Cassidy, in her office the night
before the robbery.
“I know I should have come to you right away, but… I guess… I
was afraid you’d charge me as an accomplice since I knew about
“Matilda… When Cassidy was with you…”
“I never divulge what happens behind closed doors… And
especially not to you,” Matilda’s eyes sparkled as she looked to
the young deputy trying his best to assume the role of sheriff.
“I don’t mean like that. I know you’d never… um… take him to…
uh…” Dave blushed.
“To bed? Is that the word you’re looking for?” Matilda asked,
enjoying watching the young man’s embarrassment.
“Yeah… But…” Seeking to maintain his official bearing as a
lawman, the deputy became serious. “Did he threaten you at any
time? Did you fear for your life, at any time because of him? It
could be helpful, sort of… what they call during trials an… ex..
extend… exting… no that’s not right… It’s some kind of
circumstances that doesn’t make you guilty.”
“Davy, he’s a powerful man. Anyone would be crazy to speak
“That’s what I’m talking about. You couldn’t come to me and tell
me. But, I put two and two together and I came to you.”
“He’ll know I talked…” Matilda acknowledged.
“We can talk with Avery Jenkins, he might be able to help…”
suggested the deputy.
“You’re such a dear, sweet, innocent, baby brother.” Matilda ran
the fingers of her hand through the soft, wavy hair on her
younger brother’s head. Dropping her hand, she turned and walked
away to the sidebar to pour herself a brandy. “Avery Jenkins is
in cahoots with Ted Cassidy. Why do you think he didn’t put up
any more of an argument against that Pettigrew fellow in taking
that McCain kid? He knew if the father survived he would go
after his son instead of the robbers… They already had something
planned to get rid of McCain before they ever robbed the bank.
It was just their luck that things happened as they did. It was
a win / win situation for them, regardless how it happened.”
“Sis… I have to find proof that Cassidy was involved in robbing
his own bank and ultimately the murder of Sheriff Pattison.
“I don’t think my word is the proof you’re looking for. The
citizens of this town would never believe me, even though more
than half the male population has walked through that front door
and gone upstairs with one of the girls.”
“There has to be some way…”
“Can’t that U.S. Marshal help you?”
“Not until he finds McCain’s son… And who know how long that
will take,” the deputy stated in defeat.
“Little Brother, I suggest you forget all about finding proof
against Ted Cassidy and go back to your wife. She’s gonna need
you, the closer she comes to giving birth to your first child.”
Becoming scared for her brother, her tone changed to become ever
more serious, “Dave, don’t do this… Don’t give him any reason to
hurt this family.”
“I’m a lawman… I can’t…”
“Yes you can! Send for the marshals!” urged Matilda as she
interrupted her brother. “There’s no shame in asking for help…”
The moon hung high overhead as the small procession made their
way into the courtyard in front of the large home that was the
center of Ranchero Orchha. Even at that hour, several hands came
from the bunkhouse to take the horses. Dakkar ordered one of the
men to go wake the doctor and see that he made it to the clinic.
Curly slipped into the back of the wagon and lifted the boy from
where he slept. He handed the sleeping youth out the back to the
waiting arms of Dakkar.
Doctor Milano had not yet retired when the ranch hand entered
the main room and told him there was a need for his services.
“Who’s hurt?” Milano inquired.
“Not sure, must be someone they found. I seen Curly, Parson, and
Mr. Dakkar, and they looked okay.”
Doctor Milano’s attention returned to the massive front door as
Curly entered, holding the door open for Morgan Dakkar carrying
the injured boy.
“Your clinic, if you please…” Dakkar spoke.
“No, I think maybe one of the upstairs bedrooms would be
He’s been injured,” stated Curly, surprised the doctor didn’t
want his patient in his clinic.
“I can see that. But I think he might be more comfortable in one
of the big beds,” answered the doctor.
The group entered one of the smaller bedrooms at the top of the
stairs, Curly jogged ahead to light the lanterns and to turn
down the bed.
“That will be all Curly,” Dakkar said, dismissing the man.
“Yes, sir. See you in the morning.”
“Well, who is he?” Milano asked of his friend.
“Can’t tell you that, he couldn’t tell us, either. If that’s of
any consolation,” answered Dakkar.
The owner of the ranch stood back and watched the physician
gently tug the boots from the sleeping boy’s feet, before he
started to unbutton his patient’s shirt and remove it.
“I take it that he’s received some kind of head wound, anything
else I should know about?” the physician asked as he felt along
the boy’s ribs looking for injury.
“The boy said those he was with told him he was caught in a
cross-fire. Curly also thinks he might have suffered a
“Hmmmm. No sensitivity along the ribs, his arms appear fine. A
little too thin, but I don’t think that’s from malnourishment,
his bone structure indicates he would be slight of build.”
Taking his stethoscope from his black bag and placing one end in
his hears and the other on the boy’s chest, he intently
listened. “Good, strong heartbeat.” Moving the instrument,
“Healthy lungs.” He set the stethoscope aside and said, “Now,
what about this head wound.”
Carefully the physician unwound the dressing surround the boy’s
head. “Hmmmm… It looks a little too angry for my liking. Morgan,
I know Curly is probably standing in the hallway… Would you ask
him to go retrieve the jar of healing cream from my clinic?
He’ll know which one I need.”
The carpeting on the floor softened Dakkar’s bootsteps so Curly
was surprised to find his boss standing in front of him in the
hallway. “Doc asked that you retrieve the jar of healing cream
from his clinic.”
“Yes sir. Right away sir.”
Dakkar shook his head as he watched his employee jog down the
hall and disappear around the corner.
“You know, he really is a good assistant,” Milano stated as
Morgan returned to stand next to him and watch as the doctor
completed his examination.
“I know… But don’t you let him hear I said so.”
Minutes passed before Curly returned to the bedroom with the
“Thank you, Curly.”
“How is he Doc?” the man asked.
“He’ll be fine, there’ll a few more days of him wanting to
sleep, but by then the effects of the concussion should
disappear. You know, it’s going to be quite interesting having a
youngster living with us…” mused the doctor.
The cool cream being applied to the wound caused the boy to
wake. Eyes opened wide as he looked about the room and the bed
upon which he was laid; the room was ornately decorated with
tapestries hanging from the walls and a massive wooden desk,
bed, dresser, and book cases were arranged within the room.
Dakkar inquired, “Now that you have had another good sleep, do
you remember anything more?”
“No sir,” he answered a few moments later. “Only what the others
“You have no recollection of your name? Or where you come from?”
The boy carefully shook his head left and right to indicate no.
Dakkar spoke, “The land surrounding Ranchero Orchha is
unforgiving and I do not forgive those who unlawfully trespass
on my land nor do I forgive those who turn against the hand that
has offered them aid.”
“Sir?” worriedly asked the boy.
“Together we will work to unlock the mysteries hidden within in
your mind, and maybe figure out who you are. As I said before,
you are granted sanctuary here. You shall live and work here,
and I and my men shall see that you are instructed and cared for
accordingly. I believe you are still of age to attend school, so
Reginald Ambrose shall be your instructor. He was a professor at
Cambridge before accompanying me here.”
Dakkar motioned for the other gentleman who had followed him
into the bedroom, but waited by the desk, to step forward.
“For now, you need to have a name… We shall call you Jules.”
“Jewels,” inquired the boy, his voice quivering.
“Not Jewels, Jules… J-u-l-e-s,” answered Dakkar. “
Jules nodded a greeting as he stared at the man, as tall as Mr.
Dakkar, but with straight brown hair. He was sharply dressed in
light colored clothes, pressed pants and matching suit coat with
a belt around the waist. The item that drew the boy’s curiosity
was the monocle the man held in place with only his eyebrow and
Stepping from the bed, Dakkar motioned to the man who had asked
Mark if he remembered his name or where he came from; the man
only stood to Dakkar’s shoulders and was similarly dressed as
Reginald Ambrose, but where the other men’s heads were full of
hair, this man’s hair ran around the sides and back, there was
nothing but skin on top of his head.
“This is Doctor Milano, I’ll leave you in his care,” stated
“But what about my family… my Pa?” whispered Mark. “He wasn’t a
dream… was he?”
“I’m sorry son, this is now your home,” Dakkar solemnly stated.
With that, Morgan Dakkar left unanswered the perplexed
expressions of the others.
“Lucas, you are too weak to continue to look for your son. Your
body needs more time to heal,” stated Sam Buckhart as he stood
beside the bed where Lucas McCain lay in the doctor’s clinic in
“He’s my boy,” Lucas answered. A fevered sweat dotted his face
and his chest, but still he tried to rise from the bed.
“I know. I promise you, I will return with your son.”
“I… can’t…” Lucas admitted in defeat, as he fell back to lying
on the bed.
“Allow yourself to heal. I’ll wire once I have found him,”
The lawman turned to leave the room, stopping before the doorway
as the doctor entered.
“Remember my words from last night,” the lawman advised.
Doctor Webster nodded and stepped aside to allow the marshal to
exit the room.
Upon entering the jail, Buckhart addressed the deputy, “He will
be in my custody. Once we have retrieved Mark McCain, I will
return him to your jail to stand trial.”
“I don’t know about this… It doesn’t seem right.”
“Right or wrong, my badge grants me the authority to do this.”
Walking to the cell, the deputy reached for the key ring that
hung from a peg on the wall.
Standing in front of the opened door, Buckhart spoke to Silas,
“You will take me to where you saw the ambush and you will help
me locate Mark McCain.”
“And if I don’t,” dared Silas.
“You will face this town as a thief and a murderer, with no hope
for clemency… Help me return my friend’s son to him, and I will
speak on your behalf. A long life in prison would be better than
a short life ending with a hangman’s noose.”
“As long as that Zeller judge has nothing to do with my trial…”
Seeing the marshal’s expression change to curious, Silas
continued, “Enola told me about him, and that boy. He didn’t do
the right thing, only what he thought the others wanted. He’s
not the type of judge I want to stand before.”
Doc Webster’s pocket watch indicated five minutes past nine as
he stood in front of the window inside his clinic and watched
two riders, one Indian, one black, with a packhorse ride down
the main street of town. With the town just coming alive for the
day, most people paid no attention to those riding out.
“Fool’s errand. McCain will never see his boy again,” the doctor
mumbled and turned away.
“You took time to bury the bodies?” asked Sam as he stepped from
his horse in front of the four mounds of freshly turned earth
marked with crosses.
“Not me… I didn’t care to hang around long enough to be another
victim of those Apaches,” answered Silas as he continued to sit
in the saddle and nervously look out across the horizon.
“Four graves, the three you saw shot down…”
“Who’s in the fourth?” asked Silas.
“If I were a betting man, I would say the boy. This is going to
kill Lucas,” stated Buckhart as he removed his hat and held it
in front of him, head lowered.
“He’s probably dead already; he didn’t look so good when he was
trying to kill me…”
Ignoring his prisoner’s words, Sam stated, “We will have to make
sure. Lucas will not accept the fact there were four graves,
unless I tell him I saw the body.”
“Are you crazy man?! We don’t have time. Those Indians might
come back…” Silas’ bass voice filled the surrounding area that
had been void of sound.
“Someone had time to bury them. Indians would not bury the
bodies of their enemies; they would leave them to rot. If others
had time to do this, we have time to do what is needed.”
Buckhart was torn between disturbing the graves of the dead
versus knowing for certain that Mark McCain lie in one.
Dropping to the ground, Buckhart began to dig with his hands and
ordered his prisoner to help in uncovering the bodies.
Twenty minutes later, Silas sat down on the ground, all but
spent as the first two graves revealed the bodies of Pettigrew
“Keep working,” ordered Buckhart.
Wearily, the man continued to dig down within the third grave,
the second grave for him to trespass upon.
“Empty?” declared Buckhart as he opened the blanket in the final
grave. “This grave is empty? Just blankets and stuff…”
“Empty?”Silas repeated, attempting to comprehend the word and
the meaning, yet thankful he no longer needed to continue
digging. “It means that the boy’s alive.”
“He could still be in that grave,” Buckhart answered looking to
the partially exposed grave.
“No, I saw all three men go down. Them tenderfoots are there,”
pointing to the two unearthed graves, “this has to be the other
Thirty minutes later, all four graves were covered back over.
“Someone was here. Someone deliberately placed four graves here,
to mislead us,” Buckhart quietly spoke, trying to fit together
the bits and pieces of what he knew.
“Why? Who would do this?” asked Silas. “It doesn’t make sense,
to dig four graves and only bury three bodies…”
“Let me scout around to see what I can find…” Buckhart stated,
turning to face Silas, “do not try to escape. Remember, I too am
an Apache. Tame, my brothers would call me, but still I am
The marshal left his prisoner behind as he began to survey the
area, looking for any signs to lead him to Mark McCain.
Sweat poured down his face, neck, shoulders, and torso when he
returned to where Silas lay sprawled on the ground. Pulling his
canteen from the saddle horn, the lawman drank heavily.
“It’s like no one was here, no prints, no trails… Someone
deliberately has hidden all signs of their passage.”
“So, what do you do now? You take me back for a hanging?” Silas
asked as he continued to stay on the ground, but raised his
upper body, twisted and rested back on his elbow.
“Not yet. Whoever dug the graves and buried those men, must have
taken the boy. The question is why?”
“Better than leaving the kid out here alone,” commented Silas.
“No, not why take the boy… Why hide all traces of them having
been here? The dirt on those graves is fresh… We know when
Pettigrew and the others left Cloudcroft… You stated when the
attack occurred. Why go to all this trouble?”
“Someone didn’t think anyone would come by this quick to find
“If that were true, why cover their trail… The weather would
have done that given time.”
“Maybe to hide from the Indians.. if they came back… that there
was a survivor.”
“If the Indians knew about him, the boy would be dead. They
probably did not even think to look in the wagon.” The evidence
made no sense to the marshal, but he still had a promise to
fulfill. “Go see if there are any supplies in the wagon we can
After a few minutes of searching, Silas stepped from the wagon.
“Whoever dug the graves must have already searched the wagon…
There’s nothing inside that would be of use to us.”
“We still have to find the boy,” answered Buckhart.
“How? There’s no tracks.”
“Maybe you were right, someone was afraid of the Indians
returning, not that they were worried about the Indians coming
for the boy, but maybe worried they would be followed and dealt
the same as those three and your friends…”
“Where do we start?”
“We start riding to the nearest town.”
“And if he’s not there?”
“We ride to the next town, and the next, until we find the boy.”
“Lead on, I’m just your prisoner,” Silas answered as he signaled
his horse to follow the marshal.
Daring to slip back into Cloudcroft, Aaron Provo tied his horse
to one of the hitching rails nearly full of horses in front of
the Golden Spur saloon. Inside, patrons and saloon girls were
still abuzz with the gossip of the bank robbery. Setting his
beer down on the table, Aaron tried to mask his emotions. He had
been a part of the robbery, though an unwitting accomplice. All
he had done was as his brother had asked, he created the
original diversion. He had no knowledge that his brother and
friends were intent on the bank. Before they separated, he’d
thought that only Abe Moffitt had died as a result. He was
shocked to learn of the sheriff’s murder and the others who had
been wounded. As the discussions bantered back and forth around
him, he learned the fate of the five outlaws – one dead from
wounds suffered in the escape, three dead from Indians, and one
black man to stand trial.
‘Well, ain’t that why you split? Ma would be rolling in her
grave if she knew,” Aaron thought to himself as he took another
drink of his beer.
Throughout the afternoon, no one made mention of a sixth outlaw,
and he felt better for it. Still, he felt the need to get out of
town. Having heard that Lucas McCain and his son had been
wounded, Aaron knew there was no way he could accompany them
back to North Fork, especially having heard the news that Mark
had been placed into the custody of some big shot from up north.
Placing his hat upon his head, Aaron left the saloon and walked
to the livery stable where he purchased a packhorse; next, he
headed to the general store for provisions. With everything his
owned securely tied down, he set out for Utah, hoping his
friends who had chosen years ago to relocate and settle in a
small community about fifty miles south of Salt Lake City would
be willing to offer him a job. He knew his destination had
previously been a fort, but now… He hoped he could fade into the
background and just return to being a cowboy.
He prayed that Silas Waiscott would keep his mouth shut and
would never reveal that he had a small part in the robbery.
The news was over a week old when it reached North Fork – five
outlaws robbed the bank in Cloudcroft, the sheriff killed, the
deputy wounded as well as a visitor and his son. A cold feeling
settled deep with Marshal Micah Torrance as he read the official
report. Though the details were vague, he dreaded the visitor
and his son being Lucas and Mark McCain. Two weeks had passed
since he had waved goodbye to the pair as they and a drifter
left to deliver a small herd of cattle to the Mescelaro Indian
Reservation. He knew they were due to return any day now, if
they were to return at all.
Folding the report and slipping it into his desk drawer, Micah
stood, reached for his hat and his scatter gun and left his
office. Turning right, he headed down the boardwalk, not
acknowledging any of the greeting that were offered to him.
“Amos,” Micah called out as he entered the empty telegraph
“Be right with you, Micah,” the man called from the back room.
Parting the curtains, the man stepped out from his living
quarters. “How can I help you Micah?”
“Need to send a wire to Cloudcroft, need to inquire on Lucas and
Mark,” he answered as he wrote out his wire. Handing the paper
to Amos, he said, “You get a response, you bring it to me.”
“Micah, are you serious?” asked the telegrapher having read the
“Dead serious. I’ll be in my office.”
Micah had barely turned to leave when he heard the clicking and
tapping, indicating the dots and dashes of Morse code were being
sent out across the wire; he prayed he was wrong.
Three hours after sending the telegram, Amos entered the
Marshal’s Office, tears streaking his face.
Marshal Micah Torrance
North Fork, New Mexico
Confirming Lucas McCain and son involved /stop
Father seriously ill /stop
Son feared dead /stop
Deputy David Vestor
Cloudcroft, New Mexico
Micah Torrance set out to make arrangements for others to act as
temporary marshals during his absence.
“How long will you be gone?” Nils Swenson, the owner of the
town’s livery inquired as the marshal handed him one of the
“As long as it takes to find out what happened to Mark, and to
bring Lucas home,” answered the lawman as he handed out a second
badge, this one to John Hamilton, the town’s banker. “The two of
you can take turns minding the office. I’ll wire once I know
“Micah, could it be that a mistake was made? I mean, how could
Mark be dead?” asked the banker in his slightly proper manner of
“I don’t know, but I aim to find out.”
Micah swung his saddle bags over his shoulder while picking up
his scattergun; he left the office, mounted his horse, and rode
out of North Fork.
Doctor Milano was pleased to see his patient spend more time
awake and that his appetite improved as the days passed. The
wound to the boy’s temple continued to fade to a point where he
felt the bandage could be permanently removed. After three days
of bed rest, the physician agreed the boy could get up and begin
exploring his new home.
“Howdy, Jules,” called Curly as he entered the bedroom, carrying
a rather large package, and wearing a silly grin on his face.
Parson and Reginald followed Curly into the room; they had been
informed at breakfast of the possibility that today would be the
day the boy would be allowed out of his confinement.
“We all chipped in and got you something,” Parson stated as he
leaned up against the tall post at the foot of the bed.
“Chipped in?” inquired the boy.
“Sure, none of us had clothes small enough to be
‘hand-me-downs’, so we all contributed and Mr. Ambrose went
shopping for you,” Curly answered and he set the package upon
the bed and encourage the boy to open it.
“Geesh, you gotta be a lot of fun at Christmas time,” Parson
jested, watching the boy try not to rip the brown paper. “Just
tear into it!”
With his present opened, Jules looked happy in seeing the brand
new clothes and a hat; as he had wondered what he would wear to
“Can I try them on?” Jules asked.
The doctor nodded, but stayed close as the boy climbed from the
bed, in case his actions would cause him to pass out.
“What’s so funny?” Jules asked as Parson and Curly chuckled upon
seeing him standing.
“You should be glad we got you some clothes if that’s what you’d
wear when your clothes need laundered?” teased Curly.
Jules stood in an oversized nightshirt, the hem drug on the
floor and the cuffs were thickly rolled up so his forearms were
exposed. Not caring that the others were in the room, but still
having some modesty, Jules slipped a set of trousers on before
he pulled the nightshirt over his head. He quickly decided to
wear the tan shirt to go with his new brown pants and dark brown
Turning to his new friends, Jules asked, “Well? How do I look?”
“Like some dandy,” Parson teased.
“A dandy! You… you…”
“Easy there Jules, Parson is only teasing you. There are several
sets of clothes for you to wear.” Reginald Ambrose continued,
“When you do your chores, you can wear the clothes you were
wearing we found you. Lin Tang should have them properly
laundered and in the top drawer of the bureau. But today… today
is a day for you to learn of your new home and Curly will
explain what chores you are expected to complete. Tomorrow you
will start school, and any of these clothes would be
“Yes sir, Mr. Ambrose,” answered Jules.
Watching the two grown men and the teenager leave the room, Doc
Milano inquired, “How much trouble to you think those two will
get into while having that young man live with us?”
“You’d think that boy was there little brother the way they’ve
been talking and planning,” replied Reginald Ambrose. “And at
From the doorway, both men heard, “And I shouldn’t expect any
trouble from the two of you on account of the young lad, either…
“Morgan, us cause trouble?” asked Reginald, he couldn’t keep the
mock stab of guilt from his words or his face. “You’ve cut me to
the quick,” and cupped his hands over his heart.
“Yes, you two. I agree, it will be good to hear the…” Dakkar
paused upon hearing the squealing and laughter that floated
through the open windows as the threesome ran across the
courtyard, “…laughter of youth. It has been far too long.”
Dakkar turned away, but his two friends knew the man’s memories
were again present and could not be ignored.
“Can you believe them two acting like schoolboys?” Doc Milano
“Morgan is right, having Jules here will brighten the place up,”
“Speaking of schoolboys, how will you start his school
curriculum tomorrow?” Doc Milano asked.
“I’ve sketch out an informal school review for the rest of this
week, to find out where he is in his studies. He talks as if
he’s received an education, we’ll just have to see and proceed
The two men left the room and closed the door behind them.
Mark followed the two men as they made their way down the
staircase; he stopped when he saw an oriental man standing in
“Jules, this is Lin Tang, he’s our cook, housekeeper, and… oh,
what’s that word Mr. Dakkar likes to use?” Curly asked of
“Majordomo, he makes sure we’re all taken care of. Lin Tang,
this is Jules… Uh, I guess Mr. Dakkar only gave you a first
name. Lin Tang, this here fella is gonna be living with us.”
“Pleased to meet you,” answered Jules as he gently bowed to the
man who stood in front of them..
Lin Tang bowed in return, and gave a warning to the others, “You
bring boy back in time for lunch and no get dirty or you clean!”
“Us, come back dirty?” inquired Curly.
“You go exploring, me know what exploring mean. Stay clean!”
ordered Lin Tang.
“Yes, sir,” all three replied as the exited the front door.
“Whew, it’s good you’re with us Jules,” claimed Parsons.
“Well, just is… Come on race ya!” called Curly as he started run
to the barn.
Jules was quickly after the man, only to break out into a squeal
of laughter when Parson came running up behind him, and mock
tackled him in an effort to win the race.
Setting Jules back to his feet, Parson stated, “We picked out a
horse for you. Hope you like ‘em.”
The two grown men led Jules to a stall and waited for the boy to
approach and look over the half door.
“Hey fella,” Jules greeted as he reached up to scratch the horse
behind the left ear, “Sorry I don’t have any sugar cubes for
Mark carefully entered the stall and slowly walked around the
animal, appraising it with his eyes, and soon was running his
hands over the horse, feeling for any hotspots or bumps that
shouldn’t be there.
“He knows about horses,” Curly observed as he nodded his head
towards the boy.
Parson brought out a saddle and placed it over the half door
before pulling down a bridle and a saddle pad. The two men stood
back and watched as the boy and the horse interacted while he
was saddle the animal.
Picking up the reins to lead the horse from the stall, Jules
stated, “He sure is a beauty. What’s his name?”
“He doesn’t have a name, yet. The boys just finished breaking
and training him to saddle a few days ago,” Curly answered.
“What about you naming him,” suggested Parson.
“Well…” Jules led the dapple grey horse into the morning sun and
looked at him, again. Whispering to the horse, Jules asked,
“What do you think about Beauty?”
In an apparent answer, the horse shook his head and neck, his
pale mane flopping from side to side.
The horse stood still and raised its head and neck high upon his
“I guess he likes Eldorado?”
“Why that name?” Curly asked.
“I don’t know… Maybe because… It just sounds neat,” the young
man admitted as he rubbed the soft, velvet nose of the horse.
“Okay, Jules, Eldorado, lets mount up and ride so we’re not late
in returning for lunch,” teased Parson as he stepped into the
stirrup and pulled himself into the saddle of his own horse.
Jules entered the room in from of Mr. Ambrose, his eyes widened
at seeing all the bookcases with books that lined the walls.
Slowly he walked to one of the walls and gently ran his hand
upon the shelf, his head titled sideways as he read the titles
of the books.
He noted the names of the authors as well, many of whom he did
not recognize, but some he did.
“Our library contains the works of Washington Irving, Ralph
Waldo Emerson, Henry David Throeau, John Muir, Frederick
Douglass, Charles Darwin, Arthur Conan Doyle, Horace Greely, to
name a few…
“All these books…” Jules continued to walk around the room in
amazement. “Have you read them all?”
“No, not by far.”
“I can’t read this one,” Jules commented, his expression showed
“I would be surprised if you could, this book is written in
Russian. This library contains literary works from all over the
world. Many books are first editions, as well as translations
into or from other languages. The works that reside within this
hall encompass history, social commentary, poetry, philosophy,
the sciences, religion, and works of fiction.”
“Why?” Ambrose smiled as he thought on the best way to answer
the youth. “Curiosity, boredom, quest for knowledge… Jules, each
one of us has brought a unique yet not so unique past with us to
Ranchero Orchha. Here, each man… person can come to learn or to
“Escape? You’re not a prisoner…”
“No, escape in another manner means to lose oneself in the past
or the future as written in these books, to leave their current
troubles through reading. This is all a little overpowering
“Well, let’s see how well you do with the quizzes I’ve created
to find out just where you are in your studies… Since you don’t
remember anything about your past, I guess it wouldn’t make any
sense to ask you how old you are… You look younger, but the way
you carry yourself and the way you speak, make me think you’re
maybe thirteen, maybe fourteen years old.”
Encouraging the young man to follow him to a table in the middle
of the room, Ambrose pulled out a chair for Jules to sit. He
handed the boy a folder and a pencil. “I’ll be over at the other
table, if you have any questions. When you’re through, just
bring this to me.”
“Sir, if I can’t remember my past…” Jules paused.
“You want to know how you’ll remember your studies?”
“I don’t think you’ll have any problems. Curly and Parson told
us last night, after you retired to your room, how much you
remembered in examining the horse and properly saddling him
without any input. Give it a go,”
“Yes sir,” Jules answered as he opened the file and picked up
As the time passed, Reginald Ambrose watched as Jules set
himself to his task, jotting down answers and as he read the
next question he would either tap the table top with his pencil,
or tap it against his head. Sometimes Ambrose saw Jules staring
off into space before his eyes widened and he placed pencil to
paper and completed the answer.
Two hours had passed, before Ambrose cleared his throat, “I
think a break is called for. The water closet is out the door we
came through, turn…”
“Water closet?” inquired Jules.
Ambrose did not allow his amusement to show through to the boy
who sat in front of him, “Jules some of the men just can get
used to an indoor outhouse.”
“An indoor outhouse? I think I can understand why…”
“No need to worry, Mr. Dakkar designed the system we use here.
Come on, I’ll show you how everything works… Meaning what you
need to do to flush the waste away.”
After explaining how the system worked and where the waste went,
Jules was encouraged to give it a try. A smile played across the
man’s face when he heard the whoosh of water behind the closed
Stepping from the small room, Jules giggled, “I don’t see why
the others can’t get used to an indoor… uh… water closet. Sure
beats going outside during the middle of the night and during
the heat of the day. Is this the only one?”
“No, I’ll be sure to inform the others to let you know where
they are as you continue to learn about your new home.”
“Do you think… Do you think I’ll ever get my memory back?”
Ambrose felt remorse for the young man standing in front of him,
the worry of not knowing, the what ifs, the ‘who am I?’.
“Give it time. Doctor Milano is doing all he can to figure out
the best way to help you.”
It tore at the tall man as he looked into the brown eyes and
that looked to him in earnest.
“Come on, you’ve some more review work to do before lunch.”
“Yes sir,” answered Jules as he followed his teacher back to the
Lin Tang appeared in the doorway, quite upset, “Lunch is served
for those at the table on time. I too busy to track down people
not courteous to come on their own.” The small Chinese man
turned from the entryway and left without further words.
“Guess we should go get lunch,” suggested Ambrose as he
straightened up the papers upon his desk.
“I am kind of hungry,” replied Jules as he set his papers back
in the folder and closed it.
After lunch, Morgan Dakkar dismissed Jules to spend the
afternoon continue learning the lay of the land and beginning
his introduction to the work he would be required to help
“Well, Reginald? Where does the boy stand in his studies?”
After pouring a cup of coffee for himself, Reginald leaned back
in his chair and took a sip before setting the cup down on the
“He’s quite intelligent; I think he’s farther advanced in his
studies than he should be for his age, maybe his previous
teacher singled him out for advanced studies.”
“Could be that he’s older than we think he is?” Doc Milano
“How old do you think him to be?” asked Dakkar. “I want to know
your assessment of him.”
“He looks young, but I figure a strong fourteen, maybe close to
fifteen,” Milano answered. “I’ve given him a thorough physical
examination, to ensure he is fully recovered from his head
injury, as well as to make sure he is in good health. And I’m
quite sure he’s no older than that.”
Having allowed the physician to conclude his observations,
Ambrose stated, “If his answers are an indication, had he not
lost his memory and still been at home, he probably would be
receiving his certificate of diploma within another year or so.
There are areas within the curriculum that could use
improvement, algebra, some sciences, and a few areas of the
language arts… But as far as his history, geography, grammar,
and basic mathematics and geometry, he’s quite literate.”
“Then he would be a welcome addition to the future of Ranchero
Orchha,” Dakkar stated as he lifted a coffee cup to his lips.
“He would, if he doesn’t remember…” Ambrose added. “Morgan, he’s
young, he mentioned a father… Surely he deserves the chance to
return to wherever it is he calls home.”
Setting his cup firmly to the table top, Dakkar replied, “This
is his home. No loving father would take a boy in his condition
out into the wilds, transporting him in the back of a wagon.”
“But the boy said the courts placed him with the other men,”
justified Doc Milano.
“And why did the courts take him from the custody of his father.
No, it is best that Jules forgets about his past…” Ignoring his
meal companions’ reaction at his use of words, “He needs to
think of his future… here.”
Deputy Dave Vestor looked up from searching through the papers
on his desk when he heard the door to his office open. He was a
little surprised to see an older lawman standing in the doorway;
several days worth of facial hair grew on the man’s face, and
his clothes were caked in dust. Even with the handgun hanging
from the holster on his hip, he carried a scattergun resting in
the crook of his arm.
“Can I help you?” asked the deputy.
“You can tell me where Lucas McCain is,” answered the lawman,
not stepping any further into the office.
“You must be Marshal Torrance?” queried Deputy Vestor. “He’s at
the clinic… I think… He’s getting better. Doc told me this
morning that his fever finally broke last night.”
“Take me to him,” ordered Micah.
“Uh… Don’t you want to freshen up first?”
“What I want is to see Lucas McCain and find out what happened
to his son!” demanded Micah.
Leaving his mount in front of the jail and following the younger
lawman, Marshal Micah Torrance felt each and every step he took
with dread… What would Lucas have to say about what happened to
his son? A son the old lawman felt towards as if he were his
grandson, had he been lucky enough to have one.
Wearily, Micah stepped into the clinic and waited as an older
gentleman, presumably the doctor, spoke with the lawman.
“Uh Doc, this here is Micah Torrance, lawman for North Fork,”
Deputy Vestor introduced.
“Pleased to meet you, I’m Doctor Webster.” The man held out his
hand in greeting. “Dave here says you’re a friend of Lucas
“I am. Where is he?”
“I moved him to the hotel a little while ago, thought he would
be more comfortable. He no longer needed my immediate attention
since his fever broke and his wound was healing nicely,” replied
“What about Mark?”
“Mark? Oh, yes, his son… Well, that’s a little more complicated
to tell,” answered Doc Webster.
“I have time,” Micah stated as he set his scattergun down in one
of the chairs in the front office. “I want to know how it is
that the boy is presumed dead, and I want to know now!”
“I’ll leave you two,” Deputy Vestor stated as he excused himself
from the room and the conversation.
Time passed slowly as Micah listened while the doctor disclosed
each fact, from the boy being wounded, to revocation of custody,
to his departure, and word of the reported Apache attack. Had he
not been as exhausted as he was, North Fork’s lawman would have
willingly reached out to strangle the doctor ‘Fool’s Errand,
indeed’, Micah thought when the doctor didn’t keep his personal
thoughts to himself about Sam Buckhart's departure to find the
“I want to meet this judge as well as the counselors who allowed
this travesty of justice to happen, right now, I want you to
take me to Lucas,” ordered Micah as he stood to his feet and
picked up his scattergun.
“I’ll warn you right now, he’s extremely weak, after all he’s
been through,” cautioned Doc Webster.
“I don’t doubt it one bit. You allowed that hypocrite to take
away the one thing that means the world to that man; he’d give
up his life to see that boy stayed safe. The idea of Lucas
McCain a gunfighter… that’s as ludicrous as… as teats on a bull!
Hell, it’s just plain preposterous!” declared Micah as he
allowed the doctor to lead him to the hotel.
Entering the hotel room, Micah was pleased to see that it was
probably one of the better rooms within the establishment. ‘Bet
it’s setting someone back a pretty penny, and it better not be
Lucas,” mused Micah.
Having stripped his saddle bags from his horse as they walked
by; Micah set his gear just inside the doorway to the room.
“Get out,” instructed Micah, not wanting to stay any longer in
the presence of one of the men responsible for the situation.
“LucasBoy?” called Micah as he pulled a chair next to the bed,
and sat on the front edge of the seat. “Lucas,” the lawman
stated as he placed a hand on the man’s shoulder to gently shake
Eyelashes fluttered and slightly parted before Micah called
Lucas’ name again. The tall rancher’s head moved from side to
side as he proceeded to wake.
“Micah?” Lucas whispered.
“I’m here Lucas. I’m here.”
Looking around the room, Micah rose and walked to the stand
containing a pitcher of water and several glasses, he poured a
glass of water and returned to his friend.
“Here, drink this.”
Propping himself up on his elbow, Lucas accepted the glass and
slowly satisfied his thirst.
“Thanks,” Lucas offered as he handed the empty glass back to the
lawman. “What are you doing here?”
“Where else do you think I’d be after receiving word that you
were shot and…” Micah began to speak sarcastically, but stopped
speaking, he didn’t know how to say, ‘what happened to Mark.’
“He’s missing Micah. That… judge…”
“I heard,” replied Micah.
“I’ve talked with the doctor, got his take on what happened. I
plan to speak with the ‘judge’ and the two lawyers before I file
a complaint with the territorial governor charging them with
abuse of powers. The gall of those men…”
“Sam’s here… He’s…”
“Doc Webster told me. He and another man set out a few days ago
to search for him.”
The two men turned towards the door upon hearing a knock. “Come
in,” Micah said.
Cloudcroft’s deputy, Dave Vestor, entered the room, holding a
sheet of paper in his hand.
“Got a wire from the marshal, thought you’d want to know…” the
man offered as he walked farther into the room and handed the
paper to the marshal.
Cloudcroft, New Mexico
Found graves, fourth empty /stop
In Mountain Park. No sign. /stop
Will continue search /stop
“Empty? What’s that supposed to mean?” Micah asked as he looked
back to the deputy.
The deputy raised his shoulders indicating he had no idea.
“Silas said he saw a band of Apaches attack and kill the three
men who had Mark,” Lucas answered. Pausing a few moments, Lucas
tried to put the pieces together, “Someone found the bodies and
Mark… They buried the men and left a fourth… grave…”
“But why Mr. McCain? If the Indians didn’t know your son was in
the back of that wagon, they wouldn’t have come back for him… It
doesn’t make any sense to leave four graves.”
“We could wire back Sam,” suggested Micah.
“I doubt it Marshal Torrance, the wire came in late last night;
Ned had a family emergency shortly afterwards, and just brought
it to me a few minutes ago. The Marshal probably rode out of
Mountain Park this morning. I’m sorry.”
“Damn,” Micah quietly exclaimed. “Lucas, I’m gonna talk with
that judge and the others, and when I’m finished, I’ll set
things in motion…”
“What do I do, Micah?”
“I suggest you head home Mr. McCain,” spoke the doctor as he
entered the room.
“Go home?!” retorted Micah. “The man’s son is missing!”
“I know he is, but… Look… As I see it, even though I know it’s a
fool’s errand, the marshal will devote all his resources into
finding the boy. If you were to leave to try to follow him,
you’ll always be behind the man. You’ll both be searching for a
needle in a haystack. You ‘ve no idea what condition the boy was
last in, even that slave said he never saw the boy. Go home, and
“GET OUT!” ordered Micah, slamming the door behind the doctor,
muttering, “Of all the nerve…”
“He is right,” commented Lucas as he sat up and swung his legs
off the bed. “I could search every town and miss him by a day.
But we can send wires. We can send out posters…”
“There’s always the newspaper,” suggested the deputy. He had
been appalled at the physician’s apathy, and he truly wanted to
offer his help.
“Newspapers…” a slow smile crept over the older lawman’s face.
“Good idea. You and Lucas work on that, I’m gonna go meet with
Zeller and them others. I’ll be back later.”
Micah was thankful he had left his scattergun in the hotel room
where Lucas rested. His meetings with the judge and the two
lawyers had provided no additional information, but further
drove the lawman to acknowledge their incompetence.
Seeing the lantern lit in the town’s jail and Sheriff Office,
Micah stepped into the building.
“Working late aren’t you?” Micah asked of the deputy, his
attention again set to the papers on his desk.
“Yeah, trying to figure out a way to find proof of a man’s
guilt,” the deputy answered, and with an exasperated sigh, he
pushed the papers away from him, several falling off the front
side of the desk. “A man’s guilty of being the mastermind behind
the robbery that killed our sheriff, wounding me and Mr. McCain,
and his son…”
“You’re wounded, too,” Micah asked, curious, his impression of
the young lawman improved.
“Got me in the back, under the ribcage.” Absent-mindly, Dave
pointed out the location on his back. “Doc said I’ll be fine in
a few more weeks, it only bothers me when I do too much bending
over or picking up stuff.”
“So, why don’t you tell me your version of events,” Micah
stated, resting his hip on the front side of the desk.
“Don’t need to go over the robbery…” Vestor continued when he
saw the lawman shake his head no. “And you know what happened
regarding the boy…” Micah nodded. “Lucas and the marshal trailed
out after the outlaws and found three of them, dead. They’re out
in boot hill, in pauper’s graves. Anyway, earlier that morning,
Dominique from over at Miss Matilda’s brings her husband over
and they told me about an Apache ambush he had witnessed, said
that three men were killed. From their descriptions we decided
they had to be Horatio Pettigrew, the man who Zeller granted
custody of Mark, his aide, Mr. Giles, and a guide they hired.
Anyway, while I’m listening to this story, they come in, Mr.
McCain hears part of it and explodes. I mean, he storms into the
office, grabs the front of Silas’ shirt, slams him against the
wall. Calls him a lying, thieving, murderous bastard! Right
there!” declared Deputy Vestor as he pointed to the location in
the office where everything happened.
“This Silas, Lucas knew him?”
“Yeah, said he was one of those who ran from the bank. Anyway,
the man sort of admitted that he had been in on the robbery, but
in exchange for going free, he’d lead them back to the ambush.”
“So that explains why Buckhart isn’t here, but how does this all
figure into your trying to find proof of a man’s guilt…” Micah
“Well, it was something Silas said, he said that his boss met
with a man at Miss Matilda’s to plan the whole thing and that
the man spent a lot of time there…”
“Well, it didn’t really come to me until Mr. McCain and the
marshal brought the money back, and I saw how Ted Cassidy
“Who’s he?” Micah asked.
“He’s one of the principle founders who runs the bank…”
“Go on, boy…”
“Well, I know Miss Matilda,” seeing the older lawman’s eyebrows
raise, he continued, “It ain’t nothying like that at all! I’m a
happily married man; my wife is expecting our first child next
month.” Quieting his voice, Vestor continued, “Most people don’t
know this, but… Matilda’s my sister.”
“Can she collaborate what this Silas said?”
“Yeah, she can, but her word ain’t gonna be enough to go up
against the likes of Cassidy. And… Sis told me I should drop it
all because of what he could do to Lana… and the baby. But I
can’t! A good friend of mine was killed that day!” Determination
set in the deputy’s voice and his posture.
“You want my help, son?”
“Yeah, I want your help… I want to bring this bastard to
justice, for Sheriff Pattison.”
Reginald Ambrose set to work to create a curriculum to help
Jules in the areas where he needed further instruction, while at
the same time making sure his proficiency in the other areas of
his education didn’t languish. When it came to the sciences, the
boy’s natural curiosity inspired his instructor when it came
formulating a lesson plan; it was fun to encourage the
inquisitive nature of the boy. When the lesson plans took them
out into the field, Ambrose wasn’t too surprised to find he had
several other ‘students’ tagging along for the various trips.
When Curly started asking a few basic questions, instead of just
observing, Ambrose stood back and watched as Jules took to
instructing him, speaking to him in a manner where the man could
easily understand and not feel intimidated. Ambrose also
understood how the act of passing on knowledge can help instill
the lesson; it pleased him to see this side of the boy.
The boy showed a natural leadership and for the life of him,
Ambrose couldn’t figure out why the two grown men reacted as
they did, he was just a kid…
That night, after most everyone had retired for the night,
Ambrose decided to broach the subject with the doctor as they
sat in the central room of the house; the wood in the large
fireplace crackled as the flames danced.
“You should see him, when it comes to Curly and Parson, it’s
like he’s a pied piper,” Ambrose stated after sipping from his
“It’s not just those two,” Dakkar stated as he entered the room.
He walked to the credenza along the far wall and opened the lid
of a wooden box and pulled out a cigar. “I’ve seen some of the
others around the ranch.”
“It could be, because he’s such a novelty,” offered the doctor.
“It’s been too long since… He is by far the youngest resident to
“That’s not it,” Ambrose countered. “It’s not just that he’s a
kid… Why you should have seen how patient he was this afternoon
when Curly started asking questions, and the boy found different
ways of explaining the same thing until Curly understood.”
“It’s the same when he’s out with the cattle; men who’ve spent
years in the saddle listen to some of his suggestions and
actually implement them,” Dakkar stated as he sat down on the
settee, rested back, and crossed his left leg over his right.
Pulling the cigar from his lips, he blew a circle of smoke and
watched as it wafted into the air.
“As smart as he is, I can’t for the life of me understand what
his father might have done to have the courts revoke his
custody,” Doctor Milano stated before he lifted a coffee cup to
his lips and took a sip.
“Boy a leader,” Lin Tang stated as he entered the room, unafraid
to speak his piece in front of his employer. “Boy good, father
have to be good, too.”
Thinking back to the first words the boy had to say about why he
was with those men, Dakkar sat forward, with his cigar still in
his hand, he uncrossed his legs and rested his elbows on his
“When we first found him, he said he thought he remembered his
‘pa’, but saw red spread across the man’s shirt. He’d been shot
in the chest.” When neither of his companions spoke, Dakkar
continued, “Who knows how old or recent that memory was… Doctor,
if we were to pressure the boy into remembering, and he did…
only to find out his father had been dead… What would it do to
“My professional opinion would be that it would devastate him…
As any news regarding the death of a parent would…” Doc Milano
“Then as I have said before, there will be no further discussion
concerning who or what his father was. Ranchero Orchha shall and
will become his home.”
Crushing his cigar out in the ashtray on the side table next to
the settee, Dakkar stood and bade goodnight to the doctor and
“He should know…” Ambrose quietly whispered.
“Don’t let Dakkar hear you speak like that,” warned the doctor.
“But I agree, the boy should have the opportunity to know the
truth… whatever it is.”
Jules continued to spend his early morning hours doing various
chores around the main ranch house, collecting eggs, milking the
cows, feeding and watering the animals in the barn. After
breakfast, the rest of his mornings were spent with Reginald
Ambrose on his studies. The teacher made sure they promptly
stopped each day in time for Lin Tang’s lunch, before Jules
headed to work with the others out on the ranch.
Curly and Jules rode out from the barn and stopped at the
corrals where they changed from sitting in the saddle to sitting
on the top rail to watch one of the hands climb upon the back of
a rambunctious stallion.
“I remember…” mused Mark as a snippet of a tall man riding a
bucking, dun-colored horse flickered into his memory. The image
and the thought were lost when everyone started cheering on the
cowboy to “RIDE ‘EM!”
In Cloudcroft, days stretched into weeks as word filtered in
from U.S. Marshal Sam Buckhart as he traveled to and from
various towns in search for Mark McCain.
In the beginning, each lawman was shocked at the events relayed
to them, but in time, the wires and newspaper story Lucas sent
reached the towns before Sam and Silas arrived. Upon inquiry,
the lawman received factual reports indicating the others were
taking the news seriously and investigating.
Sam lay down and stretched himself upon one of the two beds in
the room he shared with Silas Waiscott.
“How many more towns do we search?” asked Silas. “We searched
eight towns already.”
That leaves La Luz and Hill Rolls.”
“And if he’s not there?”
“Then we expand our search,” answered the marshal.
Riding out with Parson one afternoon, Jules was surprised to
encounter several riders, he closed his eyes at the shape they
and their horses were in. He was even more surprised when Parson
drew his gun and ordered them off the ranch.
“Parson, they need help,” Jules declared.
“Not here. They should have been better prepared for their
“But why run them off. What harm would there be in helping them,
giving them some water?”
“If we let them stay… next they’ll take whatever, and soon… the
land is ruined.”
“Just by giving them some water and letting them rest up? What
you’re doing goes against…”
“Jules, this is Morgan Dakkar’s land!” Jules had never heard the
man speak with that serious of a tone of voice. “I work for him.
He pays my wages; he gives me a roof over my head. He sees that
all his workers have good food… Everything we have here, we’ve
worked for. We’ve not asked, we’ve not begged. We were prepared
for anything when we came here. If they’re not strong enough to
survive, then they should have stayed home.”
“There is no discussion on this… This land is hard and
unforgiving, but we can’t let others think they can take it from
Micah returned to the hotel room later that night, he’d spent a
troubling afternoon trying to ascertain what happened to Mark
and why… And to find out who was behind the robbery that set
things into motion...
“Damn that nosey-body Pettigrew and those mangy, no good…”
“Easy there Micah,” cautioned Lucas as he rose from a chair to
tuck his shirt into his pants. “We’ll get him back.”
“Lucas, it’s more than just Mark missing. I’ve talked with the
deputy and a certain business owner,” Micah’s face lightly
blushed at his vague description of Miss Matilda. “This all
boils down to Ted Cassidy…”
“The bank man?”
“You know him, LucasBoy?”
“No, but I saw his name on the draft authorization, when we were
paid for the cattle… What does he have to do with everything?”
Lucas settled back on the bed and listened to the story Micah
began to tell, an incredible story, but one that made sense to a
man such as Lucas McCain. The pieces of the puzzle fit into a
coherent picture, and Lucas realized they just happened to be in
the wrong place at the wrong time; and to compound their grief
was the unfortunate luck of Horatio Pettigrew arriving when he
“So, what do you and the deputy plan for the three of us to do?”
“What do you mean?” Micah startled at Lucas’ question.
“Micah, I’ve known you for too long to think that you’d walk
away and leave that deputy to face this on his own. And I’m
“Are you sure, Lucas?”
“Micah, you remember that time, when Chaqua kidnapped Mark…”
(Refers to events in the episode: The Raid)
“I do boy, I do.”
“I had no business out there…searching for them.”
“But you found them… You rescued Mark and Sam…”
“And I killed Chaqua. If I hadn’t been concussed, I would have
known better, I could have planned things differently.”
“But you’re not concussed now…”
“No… I’m not, but I still have no business putting Sam’s life at
risk again, by my foolishly going after them. He’s risking
enough as it is… He doesn’t need to worry about me, too – what
with the Mescalero out there causing trouble and killing people.
No… the good new is we’re getting responses to the wires and as
Sam and Silas arrive in those towns, they’ll find him. They’ll
find Mark. I know they will.”
“Lucas, I know your heart is out there… with Mark… But we could
sure use your help with Cassidy.”
“I’ll do what I can; maybe I can obtain some kind of vindication
for Mark, by helping to bring this Cassidy to justice.”
“I thought you might,” smiled Micah.
Three men sat in the Sheriff’s Office discussing what it would
take and how they could gather enough proof to bring Ted Cassidy
to trial for organizing the robbery of his own bank that
resulted in the murder of Cloudcroft’s own sheriff, as well as
The lawmen momentarily sat in nervous contemplation as they
struggled to come up with a feasible plan. Lucas McCain’s his
frustrations presented themselves with his heavy footfalls as he
paced the room, the room quieted for a moment when his mind
“I know how to do it,” Lucas said as his strides sounded again,
he turned to sit upon the edge of the desk. “It’s been right
before us the whole time.”
“What’s been here?” inquired Micah as he looked up to his
“We bring in the governor.”
“How does the governor help us?” asked Dave Vestor as he stopped
doodling with the pencil and listened to the two men.
“Dave, say you tried to rob your own bank, how would you feel if
the governor sent word he was sending people down to make sure
the bank was still solvent? Do you think this is the first he’s
tried something like this? Maybe not on this scale, but… I say
we take a chance that… maybe… he’s previously been skimming
funds from the bank.”
“Lucas?” Micah asked, as Lucas’ words began to reveal what the
tall rancher was suggesting.
“Micah, think about it…” Lucas slid from the edge of the desk to
the chair set next to Micah, with his hands animatedly pointing
out each point, “to be an honest citizen one day and the next
brazenly deciding to hire outlaws to rob your business? He’s
“Embezzlement!” Deputy Vestor excitedly put forth. “But how do
we get the governor involved?”
“Micah only needs to write his report, including everything we
know, the holdup, the custodial hearing, Silas Waiscott,
everything except our suspicions of Cassidy… We only state that
we’re not sure all the funds were recovered… And in an effort to
protect the citizens of this town, you’d like a full accounting
to validate the solvency of the bank to be conducted by an
outside, independent government official.”
“But that will take weeks to orchestrate…” Micah stated, piqued
by the prospect but knowing how long it could take to conduct a
“The way bureaucracy works, yes, it would take weeks to put it
all together… But how would you react, knowing what we’re
setting into motion?” Lucas asked.
“I see what you’re getting at Mr. McCain. If Cassidy has been
taking money from the bank, he’s bound to grow concerned… But
what if he… somehow returns the money?”
“My bet is, that lavish lifestyle he’s been living… He doesn’t
have the money.” Micah declared.
“And with no money…”
“We’ve got him,” Deputy Vestor announced as a smile of
satisfaction spread across his face.
The following morning, Deputy Vestor sent a wire to the
territorial governor informing them to anticipate receipt of a
package containing full details of the recent events in
At the Golden Spur saloon, Marshal Torrance sat at a table with
several sheets of paper spread out in front of him, writing his
report and included various substantiations. All the while,
knowing the saloon girls were eyeing what he was doing and
undoubtedly planning to report their findings to Ted Cassidy. At
least that was what they planned would happen.
At the hotel, Lucas McCain worried, sleep had proved to be
elusive during the night, yet during the day it pulled at him in
an effort to fully recover from his injuries.
Four days later, two men rode into town, pausing outside the
Golden Spur, before signaling their horses to continue.
Sitting at the large window in the dining room of the hotel,
Lucas McCain noticed the men and sat up straight. He gently
kicked the lawman who sat leaned back, lightly dozing on the
opposite side of the table, to gain his attention.
Leaving their half-empty glasses of beer on the table, Lucas
grabbed his rifle as Micah picked up his scattergun; both men
exited the hotel and casually strolled towards the bank. On the
opposite side of the street, Deputy Dave Vestor had been drawn
from his office upon seeing the two strangers enter his town.
With barely perceptible nods or movements of their hands, they
agreed that they were all focused on the same men.
Taking his cue, Micah separated from Lucas and quickly made his
way to the rear of the bank where he found several crates which
had not been moved into the café that shared the alleyway, thus
offering him cover should the men come out the back door. Once
past the entrance of the bank, Dave Vestor motioned for the
people of town to get back as he took position behind a wagon
strategically placed in front of the general store. Lucas McCain
prevented anyone he saw from proceeding down the boardwalk as he
took cover in the alcove entrance to the millinery shop, after
he had told the ladies inside to exit out the back and make
their way to the hotel for their own safety.
Two men with masks pulled up over the lower portions of their
faces exited the bank, saddle bags in one hand and a gun in the
“DROP YOUR WEAPONS!” ordered Deputy Vestor as he peered from
behind the wagon.
The first outlaw fired his gun in the direction the voice
sounded as the second outlaw tried to reach his horse. The
outlaw pulled free the knot, and upon sensing the slackened
rein, the panicked animal bolted away, causing the other horse
to pull against the rein that tied it to the rail, causing the
leather to break. The second horse galloped down the street,
away from the sounds of gunfire and the smell of gunpowder.
One of the outlaws ran and slid behind the water trough, using
it as a shield while the other outlaw ran to take cover behind
several crates stacked in front of the town’s hardware store.
The reports of gunfire echoed along the main street, causing
people to pull back from the windows as sanity overrode their
Inside the bank, Hank Williams lay sprawled behind the teller’s
counter, moaning as he raised a hand to his head and pulled it
away to see what looked like red paint on the tips of his
fingers. Rolling over to his stomach, he looked around and saw
the fuzzy image of the bank vault standing wide open and in the
opening stood Ted Cassidy. The look upon the man’s face
surprised the bank manager and the fact he stood there with a
rifle in hand, glaring.
Unable to call to his employer, Williams allowed the dark
fringes upon the periphery of his vision to take over everything
as he fell once again into the dark abyss of unconsciousness.
“Damn stupidity…” muttered Ted Cassidy as he stood in front of
the open, empty vault; furious at the second failure in as many
attempts to rob his own bank. Clenching the weapon in both
hands, the bank founder carefully made his way to the front of
the bank. Glancing out the open doorway, he saw the smoke
surrounding the back of the wagon in front of the general store
to the right of the bank as well as the smoke in the entryway to
the millinery shop. In front of him, he saw one of the men he
had hire hiding behind the water trough in front of the café
firing towards the wagon and smoke indicating someone else,
probably the other man he’d hired, firing from behind the crates
on the boardwalk in front of the hardware store two doors down.
Stepping to the boardwalk and realizing his movements were
undetected, Ted Cassidy positioned himself behind a pillar and
raised his rifle, slowly the end of the barrel moved as he
sighted down the weapon to find his target.
Hearing the gun battle waged in the street, Micah entered the
bank through the back door, stopping long enough to determine if
the bank manager was still alive. Thankful there would not be
another murder charge added to the list of crimes, Micah
crouched and made his way to the lobby area of the bank, looked
past the front window in an effort to determine where friend and
foe were positioned.
The older lawman’s eyes were drawn to the figure of a man behind
the front pillar, the barrel of the rifle sighting in on where
Lucas stood, attention diverted in a different direction.
Raising his scattergun, Micah pulled the trigger, shattering the
glass window at the front of the bank.
The loud sound of gunfire behind him and the glass breaking drew
Cassidy’s attention as he turned to face this new threat.
Swinging the barrel of his rifle around, he fired…
Fire tore along Micah’s forearm as his finger tightened on the
trigger to fire the second barrel of his scatter gun, catching
the banker full in the chest; throwing the man backwards into
“We give up!” yelled the outlaw cowering behind the water
trough, only his hands and forearms showing after he threw his
weapon to the middle of the street.
The sound of a second weapon landing near the first gun brought
an eerie quiet to the street.
“Hands up and over your heads!” hollered Deputy Vestor, still
using the wagon as cover while waiting to verify the outlaws
were no longer armed.
Slowly and warily, the two outlaws revealed themselves, hands
held above their heads, no additional weapons visible. Lucas and
Micah remained near their respective entry ways covering the
young deputy as he strode to the two outlaws and motioned for
them to head down the middle of the street to the jail.
Earlier in the evening, many of the leading citizens of
Cloudcroft had been talking of a grand wake in memory of the
slain bank founder…that is until they learned of the man’s
duplicity in the part he’d played in the previous robbery and
death of the much-respected Sheriff Wade Pattison.
Mourning did not happen; instead, the citizenry planned a
celebration to acknowledge the accomplishment of the young
deputy in revealing the true character of a man who held greed
above friendship and the success of their town.
Modesty surrounded the young deputy as he tried to object to the
plans of the town council, but was brought up short when a ten
year old boy entered the jail and yelled to be heard, “DOC NEEDS
YA! SAID IT’S TIME!”
Forgoing his guns that sat partially cleaned upon the top of his
desk, the deputy grabbed his hat and ran out, offering not
apologies or explanation.
Cloudcroft was coming to life when the doctor entered the
Sheriff’s Office and watched as one of his earlier patients
restlessly slept on a cot set up near the pot bellied stove, he
turned to the other occupant upon hearing the man clear his
“It’s a boy,” Doc Webster stated. “Deputy Vestor’s wife gave
birth to a boy. I know you probably don’t have anything good to
say about the people of Cloudcroft or myself, but I came to make
sure Mr. McCain took no additional injury. I can also treat your
“Lucas is as okay as he can be… considering…” Micah stated. “And
my arms just fine. Been a lawman long enough to know how to
treat and care for a flesh wound by myself. By the way… how’s
the other fella doing, the bank manager?”
“Concussed, but should recover in a few days after the headaches
“Then, you should return to your people,” Micah’s voice
indicated it wasn’t a suggestion, he just no longer wanted
anything to do with some of the people in this town, and this
man was one of them.
“I understand… Well, if you or your… ‘guests’ need my services,
I’ll be back at my clinic.”
Micah watched as the doctor left the office, and he stood to
follow him to the boardwalk. Down the street, sounds from the
bank indicated workers were already busy putting the business
back together. Returning inside, Micah saw Lucas sitting up on
“Any news?” Lucas asked.
“A boy,” Micah admitted.
Closing his eyes, Lucas said a silent prayer to his long
departed wife,”Margaret, please be watching over our boy. God,
please let Sam find him.”
Standing up to walk to the pot-bellied stove to pour himself a
cup of coffee, Lucas inquired about Micah’s arm.
“Like I told that doctor, I’m fine,” mumbled Micah.
“No… you told him you doctored yourself. Let me see it,” Lucas
stated as he placed his cup of coffee on the desk and waited.
Having waited for the marshal to unwrap the bandage, Lucas
admitted, “Guess you do know something about doctoring.”
“Has there been any further word from Sam?”
“Yeah, he sent a wire yesterday, still no sign of Mark.” Quickly
Micah added, “But he’s not giving up!”
As the weeks pass and Jules rode with others to attend to the
various herds, numerous times he saw people in need heartlessly
One evening upon his return to the ranch as he was caring for
his horse, he remembered the words that Mr. Dakkar has spoken
shortly after his arrival at the ranch, “The land surrounding
Ranchero Orchha is unforgiving and I do not forgive those who
unlawfully trespass on my land nor do I forgive those who turn
against the hand that has offered to them aid.” Jules gulped at
the now understood, innocent threat conveyed in those words. But
still, somehow, he knew he had been raised differently, he had
been raised to help those in need.
“The Golden Rule,” Jules whispered as he sat in the study
waiting Reginald Ambrose’s arrival the following morning. “Do
unto others as you would have them do unto you…”
Jules grew angered and could no longer refrain from asking why
they turned away strangers instead of offering them the help
they so desperately needed. If they were so set against helping
“Why did he help me?!” Jules yelled as his frustrations drove
him beyond civilities in trying to understand. All his previous
questions to his teacher had been rebuffed, but this question
was the most ardent and could not been ignored.
Ambrose dreaded this day’s arrival; he’d witnessed Jules’
growing agitation and when the question was asked, he walked to
one of the book cases in the study, selected a volume, turned to
hand it to Jules, and stated, “Maybe this will help explain a
“It’s the best I can do. I really don’t feel comfortable in
talking about it. Hopefully you’ll be able to understand what
you’ve seen and compare it to what you read.”
“But this is…”
“Sometimes, literature comes from the very nature of life, and
sometimes, life mirrors literature,” answered Ambrose. “There
will be no lessons today.”
Leaving the study, Jules carried the book to his room and placed
it on the nightstand. He changed his clothes and prepared to
ride out on his own.
“He what?!” declared Dakkar, slamming his hands upon the
tabletop and standing, knocking his chair over backwards, when
Lin Tang informed him that Jules had not returned to the ranch
house for lunch and was now late for supper.
“Morgan, I’ve seen this brewing in the boy… He’s witnessed the
men turning others away. He asked me why we treat others that
way when we took him in…”
“He’s my son!” declared Dakkar. “Why wouldn’t I…”
The doctor and the teacher both blanched as they heard the
words, they looked to each other before they looked to their
friend, his face flushed, his breath ragged.
Behind him, Lin Tang righted the chair that Dakkar eventually
slumped down, into.
“What did you tell him?” Dakkar asked with a calm, rational
“I couldn’t… It wasn’t for me to tell him.”
“Morgan, the boy isn’t Malakai. He wasn’t raised here; you can’t
expect him to understand from the examples we set…”
“No,” admitted Dakkar. “I know he’s not my son, but… Is it wrong
to feel the same desires to want to protect him? It was because
of strangers crossing my land…” Though Dakkar sat in the same
room as the other men, his mind returned to his past, his land
on another continent. “They brought disease of the body and
mind… They corrupted the land, and my son died. This boy has to
understand that this land has to be protected from the dregs of
society, the outcast, those who would ruin a lifetime of hard
work in order to gain… what? Money? Their greed… What price do
we put upon the land?”
There was no further conversation as Lin Tang placed dishes full
of food upon the table. The clinking of silverware upon China
which echoed within the vast dining area of the ranch house was
interrupted by the soft closing of the front door. The three men
looked up and waited to see who would cross the entry way.
“Jules,” Dakkar called upon seeing the boy. “Your supper is
“I’m not hungry sir,” Jules answered and began to walk to the
“Not so fast, young man.” No one missed the sternness in
“May I be excused to my room?” the boy asked, still not looking
at those sitting around the table.
“No, I expect you to come inside and take your seat. Whether you
choose to eat is of no consequence to me, but you are expected
to join us for meals.”
“I didn’t do anything today to earn the right to sit at your
table…” Jules answered, hoping they would just let him go to his
“And why do you think you had to work to earn the right to eat,”
Dakkar asked as he stood and walked to the end of the table
nearest the entry to the dining room.
Taking a deep breath, Jules remembered the mental arguments he’d
held with himself while he rode. “I was reminded the other day
that is it you who pays the wages, provides the roof over our
heads, and sees that we have good food to eat. Are you such a
benefactor you would provide for those who don’t do their fare
share? What of those whose only dream is something the other
side of Ranchero Orchha? You yourself said this land is harsh
and unforgiving! But sometimes, a person will sacrifice anything
to see their dream! No, you’re not such a benefactor… I didn’t
work, so I won’t eat. That’s your Golden Rule, come unprepared
or encounter something unforeseen, too bad. As long as ‘you’re’
comfortable in ‘your’ house, who cares about anyone else, let
them die someplace else!”
Jules ignored the shouts of his name as he ran up the stairs and
slammed closed the door to his bedroom.
That night, with the others having retired to the main room to
contemplate their conversations, in the small upstairs bedroom
the lantern beside his bed burned bright. Jules sat down to read
the book presented to him by his teacher. Curiously, he began to
explore how a book could explain some of the things he had
witnessed, especially when based on the title of the book it had
to do with life under the sea, not life on the land.
Curly and Parson returned from a trip to Bent to pick up
supplies that could not be provided upon the vast land of
Ranchero Orchha. Lin Tang showed them into the private office of
“Found something you should know about,” Curly stated, hoping
not to sour the already oppressive mood that has settled over
the ranch house for the past four days.
“What is it?” Dakkar asked not looking up from his ledger books.
“It’s about the boy…” Parson answered.
“Take him to the doctor if he’s injured himself.”
“It’s not like that, Mr. Dakkar. People are looking for him…”
Curly stated as he walked to the front of the desk and slipped a
sheet of paper on top of the ledger.
Wanted: Mark McCain
Description: Brown hair, brown eyes, 5 ft 5 inches, slight build
Last Seen: Enroute from Cloudcroft to Rio Ruidoso
Notify: U.S. Marshal c/o Cloudcroft Sheriff Office
“That boy is dead,” Dakkar answered as he wadded up the sheet of
paper and threw it away.
“But boss?” Parson had the audacity to ask. “If Jules is this
“What good would it do to tell him!” Dakkar demanded as he stood
to his full height, slammed both fisted hands upon his desk and
stared down the two men standing in front of him. “His father is
dead. The courts turned him over to someone else… He has a
better life staying here!”
“But he ain’t happy,” Curly plaintively answered.
Both the men who took to looking out for Jules and showing him
the ranch and wondering at how easy-going and carefree the boy
had been, had witnessed the boy’s transformation into a brooding
young man. He did his chores and he worked alongside the men
when tending to the cattle and the horses, but other than that,
he showed no further interest in the ranch or the men. He’d even
stopped attending his studies with Reginald Ambrose, choosing
instead to sit in his room reading.
“I know…” Dakkar sat back into his seat, shoulders slightly
slumped. “If he would only understand.”
“Sir, I hope I’m not speaking out of turn… But… how can he
understand why we do the things we do when no one talks to him
Looking away from the two men, Dakkar’s mind drifted to another
such young man, thirty years before…
“He needs to know,” Doctor Herbert Milano stated as he leaned
against the doorframe. “If this boy they’re searching for is
Jules, doesn’t he have the right to know who he is? I know
you’re only trying to protect him from getting hurt upon the
confirmation of his family’s death… But isn’t this a slower
death. Don’t keep him here until he too…”
“Talk to him,” Reginald Ambrose stated. “You were the one who
brought him to this house… You’re the one who set down the law
surrounding Ranchero Orchha… It has to be you…”
“Sir, it’s not just this poster, there’s a U.S. Marshal going
from town to town, asking questions about the boy too,” Parson
stated. “I heard people talking in the…”
“Saloon,” Dakkar completed the sentence.
“Yes, we stopped by the saloon. We only went there to get the
brandy you stock.”
“Seems the boy’s pa ain’t dead, and he’s some kind of a legend
with a rifle…” Curly added. “And from what people were saying,
that marshal who’s searching, he’s Apache… He ain’t gonna give
up until he finds the boy.”
“I’ll talk with him, later… Now leave me alone,” Dakkar stated
U.S. Marshal Sam Buckhart and his ‘prisoner’ Silas Waiscott made
camp outside of La Luz to consider their options. A coffee pot
sat upon one of the stones that surrounded their small camp
“How much longer?” Silas asked as he sipped from his coffee cup.
Gone were the days of riding with handcuffs and a sour
disposition. As the days and weeks passed, he realized he had a
vested interest in finding the subject of their search. If
anything good could come out of the hell he had helped set in
motion, he wanted to succeed.
“About the boy? As long as it takes. Before we get to La Luz? We
camp tonight and ride in mid-morning tomorrow.”
The deep bass of Silas’ voice reflected his sincerity, “I truly
hope we find that young man. My Enola was right… Ain’t right for
a parent not to know their child is safe.”
During their time together, Buckhart had seen a subtle change
come over the man who was his prisoner. Others had set events
into motion that culminated in the robbery and shootout… As a
lawman, he knew he had an obligation to see that the man stood
trial for his crimes, it didn’t matter that the man had gone
through a transformation that literally made him a different man
– a man who could become a boon to society.
As day broke over their camp, Buckhart sensed a change in the
atmosphere as the land lay quiet; the air which should have
contained the normal sounds of morning was vacant. As their
journey crossed back into the lands coveted by the Mescalero, he
ultimately decided the other man deserved a chance to defend
himself, should the need arise and had given him a Colt
“Lie still, but be alert,” Buckhart whispered loud enough that
only Silas could hear him.
“Some one’s out there,” Silas answered.
The anticipated shout came minutes later, forcing both men to
spring into action upon hearing it. The lawman pulled up a
repeating rifle to defend their small camp while Silas brought
out the revolver and began firing. The first two braves to enter
the camp quickly collapsed to the ground to not move again.
From behind him, Buckhart sensed someone approaching, he turned
but the barrel of the rifle was pushed away as Mueglion charged
the lawman and knocked him to the ground. As the two grappled on
the ground for the knife the warrior held, Silas continued to
fire and reload his weapon. He knew he had struck two more
braves down, and wounded one more when his eyes drew to the
fight rolling in the direction of the fire. Slipping a cartridge
into the last vacant cylinder and slapping it closed, Silas
aimed the weapon towards the Indian on top. He never had a
chance to pull the trigger before he was slammed backwards to
the ground as a bullet found its mark in his shoulder.
Moments later, Sam Buckhart slowly stood to his feet after
ushing the dead body of Mueglion to the side. Crimson blood
soaked the brave’s shirt and spilled to the ground from the
knife wound in the center of his chest.
Exhausted and out of breath from his struggles, Buckhart
declared, “A tame Apache… you might call me… but tame Apache…
are not victorious over warriors!” Yelling loud enough for the
others to hear, Buckhart continued, “I am Apache! I am the law!
Too many… of our brothers have died today! Return to your home!”
In the near distance, sounds of horses retreating echoed and
faded before Buckhart made his was over to where Silas Waiscott
lie. Ripping his sleeve from his shirt, Buckhart pushed the
material into the bullet wound forcing the man awake with a
“Can you ride?” Buckhart asked.
“Yeah, I can ride,” Silas answered as he accepted Buckhart’s
outstretched hand to help him up. “What about the others?”
“Their companions will be back for their bodies once we’ve gone.
We leave them as they lie.”
Morning came to Ranchero Orchha, where the mood within reflected
the same dreariness that lay across the land. Having spent a
sleepless night, Dakkar found himself standing outside the door
to the room where Jules slept. He tapped upon the door and
waited for permission to enter. “Come,” he heard from the other
“I would like to talk with you,” Dakkar stated as he stepped
into the room and closed the door.
“It’s your home,” Jules answered, still lying on the bed, fully
dressed, ankles crossed, fingers interlaced and behind his head.
“It could be your home too,” answered Dakkar.
“No, this will never be my home. I might eat, sleep, and work
here, but it will never be my home. My home is somewhere… out
Pulling the chair out from the desk, Dakkar set it near the bed
and straddled it, his arms resting on the top of the slatted
back. “I owe you an explanation…”
“You don’t owe me anything,” Jules answered in a monotone. “You
made that plain and clear…”
“You’re wrong, I need for you to understand why we are… as we
are. In my past, I had a son, I had property, I had
responsibilities… But… there were those who decided that they
were entitled to what I had worked hard to create… Not just me,
but my father before me, and his before him. I worked so my
legacy could be handed down to my son… But they came, and they
came… In their greed, they took from the land and I couldn’t
stop them. The land darkened and could no longer sustain itself
or the people who called it home. But more and more people came,
waste and decadence followed, and I lost… After my son’s death,
I gave it all up for a fresh start. We came to America…” With a
heavy heart Dakkar stated, “In time, it became just as before…
what we had left. So we chose to move on and finally settled
here. When we first arrived, we had hope for the land and dreams
of this being what we had previously lost. We carved out a home
on this land and vowed to never to lose her. For all she gives
us, we give back, and we’ll defend our right to live here.
“As for why we helped you… It was not of your doing that found
you in need of help. As for the some of the others… the others
who call this ranch home… some came after we settled… among them
you’ll find one common theme… They had no control over why they
ended up here, but they chose to stay, to live, to work, to
fight, to defend.”
“But I didn’t choose!” Jules voiced his frustrations. He sat up
on the bed and swung his legs off the side to face Dakkar. “I
know what I told you… when you found me… about…” his voice
quieted, “my father. But lately…”
“But lately?” Dakkar’s voice held concern and compassion, when
the boy didn’t continue.
“I keep hearing words; they come to me and then go, and come
back… I hear them clearest just before I fall asleep and once I
“What are you hearing?”
“I’m proud of you, son. And… I know you do. I can see his face…
And I can see him smiling, with his arm around… my shoulders.”
“You think this man is your father?”
“You said you saw him killed…”
“I saw blood, but… Mr. Dakkar… you had a son… I’m someone’s son…
I know it. And I know how you treat strangers, who mean you no
harm… I know it’s wrong. I can’t help the way I feel.”
Standing from the chair upon which he sat, Dakkar stated, “All I
ask is that you think on what I’ve told you.” With that, he
placed the chair back to the desk, turned and left the room.
“Why won’t you think on what I’ve told you,” whispered Jules as
the pulled his legs back to the top of the bed, turned and laid
down, curled up on his side.
As Jules reached the bottom of the staircase, Lin Tang stopped
and warned him not to upset Mr. Dakkar..
“Why?” Jules sullenly asked..
“You and Mr. Dakkar go on trip. I pack for you.”
“Pack for me? Where are we going?”
“You go where Mr. Dakkar take you.” Lin Tang hurried up the
steps and disappeared in the Jules bedroom.
The two riders rode in silence; Dakkar thinking of their
destination and what would happen after their arrival, Jules
tried to keep his fear from growing. Could the man mad enough
that he was planning to carry through on his threat, ‘nor do I
forgive those who turn against the hand that has offered them
aid.’ As the afternoon wore on, Dakkar motioned for the young
man beside him to stop when he spotted two riders, one evidently
in distress, slumped over in the saddle as the other rider led
the horse upon which he rode and a pack horse followed them.
As the riders neared, Jules was surprised to see one man was an
Indian and he wore a star on his jacket. It surprised him to see
the Indian supporting the black man to prevent him from falling.
Jules closed his eyes as a twinge of pain stabbed behind his
eyes. Moments later, he opened his eyes and watched as Dakkar
greeted the two strangers; the pain forced Jules to twist his
head to the side and close his eyes again. Wishing the headache
to just go away; Jules pulled his canteen from the saddle horn,
uncapped it, and drank heavily, before returning it to hang from
Sam Buckhart stopped the two horses he led upon seeing two other
riders. His attention was drawn to the older rider upon hearing
the man call a greeting. The two conversed for a few moments
with the marshal telling of the ambush and his need to get his
prisoner to Cloudcroft.
“You are U.S. Marshal, Sam Buckhart?” Dakkar asked.
Hesitantly the marshal replied, “I am.”
“We were about ready to stop and make camp for the night, maybe
we… can be of some assistance.”
Dakkar had spent a long night remembering the words he had
spoken to the young man who he offered sanctuary, hoping he
would come to understand their way of life. But the more he
thought on the boy’s words, the more he convinced himself that
it did not harm the land to off help to those who really needed
it -- those who only wanted to reach their dream, but not at the
expense of others, or the land.
Helping the marshal lower his prisoner to the ground, Dakkar had
forgotten about his companion until Marshal Buckhart stated, “I
believe your boy could use a little fatherly compassion, he is
looking a little green around the gills.”
“He’s not my son…” Dakkar inhaled deeply and slowly let out his
breath before he said his next words, “I believe he may be the
boy you seek.”
The words were slow to settle into Buckhart’s mind as his
attention was focused on stopping the blood flood that began
again as Silas was moved from horse to ground.
“Boy I seek?” queried Buckhart.
“He doesn’t remember who he is, only that he vaguely remembers a
man, and that he was told the courts gave him to the men who
were killed before we came upon their camp.”
“Mark?” Buckhart hesitantly called out.
It had been many years since the marshal had seen the boy, and
the physical changes could not hide what Buckhart remembered,
the look in the boy’s eyes and the way he set his mouth when
Turning from tending to the horses, Jules’ footing stumbled as
the pain increased when he heard a name called, he looked up to
the marshal and collapsed to the ground as the pain exploded in
his temples, driving him unconscious.
Quickly to the boy’s aid, Dakkar and Buckhart carried him closer
to where they had planned to prepare a camp fire.
Throughout the night the two men discussed their two patients as
they eagerly waited for dawn.
With a second sleepless night observed, Dakkar cornered Sam
Buckhart, pulling his revolver from his holster, as they
prepared to break camp.
“I have heard of the man by your side these past months. I know
he is your prisoner and why. Though he knows he will probably
face a hangman’s noose, he still rode by your side.”
“He probably will, but I hope my words at his trial would look
in his favor.”
Dakkar’s mind wandered between several lines of thought, “He
was… he is as my son was…” Dakkar stated as he looked to the
still unconscious form of the boy he knew as Jules.
“Why hide all traces of him out there?”
“To prevent others from coming, from following our trails...
We’ve worked hard for what we’ve built and I refuse to see
grubstakes torn from the land. I had hoped to convince the boy
that the way we lived with the right way. But… he opened my
“He has been known to do that,” Buckhart responded.
“We choose to live a peaceful existence here, away from the
violence, greed, and gluttony of man. But we will defend and
have defended our way of life. Certain people are chosen to stay
here, but not everyone. I have much to offer, but I ask a lot in
“And what is it you offer?”
“Hope… Remand Silas Waiscott to my custody. It is a fact that he
would either spend his life in jail or hang… Am I right?”
“You are. Why should I let him escape…”
“It is not an escape. To live here is a lifetime commitment,
hard work and sweat, but also an offering of pride. Is it not
true that when you speak for his defense in how he aided you in
the search for the boy… How he fought beside you against those
who would kill you for what you are? He saved your life
yesterday by killing some of those men. He very well could have
allowed that man to kill you.” Conscience underscored the words
Morgan Dakkar spoke. “And in returning the man to your legal
system, you would be forced to divulge what you know of Ranchero
“I would,” Buckhart replied. “If it came to that…it may not.”
“It would, when they ask you where and how you found the boy.
Call me selfish, but I do not wish for outsiders to come and
destroy the beauty that is our land. I will still oppose those
who would only take and harm, but… through the eyes of a child,
this young man… I have come to see the wisdom of helping those
who only want what is best when seeking out their dreams.
Waiscott will be sentenced to life, here. No one needs to know
“But people do know.”
“They know only that we live somewhere. We are self-sufficient
except for a few trips to various towns for some supplies and
lumber. They do not know where we are, they do not know why…
Grant me this wish and you may take the boy. But you may never
speak of us, this has to be your solemn oath.”
“Tell the law that he is dead…”
“What of his wife?”
“He has a wife?”
“From what I understand, they were separated during the War
Between the States; slaves were sold with no compassion for
families. He recently found his wife in Cloudcroft.”
Taking a moment to think, Dakkar answered, “She and she alone
can be told of his survival, and if he wishes, she may join us.
But here is where they will live, happily, until they die. That
I promise you.”
“The boy, no questions asked, no other conditions,” stated
“Only the conditions I have previously stated,” Dakkar held Sam
Buckhart’s gun in the palm of his hand as he held the weapon out
for the lawman to take.
“I don’t even know where your ranch is, how do I transport her…”
“Tell her within ten days, Reginald Ambrose will ask for her at
the hotel in Cloudcroft. If she asks what to tell the others
with whom she has friended, she is to only say that she is being
taken to where her husband is buried and she will be allowed to
stay for the duration of her grief. Ambrose will tell her the
full truth, but only after they have left her old life behind.”
Silas opened his eyes upon hearing a horse snort its nose.
Rising to his elbow, he saw the two men sitting opposite the
“It is good you wake,” Sam Buckhart greeted. He poured a cup of
coffee and walked over and handed it to the man.
“Who’re they?” Silas asked as he accepted the cup of coffee.
“The one who still sleeps is the boy we have been searching
“We found him?” Silas asked incredulously.
“No, they found us. Silas, the other man is Morgan Dakkar, and
he has a proposition for you. I have agreed to his terms…”
“What kind of a proposition?”
Dakkar stood to his feet and walked to where Silas lay. “Seeing
as how you face at best – prison, at worse – a hanging… I’ve
offered the marshal a trade, the boy’s life in exchange for
“I’m not a slave to be bought and sold!” declared Silas who
tried to rise to his feet, only to have a cautionary hand placed
against his chest by Dakkar.
“No, you’re not a slave. But you could become a member of my
ranch and as far as the law would care, you died out here in the
desert… During the latest Mescalero attack.”
Silas heard the words and looked to the lawman.
“You have changed while you rode with me. Maybe as you are now,
is as you were a long time ago. Dakkar offers you a new chance
at life, but there are conditions… his ranch is where you will
live and work, until your death.”
“One prison for another?!”
“Not a prison, just that we don’t let outsiders into the heart
of Ranchero Orchha. Once you commit yourself to the land, the
land is committed to you. All of us who live and work the land
will die upon the land and be buried here.”
“But my wife?” Silas asked.
“Within a fortnight, the two of you shall be reunited and the
two of you shall live your lives within the boundaries of
Ranchero Orchha,” Dakkar stated.
As the two friends sat in the small diner located on the far end
of town, Micah Torrance struggled with how to broach the subject
of returning home. He knew his words would be difficult for his
friend to hear, but there really wasn’t any need for him, or
Lucas to stay. Sam Buckhart would continue to look for Mark, and
return information sparked by the wires they had sent had
dwindled. Having sipped and set his after-breakfast cup of
coffee on the table top, Micah took a deep breath and spoke.
“Lucas, we need to return to North Fork, I’ve been gone too long
and with Cassidy dead, the deputy can handle the town until they
can elect a sheriff.”
“When do you plan to leave?”
“We’ll be leaving tomorrow afternoon, after the town council
meets.” Seeing Lucas’s reaction upon hearing ‘we’, Micah
continued, “Dave can forward any wires from Sam to us in North
Fork. It’s not doing you any good staying here and brooding.
Besides, you’ve a ranch to run.”
“I know, it’s just that if I do leave… Without him… I feel I’ll
be deserting him, admitting that… he’s never going to come
“Lucas, you’d never in your life ever desert that boy. We’ve
done all we possibly can… You need to continue with your life,
besides… Margaret would understand.”
“Would she?” Lucas asked. “Mark is my life…”
“And he’ll continue to be, but there’s nothing we can do here
and we’ve already talked about how foolish it would be for you
to head out after them…”
Without saying another word, the tall rancher and worried
father, stood from the table, collected his hat and rifle and
left the room without saying another word.
Micah paid their tab and watched his friend walk to the far end
of town, before he left the diner to return to the Sheriff’s
Lucas McCain stood outside the small building appreciating its
simple appearance except for the elaborate stained –glass window
that filled almost one whole side, the east side. Walking around
to the front of the building, Lucas removed his hat and stepped
inside. Vibrant colors decorated everything inside the building
as the morning sun filtered through the window.
Walking down the aisle, Lucas looked to the image before him,
Mother Mary holding the infant Jesus in her arms, while Joseph
looked on. Above them shone the sun, with winged angels and
white clouds filled the blue sky.
Taking a seat in the front row, Lucas looked to the cross upon
the alter allowing his tears to fall.
“Margaret, I don’t know how to go on…” Lucas said as he set his
hat on the bench beside his thigh and rested his rifle against
the same bench. “I lost you so long ago… Now it appears that
I’ve lost Mark. Sam Buckhart is a good friend and I know he’ll
search until he finds our boy, but… I should be the one out
there… looking… I’m his father… How do I go on without the two
“Ye live to honor their memories…” was quietly voiced from
Lucas turned in his seat to see a man dressed in a long, black
flock coat, a black parson’s hat in his hands.
“I’m sorry, the door was open…” Lucas stated, offering an excuse
for being in the building on a day that wasn’t a Sunday.
“These doors are always open. God never closes his heart to his
children, so… why should we close the doors to his house?” asked
the man as he walked to the row where Lucas sat. “No, please
dinna get up.” The man sat beside Lucas.
Lucas was quite surprised at the youthfulness of the man, maybe
in his mid-twenties. The freckles that adorned his cherubic face
didn’t help give the man the look of maturity of so many other
“My name if Father Shawn Michael O’Patrick, and I have two good
ears and strong shoulders, if yer in need of them.”
“Aye, I wondered if ye would come to open yer heart and let the
Lord heal ye.”
“The only way this heart can be healed is if my boy were to talk
through that door,” answered Lucas.
“We don’t know what tomorrow will bring… It may be… By yer
earlier words, ye have already thought that yer friend might not
find yer son, or the news he returns with may not be as ye
“How do I go on if he doesn’t come back?” the words conveyed the
defeat Lucas was feeling as each day failed to provide good news
from Sam; each wire was the same – No Mark.
“Ye’ll grieve, ye’ll cry, but live... live the life they would
want ye to live, a life that says you were worthy of their love.
Carry their love like a badge of honor; don’t wear it like a
shroud. Me only asks that ye keep the faith… Believe in Him.”
“It may not be today, nor tomorrow, a possibility of only in
heaven… But ye have to have faith and live for when yer boy is
returned, ye’ll want him to be proud of the life ye lived.”
After sitting for a few minutes after Father O’Patrick left,
Lucas felt a lightening in his heart, in his grief. He left the
church and returned to the Sheriff’s Office. Upon entering he
turned to Micah and said, “We leave tomorrow after the meeting.”
“Enola,” Matilda stated as she closed the door behind herself
and the other women as they walked into her private quarters.
“Have you given this enough thought?”
“What do I need to think about? He’s my husband…” Enola answered
as she took a seat upon the settee placed in front of the window
that looked out to the expanse of land, trees, up to the
“But he’s wanted by the law… Surely you can’t be planning a life
with him,” suggested Matilda as she took a seat beside her
“Twenty years ago, I planned my life with him!” retorted the
statuesque, light-skinned, Negro woman. “I vowed to spend my
life with him…”
“And what if they hang him? For God’s sake, our Sheriff was
killed during the robbery…”
“Then I’ll know for sure that he’ll be dead… But Silas couldn’t
have fired that bullet!”
“Please… listen to me,” Matilda offered as stood and walked to
the hutch in her room and began to pour two cups of coffee and
handed one to the woman who sat in her room, so full of hopes
and dreams. Matilda had to make sure she saw sense. “From what
Deputy Vestor says, they’re all guilty; just for being part of
“But the Marshal…”
“The Marshal can offer some kind of character reference, how
your Silas has helped him while searching for that McCain boy…
But that doesn’t guarantee he won’t hang! And if he’s not hung,
he’ll be sent to prison – probably for life. Are you prepared to
live the rest of your life on the outside of those walls, only
getting to see him once a month… And how will you live as man
and wife then?”
“How can I live without him… now?”
Matilda had seen such devotion in young women who headed west in
search of ideals that just didn’t exist, expecting their prince
charming to ride in on a charging stallion to save them. But her
friend was a mature woman, who had also seen her fair share of
young women come and go…
Without allowing her exasperation to show, her voice instilled
the seriousness of her conviction, “Wash your hands of him.
You’ve lived a good life here… You’ve been a good friend of mine
for the past twelve years… Don’t throw it all away for a man you
don’t need,” Matilda stated before she took another sip of her
“You don’t understand, it’s not that I need him… I… I want him.
Once… I lost everything… My husband and my life, Silas and
Hester were the only good things in my life.”
“My daughter… Our daughter.” Setting her coffee up on the side
table, Enola cried into her hands as she covered her face.
“Daughter? I never knew you hand a daughter… You’ve never gotten
pregnant in all these years.”
“Eventually, they made it so I’d never have another child…”
“Eventually? I don’t understand…” Matilda asked.
Enola remembered back all those years; the night they came and
took her from Silas.
Seven months pregnant, she tried to struggle but the man towered
over her and held a firm grip on her wrists, pulling her away
from her husband and her life.
“Either you come, or that,” he said pointing her to swollen
belly, “will be cut from you and thrown out with the hog slop.”
Behind her she heard the screams of anger and pain as the
Overseer’s whip tore the skin of her husband’s back.
Two months later, a mid-wife help Enola deliver her child and
her new master let her keep the child for three months. It was
three months to the day… Enola was nursing her daughter when the
Overseer and the master came… As they entered her living
quarters, there was another man with them and he ordered the
woman with him to take the baby. Tears fell down Enola’s face as
she sat in the chair in her room, blouse hanging open as she
reached out, breasts exposed as the woman lifted the child and
took it away. The Overseer pointed his whip towards her to
indicate she should not move.
The man and the woman left with the baby in their arms, but the
Overseer stayed, toying with the whip in his hand. The master
eyed his property who sat in such shock that her baby had been
taken that she hadn’t bothered to cover herself. Reaching
forward the master grabbed her arm and pulled her to her feet,
and told the Overseer to wait outside. Later that night, the
Overseer walked behind her as she was returned to the slave’s
A little over two months later Enola woke feeling queasy and the
thought of food repulsed her. Once confirmed with child, she was
moved to a small cottage, the same cottage where the master had
impregnated her, but for now, she felt safe in that the
pregnancy would prevent him from coming. As the weeks and months
passed, she watched her belly swell and eventually her breasts
filled with milk. Eventually, two other women joined her and
took up residence in the other bedrooms of the cottage; she
cried for the first and cried several months later when the
second woman joined her. She cringed each time the man’s boot
steps sounded on their porch. All three women were pregnant by
their master when the first pains of labor came and the mid-wife
was called for Enola. As dawn first hinted at its arrival, the
wails of a male baby sounded in Enola’s bedroom.
“What color is its skin?!” demanded the master.
“Light colored, almost as if kissed by a hint of the summer
sun,” answered the mid-wife.
“Light enough to fetch a good price?” he asked.
“Let me see,” answered another man who entered the room while
the mid-wife was tending to the exhausted mother.
The men were oblivious to the woman’s condition as they focused
their attention on her infant. The master lifted the carefully
wrapped baby from the table upon which it had been laid and
handed it to the other man, who smiled as he pulled the blanket
away and examined the infant.
The master smiled in anticipation; it didn’t bother him that
this was his son… His true progeny was at the main house, one
son soon to graduate from college and claim his rightful place
at his side, the other was mid-way through his second year at
college. An heir and a spare was what his father always
proclaimed as he celebrated his son’s impending marriage. ‘May
you get an heir and a spare!’ the master’s father had toasted.
When his wife was pregnant with their first child and refused
his advances in their marital bed, he had talked his
frustrations with his father and listened when the elder boasted
that their slaves would save him the expense of a night at a
whorehouse; and nodded his head and smiled. So, the son followed
his father’s advice and practice. And as the son became a
father, and his own sons became old enough, he passed on the
knowledge of the tradition as Masters of the Plantation. He saw
no harm in teaching his sons how to relieve their needs without
risking a pregnancy with someone of society and the scandal that
As the years went by and his son’s grew and his wife refused to
submit to his desires, he felt no guilt as he continued taking
numerous slaves to bed at the small cottage. He knew some of
those he bedded ultimately became pregnant; many of these
offspring currently worked in his fields or had been sold. A
number of those offspring died with the woman in childbirth, and
he mourned the loss of property, but he knew that for each
successful pregnancy, that was one less slave he had to
eventually purchase or one more he could sell. He had known that
some of the pregnancies were terminated by the Mammy and the
Overseer when it was found that the mother-to-be was barely old
enough to conceive, Jacob smiled as he realized his sons were
happily following his footsteps.
Several years before, the master had been at a dinner party of a
business associate and the man had many light-skinned slaves
working for him in the house and he overheard the man bragging
on the price he had paid for several of them. It wasn’t just
workers in the fields that the plantation owners were demanding
to use slaves, but in their homes; and they needed lighter
skinned slaves to placate their wives who feared the darker
skinned slaves being so close. Even though the practice of
slavery was generations old, the women let their opinions be
heard and the husbands had to listen.
Once the master found out about the price a light-skinned slave
could command, he spent time to find the right female slaves, a
slave light enough in skin tone and beauty. He purchased Enola
to satisfy his desires and his greed for money. Her beauty drew
him to her. On the first night he took her to bed he changed her
name, “From now on, you’ll answer to Dominique, a name truly
befitting your beauty.” He sighed as he looked upon her naked
form, curled into a ball and looking warily at him. He stood
from the bed, taking the sheet and his clothes with him as he
walked to the other room to dress.
His attention returned to the man at his side when he heard,
“Jacob, this child should fetch a good sum. This young boy, once
he’s eight or nine years old, could bring several thousands of
dollars at auction.”
Jacob smiled at the proclamation; he knew the other two women
who resided in the cottage would deliver their children in the
next five to six months. He prayed they too would give birth to
light colored babies; he never would claim them to be his own –
except as property.
Dominique lay exhausted in the bed as the mid-wife sat her up
and slipped several pillows behind her back. Having taken the
child from the men, the mid-wife placed the infant to her
“Yes, let him suckle and grow,” stated Jacob smiling as he
looked down at his property. “This is the first of many,
Dominique. I’ll treat you like royalty, you’ll never work in the
fields again, should you continue to produce like this. Don’t
disappoint me.” Standing by the bed, he ran his hand down her
face and continued down to her breast where her son greedily
Two months later, with while holding her son to her breast, the
master returned having been informed that Dominique was
‘recovered’. Upon arrival, he demanded the infant be taken to
one of the others for the night and each night he came. Three
months after the birth of the male baby, Dominique found herself
pregnant again. The subsequent birth of another light skinned
son pleased the master, and his expression radiated at the
goldmine he owned in the small little cottage. Dominique had
become his favorite in that she had produced two sons. The
master continued to attend the slave auctions and his eyes
widened at the prices the light-skinned slaves brought. Males
sold for more because of their strength and also, because the
number of women they could cover when they reached age. Whereas
once a female slave became pregnant, she was only good for a few
more months. But then… The master bid upon one light-skinned
female slave and took her to the cottage.
So far, the three women had produced two sons and two daughters,
each light skinned. And the other two women were currently
pregnant, again. His latest acquisition was still waiting to be
confirmed with child. With each light-skinned child produced,
the value of the slave increased in the master’s mind. He had
walked with other owners; discussing the exchange of slaves as
they would their best breeding bull. As he sat in the bed he
shared with his wife, only for sleep, he wondered how much each
of the women could bring at auction with these new
qualifications, he dreamed of selling them as he would his prize
broodmare after getting the best out of her. You sell when they
get older and you buy younger. The smile on his face increased
as he thought on his future.
Within the next year, Dominique prepared to birth a third child
to her master. Jacob was happily entertaining a surgeon friend
when word arrived of the impending delivery.
“Miles, I’ve written you about my money-making endeavor, you saw
some of them this afternoon, come see the latest results of my
original acquisition,” the man boasted.
As he had been present for the other births, he also demanded to
be present for this latest. The men stood to the side and
watched. The master thought of how much money he would be able
to make from the multiple light skinned children he had so far
sired, as he watched his property being prepared to give birth.
As the hours passed, the physician changed from being a
spectator and enjoying the brandy his host offered, to taking
charge once he realized there were complications. He sent a
young boy back to the main house to fetch his surgeon’s kit.
Having pushed the mid-wife out of the way and examined the
distressed woman he placed his left hand upon her belly, his
right hand determined the birth was breech. With his stethoscope
hanging from his neck, he stood in the middle of the room, Miles
asked, “Which do you want me to save?”
“What do you mean, which? I want them both! That baby will fetch
me more money than you can imagine and she’s an excellent
producer!” Jacob demanded.
Taking a bottle of laudanum from his kit, he explained to the
mid-wife what he needed her to do so he could try to save the
lives of both mother and child. When he was sure the expectant
mother was dull to the pain he was about to inflict, the
physician set to work to save the baby and its mother.
Peering over his friend’s shoulder, Jacob watched with horror as
a dark skinned child was pulled feet first from her body, “That
can’t be!” he screamed.
The physician attended to the umbilical cord before he handed
the infant to the mid-wife and prepared to finish his work.
“Make it so she’ll never have another child!” the master
“Jacob?” inquired the Miles, shocked at his friend’s outburst.
“You know what to do! Sterilize her!”
Turning away from the scene in the bedroom the master demanded
the Overseer be brought to the cottage.
“Who has she been with?!” he demanded.
“No one sir, no one but you! They all know this cottage is off
limits and to touch one of them would be their death.”
The following morning, Dominique held another son her to breast
and was told that she and the infant were to be sold at the next
auction. By the end of the second day, she and her child were
returned to the lower quarters where the slaves from the fields
lived. With the infant lying in a sling hanging from her
shoulders, Dominique returned to the fields to harvest the
“So you have three sons in addition to Hester,” stated Matilda
having listened in quiet to the whole sordid affair.
“No, the male infants were never mine. They were never conceived
through love. When enough time passed after their births, they
were taken from me and given to others to continue nursing and
raise until they could be sold. They were taken from me so that
the Master could come back. The only child I claim is Hester,
she and she alone was conceived in love.”
“But…” Matilda hesitated, with how to proceed; she wanted to
know more of her friends past. “Then once you were…”
“Sterile. It’s the term the doctor used one month later when he
came to examine me one last time. My master sold me, and that’s
when Mister Lucious and Miss Sarah bought me… They were appalled
when they heard the auctioneer bragging that I was a good
producer and if anyone wanted confirmation, they only had to see
the son he’d sold earlier. That happened before they had
arrived. The man mentioned nothing of how I had been... Anyway,
it didn’t matter to Mister Lucious and Miss Sarah… They were
good owners and treated me and all their slaves right…
Everything was fine until Mister Lucious passed on and his
brother inherited us… and sold us to pay off his debts.”
“And that’s when we met… Lord Dominique… Enola… I don’t even
know which name to call you…”
Sipping her cup of coffee she answered, “Enola.”
“How come you agreed to come with me? You know the kind of life
I lived and the service my girls provided. After all you went
“When you purchased me… The first thing you did was to give me
my freedom and you put it in writing.”
“I did that for every slave I ever bought. I hated the idea of
buying a person, but seeing the expression on their faces, yours
included, made me realize it was worth the guilt I felt. But
that still doesn’t explain… why’d you agree to work here?”
“You asked me to come with you. I guess over the years I felt
I’d never see my Silas again and thinking he was probably dead –
I saw the anger in his eyes when they took me, I heard him
screaming. It didn’t really matter anymore…” Enola’s voice
changed from one of sorrow to one of acceptance. “You showed me
I could make more money working with you as I am than for you as
a housekeeper. We’ve lived a good life; each one of us earned
good money here and had a good time with any man who came
through that front door and could pay the price.”
“But still… aren’t you curious? Where she is?” Matilda asked.
“Where your sons might be?”
“This is the first time I’ve thought about my sons since they
were taken from me. But… It hurts to think about Hester, I pray
to God that she survived and has lived a good life… That someone
like you eventually bought her and set her free. But to find
her…” Shaking her head Enola continued, “It would be easier to
locate one of the prized horses my master sold that it would be
to find a former slave child.”
Matilda sat back, legs folded underneath her elegant robe.
“Matilda, I’m sorry, but… From the moment I recognized him, I
knew I could no longer use my body to please other men. For so
long I have yearned for the passion my Silas gave me… I want
that chance again… with him.”
“You’re sure? Regardless what happens at trial… You’ll give up
all this?” Matilda raised her upturned palm and swept it out in
front of her, indicating all the belonging in her overly opulent
“He came back for me… He could have kept running… He could have
refused to go to the deputy to tell them about the boy… There’s
good inside him… It was there once…”
“But you made him go to the deputy… It’s only because the
marshal and that boy’s father returned that the truth came out…”
“I know… And I wish to God I’d never convinced him to…” Enola’s
voice quieted as she regretted her part in the events that were
The two women forgot about their long-cold cups of coffee as
they sat back on the settee, each lost in their own thoughts.
Dawn’s colors streaked the sky as the three men woke and found
their fourth companion still sleep or unconscious, they couldn’t
“We should probably get him back to my home… I have an excellent
physician who can attend to him,” offered Morgan Dakkar.
“I cannot let you take the boy,” stated U.S. Marshal Sam
Buckhart as he placed several pieces of wood on their campfire.
“You’re welcome to come with us,” Dakkar offered as he set the
coffee pot on to heat.
“No, we return to Cloudcroft to reunite the boy with his
“I thought I was to ‘die’ out here in the desert…” stated Silas
Waiscott as he tied his bedroll so it could be placed behind his
“I thought we had a deal!” demanded Dakkar, his right hand moved
to his pistol.
Buckhart anticipated the anger and the movement from his words,
and had his own gun pulled before Dakkar’s fingers wrapped
around the grip of his gun. “Don’t!” There was no anger, hatred,
or animosity behind his word, just an order.
“Waiscott is my prisoner and the boy is now in my protective
custody, and both are returning with me and the doctor in
Cloudcroft will treat them.”
“I won’t go back!” declared Silas, standing and backing away
from the marshal.
“You had best rethink your strategy lawman,” taunted Dakkar, a
small smirk of a smile crossed his face. “I’m still armed, the
boy is unconscious, and Silas is a free man… How are you going
to get both of them back to Cloudcroft? My ranch is less than a
day’s ride from here; you’re two days from Cloudcroft. I can
easily find some of my men, and return…”
While the marshal was distracted by the rancher’s words and as
he looked to the unmoving youth lying in his bedroll, Silas
launched himself towards the Indian. He heard the grunt expelled
as he tackled the man to the ground and with a swift right cross
to the jaw, Sam Buckhart lay as unmoving as the youth he was
there to find.
“Tie him up, but loosely,” Dakkar ordered.
“Why?” barked Silas.
“Because I’ll not be a part to killing a lawman, he needs to
eventually be able to work himself free. Cut the girth to his
saddle, it’ll help slow him down too.”
After having bound the lawman and hidden him in the undergrowth,
Silas saddled their riding horses and cut the girth to Sam’s
saddle. He turned to see his new friend helping the boy rise
unsteadily to his feet.
“Are you okay?” Dakkar asked.
“I don’t know…” Jules asked, his eyes opened wide upon seeing
the tall dark-skinned man approach.
“Didn’t mean to scare you last night,” Silas offered. “My name
“I know how my appearance can surprise folks, and you probably
ain’t never seen someone like me before…” offered Silas, his
deep bass voice caused the boy to look at him intently.
“I don’t know…”
“The boy suffers from amnesia, doesn’t know who he is. I’d
appreciate your help in getting him back home,” Dakkar offered.
“I thought there were two of you…” the boy spoke.
Silas laughed, “You’ve been under the sun too long. There’s only
me. Mr. Dakkar, I’d be happy to help you get this young fella
“Oh… My name’s Jules,” the boy offered as he extended his hand
Dakkar guided Jules to his horse and helped him mount up. Seeing
the boy sway in the saddle he asked, “Are you okay?”
“It must have been a dream… I thought I saw an Indian…”
“You’re probably remembering the ambush from right before we
found you,” suggested Dakkar.
“I guess,” Jules mumbled as he rubbed his head.
“I did not steal that badge!” retorted the U.S. Marshal several
hours later as he reached for the badge that had been pulled
from his jacket and was now in the hands of the bearded sergeant
who stood in front of him. Several other soldiers stood near
their mounts and watched.
“Can you prove it?” asked the sergeant as he looked the badge
“Other than my word, no,” answered Sam Buckhart.
“Then why were you bound hand and foot?” asked the young
lieutenant who stood next to the sergeant, the ropes that had
bound the U.S. Marshal held in his hands.
“Because my prisoner did not want to return to Cloudcroft,” Sam
“Your prisoner…” scoffed the sergeant.
“My prisoner,” Sam answered dead seriously. “I have no time to
argue with you, return my badge to me and I will be on my way.
It is imperative that I follow those men who knocked me out and
tied me up!”
“Men? You said prisoner,” responded the Lieutenant.
“We met up with two others last night…”
“And this ‘Apache lawman’ camped with the devil,” taunted the
sergeant as he called over his shoulder so the other men in his
troop could laugh.
“My badge…” insisted Sam as he held out his hand to the
“I’m sorry, if you are truly a lawman, but you have to
understand how this looks from our perspective,” stated the
lieutenant. “We’ve been ordered to this area to quell an Indian
uprising and we find you, sort of, trussed up like a
Thanksgiving turkey and of all things, wearing a lawman’s badge.
Once we confirm you are who you are, then I’ll return your badge
and allow you to go on your way, but in the mean time…”
“What?!” demanded Sam.
“You’re coming with us until our Captain can verify your story.”
“And just where are you taking me?”
“To Cloudcroft. We split up four days ago and Captain Monterrey
should already be there, waiting for this patrol. Mount up.”
“Hey Sarge!” yelled a man wearing private stripes, holding up
the cut cinch.
“Tie the saddle on one o’ them pack mules, he can ride bareback.
His people do,” replied the sergeant as he spat out a stream of
darkened spit from the chaw he held between his teeth and cheek.
“You will regret your actions,” answered Sam as he grabbed a
thick handful of mane and swung up to the back of his horse.
The town meeting had successfully chosen Deputy Dave Vestor as
the new Sheriff of Cloudcroft. His fellow citizens were shaking
his hand and slapping him in a congratulatory fashion on his
At the back of the room, Micah tilted his head towards the door
and said, “Best we get ready to leave…”
“Sorry, I can’t allow that,” stated the man who entered the
Dressed in cavalry blue pants with a yellow stripe up the side
of his legs, his blue jacket and its brass buttons, though
dusty, spoke of the man’s rank, in addition to the insignia upon
his shoulders. The man continued on, removing his hat and gloves
while he proceeded to the front of the room.
“My name is Captain Monterrey, and for the time being, this town
is under martial law,” announce the Captain in a loud enough
voice so that no one would doubt the authority of his words.
“May I ask why?” queried the new Sheriff of Cloudcroft.
“We received word of an Indian uprising. Our primary job is to
protect this town and her citizens. Secondarily, we are to force
the renegades back to the reservation and the leader is to stand
trial in the white man’s court for murder, if the accounts we
received are true.”
“Unfortunately they are true. Muegleon, and some of his braves
left the reservation some time back and we haven't seen them
since.” The words were said as the crowd parted and a man walked
towards the front of the room to where the captain stood.
“And you are?” inquired the Captain.
“Nathan Ironwood, Indian Agent. We’ve received reports of
several travelers ambushed and murdered.”
“I’ll want a full accounting this afternoon.”
“Yes, sir,” Ironwood humbly replied.
“Captain, my deputy and I need to get back to North Fork,”
stated Marshal Micah Torrance as he stood to address the
“I’m sorry, but my orders extend to everyone, Mister...”
“McCain.” Lucas answered as he stood in front of the soldier,
his expression daring him to say something.
“I’m sorry for your loss Mr. McCain, I heard your boy was one of
“My boy’s not dead!” Lucas retorted, moving closer to the man in
an effort to back him down.
“I was not aware there were any survivors, if he’s able, I’d
like to interview him to find out what exactly he saw.”
“He’s not here,” answered Micah.
“Oh? I can go to the clinic or the hotel, if those places would
be more accommodating for me to meet with the young man.”
“He’s missing,” added Micah.
The captain looked at the lawman and raised one of his eyebrows
as if that would help him understand what wasn’t being said.
“All the more reason for the children of this town to be told
what martial law entails, I’ll not have any of my men’s lives
endangered in an attempt to track down an errant child.”
“My son’s not errant,” Lucas announced. “He’s been kidnapped.”
“I was not aware of the situation… Corporal, take the marshal
and Mr. McCain to the hotel, book a suite for us to use as
headquarters, and then take their statements. I want a full
accounting of every that’s happened since we were ordered here.”
“Yes, sir,” snapped the corporate as he saluted and motioned for
Micah and Lucas to follow him.
With his men bivouacked throughout the town, Captain Monterrey
sat at the table in the main room of the suite and read through
the reports. The glow from the lantern on the table top
illuminated only a small area surrounding the table, sounds from
the Golden Spur drifted through the open window as the curtains
floated in and back on the gentle breeze that blew.
“McCain’s gonna be trouble, if you’ll accept me speaking freely,
Captain,” stated the older corporal who sat in one of the
wing-backed chairs in the room, leg hanging over the arm of the
chair, using a knife to clean the dirt out from underneath his
“I know, and from what was originally filed with the territorial
governor and this report you took earlier, I can’t say that I
blame him. Still, if he or anyone else tries to leave town, my
orders stand. They are to be placed under house arrest and if
they still resist, they are to be jailed.”
“Captain, how long you been out west?” asked the corporal.
“About three years… why?”
“Then you don’t rightly know about McCain, do ya?”
Setting his pen down, the captain looked to his subordinate.
“What’s to know other than he’s a grieved father whose own
actions set the groundwork for his heartache.”
“Just make sure when you tell him that,” the soldier pointed his
knife to this captain, “make sure he don’t have that rifle with
Still oblivious to what the corporal was trying to say, he
stated, “If you have something to say, spit it out.”
“He’s got a reputation around these parts. Heard about him first
back in Oklahoma territory, and in Wyoming too. They call him,
The Rifleman. Says he’s faster with that rifle then most men are
with a revolver.”
“The Rifleman...” mused the Captain. “My orders go for him too.”
Having traveled a full day with the soldiers, Sam Buckhart sat
straight upon his horse, the respect for his position as a U.S.
Marshal instilled in him the sense to ignore the taunting
comments made by the soldiers within the patrol. He had faced
this type of bigotry many times in his life and knew that they
were just belittling themselves as well as the uniforms they
As camp was made and the marshal tended to his horse, the taunts
turned to actions as a horse would startle and swing its
haunches towards him, soldiers accidentally bumped into him. He
knew the actions were minor but feared the worst was yet to
come. Regardless what he did, a soldier bearing a rifle was
always present, offering him no privacy to tend to his personal
Settling down to his bedroll, he accepted the plate of beans and
bread without any utensils.
“Your people have dog soldiers, you can eat like a dog,” the
private laughingly stated, but the laugh did not reach the man’s
eyes which were hard and cold.
Taking the bread, Sam scooped the beans and ate using his hands.
From the first bit he knew there was more than beans on the
plate, he tasted the grit of dirt included, but kept quiet. To
bring it to the lieutenant’s attention would bring consequences
he was not ready to instigate.
As the soldiers settled down for the night, Sam Buckhart looked
up to see the sergeant and another soldier standing in front of
“Lieutenant’s orders,” the sergeant stated as he pointed the
barrel of his rifle towards Buckhart’s chest.
The soldiers knelt behind him gathered both hands and began to
“Get them tight and take it around that tree. Don’t need him
getting away while we sleep and warning his buddies where we
The course fibers of the rope burned against the skin of his
wrists, with an upward tug, Buckhart let out an involuntary
groan when the soldier also fell into him, the man’s elbow drove
hard to the area of his back below his ribs.
“Sorry,” snickered the soldier. “I lost my balance.”
Throughout the night as various soldiers would get up to tend to
their personal business, a number of them went out of their way
to walk over and kicked him as they left camp only to repeat the
treatment upon their returned.
With sore shoulders and arms the lawman swung onto his
saddleless horse all the while struggling to keep the loathe he
felt towards these men from showing. From shadowed eyes, he
watch as the lieutenant ignored the actions of his men.
As a second night settled across the soldiers’ camp, two lone
sentries sat watch on opposites sides of the camp, just far
enough away from the fire for it to not affect their night
Hands bound, sitting with his back against one of the trees that
surrounded their camp, Sam Buckhart heard the distant whinny of
a horse and the nervous shuffling of hooves of the horses in the
picket line. Keeping his own counsel, Buckhart said nothing as
the two sentries continued to sit and lightly dozed in the dark
of the cool evening.
The marshal sat and pushed all thoughts out of his mind, he
focused on the sounds of the night and the land, he tried again
to sense who it was that was out there – friend or foe. He knew
they had chased away those remaining from Mueglion’s group, but
still, would any of them still be out there trying to make a
name for themselves now that their leader was dead? As far as
friends, he doubted that Dakkar or Silas would have returned and
he lamented the fact that he believed he had lost Lucas’ boy,
Thinking to himself, Buckhart revisited the image of the teenage
boy looking at him and the grimace the appeared upon his face.
It has been over four years since he had last seen the youth,
but the same truth and innocence in the boy’s eyes was present.
After the boy had passed out and lay unconscious on his bedroll,
his hair, well past the collar of his shirt, fell away from his
face… The marshal prayed that he was right, that the boy with
Dakkar had been Mark McCain.
With a slow shake of his head he felt the grief of the boy lost
to his father, and worse yet, the boy was lost to himself.
With the fire dying and the soldiers in their bedrolls, the
sounds of the night came to the forefront of his hearing;
closing his eyes, he focused on the sounds.
A whispered voice of, “Do I know you?” alerted Sam to the fact
that someone was in front of him. He opened his eyes and
startled at the face that was mere inches from his.
“Mark?” Sam whispered in return.
“Is that my real name?”
“It is the name that your father and your mother gave you,’ Sam
“My parents… Are they alive?”
“Your father is.”
“She died a long time ago, before we met.”
The boy sat back on his heels and watched the face of the lawman
who sat cross-legged and bound in front of him.
“Am I Indian?” the boy asked.
“No, you are a white man.” Letting the shock of finding Mark in
the camp pass, he grew concerned that the boy’s presence has not
been detected by the soldiers. “Mark, what are you doing here?
How did you?” Buckhart asked.
“I’d like to know the answer to those questions too,” stated the
lieutenant as he stood tall over the two.
For a second time in a short span of time, Buckhart was
surprised as finding someone else nearby.
“Sir? I… I…” stuttered the boy.
“Speak up,” stated the Lieutenant as he leaned down and grabbed
the boy’s upper arm to force him to stand up. “SENTRIES!” yelled
With the yell echoing around them, the camp came alive.
“How is it that two sentries are posted and I wake to find this
boy in camp, possibly conspiring with this Indian?!”
“No… NO!” yelled the boy, struggling against the restraining
Pinning the boy’s arms down, the officer shook him hard, “Listen
to me brat, I don’t care who you are… No one sneaks into this
camp. You and your friend are both in my custody and I can’t
wait to present both of you to my captain!”
“Let go of the boy!” demanded Sam.
“I’ll see you both pay the penalty for trying to ambush this
patrol!” threatened the lieutenant.
“Let go of me!” demanded the youth as he kicked out and
connected with the lieutenant’s shin bone.
“Why you!” cursing his captive, the lieutenant backhanded the
boy across the face, sending him backwards to the ground.
Struggling against his restraints, Sam saw the boy lie there and
look up with a shocked expression on his face, blood from his
split lip oozing at the corner of his mouth. He knew that come
morning, the skin of the boy’s cheek would bear a bruise.
“That was uncalled for!” yelled the marshal as he tried to lunge
forward only to be stopped by the rope that securely bound him
to the tree.
“SILENCE!” yelled the lieutenant as he drew his revolver and
aimed it at the lawman.
Buckhart relaxed back and lowered his head in submission, but
his anger burned deep within.
“I have no problem using this,” the lieutenant brandished his
weapon in front of the marshal. He knelt next to the lawman,
grabbed him by his hair and forced his face up. “All I have to
do is write in my report how we came across two of the renegades
and were forced to dispatch them.”
“The boy is white,” retorted Buckhart through clinched teeth.
“Injun lover,” shouted another soldier wearing the stripes of a
corporal as he reached down and jerked the boy to his feet.
“Nothin’ but a stinkin’ Injun lover is what we got here. I say
get rid of ‘em both. Keepin’ ‘em here is only askin’ for them
others to attack us!”
Around the camp, the other soldiers stood and watched, some
pulling their suspenders over their longjohn tops, others,
trying to pull on their shirts.
“How did this intruder enter our camp?” demanded the lieutenant.
He pushed Buckhart’s head backwards against the tree before he
stood. When no one answered, he continued, “Tie the brat up as
well, and gag them both, place them on opposite sides of the
“How could you have called in the army by telling them there was
an Indian uprising?” demanded Lucas McCain.
The tall rancher, the marshal from North Fork and the Indian
agent for the Mescelaro tribe outside of Cloudcroft sat in the
agent’s sparsely furnished office. The town’s sheriff stood at
the window, peeking out from behind the closed blinds.
“I didn’t!” claimed Nathan Ironwood.
“You didn’t call in the army? Then who did?” queried Deputy
Vestor as he turned his attention to the three older men.
“No… no, I did notify the army, but I told them it was only a
dozen braves, and about Mueglion. I would never have termed this
an uprising. My God, I know the consequences of poorly worded
dispatches!” the man’s exasperation that these men would like he
could be so insensitive was reflected in the tone of his voice,
it also showed in the fact that he stood to his feet, leaned
forward over his desk and rested his weight upon the knuckles of
his fisted hands.
“We didn’t mean to question your ability to do your job,”
“I know you didn’t… It’s just…” the agent sat heavily back into
his chair. “I have a responsibility to the people of this town,
but first and foremost, to that tribe and to Mugua especially.”
“How so?” inquired Vestor.
“He’s desperate for peace. He’s seen too many of his people, his
family die needlessly.” Leaning back in his chair, the Indian
agent’s face took on a serene appearance. “He told me a few
years ago about a vision… Two sides of the same coin is how he
termed it… Left him feeling cold and hollow.”
“What did he see?” asked Lucas.
“He saw blood across the land with the white man standing
triumphantly of the dead bodies of many Indians. But, he also
saw a chance for their survival, living at peace and many
grandchildren surrounding his lodge. He said in that vision, he
called a white man his brother.”
“It takes a wise man to see someone different as their brother,”
Micah Torrance mused.
“It is admirable, however, this town could be in serious trouble
if those soldiers continue to treat this as an uprising instead
of what it really is…” Lucas began.
“And just what is it?” retorted Ironwood. “I know it’s not the
whole damn tribe, but on a smaller scale it could well indeed be
considered an uprising.”
“Well, maybe in the morning we could talk with the captain, get
a better sense of what they plan in response to this situation,”
suggested Micah. “If they’re more set on keeping this town
safe…by placing it under Martial Law…”
“The number of soldiers I’ve seen doesn’t represent a full
troop,” stated the deputy as he rested his hip upon the corner
of the agent’s desk and folded his arms across his chest.
“There’s probably more soldiers out there.”
“You’re probably right,” agreed Lucas.
“So… what do we do?” inquired Ironwood.
“We do like Micah suggested. We need to get a better
understanding of this captain and those under his command,”
stated Lucas. “We all need a good night’s sleep; I suggest we
meet in the hotel for breakfast around seven, thirty tomorrow.”
The small group bid each other goodnight and went their separate
ways, until the morning.
“The boy!” muttered Silas Waiscott as he woke to find the boy
missing. A fine sheen of sweat coated his face, neck and torso
as he reached for the shirt folded next to his gear, ignoring
the obvious discomfort in his shoulder.
“He left sometime during the middle of the night,” answered
Morgan Dakkar as he entered the camp.
“And you didn’t stop him?”
“No… I offered him sanctuary and…”
“And what? He’s just a boy!”
“He’s with the soldiers. I followed long enough to know he made
it safely to one of their camps.”
“Soldiers? Out here? Why would soldiers be out here?” inquired
“I imagine they’re after the renegades who killed those men
where we originally found the boy.”
“You were the one who buried the others? Put four graves there?
…And one was empty.”
“Yes…” surprised the man with him knew this fact.
“You were so close to Cloudcroft… Why not take the boy there
after you found him?”
Dakkar turned away from the man and his haunting question. The
answer was complicated, an answer of a longed for son…a son lost
because of the greed of man. How do you explain to a stranger a
lifetime of turmoil and a growing hatred towards outsiders… And
yet, he had opened his home to a few people, including the boy
and this man... offering them sanctuary.
“You wouldn’t understand… Go now, leave me,” whispered Dakkar as
he left the camp.
The man walked to a grouping of boulders on the rise a distance
from camp. He climbed them and sat down upon reaching the
summit. Below him the land stretched forever… Patches of green
grass, and patches browned from the heat of the summer past.
Dark shadows floated over the land as the clouds passed high
within the sky above. Miles of land in every direction
illustrated to him the insignificance of his life; all from the
loss of his son. Dreams… Memories… …A life that could have been.
What would his life been like had he helped others… The boy’s
words had struck a chord within him, a chord he had long ago
turned from and chose to ignore. What could it have been had he
returned the boy to Cloudcroft, and now he knew… to his father.
Several hours later a weary Morgan Dakkar returned to the camp,
to find the saddle horses, the pack horses, and Silas Waiscott
Walking to his horse and picking up the reins he said, “The boy
is ultimately my responsibility. From him I learned I was wrong
to close my eyes… to blind my eyes to the difficulties of others
who aspired to dream… I need to see that he is returned to his
father. I have no idea where those soldiers are headed to… For
all I know…”
“We’re going after him?” Silas asked, weakly walking over to his
“Not we… Me.” Turning to the man in beside him, “For all intents
and purposes, you have a price on your head. My offer of
sanctuary still stands. Once you arrive, Doc Milano will tend to
your shoulder and see you healed.”
Before reaching for the packhorse lead, Dakkar described how to
get to Ranchero Orchha and handed him a folded sheet of paper.
He swung into the saddle and said, “That note will see you
safely to my home. And in time… I’ll see that your wife is
returned to you.”
The soldiers heard the coyotes yapping in the distance as dawn
broke over their camp. The majority set about doing tasks as
required, cooking breakfast, shaving, tending to the horses,
most all were on edge and wary of their leader and a few others
for their treatment of the two civilians, but not one man was
courageous enough to speak out against it.
The lieutenant purposely strode across the camp to the youth who
had joined them during the night and inconsiderately kicked the
boy awake. Groggily he woke; eyes wide and scared.
“So, let’s start again…” the lieutenant said as he knelt and
reached around to remove the gag from his prisoner. “Who are
“I… I… don’t know,” the boy mumbled as he moved his mouth and
jaw to relieve the tension created by the gag.
“Don’t know… Ain’t that something. You think I’m going to
believe that?” spat the officer.
“It’s true… They said I had am… amnesia. The others called me
“That wasn’t the name that Indian used last night.”
“He said… my name was Mark.”
“Well, it really doesn’t matter what your name is, we treat
traitors the same…”
“Traitor? I’m not…”
The lieutenant stood to his feet, “It won’t do you any good to
dispute the facts. You entered our encampment without permission
and were found talking with a fellow conspirator.” The man’s
anger shifted quickly as he again knelt down, grabbed the front
of the boy’s shirt to shake him, and yelled, “Where are the
others! Tell me where those other murdering savages are!”
“I… I don’t know…” shuddered the boy as he tried to cower
“DON’T LIE TO ME! TELL ME WHERE THEY ARE!!” Without warning, the
lieutenant backhanded the boy.
On the opposite side of the camp Sam Buckhart watched as the
officer manhandled the boy he knew to be Lucas McCain’s son. The
way the officer was demanding information clearly indicated the
man’s mind had warped. The gag prevented the lawman’s words from
being intelligibly heard.
“Lieutenant!,” called an older man who still wore corporal
stripes. He’d witnessed the lieutenant’s actions and grew
concerned; and finally found within himself the strength to act.
With a firmness that belied his rank, he continued, “Maybe we
should let the captain handle this, sir.”
The officer’s eyes focused on the scene before him, a young man
cheek already bruising and reddening again, blood trickling from
a split lip; the look of fear on his face.
“Captain Monterrey, sir. We’re due to report to him sometime
today in Cloudcroft. We have our orders, sir.” Again, the
corporal was insistent.
“Break camp!” ordered the lieutenant as he stood and retreated
to the campfire.
Having scouted the site earlier abandoned by the soldiers,
Morgan Dakkar brooded upon seeing the remnants of cut rope lying
on opposite sides of the camp. He worried about the boy being
exposed to the prisoners in the custody of the soldiers. He
regretted his actions, of only following the boy and not
ensuring the boy’s safety. He had originally taken on the
responsibility for the boy… His conscience pulled at him to
continue to do the right thing; to meet up with the soldiers,
take custody of the boy and ensure he was safely returned to his
Returning to his horses, he again set out to follow the soldiers
and the boy he knew as Jules.
“Captain,” the private stated as he opened the door and entered
the room of his commanding officer.
“What is it Private?”
“Sir, there’s a few men wanting to have words with you.”
“Who are they?”
“Uh… Two lawman, that Indian agent, and another dude… I… uh… I
think he’s the Rifleman.”
“Oh for Pete’s sake,” the captain declared in exasperation as he
slammed down the pen he had been using to write. “Don’t tell me
you’ve heard tales about him too.”
“There not tales sir. They’re the truth, I swear,” stated the
private. “Take a look at his rifle… You’ll see.”
Taking a moment to straighten the table, the captain stated,
“Show them in.”
A few moments later, the private showed four men into the parlor
of the suite occupied as headquarters for the army patrol.
“Gentlemen? The private stated you wanted to have words with
me?” the captain inquired as he lifted a decanter of brandy and
poured a glass for himself and without words offered the same to
“Isn’t it a little too early in the morning to be drinking?”
“Never, not with this uprising.”
“That’s what we wanted to talk to you about,” stated Nathan
Ironwood and he toyed with the hat he held in his hands. “You’re
calling this an uprising, but it’s only a few bucks… not the
“Call it what you want, Mr. Ironwood. But the fact is, there are
a dozen Indians off the reservation and you have no idea where
they are. AND from your own reports, they have murdered a number
“I realize that sir, but it is my greatest hope that your
patrols will let those who remain on the reservation in peace.
Mugua only wishes peace for his people,” Ironwood insisted.
“I’m not eager to start an Indian war, Mr. Ironwood, however, I
cannot allow those who have are part of…” the man struggled to
pronounce the Indian’s name.
“Mueglion, sir,” offered Dave Vestor.
“Whatever… I’m not about to allow those murdering bastards to
slink back to the reservation with impunity! You damn well know
that if we don’t stop them, they’ll continue their raids until a
war is started.”
“I know… I know… Your job is to ensure peace and see that their
needs are taken care of. I’m not going to interfere with that,
but… you will escort us to their reservation and we will
interview Mugua regarding his son and the others. And if any of
the others who associate with that murderer…”
“Sir, I agree that those responsible should pay… But if you go
in there, full force, you’ll undoubtedly put them on the
“And what do you suggest?” Captain Monterrey asked as he watched
the Indian agent twist his hat.
While waiting for the man to answer, he looked at the two other
men who had yet to speak.
“Mr. McCain, you of all people should want to see us ride into
that encampment to seek justice for your son.”
“My son doesn’t need justice. He needs to be found, and if you
go riding into Mugua’s land without any regard for his control
over his tribe, you’ll cause everybody more grief. My suggestion
is that you ride in with Ironwood and meet with the chief. After
speaking with the man, then you can formulate your plan on how
to handle the others once they’re found.”
By the time the sky was giving way to the darkness of night,
Captain Monterrey, Nathan Ironwood, and Chief Mugua had agreed
that the tribe would be allowed to live in peace, however, those
who had left would be prosecuted to the fullest extent the white
man’s law would allow.
The soldiers saw Cloudcroft on the horizon as they rode two by
two, with the young man in the middle, followed several lengths
later by the Indian. Though the corporal has pleaded the case of
the lawman, the lieutenant refused to accept reality, so… Sam
Buckhart rode with his hands bound behind his back. At least the
boy was allowed to ride with his hands tied in front of him.
Regardless, both were still gagged to keep them quiet.
On the occasions when Mark turned to look at him, Sam Buckhart
saw the fear and worries in the young man’s eyes.
Night surrounded the soldiers as they entered the town and made
their way down one of the back streets until they heard “Hold on
“State your business!” demanded the sergeant.
“Lieutenant Drake?!”called the voice as the owner stepped from
the shadows of an alleyway.
“Identify yourself!” challenged the lieutenant.
“Private First Class Torrington. Lieutenant, the captain
expected your patrol earlier today.”
“We were detained by two renegades. Where are the others
bivouacked? I need men for sentry duty, I’m sure we were
followed, one of the men thought he saw someone trailing us. We
need to be ready for an assault.”
“We’re at the hotel. We can put your prisoners at the jail.”
“Fine. And then I want to see the captain.”
The two prisoners were pulled from the horses and pushed along
the alleyway towards the jail. With little regard for
compassion, they were pushed into separate cells, without the
removal of their restraints.
“Now that I have the full troop at my disposal, let those
murdering savage friends of your try to free you.”
With the clinking of the keys locking the jail cell doors, the
lieutenant continued, “I have a report to file with my captain.
While I’m gone, pray to your heathen gods that your death with
As entered into the office of the Sheriff’s Office he said, “No
one… and I mean no one goes back there. No one enters this
office without my express permission. I want a soldier posted by
each outside window to the cells. No telling if those savages
will enter into the town under the cover of darkness to slip one
of them a weapon to aid in their escape.”
The desk clerk let the way up the main flight of stairs and
showed the lieutenant the door to the suite the soldiers had
requested as their temporary headquarters.
“That’s all,” Lieutenant Drake stated dismissing the clerk, as
he took a moment to straighten his attire and made sure he was
presentable. Before knocking upon the door, he placed his hat
under his arm, and then waited for an answer to enter.
“Lieutenant Drake reporting, sir,” he announced as he snapped to
attention and saluted.
“At ease Lieutenant,” stated Captain Monterrey after returning
the salute. “Have a seat… Can I offer you anything to drink?”
“No thank you, sir,” was answered as the lesser officer took a
seat across the table from where the captain worked. “We found
no sign of the main group of savages sir, but we did find one
renegade and a young boy who no doubt has fallen in with them. I
presume the boy relays information to them... It was a small
miracle that I woke to find him trying to free our prisoner. The
two of them could have killed a number of my men, as quiet as
“Where are your prisoners now?”
“At the jail; separate cells, of course. I’ve men stationed
around the building to prevent any of their comrades from
getting to them.”
“Do they speak English?”
“Yes, sir. Both speak our language well enough… you’d think
they’d spent their lives living among us. Sir, if you’ll give me
the opportunity, I’m sure I can obtain from them the location of
the other renegades…”
“I’m not sure that would be advisable.”
“Sir! They’re murdering savages…”
“They’re the responsibility of Nathan Ironwood, the Indian agent
stationed here for the Mescalero tribe.”
“SIR! WITH ALL DUE RESPECT, HE WAS THE ONE WHO ALLOWED THEM TO
ESCAPE IN THE FIRST PLACE!” Lieutenant Drake stood, his words
shouted in defiance.
“LIEUTENANT!” commanded Captain Monterrey. Lowering his voice he
stated, “You have until tomorrow morning to find the information
we need. Dismissed.”
The lantern burned low, casting a soft glow over the desk upon
which sat numerous papers bearing careful script outlining the
events of the past few weeks. The report consisted of their days
in the saddle without so much as seeing hide nor hair of an
Indian. Left out of the written word was the intense hatred the
lieutenant held for those he chased.
Sitting back from his writings, the lieutenant vividly saw the
raids made upon the homestead of his parents, watching as his
mother tried to force him to hide in the root cellar. From the
darkness he remembered her piercing scream followed by silence.
Long after the thunder of hooves quieted, he pushed open the
trap door and climbed into the darkening day as the sun set in
the west. Walking across the yard where earlier in the day he
had played, he stumbled and fell. Regaining his feet, he turned
to see what he had tripped over and found his mother, eyes wide
open, terror on her face. Looking around he saw the body of his
father folded in half, hanging over the top rail of the corral,
shot down as he’d tried to climb over it. There were men his
family had called friends lying scattered around their
homestead, all dead.
As daylight bathed the broken scene, a cavalry patrol came upon
the homestead. As the sun approached its midway point across the
sky and after eight graves were dug and covered over with a few
words of respect spoken, the soldiers left with a future recruit
– one six year old Charles Drake.
Pushing the chair backwards from the desk, Lieutenant Drake
stood walked into the area of the jail containing the cells and
The keys to the cells jingled in his hand has he stood in front
of the doorway.
“You will tell me where you and the Indian were planning to meet
the others,” Drako coldly spoke.
On the other side of the bars, the young man pushed himself
backwards on the bunk upon which he sat; the stone wall stopped
“You think you’re scared now… boy… You don’t know what scared
is… Not until you’ve witnessed the death of your parents and
friends… I know now, the only reason I was spared that day was
so that I could see to the utter destruction of those heathens…
You will be the key to my revenge…”
Behind him in the second cell, the bound and gagged Sam Buckhart
struggled against his restraints, furious at the words he had
heard and doing everything in his power to change the soldier’s
attention away from the boy, the boy he prayed and yet knew was
Lucas McCain’s son. Buckhart quieted when he saw the soldier
turn towards him, he tensed upon seeing the man’s expression –
sheer, deep-seeded, hatred.
“Your kind kill and plunder and ride into the land, you think
all you do is without impunity?! You kill for no reason other
than we were there...”
Turning his back upon Buckhart, Drake inserted one of the keys
into the lock and turned it. Standing straight and tall, the
soldier opened the door and entered the cell. Upon reaching the
young man, he pulled him off the bunk, yet pushed him back down,
his knee upon the back in order to prevent his prisoner from
getting up. Deftly, he untied the knot keeping the gag in place.
“Stay put until I tell you you can move,” Drake said as he
removed his knee from the young man’s back and stepped away.
Feeling the pressure removed from his back, the young man
inhaled deeply causing him to cough.
“Now, turn over and sit up,” ordered Drake. “Slowly.”
Once his prisoner was facing him, Drake moved in closer. He
didn’t fear the ‘boy’ in front of him as he lifted his left leg
and set his foot on the rail of the bunk, and rested his forearm
across his knee.
“Now, one more time. You will tell me where you and that heathen
planned to meet up with the others who escaped from the
“I don’t know…”
Without warning, the soldier raised his hand and backslapped the
boy across his face.
“I know you don’t live on the reservation, the army wouldn’t
allow any white captives to live there… But you’re in
collaborating with them, and what you are planning is a
conspiracy against white men. You can be hung for your actions.”
“I’m not conspiring with anybody,” the boy declared.
Again, he was backhanded across his face, the strike split open
his lower lip as blood oozed.
Fearfully the young man stated, “You gotta believe me, I don’t
know anything. I don’t even know who I am… I just want to go
home! I WANNA GO HOME!!”
“We’ll see… Keep it up, and the army will charge you with
treason… The sentence for treason is death!.”
Drake picked up the gag and tied it back in place. Purposefully,
he strode from the first cell, locking the door behind him. With
keys jingling again, Drake opened the second cell; only this
occupant he approached warily. A fourteen year old boy was
nothing, but a full Apache warrior was no one to trifle with,
even if they were bound and gagged.
Drawing his service pistol, Drake stated, “Roll over.”
After U.S. Marshal Sam Buckhart complied, the lieutenant removed
his gag, as he had the boy.
“Now, I’ll ask you the same as I asked the boy…”
“I demand to speak to Deputy Vestor.”
Infuriated, Drake back-slapped Buckhart.
“You are in no position to make demands,” Drake seethed. “Tell
me where you and the boy were planning to meet up with those
Forcefully Buckhart stated, “I am a legally deputized
representative of the United States Marshal Service. I demand my
rights that you notify my superiors…”
“Give up this pretense,” Drake stated as he balled up his right
hand into a fist and punched Buckhart’s left jaw. “There is no
way the U.S. Marshal’s would deputize your kind as a lawman.
Fitting his darkening vision and the white spots that pricked
his eyes, Buckhart slowly shook his head to ward off the effects
of the blow he’d taken.
“That boy is no captive; he’s the son of Lucas McCain. His name
is Mark McCain. I was trailing after him to bring him back to
Cloudcroft so the courts could reverse their decision on the
revocation of custody.”
“Fancy words coming from you,” spat Drake, again he punched the
lawman across the jaw.
“I demand that you cease and desist these activities and set me
and Mark free, If you value your military career. But I can
assure you, once I file my report in Denver, your career will be
Infuriated, Drake shouted, “HOW DARE YOU!”
“I dare because it is the truth,” Buckhart stated, he voice
carried a deep undertone.
“Your kind no nothing of truth. You’ve been taught fancy words
to trick unsuspecting citizens of this territory, you fool them
in order to kill them. But I know the truth! You’re nothing more
than a murdering red-skin!”
“The truth will set me free!”
The lieutenant spit in Buckhart’s face, without any compassion,
he retrieved the bandana used as a gag and roughly put it back
around the lawman to silence his words.
Having not been able to sleep, the worries of everything that
had happened in his down Sheriff Vestor left his home, his wife,
and new-born child and headed to his office. As he neared, he
was surprised to see to soldiers standing on either side of the
door. Pausing to open the door, he was informed that he wasn’t
“This is my office, my jail,” Sheriff Vestor announced. “By what
right do you keep me out?”
“Martial law,” stated one of the soldiers.
“Martial law. I know your captain stated that earlier, but you
can’t keep me from seeing to my duties and responsibilities.”
As he argued, the door opened, “What’s all the arguing about?”
Lieutenant Drake asked.
“Your soldier boy, here, was keeping me from entering MY
office,” Vestor announced, his stance dared the soldier to deny
him to his face.
“Please, come in. Jordansen didn’t know I had finished my
“Interrogations? You found some of Mueglion’s braves?” Vestor
asked as he entered his office in front of the lieutenant.
“If you’d call them that. We found one heathen and a boy. But
don’t worry, these two will eventually tell us where the others
are hiding and what they’re planning.”
As the lawman walked by the closed door that led to the cells,
he looked through the barred window and inhaled quickly he saw
Sam Buckhart in one of the cells gagged.
“First time seeing an Apache up close?” teased Drake. “Don’t
worry, your jail is secure; you and your town are quite safe
while they’re in there.”
“You can’t keep him in there,” Vestor tried to explain.
Misconstruing the sheriff’s words, Drake thought, “What do you
mean… Wait… This one is that Moogleon. Damn, I knew it. I just
knew it. No wonder he put up such a fight…”
Ignoring the sheriff’s protestations, he continued, “Sheriff,
I’m sorry, but I’ll have to ask you to leave. But I do thank you
for all your assistance. Just think, we got him and didn’t even
Pushing the lawman back to the entrance to the street, he
instructed his soldiers that no one was to be allowed inside the
Sheriff Vestor had no choice but to comply to with the soldier’s
brisk dismissal; with the town under Martial Law there was
nothing he could do… alone. Pulling out his pocket watch he
decided to wait until morning to meet with Marshal Micah
Torrance and Lucas McCain. Between the three of them he knew
they could come up with a plan.
Many of the citizens in the town of Cloudcroft had yet to start
their day, however, as was normal, the soldiers were already up
and tending to duties. Several were seated in a small café
talking amongst themselves of the events that brought them to
what they considered a ‘God forsaken town’. They grumbled that
they should be out ‘there’, trailing after those murderous
savages instead of in town, trying to pull information out of
“Yeah, I don’t mind what the lieutenant is doing to that ‘injun’
but the kid…” stated one of the soldiers as a gentleman of
European heritage, yet totally at ease in wearing the clothing
of someone from the southwest, followed the waitress to a nearby
“I agree with ya, Munsford. But can you believe it, we actually
got that Moogeleon? He deserves everything the LT has to give
him,” replied a second soldier. “The LT will get the information
on where them others are, he’s been at it all night I heerd.
Carlson said he goes back and forth between the two cells,
demanding answers and giving them prisoners what for when they
won’t tell him. Heerd someone say it’s some kind of mind
warfare, gives ‘em some time alone, and goes back later to start
it all over again. But ya can be ‘sured he’ll get what he wants,
he wants revenge for the murder of his folks all them years ago,
so he ain’t gonna give up easy. He’ll get what he wants and be
there right next to the captain, leading the charge!”
“He better get what he wants quick, he only had until this
morning,” started a third soldier, “Sides, if’n that kid were my
kid, there’d be hell to pay for what the lieutenant’s done. I
mean that kid cain’t be more’n thirteen, fourteen years old at
most. And the way that Moogeleon keeps after Drake to let the
boy go… I don’t know. I’m beginning to wonder if maybe he is a
lawman like he said he is. He ain’t like no other injun we
“Braxshere, yo’re full of it. The LT is right, ain’t no way no
stinkin’ redskin is gonna be made a lawman. He probably killed
the real lawman and stole the badge,” declared the second
soldier after he gulped down the coffee in his cup.
At the nearby table, Morgan Dakkar listened intently, not liking
what he was hearing.
“Excuse me, miss,” Dakkar stated as the waitress stopped by his
side, placing a saucer and cup on the table top, and pouring it
full of coffee.
“Do you wish cream with your coffee?” the waitress inquired.
“No, no, black is fine. I wonder, those soldiers over there.
They’re not regularly posted here, are they?”
“No sire, like you, they’re strangers to this town. Only they
got orders to be here after Mueglion and some of his braves
jumped the reservation and word came back that they killed a
number of white men. I feel comforted that them soldiers are
here. And you should be thankful to be in town instead of out
there where you could get your scalp lifted.”
“Does this town have a lawman?”
“Sure do. Sad news is some time back, we lost our sheriff when
the bank was robbed. They shot him down in cold blood. Shot our
deputy and a few others, too.”
“Did the deputy survive his wounds? Dakkar inquired.
“Enough that we recently elected him our new sheriff; Sheriff
Dave Vestor is his name. The good news is that there’s another
Marshal in town, he came over from North Fork… You ever hear of
Dakkar shook his head no in answer to the waitress’ question.
“Well, that don’t mind, lots a people never heard of Cloudcroft.
Anyway, one of them others who got wounded was a citizen of
North Fork… and the other marshal showed up to help him out.
‘specially after Judge Zeller gave the man’s son away to some
peddler. Heard tell, that peddler and a few others were killed
by them savages.”
“What of the… boy?”
“Oh, him? Nobody rightly knows,” the waitress replied. “There
was a U.S. Marshal who stopped by and I suppose he’s out after
the boy. Trying to find him for his pa.”
“Where might I find your sheriff?”
“Why in the jail? Where else… Oh… wait a moment, he does live on
the outskirts of town. His wife recently had a baby. Cutest
little dickens, that child.”
“Thank you,” Dakkar stated as he took a drink from the coffee
cup the waitress had filled.
“Anything else I can do for you?”
“No, thanks. I’m fine.”
After the waitress left, Dakkar turned his attention to the
soldier’s table when he heard, “Hey mister, you looking for the
“I am,” Dakkar stated as he twisted in his seat and rested his
arm on the back of the chair.
“Well, won’t do you no good to check the jail, we got it
confiscated. We got prisoners in there and we don’t cotton to no
civilians, civil or lawman, interrupting what we’re doing.”
“Munsford, it ain’t confiscated, it commandeered. We
commandeered the jail for our needs.”
“I thought we seized it,” stated the third.
“Actually gentlemen, they all mean the same thing,” Dakkar
spoke, slightly shaking his head from side to side.
“What means the same thing?” inquired Munsford.
Closing his eyes to prevent the soldiers from seeing him roll
his eyes, Dakkar stated, once his eyes were open, “Confiscate,
commandeer, and seize, the words are synonyms.”
“I thought cinnamon was what you sprinkled on donuts.”
“Aw, shut up,” spoke one of the soldiers as Dakkar turned his
attention away from the men.
Dakkar sat in the chair, all four legs squarely on the ground;
he rested his elbows upon the table top, holding his coffee up
in both hands. He listened as the conversation at the soldier’s
table had changed from discussing the two prisoners to wanting
to return to the fort or better yet, out on patrol to search for
those savages and returning the favor, so to speak.
The earlier conversation still haunted Dakkar, he remembered how
he’d met the boy he named Jules and what little the boy could
remember. He also remembered the words that Sam Buckhart spoke
to him during their brief meeting. The man who once called
Europe his home, but now considered himself American cowboy
worried for the prisoners because it was apparent the military
did not believe them when they said who they were. Setting his
empty coffee cup to the table, Dakkar pushed his chair back,
flipped a few coins from his pocket to the table, and turned to
leave. As he passed the soldiers, he stiffened his back at the
memory of their words.
“Morning Gus,” Sheriff Vestor called as he entered the lobby to
the town’s hotel.
“And good morning to you Sheriff. How’s the missus and that new
“Fine, both are doing fine. Thanks. Is the Marshal still up in
“Yes, I believe he is. Neither he nor Mr. McCain have come
downstairs for breakfast yet.”
After taking the steps to the second floor, Sheriff Vestor
walked the hall to the last door on the right and knocked.
“Come on in LucasBoy,” was voiced from the other side.
Opening the door, Vestor stated, “It’s not Lucas, it’s me, the
“Oh, Dave, sorry about that. How can I help you this morning?”
Micah Torrance asked as he finished wiping the remnants of
shaving cream from his face and neck.
“I think I have a… uh… situation at the jail,” answered Vestor.
“What kind of a situation?”
“Well… It appears that another contingency of soldiers arrived
sometime last night… and they brought prisoners.”
“That so… Did you speak with the officer in charge?”
“Well, sort of…”
“What do you mean sort of?” The door opened at the same time two
knocks were heard. “Come on in Lucas, Dave was just telling me
about more soldiers arriving and their prisoners.”
“More soldiers? How many more?” asked Lucas, worried that the
army was overplaying their hand regarding Mueglion’s and his
followers disappearance from the reservation, especially if this
group of soldiers doubled the number in and around the town.
“No sure how many more, but… I don’t like what I saw last
“Just what did you see?” Lucas countered.
“Well, I couldn’t sleep so… I thought I’d go and do some
paperwork. There were two soldiers positioned on either side of
the door to my office, and they wouldn’t let me in.” Vestor
sounded flustered at the last declaration. “I tried to argue
with them… that they had no right to keep me out, when… I think
it was a lieutenant who stepped out the door. He told me that
the others were under orders to keep civilians out while he was
interrogating his prisoners…”
“What prisoners?” Micah asked.
“I didn’t get a good look, I don’t know if the lieutenant even
knew that I could see one of them… The door was closed, but I
saw through the barred opening... Well… he looked like he’d been
beaten … beaten up pretty good…”
“Beaten?” Lucas asked. “Why would the soldiers beat up a
“He was Indian. I… uh…”
“Spit it out,” gruffed Micah.
“I think he was your friend… the marshal.”
Micah and Lucas looked to each other for a few moments before
either one spoke.
“Sam? You think the soldiers have Marshal Buckhart as a
prisoner? That’s ridiculous? Why would they take Sam as a
prisoner?” Lucas queried, his brain fighting against any logic
to why the U.S. Marshal would be a prisoner of the U.S. Cavalry.
“Lucas, think about it. Sam in Apache,” Micah answered. “When
you first met him… when he first came to North Fork… What was
your first impression of him?”
“That was different Micah, he was dressed as a brave… He wasn’t
wearing white man’s clothing.”
“Okay… Think on this… You’re a soldier, you’ve been ordered to
this territory in search of Indians who have left the
reservation and murdered white people. You come across and
Indian… would you listen to him if he claimed to be a U.S.
Marshal? Or would you only see him as an Indian?”
Sheriff Vestor watched Lucas McCain’s face change from disbelief
to that of someone disturbed by an image he’d prefer not to
“So, what do we do? If this is your friend?” the sheriff asked.
“We need to get back inside that jail, that’s for sure,” Micah
replied. “Did you see the other prisoner at all?”
“No, it’s on the opposite side of the hallway,” the sheriff
regretfully admitted. “I’d of had to get up close to the door to
see that cell.”
“Micah, what do you think our chances would be of getting inside
the jail and seeing the prisoners?” Lucas asked.
“Little to none. They’re prisoners of the U.S. Cavalry…”
“But the one’s a civilian,” Sheriff Vestor inserted. “Surely
they can’t keep civilians like that?”
“That’s the beauty of the army declaring Martial Law; they can
keep civilians locked up… Saying it’s for their own good or that
they’re ‘person’s of interest’.”
“If it is Sam, and he has been beaten, I want to have Doc
Webster check him over. They can’t deny a doctor access to a
“That’s a good point Lucas,” replied Micah as they finally had a
valid reason for someone to see the prisoners.
Stepping out into the early morning sun, Dakkar paused a few
moments to allow his eyes to adjust to the increasing light.
Since the waitress wasn’t forthcoming with a lot of information
on where he could find the sheriff, and with the news imparted
by the soldiers, Dakkar decided the next best thing – the
saloon. Anyone knows the best place to find information in any
town is the saloon, so Dakkar stepped from the boardwalk and
crossed the dirt road.
Stepping into the Golden Spur, Dakkar was not surprised to find
the establishment empty except for a few people straightening up
the tables and chairs, or cleaning the glasses, and sweeping the
floor of the mess from the night before.
“It’s kinda early, ain’t it mister,” called the man behind the
counter as he pulled another glass from the tub of soapy water
placed on the barn.
“I agree, it’s too early for alcohol, but I’m hoping it’s not
too early for some information.”
“Depends on what kind of information you’re looking for…” The
barman turned his attention to one of the young workers
meandering among the tables, “Justin, make sure you sweep good
under them tables. I pay ya good money to do a job, and I want
it done right.”
“I hear ya,” answered Justin as he began diligently sweeping the
“So what information are you looking for? You want some coffee?”
“Sure, black.” While the barman turned around to fetch a cup and
the coffee, Dakkar continued, “I’m looking for the sheriff of
your town. I overheard a few soldiers saying they had prisoners
in the jail and the sheriff wasn’t allowed inside.”
Once the coffee cup was filled, Dakkar offered his thanks.
“Prisoners? Well I wonder who them soldier boys have? Didn’t
hear nothing about no prisoners.”
“I heard them say that one was an Indian and the other a young
“Maybe one of them loners and his kid. You know… they kick them
out of the tribe, ‘specially when the kid’s a halfbreed.”
“I thought you said you didn’t know anything about the
prisoners?” queried Dakkar.
“Oh, I don’t, least not this pair. Now the sheriff… I think I
saw him heading over to the hotel earlier this morning. Probably
discussing the situation with Marshal Torrance, that or learning
more about what it is to be a sheriff instead of just a deputy.
You know we only elected him sheriff a few days back. Why I
“Thanks for the information,” Dakkar spoke graciously. “How much
do I owe you?”
“Coffee this early in the morning is on the house.”
Dakkar turned from the bar and as he strode across the floor, he
saw several soldiers walking along the boardwalk outside the big
glass window that proudly bore the name Golden Spur Saloon.
Dakkar was impressed with the lobby of the hotel, clean and
spacious. He walked across the floor, stopped at the counter and
waited for the clerk to finish seeing a guest into the
restaurant that was a part of the establishment.
“Can I help you? Are you looking for a room?” the man asked as
he returned to the counter.
The man wasn’t big by any means, except for the toothy smile he
wore to greet the potential guest.
“I was informed that this town’s sheriff has stopped by? Maybe
to see a Marshal Torrance?” Dakkar stated.
“Oh, yes, indeed he did. He went on up to the Marshal’s room not
half an hour ago.”
“I’m sorry sir, that would be most inappropriate for me to give
out that information. If you’d like, you may wait in the
restaurant and I’ll inform our sheriff that you’re there.”
“It’s really important…”
“Anything to do with the law is important, but sheriff to
marshal is more important,” the man spoke in a clipped voice
that imparted his growing impatience with someone who was not
going to be an overnight guest.
Dakkar waited in the restaurant at a table where he could keep
watch on guests coming down the staircase from the upper floors.
His attention was drawn from the cup of coffee in his hand when
three men, two of whom were wearing badges, made their way into
“Excuse me, Sheriff,” Dakkar called out, stepping from the
restaurant as the men made their way to the middle of the lobby.
“Yes, I’m Sheriff Vestor. How may I help you?”
“Dave, we’ll head on to Doc’s like we talked about,” Micah
Torrance stated, knowing Lucas wouldn’t take kindly to any
“Okay, I’ll meet you at Doc’s when I’m through here.”
Dakkar waited until the marshal and the tall man left the
building before he began to state his business.
“How can I help you?” Vestor asked.
“I understand you have a couple of prisoners in your jail.”
“Before I’ll answer, just who are you mister?” Vestor inquired.
“Oh, forgive me, my name’s Morgan Dakkar. I’m just traveling
through the territory on my way to California.”
“Okay, Mr. Dakkar, as far as the prisoners, unfortunately…
they’re not my prisoners. They’re in the custody of the army…
who has commandeered my jail.”
“So I’ve heard,” Dakkar refrained from laughing as he remembered
the conversation with the soldiers in the café. “Never mind…” he
replied in response to the curious expression upon the lawman’s
face. “What do you know about the prisoners?”
“Maybe you could tell me who they are to you?”
“If they are who I think they are, they’re in trouble.”
“Trouble, and just how would you define trouble?” Vestor asked,
his face beginning to frown.
“I overheard a few soldiers talking amongst themselves this
morning, and from what they were saying, it sounds as if one of
the prisoners has been… possibly beaten… and I worry for the
The way the man spoke continued to heighten the edge the sheriff
felt since he already knew there was trouble brewing in the
jail; but what he did not know was how this man fit into the
“Even if he’s an outlaw?” the sheriff asked.
“If he were an outlaw, he’d be in your custody… Not the custody
of the military. There’s something about those prisoners. If I
may… It is possible that the man is more than what the soldiers
think he is… or possibly he’s told them the truth… and they
don’t believe him.”
“And just who do you think the prisoner is supposed to be?”
Vestor asked as he waited for confirmation.
“I believe he might be a U.S. Marshal that I met earlier this
week… And if he is, then the other person the soldiers have is
more than likely my ward, Jules.”
“He’s just a boy, maybe fourteen. He ran away in the middle of
the night,” offered Dakkar.
“How did your ward end up running away with a U.S. Marshal?”
Vestor continued to ask questions, he wanted as much information
as possible before he met with the others.
“That is a long story…one that I don’t feel I have the luxury to
tell, at this time. If the other two gentlemen you were with,
were on their way to the doctor’s… Maybe we should join them
there. If their matter wasn’t as urgent as I feel this situation
warrants… I think the doctor should have a look at one of the
“Well, that makes four of us,” Vestor replied. “I briefly saw
the man you were speaking of earlier this morning, and just
finished talking with those other two men about what to do. If
you’ll come with me?”
Vestor took the man’s words to heart, that the man felt he was
doing right in reporting his fears; however, the lawman was wary
of things not being as they appeared. There was an old saying he
remembered Sheriff Pattison used to say, “Keep your friends
close, and your enemies even closer.” Regardless, Vestor wanted
to keep this man close by until he knew for certain who he was
and any ulterior motive that came with him.
Doc Webster was just putting what supplies he felt he might need
into his black bag when the Sheriff and a stranger entered his
“Be right with you,” Doc stated without looking up.
The expressions on Lucas’ and Micah’s faces spoke their unvoiced
question about the stranger.
“This is Morgan Dakkar, and he… said he came across a U.S.
Marshal out in the desert earlier this week. He overheard a few
of those soldiers talking at the café and was concerned that
something was amiss at the jail. He’s got a valid point in
having Doc make a call and check out the prisoners.”
“You really think the army would beat up a prisoner?” Doc
“The soldiers are desperate to find Mueglion and the others…
They’re off the reservation and we know for a fact they’ve
murdered white men…” Sheriff Vestor stated. “I briefly saw one
of the prisoners earlier this morning…”
“Well, if that’s the case…” Doc stated as he snapped closed his
bag and reached for his hat. “I best be heading over there.
Sheriff, you’ll accompany me?”
“We’ll all go,” Lucas announced.
“No… I don’t think that’s for the best,” Doc Webster stated.
“They might allow me access to my… uh… patient, if they didn’t
feel threatened by the mob of us barging in there.”
“Doc’s right Lucas,” agreed Micah.
“I would suggest you go speak with Judge Zeller… but I’m not
sure how helpful he’d be,” acknowledged Sheriff Vestor.
“Why would we want to inform him?!” demanded Lucas.
The animosity Lucas felt towards the judicial figure still raged
in his voice and his posture whenever the man’s name was
mention. Had it not been for him and the meddlesome actions of
one Horatio Pettigrew, he and his son would have long before
been back at their ranch. He could only imagine what their crops
looked like and hoped that maybe one of his neighbors cared
enough to help tend to their herd of cattle and the chickens. In
a small way, Lucas was thankful they had brought along the
harness team as their packhorses.
“I’m not sure we should, especially since all this started.
Before… I respected the man… Guess old habits are hard to
break…” Sheriff Vestor stated with a sigh as he opened the door
to the clinic to allow the doctor to head over to the jail. “Why
don’t you two wait for us here.”
Doc Webster and Sheriff Vestor casually approached the Sheriff’s
Office and hoped that they would be allowed access to the jail,
or at least the doctor would be allowed access. But as they both
feared, the lieutenant was against any aide being given to his
“I have the permission of my captain to interrogate these
prisoners. I’ll not stand by and see my authority undermined by
you sniveling do-gooders!”
“Lieutenant, may I remind you, that any physician can legally
declare ANY soldiers, officer or otherwise, removed from duty…”
the doctor pulled out the ace he had hoped not to have to use.
“What does that mean?!” Drake contemptibly demanded.
“It means that I can leave here and immediately report your
actions to your captain and inform him that in my opinion,
having sworn my Hippocratic Oath, that you are unfit to serve in
your capacity as an officer and as a soldier. I can also…”
“You wouldn’t dare… You have not authority!”
“I would and I do… I have an honorary commission as a physician
for the U.S. Army, when the need arises. Seems good things
happen when you have the opportunity to save the life of the
only daughter of a commanding general… It was the only reward he
could in good conscience offer me…” The doctor paused, daring
the solder in front of him to deny his request one more time.
“Now, will you allow me to see your prisoners and to treat them
as I see fit? Or do I go to the hotel and speak with your
With a flourished wave of his hand, the lieutenant authorized
the private standing by the door to the cells to open it.
Upon gaining access to the cells, the doctor briefly scanned the
area and the two forms lying on the bunks in the cells. The
smell of stale sweat and blood mingled with the odors from the
chamber pots placed in the corner of each cell. The first
prisoner in the cell on the left was curled up in the fetal
position with the blanket pulled up over his shoulders, his back
to the room; his dark hair the only thing showing from under the
cover. The second prisoner was lying flat on his back, the
blood, bruising, and swelling on his face evident.
“I demand you open this door, NOW!”
While he waited for the soldier to untie the restraints used
upon the man, the doctor felt it was a blessing that the
prisoner was either dead asleep or unconscious while he
performed the examination.
Upon unbuttoning and opening the man’s shirt, more evidence as
to the severity of the interrogation was exposed. He found
multiple darkening bruises along both sides of the man’s ribs,
he gently pressed his fingers into the man’s ribcage only to
reveal that several were broken and others possibly fractured.
Bathing the blood from the man’s face elicited a response from
his patient, the man began to stir, his eyelids fluttered
indicating he was regaining consciousness.
“I know you probably want to stay where you are, away from the
pain, but I need you to wake up,” Doc spoke as he gently tapped
the man’s forehead, the only place where he felt he could
without further antagonizing the man. “Come on… wake up… That’s
it… Open your eyes.”
A small smile played across the doctor’s face as his patient’s
eyes opened, at first the signs were that the man’s vision was
unfocused, but a few moments later the doctor recognized the he
was trying to focus his attention.
“If you can swallow, I can give you some laudanum to help dull
the pain. And then I can strap your ribs. I don’t think any of
those cuts on your face are deep enough to require stitches, but
maybe I can tape them closed until they heal.”
“Thank you, doctor,” the patient stated as he accepted
assistance to sit up.
Once the doctor has fulfilled his duties, he decided now was the
time to ask, “Are you U.S. Marshal Sam Buckhart?”
“I am,” Sam answered as he looked to the doctor through swollen
eyes, “Where are we?”
“You’re in Cloudcroft?”
“Is Lucas still here,” Sam struggled through equally swollen and
split lips to speak.
“Yes, he’s still here.” Doc prepared to ask the question he
didn’t want to hear the answer to, subconsciously he knew the
truth, “Do you know who the other prisoner is?” Doc Webster
asked as he nodded his head towards the other cell.
“I’m positive he’s Mark McCain…” Sam stated with his teeth
gritted in pain.
Questioning the wording of the statement, Doc asked,
“You need… to… examine him… ” pleaded Buckhart as he fought down
the pain that threatened to pull him down.
“Tell Lucas… I’m sorry…” Buckhart spoke as he lost the fight
against the laudanum and the pull of the darkness.
Careful of the man’s injuries, Doc Webster laid him back on the
bunk and stood, looking towards the other cell. Dreading what he
would find, and dreading the news he would have to bear to the
“Open up,” Doc called out as he stood at the door.
Once the soldier had opened the door and locked it behind him,
Doc demanded access to the other prisoner. Hesitantly the
soldier complied. He locked the door behind the doctor as he
stood in the middle of the cell.
Setting his black bag on the floor, the doctor knelt and placed
his hand gently on the boy’s shoulder in order to rouse him
“Mark, I’m Doc Webster. Wake up. I need to examine you.”
The boy moaned and curled tighter into himself.
“Come on son, wake up,” Doc encouraged.
“Go away,” the boy plaintively answered.
“Not until I examine you.”
“No. Can’t tell you what I don’t know.”
“I said examine you, not interrogate you. Son, I’m a doctor.
Please… open your eyes and sit up for me.”
Begrudgingly, the boy complied with the doctor’s request. As the
doctor watched, he discerned that the boy was doing everything
mechanically, a key sign that he’d had very little sleep that
would allow his body to refresh itself.
By the time the boy lifted his face to the man in front of him,
Doc Webster was mortified, to say the least. The bullet wound he
had treated the last time he’d seen the boy was properly healed,
with only a faint scar remaining, but now… His face was swollen
with a myriad of colors indicating he’d been man-handled.
“Remove your shirt, I want to see your ribs,” Doc Webster
When the boy didn’t respond, the doctor reached forward and
began to unbutton the boy’s shirt and remove it. Five minutes
later, he was more than pleased to realize that the soldiers had
not abused the boy as he had first feared. But the bruises upon
the boy’s face were equaled by the bruising on his arms and the
raw skin around his wrists indicating he had struggled against
his restraints. Upon first sight of Sam Buckhart, the doctor had
feared both prisoners had been treated in the same manner, but
now he was somewhat relieved to find that was not the case.
“Son, I need you to tell me your name. Can you tell me who you
“Jules, Mr. Dakkar called me Jules. The marshal… he said my name
was Mark,” the boy finally responded, he looked up and the
doctor saw his glazed over eyes.
“You don’t know your name?”
“The others… they were taking me somewhere…”
“That’s okay son. You just lie down. You’ll feel better later
Before calling to be let out of the cell, Doc Webster pulled a
bottle of laudanum from his bag and administered the medication
to young man.
“Now, you just lie back down and try to sleep. I’ll be filing a
formal complaint with the captain, as well as his commanding
officer.” The doctor was appalled at how the two prisoners had
been treated, there’s no reason for such brutality.
“Better…” the boy, Jules/Mark, mumbled as he curled up on his
side and pulled the blanket over his shoulders.
Standing with his black bag in hand, the doctor called, “Guard,
let me out of here!”
Without acknowledging the officer or the other soldiers in the
office area, the doctor headed straight out the front door, and
made his way back to his clinic. Originally he had dreaded
informing Lucas that his son was at the jail, now… he was
“Well Doc?” Micah asked, rising to his feet as the doctor
entered his office. “How are the two prisoners?”
“I think you had best sit back down,” Doc Webster advised as he
set his black bag on the top of his desk.
“Doc? Are they going to be okay?” Sheriff Vestor inquired.
“They will… But… I have to get them out of there, or at least
the lieutenant away from them. They’re both civilians… One is
Marshal Buckhart…” From a slot within his roll-top desk, the
doctor pulled out a bottle labeled ‘brandy’. After taking a
swift drink, the doctor turned to Lucas as said, “The other
prisoner… is your son.”
The other men in the room struggled with their own comprehension
of the doctor’s words, but by all appearances, Lucas took great
effort to quell his desire to rush the physician and wrap his
fingers around the man’s throat. Tension started at Lucas’
temples as his eyes bulged slightly forward, his throat
tightened as he swallowed, and his chest compressed as he kept
breathing out, his system was too shocked to breathe in.
“LucasBoy?” Micah asked.
Grit and malevolence dripped from Lucas as he spoke, “My… son…
My… son.... You… say… Mark… is a… …” Lucas grappled with his
emotions, “… prisoner. I’ll kill him, I’ll kill that bastard!”
“Mr. McCain, there’s more…” Doc Webster barely had the nerve to
say. “He doesn’t know who he is… He says his name’s Jules.”
Reaching for his rifle, Lucas ignored the pleas from the others
as he stormed from the clinic and headed straight to the jail.
Two soldiers sat in front of the jail, their chairs rocked on
the back legs as they leaned against the wall. Both men enjoyed
their respite in the town and the ‘advantage’ a town could
bring, especially when women would walk in front of the jail as
they went about their routines.
Hearing, “LUCAS!” yelled from down the street, both soldiers set
their chairs to all four legs and hurriedly stood. Both slightly
quivered as the angry-looking man approached them; they twisted
their rifles within their sweaty hands.
“You can’t go in there,” one soldier stated as all six foot,
four inches of Lucas McCain stepped to the boardwalk and towered
over the two soldiers.
“Get out of my way,” hissed Lucas.
“You can’t go in there,” the other soldier repeated.
Both soldiers closed ranks hoping to appear a greater threat to
prevent this challenger from entering. Rifle clutched tight in
his hand, Lucas continued to step towards the door, each stepped
measured to ensure the soldiers in front of him knew he meant
business; he was prepared to force his way past the soldiers and
take any other action to ensure he was reunited with his son.
“I’ll only tell you one more time, Get... out… of… my… way.”
The soldiers knew their rifles were no use in close quarters and
after the doctor had left, they received orders to prevent
anyone from gaining entry or suffer the lieutenant’s wrath. The
three men struggle, two fearful to keep one out and one
desperate to gain entry. Lucas gave one more push forward when
he heard the door to the Sheriff’s Office open and someone
demand, “What’s going…” Without warning, Lucas collapsed to the
“What the Hell’d you do that for?” demanded Morgan Dakkar as he
and Micah Torrance knelt next to the fallen rancher.
“This premises has been commandeered by the U.S. Cavalry, he was
trying to make an unlawful entrance, resisting the authority
vested upon me since this town has been declared under Martial
Law,” Lieutenant Drake stated as he slipped his service pistol
back into the holster on his belt. “Be thankful I chose not to
shoot him for inciting a riot.”
“You’re holding the man’s son as a prisoner! How was he supposed
to act?!” retorted Micah as he returned to examine the
developing lump on the back of Lucas’ head.
“He can see his son at the trial and at his hanging,” Drake
stated as he turned to reenter the jail.
“Trial?! On what charges?! What grounds do you have to hold a
fourteen year old boy?!” Micah demanded as his words sought to
spurn the soldier.
“Sedition. There’s no minimum age requirement for treason
against one’s country. Get him out of here before I decided to
arrest him as well.”
With determination, Micah Torrance and Dave Vestor picked Lucas
up from the boardwalk, each bearing an arm over his shoulder
with the intention of making it back to the clinic. They
struggled with their friend’s dead weight sagging between them,
the toes of his boots dragging in the dirt.
“Stop here,” Micah heavily breathed as he set the still
unconscious Lucas down in a chair in front of the hotel.
“Where’d Doc go?” Dave asked.
“I thought I saw him heading inside as we were going to the
jail,” Morgan offered as he pointed to the main entrance to the
hotel. “I’ll see if I can find him.”
“Not… necessary,” Lucas mumbled as he regain consciousness.
“The lieutenant took the butt of his service revolver to your
head,” answered Micah.
“What’s happening here?” Captain Monterrey asked as he and the
doctor stepped to the porch of the hotel.
“I was just telling Lucas here that YOUR lieutenant took his
service revolver to the back of Lucas’ head. All the man wanted
to do was see his son!”
“The doctor here has given me a cursory report, and I was just
going to go investigate…”
“I want… my son… out of there!” Lucas seethed.
“If the facts warrant…” answered the captain.
“There are no facts that warrant a fourteen year old boy to be
treated as he has!” Doctor Webster declared.
Pulling himself to his full height, Lucas again demanded of the
captain to release his son. “If you value your life and that of
the men under your command…”
“I’ll not tolerate any threats, Mr. McCain.”
Looking the officer straight in the eye and using a cold voice
said, “I don’t threaten.” With that, Lucas turned from the
soldier and retrieved his rifle from Morgan’s hands and left.
“Mr. McCain!” Captain Monterrey called.
Turning towards the Captain, Lucas responded, “Don’t make me
wire Governor Edmond Ross or U.S. Marshal Tom Benton. I’m sure
both would be very interested in stifling your military career.”
“And why would you do that?”
“Because you have my innocent son forcefully retained and as
well as one of Benton’s marshals. I know both men… personally.”
“Let me talk with Drake.”
“Talk…,” gulped Doctor Webster. “You think you’re going to get
anywhere by talking with that man? My God! We’ve wasted enough
time here… We need to get to the jail and get my two patients
out of there so they can be properly treated!”
The arguments and commotion in front of the hotel began to draw
a crowd; Judge Zeller redirected his stroll in order to make an
appearance. Forcing his way through the throng of people he
heard the voices discussing the soldiers and their prisoners.
“That lieutenant has no cause to imprison my son!” demanded
Lucas as he continued to stare down the captain.
“Mr. McCain,” Judge Zeller spoke as he stepped to the boardwalk.
“The army is here to protect this town; you have no right to
“Your son hasn’t been locked in a cell and beaten by that
madman,” Lucas retorted.
“You don’t know that! That… Indian could have beaten your son…
for all you know.” Judge Zeller’s implication drew a new fury
Lucas would have wrung the man’s neck for the suggestion as well
as his bigoted attitude had it not been for Micah’s hand and
Doctor Webster’s words.
“That Indian as you so call him was beaten within an inch of his
life,” responded Doctor Webster. “And you have the audacity to
imply he beat the boy?”
“The soldier’s probably beat him when they saw the condition of
the boy,” Zeller weakly argued. The man’s face reddened; his
town had been nice and quiet, until the arrival of the McCains.
“That Indian is a friend. That Indian has risked his life TWICE
to find my son. That Indian would never lay a finger upon my son
to injure him as you say,” Lucas’ voice graveled. “That Indian
has more knowledge and compassion for the white man’s law than
you.” Lucas pushed past the judge and ignored the protests and
shouts behind him.
Lieutenant Drake closed the door to the Sheriff’s Office behind
him and walked directly to the cells. Looking to his right, he
saw the unconscious form of the Indian lying on the bed as the
images of the attack on his childhood home surfaced, the
screams, the smells, the terror... He couldn’t bring himself to
open the cell to face down the bearer of all his hatred. To his
left, the boy moaned as he moved under the cover.
“Guard, let me in here. Unlock this cell!”
Promptly the private complied; the rattle of the keys conveyed
his nervousness as he approached.
“Lieutenant, the doctor…”
“Open the cell!” the lieutenant ordered his voice neared
The word sedition echoed in the lieutenant’s mind as he craved
to enforce a lesson to others who would support and offer aide
to the heathens; no one was above accusation and he would see
justice served, regardless of who or age. With the doorway fully
opened, the lieutenant took measured steps as he entered and
continued to the bunk. Reaching down he threw off the cover and
grabbed the boy’s bicep and pulled him to his feet.
Pain penetrated the fogginess of his brain caused from a
combination of lack of sleep, the rough treatment from the
soldiers, and the laudanum provided by the doctor; but still, he
fought to open his eyes.
“The others will see you as an example… They will realize that
the best solution to the heathen problem is extermination, and
for those who act as accomplices, there shall be no mercy!”
Outside he heard the raised voice of authority ordering his men
to stand down, to drop their weapons to the ground, and accept
that they were under house arrest. Mutterings and pleadings
drifted through the open window as the men argued they were only
“There are orders to be followed and there are orders where
common sense and compassion should make you reconsider and ask
up the chain of command! Any soldier of officer material
understands this fact!”
“We ain’t officers! We’s just horse soldiers,” another soldier
tried to explain.
“Return to where our troop is bivouacked,” ordered the captain
who waited to make sure the men followed his instructions.
“LIEUTENANT DRAKE!” Captain Monterrey shouted from the street.
“I order you to exit the jail and submit to my authority!”
Pulling his young prisoner from the cell, the lieutenant wrapped
his arm around the boy’s throat; military Colt pointed to the
boy’s temple and walked across the floor to the door and opened
As the sun highlighted the advancing figures as they stepped
from the shadows inside the Sheriff’s Office, it took all of
Micah’s and Sheriff Vestor’s muscle to keep Lucas from bolting
forward. The man’s face reddened while the muscles in his jaw
contracted, Lucas drew deep breaths in and loudly exhaled; his
“Lieutenant, let the boy go and drop your weapon!”
“Never! Our orders were to resolve the Indian problem. The only
way to solve the problem is to get rid of them and those who
sympathize with them. This boy and the other prisoner are guilty
of sedition! Had my men and I not stopped them and taken them
prisoner, they would have incited an insurgence allowing those
heathens out there to gain access to this town and murder
innocent white people!”
“Lieutenant, your prisoner is a boy!”
“Age has nothing to do with ability! Fact is, he’s just as
guilty as any adult!”
The lieutenant tightened his arm around the boy’s throat as he
took a step forward. The boy’s hands tugged at the arm
restricting the amount of air he could inhale while his feet
kicked and tried to impede the soldier’s progress.
“Stop resisting or I’ll blow your brains out right now!” hissed
the lieutenant at the boy’s resistance.
“Mark!” Lucas yelled as he watched his son’s face pale as a blue
hue shadowed his tanned skin.
“Lucas, step back. You could send the lieutenant over the edge,”
“Micah, that’s Mark,” pleaded Lucas.
“I know, but if you go off half cocked… Lucas, for Mark’s sake.”
Micah prayed his unvoiced words would calm the troubled father.
Drawing deep breaths in an effort to calm himself, Lucas slowly
relaxed his taunt muscles and stepped back. Marshal Torrance
thanked God for the brief reprieve. But the two of them, as well
as the others…including Sheriff Dave Vestor, Judge Holcomb
Zeller, Doctor Mitchell Webster, Morgan Dakkar, and the whole
town of Cloudcroft listened and watched as the two soldiers
battled with words in an effort to either save or destroy the
life of one boy.
“Lieutenant… again, I order you to drop your weapon!” Captain
“You’d let this boy go?” the man’s voice pleaded, “I found him
in our camp… he was trying to free our prisoner.” The soldier
tightened his left arm around the boy’s throat; the boy's hands
remained on the solder's forearm trying to pull the arm away so
he could breathe. “Captain… they’ll kill everyone! We have to
set an example! No white man or woman will be safe until the
threat is eliminated!”
“That boy is no threat! Let him go!”
“No Captain. You’re wrong! Just as wrong as they were before!
There can be no peace with those heathens… They’ll make you
think they’re doing as you want… Then the first chance they get,
they’ll kill everyone!”
The town of Cloudcroft would speak in quiet whispers of the
events that happened next. Friends, neighbors, and strangers
watched as the soldier stiffened his right arm as his thumb
moved to pull back the hammer and his fingers tightened around
the grip of the weapon. What no one saw was a Winchester rifle
being swung up in the man’s left hand, his right hand moving to
the forestock and when the weapon was perfectly balanced at the
man’s shoulder, the slightest pressure applied to the trigger
fired one single bullet.
The impact of the bullet flung its intended target backwards as
it struck the man just off center of his forehead, killing the
soldier instantly. In the throes of death, the man’s body
stiffened and convulsed, throwing his hostage into the doorframe
behind them as the spasm in the soldiers hand fired the weapon
it held. The forceful impact of the boy’s body striking the wall
snapped his head backwards and he crumpled like a rag doll to
People froze in place as the events seemed to stretch out and no
one made a sound until the two bodies came to a deathly rest on
the boardwalk. A quiet rustling as people shifted to the side to
allow the grieved father through was the only sound heard, until
the man stepped to the wooden boardwalk and dropped his rifle.
Carefully he picked up the youth and cradled him in his arms,
his hand gently moving the boy’s bangs from his face, lovingly
caressing the face. The movement of the man’s mouth was the only
clue that gave any indication he was speaking, but no one heard
his words. The words also failed to reach through to his
“Let me through!” declared Doctor Webster as he made his way
through the crowd to the McCains.
Kneeling beside Lucas McCain who cradled his teenage son, Mark,
in his arms, the doctor asked, “Did the bullet strike him?” When
the father failed to answer, the doctor did his best to examine
the boy. The physician was greatly relieved when he found no
blood upon the boy’ clothing, indicating the bullet fired by the
dead soldier had not struck him. However, he grew concerned
about the darkening bruise that was forming along the boy’s
temple, down his cheek, and to his jaw bone.
“Marshal,” the doctor called over his shoulder, “Help Lucas get
his son to my clinic. Sheriff, Captain, I need to check my other
patient inside.” The doctor referred to Sam Buckhart who was
still within one of the jail cells.
As the lawmen and soldier stepped to the boardwalk, Morgan
Dakkar moved forward with them. He was drawn to the boy he had
known for several months as Jules, a boy he had cared for as if
he was his own son. Watching how the tall man lovingly picked
the boy up in his arms, Dakkar felt his heart constrict… he
grieved the loss of his own son so many years before. As Lucas
McCain carried his boy away from the scene, Dakkar stepped
inside the Sheriff’s Office.
In the background, Judge Zeller was doing his best to disperse
the crowd, urging them to return homes or to their businesses.
But to the people of Cloudcroft, over the past few months they
had heard the stories and rumors surrounding their elected
official and how he had callously granted custody of the boy to
a stranger; most had grown to despise the man and either
subconsciously or deliberately ignored the man’s pleadings.
Doc Webster stepped across the body of the dead lieutenant and
proceeded into the jail to tend to his second patient, U.S.
Marshal Sam Buckhart. Having grabbed the keys to the cells from
the sheriff’s desk, the doctor frustratedly worked through the
many keys, angered there was so many on the ring for only two
cells. But then… an excess of keys could help delay any jail
break. Finally, the key turned in the lock and Webster opened
the barred door.
“Marshal?” Doctor Webster asked as he sat on the edge of the bed
and tried to rouse his patient.
The patient mumbled but did not wake at the prodding.
“Dave, Captain… If you’d carry this man to my clinic…”
Placing a restraining hand upon the captain, Morgan Dakkar
spoke, “Let me. I owe it to him.”
The physician stepped back to allow the two men to pick up the
semi-conscious marshal and carry him out the jail, through the
office, and down the boardwalk to the clinic.
With his two patients lying within his clinic, the physician
knew he had to enter, but the fact of facing Lucas McCain
terrified the man. He knew he only had a small part in the
proceedings that allowed Judge Zeller to terminate the man’s
parental rights and transfer custody of the boy to a complete
stranger… Any father would be angry with the participants, but
the fact that this boy suffered through an Indian attack. The
feared of his death was palpable until news to the contrary
surfaced, and now he lay inside because of the doctor’s actions…
“The boy and the marshal need you inside,” the doctor heard
spoken to him as he halted on the boardwalk to his clinic.
“He’ll be angry and protective… But… he knows his son and his
friend require your assistance. Given time… he’ll forgive.”
The doctor looked to his right to see the older marshal, Micah
Torrance, approaching him.
“How… How do I go in there?”
“With the courage to know that you can now help right a wrong…”
Seeing the doctor still hesitate Micah added. “How can you ‘not’
go in there? If something further happens to that boy and you
could have prevented it… will you feel better? You’ve sworn an
oath to your profession.”
Doctor Webster inhaled deeply and knew what he had to do.
Morgan Dakkar stood to the inside of the doorway and watched as
the doctor walked to his youngest patient; the father sitting on
the examination table still held the boy in his arms.
“Allow me to remove his shirt, so I can make sure that he’s
suffered no further harm to his torso…”
No one saw him slip out the doorway or if they did, they had
more important things upon their mind: Mark McCain and Sam
Morning had turned to afternoon, before Marshal Buckhart was
strong enough to fully wake and answer questions that the law
and the army had surrounding what had happened out in the
desert. As he recounted his tale, he told of finding Mark McCain
slipping into the camp after the soldiers had already taken him
prisoner. He made no mention of Morgan Dakkar, that was a
personal score to settle.
Mid afternoon had settled on the town when Buckhart insisted in
rising to his feet, declaring he had to send a wire alerting his
superiors that he would be filing a full report by the end of
the week. He ignored the pleadings of the doctor that he was not
ready to be up an about, yet.
“Your other patient requires more of your attention than I, tend
to him and leave me to my job.”
“Your job… Okay, so I called it a fool’s errand… I don’t know
how it all really happened out there, but you have to take it
easy… now that the boy’s been returned and you’re under my
“I’ll take your advice, however, I have been away from my
responsibilities long enough and need to inform them
“Fine,” answered the doctor with a slight roll of his eyes.”
Hugging his left arm to his wrapped ribs, Buckhart stepped from
the clinic and bumped into a man passing bu, stepping back to
offer an apology, the lawman recognized Dakkar.
“Where’s Silas?” he quietly asked, not wanting to draw the
attention of those inside.
“His wound became infected after we left you… I’m sorry for what
we did to you… But… I couldn’t have known it would result in his
“And why are you here?” demanded Buckhart as he grabbed hold of
the man’s upper arm and pulled him near.
“To tell his wife of his death; he pleaded for her,” Dakkar
solemnly answered, casting his eyes downward. “I promised him
I’d tell her. I… I buried him in the desert.”
“The truth!” hissed Buckhart.
“As God is my witness, the man you knew as Silas Waiscott is no
Relinquishing his hold upon the man, Buckhart stood back and
appraised the man one last time.
“You’d best return home before your presence raises any
questions,” stated Buckhart as he turned and left the man
standing on the street.
Dakkar slowly let out his breath and watched as the lawman
walked away. ‘Yes, the man you knew as Silas Waiscott is no
more; that is the truth. He is a new man, he has a new chance at
life, to live it with the woman he loves, and I will see that he
has the chance.”
Quietly in the darkness of that night, Morgan Dakkar made his
way to the plantation-style residence on the far end of town, he
asked for Dominique and prepared to pay more than the going
amount to spend time with her.
“Best you know, she doesn’t take gentlemen callers anymore,”
Agnes stated as she strolled past the debonair man standing in
the foyer. While speaking she loosened the sash that kept her
dressing gown closed, allowing it fall open to reveal her ample
bosom which threatened to spill over the lacy bodice of her
silky gown. Enticingly she neared the man, “But honey, I can
light your world on fire,” she purred as she ran her hands along
the contours of her breasts, and from underneath she hefted them
upward causing the flesh to jiggle.
“I was told to call on Dominique and only her. I am sorry. Given
the chance, I’m sure you could set my world on fire.” He tipped
and removed his hat to wait.
Closing her robe over her assets, Agnes called, “Dominique, this
one’s for you, Sugar.”
Morgan Dakkar looked up upon hearing a voice from the top of the
stairs to see a very light skinned negro woman, standing
statuesquely, wearing clothes that stood in contrast to the
dress of the other women in the parlor.
“I’m sorry, but I no longer entertain gentlemen callers,” she
“It is not entertainment that I seek,” Dakkar announced as he
walked to the foot of the staircase. “I’ll pay twice your normal
charge if you’ll only give me a few minutes of your time.”
“Why?” Dominique queried as she walked down a few steps of the
staircase. She evaluated the man and observed he didn’t have the
hunger in his eyes of a man who was out to satiate his desires;
his posture did not reveal an eager anticipation of the flesh.
After years of dealing with every type of man coming through the
front door of Miss Matilda’s, she knew all the tell-tale signs
of lust a man could exhibit; she twisted her head sideways. The
man’s demeanor appeared as if he was ready to transact a simple
business proposition. She stopped three quarters of the way down
Quietly Dakkar stated, “I have news for your ears only from
“Come,” Dominique stated as she turned, retreated back up the
staircase, and walked down the hallway to her room.
The other women in the parlor giggled and smiled to each other,
they heard the man offer twice the normal rate. Before, each had
wondered how long it would be before Dominique would give up the
fantasy world she created upon her husband’s return. They all
knew the charges he faced would destroy her dream, they waited
for her to come back to their lifestyle, and it appeared to the
others that this stranger was her ticket back to reality.
Closing the door after the man entered, Dominique spoke, “What
news do you have for me?”
“Dominique, I have news of a fresh start…”
“I am not in need of a fresh start.”
“Silas had hoped you would join him at my ranch.”
“He escaped?” she gasped.
“The previous Silas you knew is dead. Upon your safe arrival at
my home, the old Silas… the Silas you originally knew will
flourish and live out the last of his life in peace.”
“I don’t understand…”
“Enola, if you come with me… Yes, I know who you truly are,
underneath all the traipsings of this establishment. My offer
means you will be giving up all this,” Dakkar motioned his hands
around the room. “As the Silas who sat in this room is dead, so
shall Dominique pass. The old Silas and Enola have a chance to
live. But… once you accept my offer, there is no turning back,
no returning here. For if you return here… and others come,
justice shall seek out and ensured his death.”
“How do I know I can trust you?”
“I know of Hester… Accept my hospitality as it is intended…a
Without another word, Enola turned to the closet in her room,
pulled out a large bag from the floor and started packing her
clothes. Fifteen minutes later she opened the door of her room
to see each of the previously opened doors were closed and the
sounds emanating from within indicated the occupants were
otherwise occupied to pay her no attention. Enola followed the
stranger out into the night and away from Cloudcroft.
The doctor returned to his clinic carrying a tray with supper
for the father and the marshal. He entered his clinic and set
the tray on a table in the boy’s room.
“Any change?” Doctor Webster asked.
“Shouldn’t he be awake by now?” Lucas asked, his eyes pleading
for an answer.
“Mr. McCain, I had hoped your son would have regain
consciousness by now… But the longer he remains… as he is… the
more I fear the blow to his head might have fractured his skull…
The good news is, if he has suffered such an injury, it’s not a
Micah stood from the chair where he’d spent the afternoon, “What
can we do to help him?”
“Pray is all I know to offer you. I’m keeping an eye on his
vital statistics, and we’re able to get him to partake some
nourishment… We just need to keep him comfortable, quiet, and…”
“And?” Lucas looked to the physician.
“Warm. The blow he suffered could have affected his body, and he
does feel cooler than I’d like.”
“Would that indicate internal bleeding?” Micah worriedly asked.
“No, it’s just his body’s way of dealing with the trauma… All
the trauma. I have no real idea what his medical condition was
prior to the army finding him out there:
“What good’s your medical degree doing my son?!” demanded Lucas.
“Right now, now a whole lot… Mr. McCain, I can’t ask for your
forgiveness for my part in Judge Zeller’s decision to rescind
your parental rights… All I know was that this boy was injured
and I honestly wasn’t sure that you were going to survive your
own wounds. Maybe this was God’s way of making me believe more
in him than in my own abilities. And if it was, I’m sorry that
your boy suffered because of my need to understand that science
and religion can be used… together… for the good of mankind.”
“Doc, if you want to keep Mark comfortable, and warm… What would
you say to our moving him to the hotel. I can tell you that
their beds are a whole lot softer than your clinic, and we can
keep the wood burning stove in the hotel room stoked and a lot
warmer than we can in here with all your patients coming and
going,” suggested Micah.
“I think that’s a good idea, but I’d wait until later… when the
street has quieted and we don’t have to worry about getting out
of the way of wagons or horses…”
The doctor really didn’t think that the reason the marshal gave
was a valid one, but he understood the man’s need to get his
friend and his friend’s son away from the prying eyes of people
who they didn’t really know.
The streets of Cloudcroft had quieted before Lucas McCain
carried his still unconscious son across the street and into the
hotel. Micah headed up the stairs in front of Lucas, making sure
no one would try to come down as Lucas was heading up.
Micah opened the door to the room and proceeded farther inside
in order to light the lantern on the bureau and the one on the
night stand. He turned back the covers as Lucas neared.
Upon laying his son on the soft bed, Lucas heard the boy moan
and took it as an encouraging sign.
“Do you think he’s coming around, LucasBoy?” Micah asked.
“I don’t know,” Lucas replied as he sat down on the edge of the
bed and swept his son’s hair from his face. He mused that they
needed to get Mark to the barber, his hair was much too long for
the father’s liking. The worried father encouraged his son to
wake, but silence was the only answer he received.
The marshal stepped to the doorway and said, “If you need
anything, I’m right across the hall.” He stepped into the
hallway and closed the door, having not received a response from
Lucas woke upon hearing a cursory knock on the door, it opened
and Doctor Webster entered, followed by Judge Zeller. Lucas
reluctantly greeted the doctor, but refused to acknowledge the
“Any change in the boy’s condition?” the doctor asked.
“A little… during the night he began moaning every now and then,
only to quiet a few minutes later,” answered Lucas.
“I take it you’ve been talking to him? Hearing your voice might
help encourage him to return to consciousness.”
“I’ve been talking to him all night,” Lucas answered.
“Speaking of talking,” Judge Zeller interrupted. “Captain
Monterrey and I require your presence at the courthouse.”
“If the captain wants to see me, he can come here,” Lucas coldly
“You have no say in the matter. I can order you to appear and if
“What?!” Lucas despised the man and his insinuation.
“I’ll have you thrown in jail for contempt of court.”
“You wouldn’t dare!” exclaimed Doc Webster. “My God, Holcomb…
Haven’t you done enough damage?”
“This man killed an officer of the United Stated Army. He has to
answer to a coroner’s inquest. I would be remiss in my duty as a
judge if I just let this pass!”
“You’re remiss in your duty as a human being if you keep this
up,” argued the doctor.
“I have the United States Army behind me on this… They too want
to know what happened and why!”
“Then why don’t you subpoena the whole damn town!” retorted the
“You’re already on the docket,” Judge Zeller declared. “Mr.
McCain, I expect you in my courthouse no later than ten o’clock
this morning…” The unspoken implications and the look on the
man’s face proved that he would order Lucas McCain in jailed and
enjoy doing it.
“I’ll be there,” Lucas spat out. “You make sure you have your
facts correct because if I find you twisting the truth, even the
most minute detail… I’ll have the governor of the New Mexico
Territory as well as the U.S. Marshal’s Service down here so
fast, you’ll think the time you were a judge was only dream.”
“Are you threatening me?!”
“No, it’s a promise,” Lucas answered and turned his back towards
the man as he focused on his son.
Once the judge had left the room, the doctor apologized, “I’m
sorry about Holcomb…”
Sam left the hotel after eating breakfast and having spoken with
the desk clerk for directions. He proceeded to Miss Matilda’s
where he had every intention of talking with Enola regarding
Silas and all that happened, he didn’t expect Morgan Dakkar to
tell the whole truth to the woman. Upon his arrival he found
that Enola had left sometime during the night. The women stated
she had left a note that her husband was dead and she wanted to
get away from the memories that were becoming too painful.
To Sam the timing was a little too convenient… He regretted that
he’d not followed the man the night before and fumed that he
hadn’t obtained more information about where the man’s ranch was
As he left the front porch of Miss Matilda’s, any remaining
energy he had summoned to help him see this duties through
seemed to flee. He felt weary and the fleeting pain became more
predominant. As he stumbled, he pulled himself up straighter
upon his return to the hotel, he didn’t want it to appear that
he was drunk, most people not taking the time to realize all
that happened, only that he was an Indian. With great effort he
made it up the last of the steps in the staircase, entered his
room and collapsed on the bed.
The boy woke the following morning at the hotel, confused. As he
pushed aside the covers and slipped his legs over the edge, it
surprised him to find he was wore no nightshirt or clothes at
Stating, “Come,” upon hearing a gentle tapping on the door, he
grabbed the covers back and looked up to see a portly gentleman
opening the door, balancing a tray.
“Good to see you awake this morning,” the man greeted. “I hope
“I am… Who are you?... Do you know where I am?”
“Me… I own this hotel. As for the rest, answers will come in due
time, I’ve been told. You just focus on eating. Can you walk on
your own?” the man inquired. “Oh, your clothes are there on the
chair on the other side of the bed. They’ve been cleaned and
“Can I walk on my own?” the question confused the boy even more.
He sensed a headache building at his temples.
“The doctor will be here in about a half hour, to look you over.
Said you might have a headache and for you to make sure you
drank plenty of fluids, so I figured orange juice would be good
“Thank you, mister.” The boy waited for the man to leave,
retrieved the clothes set out for him. As he dressed, he saw the
vivid bruises that corresponded with the various aches he felt;
his mind drew a blank when he tried to remember what happened.
Once dressed in his pants and shirt, he walked over and took a
seat at the small table upon which the man had placed the tray
After receiving news that the boy had awakened and was eating,
the physician made his way to the hotel. Minutes later while
examining the boy, the doctor announced, “The original gunshot
wound appears to have healed nicely.”
Doc Webster continued to re-examine the boy, grimacing at the
colorful bruising upon his face. After assisting the boy in
removing his shirt, the doctor continued to reacted with
trepidation as the boy’s arms showed the vivid bruising
indicating the severity of his being forcibly held, as well as
the rope burns to his wrists. The physician remembered the day
before; with the unconscious boy lying on an examination table…
The father’s demeanor screamed of rage as he stripped off the
tattered and filthy clothing his son had worn, only to have a
deep seeded fury take its place as the colorful bruising showed
upon his son’s small frame and rope burns to his wrists indicate
how much he struggled against his restraints.
The doctor’s attention returned to the present when he heard,
“You know about this?” and the boy raised his hand to his
“Sure, it happened here, in Cloudcroft. I was the physician who
first treated you.”
“Oh… Do you know who I am?”
“Headache worse?” the doctor asked as he saw the boy wince in
pain. It’s not that he ignored the boy’s question he just knew
it wasn’t for him to tell the boy the truth.
He nodded. “It just keeps pounding; I thought it would ease up
after eating and drinking… But…” the boy groaned as another pain
stabbed at his head.
“Here, let me help you to bed, I think that would be best for
the day. I’ll also prepare something to help alleviate that
After suffering through a deposition by the judge and being
summarily dismissed after signing the official report
acknowledging the events that lead up to the death of an Army
officer at the hands of a civilian, Lucas left the judge’s
chambers to return to the hotel, and his son.
As he walked out the door, he didn’t hear the judge sputtering
nor see the man’s face turn red from embarrassment as when the
captain entered the chambers and demanded to know why the judge
was harassing the man. Every one present had witnessed the
events unfold and it was up to the Army to handle any
proceedings. Captain Monterrey apologized to Lucas after stating
he had already written his official report for filing with his
“Mr. McCain, the ramifications from what happened yesterday
would have been unkind to you, had I not witness my lieutenant’s
actions and been prepared to drawn my own pistol. Our orders
were to stop a potential Indian uprising, but… there was no
reason for your son, nor your friend to be treated as they were.
I will see to it that you are recompensed.”
“I don’t want payment, I just want my son to return to being the
healthy young man he was before we rode into this God forsaken
Lucas turned his back on the military officer and walked away.
Waking as the bright afternoon sun streamed through the window,
the boy sat in the bed and thought on the images he’d dreamed.
Images of a man who towered above him, images of him jumping up
and hauling himself into the saddle, images of sitting on the
porch late at night with the man and his soothing voice, images
of the man saying, ‘I’m proud of you son’, images that blurred
together before they settled upon a mirror. In the mirror, he
was looking at himself and laughing at the man standing behind
him, and he called him, “Pa.”
His reverie was broken when the boy heard voices arguing outside
the door to his room.
“He has amnesia,” one voice said. “It’s best to proceed slowly.”
“Get out of my way… or so help me!” another, angrier voice
“LucasBoy, listen to the doctor,” another older voice answered.
“You can’t stop me from seeing him!” the second voice commanded.
“Mr. McCain!” declared the first voice.
The boy startled the when he heard a thump against the wall and
the door was forcefully opened and there stood the tall man with
a rifle in hand.
Without hesitation, the first word the boy spoke was, “PA?!” as
an incredulous expression forced tears from his eyes.
“Mark?” Lucas tentatively asked.
“Pa… you’re my pa!” declared Mark. “I remember! I remember…Pa…”
tears streamed down Mark’s face as everything he feared gone
stood in front of him and returned to his memory.
Lucas momentarily froze, his boy had called him Pa, but the
vivid bruises still angered him.
“The bruises will fade, in time. Go to him, Mr. McCain… Go to
your son,” encouraged Dr. Webster.
Sam Buckhart and Micah Torrance sat in the hotel room, helping
to fill in the blanks of what happened in those first few hours
and days after father and son had been wounded. Lucas continued
with telling how he and the U.S. Marshal set out, only to
return. How Lucas was too sick to carry on. Sam told the story
of Silas Waiscott’s return to Cloudcroft, assisting during the
search and Indian attack, and his untimely death.
“Least his death will save the town the expense of a trial, and
having to take care of him for the rest of his life while in
prison…” Micah stated, with some regret.
Mark sat quietly, listening to the adults’ talk of how he was
handed over to outsiders, with no compassion for his father’s or
his own feelings. He remembered how Horatio Pettigrew told him
the courts had given custody of him to someone else, as if he
were nothing more than a business deal.
“Mark, where were you?” Lucas finally asked as the three men had
no more to tell.
Sam Buckhart had worried about this question. He’d not had a
chance to talk with the boy after the physician had completed
“I’d rather not say…” answered Mark.
“Why not?” a shocked Micah asked.
Torn between the conveyed lie versus protecting those at
Ranchero Orchha, Mark answered, “I feel I owe the people who
took care of me… They didn’t ask for the trouble I brought to
“What kind of trouble could you have brought to them, boy?”
Micah asked. “From what Sam said, they took you…” His curiosity
“They only want to liave in peace, off the land, and not be
bothered by outsiders…” Feeling the answer wasn’t enough to
explain, Mark continued, “Even though I didn’t remember who I
was or where I was from… I sort of upset the applecart. I didn’t
“Guess they weren’t used to having youngsters around, especially
one named Mark McCain,” teased Micah.
“He gave me the name Jules… Mr. Dakkar saw to my needs, medical
attention, food, chores even seeing that I continued my
education… But some things I saw… deep in my heart… I knew
“Regardless, I’d like to thank him… Do you know where he lives?”
“No… I was asleep when they took me there…”
“But you were awake when you left, weren’t you?” asked Micah.
“Lucas, Micah, I do not know all they reasons, only that the man
was riding with Mark when I encountered them. He only had one
request and that was that I not divulge anything of him or his
ranch to the outside world.”
“But how do we explain where Mark’s been all these months?”
“The only explanation that I am prepared to file with my report
was that he was found by a wagon train, they came upon the
aftermath of the Indian attack and took pity upon the boy. We
can talk among ourselves of the truth, but in public, I ask that
we respect Mr. Dakkar’s request for privacy.”
With careful consideration, Lucas answered, “Seeing as he did
take such good care of my son… I don’t see what it would hurt.”
The father smiled as he looked upon his son.
Later that evening, in the hotel restaurant in Cloudcroft, those
from North Fork and U.S. Marshal Sam Buckhart sat around the
table having shared a good time together over supper. As the
waitress cleared the dirty dishes from the table top and offered
to get more coffee, Micah Torrance carefully pulled out a rolled
sheet of paper, wrapped with a silk ribbon and handed it to
“What is this?”
“Just something for your birthday…” Micah stated.
Birthdays, as wells holidays were something that just weren’t
overly observed in the McCain household due to the one who was
no longer with them. While traveling to find a new place to call
home, money for presents and space for toys just wasn’t
practical, and the memory that Margaret had so loved the
occasions and made each one more special than the last; to
celebrate had just been too painful due to their grief. But,
they had been settled for enough years and by not celebrating,
Lucas came to realize that they did need to celebrate the small
and the big occasions, as a way to keep Margaret in their lives.
Lucas remembered the year before, when Mark had taken a job with
Nils at the livery, all to earn money to purchase him a new
saddle as a birthday present; (Refers to events in season four
episode: First Wages) ‘Maybe the grief has lessened to a point
where we really should start celebrating...’ thought Lucas.
Untying the ribbon, Lucas unrolled the paper and read its
“Micah, I thought when Judge Zeller rescinded his findings, the
governor’s involvement would no longer be required,” stated Sam
as he looked at the document Lucas held.
“I just wanted to make it official, just in case the judge’s
paperwork got lost,” answered Micah.
“We don’t need a piece of paper to know we’re father and son,”
Mark stated, not sure exactly why the document his father held
was so important.
“Mark, it’s true that we don’t need this,” Lucas held out the
declaration, “But, it’s good to know we have important people
who are willing to put it in writing, to make it official in a
The waitress came to refill the coffee cups for the men and set
another glass of sarsaparilla tea on the table for Mark.
“Would you like a piece of apple pie?” asked Micah.
“No thank you,” Mark replied.
“You? Turn down a piece of pie?” Lucas’ voice reflected his
“I’m just not in the mood for pie tonight. But thank you for
Lucas cast a parental eye upon his son. But the document in his
hand, it touched Lucas, “Micah, this is the best present you
could ever give me.” His eyes brimmed with tears. “And Sam’s
present means so much. The time, the effort… I can’t thank you
enough for bringing Mark back to me.”
Lucas looked to his son still sitting quietly beside him, “Mark?
Are you okay?”
“I guess so,” replied the young man.
“Something the matter?” Micah asked.
“I… I don’t have a present for Pa…” guilt colored his voice.
Placing his cupped hand behind his son’s neck and giving him a
gentle squeeze, Lucas said, “Mark, you gave me a very precious
gift this morning.”
Mark cocked his head and scrunched his face because he knew he
hadn’t given anything to his pa. Micah and Sam withheld their
mirth caused by the boy’s actions.
“When I walked into your room, you recognized me and called me
Pa. That’s the precious gift you gave me. It means the world to
“That present means much to us, as well,” answered Sam.
“Just seeing the two of you together, and calling each other
father and son… Dang if I’m not going to have to see Doc Burrage
about my eyes. Don’t know why they’re watering…” Micah stated as
he wiped away the tears that threatened to fall.
Alone in their hotel room, Lucas help Mark as he stiffly moved
to undress and get ready for bed. With a nightshirt on, Mark sat
in the bed and watched as his father covered him with the
blanket, his eyes focused on his arms and knowing the bruises
that covered his torso.
“Doc Webster said you should take some laudanum before going to
sleep…” Lucas stated as he sat down on the edge of the bed and
handed a glass of water to his son.
“Will it make the bruises and the memories go away?” Mark asked,
unable to look to his father.
“No, unfortunately, nothing will erase the memories, time will
heal the bruises, and hopefully, we’ll be able to forget the
Taking his time to drink, Mark continued to think and finally
asked, “Why? Why did he do it?”
“He wasn’t right in his head; the major informed me that when
the man was a young boy, his family was killed during an Indian
raid… I can’t explain any more than that.”
“Pa… can we go home?”
“I’ll see what the doctor says in the morning… I’m ready to go
Sam Buckhart stiffly rolled from his bed at the hotel and
moaned; the medication the doctor had prescribed for him the
night before had worn off and his muscles protested his
movement. Knowing he had obligations to fulfill as a U.S.
Marshal kept him from returning to the soft bed he’d slept upon.
“Maybe I am becoming too soft,” Sam spoke as he stood to take
care of his personal needs. He thought of those who had probably
returned to the reservation some days before; those who only
made the situation worse by following Mueglion. He couldn’t
blame them, not outright, that distinction belonged to Horatio
Pettigrew and Judge Holcomb Zeller. If he had anything to say
about it, Cloudcroft would soon be in need of a new judge.
As the Apache lawman stepped from the hotel, he wondered on what
would have happened to Mark McCain had the attack not occurred…
Had he made it all the way to Rio Rancho... What exactly was the
home? And as for the Pettigrew Home for Wayward Boys… There
would be a new administrator designated to watch over the boys
and if it really wasn’t… it would soon truly be an orphanage,
with people who cared about the boys who called the place home.
Sam stepped into Nathan Ironwood’s office and closed the door.
“Marshal… How are you this morning?” Nathan asked.
“Better,” Sam answered as he moved to the seat the Indian Agent
offered to him.
“I presume you’re here about Mueglion and the others?”
“I am. As you are probably aware, Mueglion is dead.”
“Keeno and Mondola told me. And let me assure you, they and the
others who followed Mueglion will be properly disciplined,”
“No. Even though Captain Monterrey stated it would be within his
right to transport them to the nearest fort…”
“What’s to become of them?”
“I rode with the captain to Mugua’s camp, and the captain agreed
that Mugua would have jurisdiction over those who survived. It
appears that before their first raid, a number of the ‘braves’
were appalled by Mueglion and begged off; it was one thing to
talk of following the paths of their ancestors, but to actually
go through with the brutality... Those who were truly at the
heart of the uprising have already paid the ultimate price… But
believe me, Mugua will not discipline those who returned
lightly; he already told me what he has in store for those who
defied him and left. Even though they did not actively
participate… they watched and did nothing to stop it.”
“I guess that’s all I need to know.”
“Sam…” Ironwood called as the marshal stood to leave. “They are
good people… Mugua wants peace.”
“We all do…”
The morning sun was rising over Cloudcroft as Sheriff Dave
Vestor stood outside the door to the hotel room shared by the
McCains, a saddlebag in his hands.
“Good Morning, Lucas,” Dave greeted when Lucas answered the
“Good Morning, Dave. Come in,” offered Lucas.
“I arrived at the office this morning and found this on my desk…
The note said these belonged to Mark…”
Mark was finishing buttoning his shirt when he looked up to see
what the sheriff held in his hands.
“Mine?” Mark inquired as he accepted the saddlebags.
“That’s what the note said… I’ll leave you two…” and the sheriff
left the room.
From the saddle bags the Sheriff had given to him, Mark pulled
out clothes he had worn while at Ranchero Orchha and from the
bottom a book. Lucas carefully watched his son, thankful to be
reunited, but curious and cautious as he son’s expression
“What’s that Mark?” inquired Lucas.
“Just a book Mr. Ambrose gave me.”
“Mr. Ambrose Gave you?”
“Yes sir, he told me it might help me understand.”
Raising his eyebrows Lucas stepped close to his son. “Understand
“He was my teacher… I argued with him… I think he wanted me to
learn… about why they were… the way they were. He felt this was
the best way for me to learn about the applecart I upset…” Not
knowing how to explain to his father all that he had
experienced, he decided to tell a little about what he had read.
“It’s the story of a man who turned his back on humanity and
chose to live off the sea… actually, under the sea. Pa, do you
think someday, man will be able to travel under the waters like
Captain Nemo did?”
Taking a good look at his boy, Lucas cocked his head sideways;
he knew his son was trying to sidestep an issue he was
struggling to comprehend.
“Something else is bothering you, isn’t it, son?”
Mark nodded as he set the book on the bureau next to his saddle
Motioning for his son to follow him and have a seat next to him
on the bed, Lucas suggested, “Maybe I can help if you tell me
about what you’re thinking.”
“It’s difficult to explain, because of the behaviors of the
lieutenant and Mr. Dakkar… Something bad happened to both of
them, but… I can understand man turning against his fellow man,
when it’s literature…” Mark answered as he ran the tips of his
fingers over the faded scar from the bullet that grazed his
head. “Back home, you always greeted strangers with an open
hand, offered them a meal…”
“But?” Lucas promoted.
“But Mr. Dakkar… He seemed… I don’t know… Pa, he was real, not
some character in a novel; and he took care of the people who
worked for him, he even took me in…” Lucas allowed his son the
time to think about what he needed to express, to work through
what must be a jumble of thoughts. “I have to admit that how he
and the others lived off the land and tried to take care of it
was the right way… to care for the land, I mean... But to shun
society… To refuse aid to those in need… But he didn’t refuse
all, he helped those who were in trouble, because of others… Not
because they were there of their own choice… That’s why he
“Mr. Dakkar told me that one of the reasons they left Europe was
that… years ago his son died in a horrible way… He and the
others crossed the Atlantic and settled in the east for a while,
only to realize that it was becoming too much like what they had
left… and why they had left… The population, crime, illness…
that’s why they came out here.
“Pa, if he loved his son… How could he keep me from you?
Wouldn’t he know how much you would be hurting? He wanted me to
make their ranch, my home.”
“I can’t speak for Mr. Dakkar… what he was thinking... Maybe he
saw something of the son he lost in you, and wanted you as his
“Pa! He’s old enough to be my grandfather and then some! How
could he think of me as his son?!”
Lucas smiled at his son’s outburst, but kept his amusement to
himself. “Mark, if I had lost you, say… when I lost your mother,
I guess…as the years passed… if I saw a young man who reminded
me of my boy… Maybe my mind would play tricks on me and make me
think that it was you. And I might do just about anything to be
reunited with you.”
“Would you kidnap a boy? I know he didn’t exactly kidnap me, but
still… He kept me from you.”
“Not if I was in my right mind. And who knows what Mr. Dakkar’s
mental state really was.”
Mark sat still, hand between his knees, shoulders slumped, head
“But he ultimately returned you to me…” Lucas added.
“Sort of…” Looking down to his hands as he began to twist them
in his lap, Mark guiltily stated, “Pa… I’m sorry. I wish I could
forget all about it like a bad dream…” Mark exhaled a heavy sigh
and tried to stop his tears from falling.
“Mark, I wish upon your mother’s grave that neither of us had to
experience what happened.”
Mark stood and walked back to the bureau. As he picked up the
book to put it into his saddlebag he asked, “We’re going to be
okay, aren’t we?”
“We’ll be fine, as long as we have each other,” answered Lucas.
“And Micah,” teased Mark as the first real smile appeared upon
his face since that fateful day in Cloudcroft as North Fork’s
town marshal knocked and entered their room.
“Ready to go home LucasBoy?” the lawman inquired.
“I think we’re both ready,” answered Lucas as he stood, gathered
his saddle bags and walked out the doorway, following after
Micah. “Come along, Mark. Let’s go home.”
Taking a moment to look one last time around the room, Mark
shook his head in disbelief before following the most important
men in his life to where they belonged -- home.
Captain Monterrey greeted Lucas, Micah, and Mark as they stepped
from the hotel.
“Gentlemen. Again, I’d like to offer my apologies regarding the
lieutenant. I had no idea…” His eyes focused on the bruises upon
the young man’s face. “He had no right to treat you as he did…”
“He had no right to treat Marshal Buckhart as he did either!”
declared Mark as he took a step forward.
“No, but unfortunately, I trusted his word that his prisoners
were… renegades and you a long time captive of the Apache. We
needed to know the truth.”
“Marshal Buckhart told the truth!” Mark angrily announced.
“We know that… now.”
“You should have known that then!” argued Mark. “You’re just as
bad as the others! Regardless of the reasons… you turned a blind
Lucas wanted to restrain his son from venting his anger at the
soldier, but he had also seen something in his son’s eyes
earlier that told him his son was far from healed from his
“No… you’re right… I am guilty of turning my back on what was
happening in my own command. I know it doesn’t justify the
means, but… we were desperate to find Mueglion and his band.”
“And now?” asked Mark.
“We’ll return to our post, with my report indicating that
Lieutenant Drake’s actions were detrimental to the U.S. Army and
this cavalry unit in particular.” Bowing his head, “There will
be no honor associated with the lieutenant’s name. And… your
father will not face any charges related to the death of the
lieutenant, his actions were justifiable…to save your life. In
time… maybe we can give up the hate.”
“And the fear…” acknowledge Mark.
“Fear?” queried Micah.
“It’s the fear of the unknown… fear of change that causes some
men to hate and to shut themselves off from the world around
them,” answered Mark.
Turning to walk away from the men who stood next to him, Mark
knew he was not only talking about the Lieutenant, he was also
talking about Morgan Dakkar and the others. Though their hate
wasn’t in anger, their fear and hating what man could do to man
had brought about their self-centeredness.
As he walked towards the livery, saddlebags over his shoulder,
Mark whispered, “Some day… we all have to learn to trust, help,
and believe in our fellow man, regardless how far from home we
Endnote: I mean no copyright infringement in writing this story,
especially since no profit is earned. I give credit to
Levy-Gardner-Laven Productions, Inc. for the creation of The
Rifleman and its publicly recognized characters. The book given
to Mark McCain by Reginald Ambrose in this story was Twenty
Thousand Leagues under the Sea by Jules Verne, published in
1870. Writing and sharing this story is just a way for the
characters to live on in this little piece of my imagination.
The plot and the characters not recognized from “The Rifleman”
are from my own over active imagination.
As the story developed, the plotline and characters did stray
from my original outline…because I grew too attached to some I
had intended to kill off, but I am quite satisfied with how the
story turned out. I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey as Lucas and
Mark were Leagues from Home.
Characters acknowledged from The Rifleman:
U.S. Marshal Sam Buckhart
Marshal Micah Torrance
Nils Swenson – owned the livery
John Hamilton – North Fork bank manager
Oat Jackford – only referenced - rancher
Doctor Burrage – only referenced
Horatio Pettigrew - home for wayward boys
Nathan Ironwood – Indian Agent
Aaron Provo – trail hand/ drifter
Silas Waiscott - former slave
Ted Cassidy – brains for bank robbery – founder of bank.
Hank Williams – Cloudcroft bank manager
Deputy Dave Vestor (brother of Miss Matilda)
Judge Holcomb Zeller
Doctor Mitchell Webster
Caleb O’Donnell, esquire – lawyer
Avery Jenkins – town solicitor
U.S. Marshal Sam Buckhart
Miss Matilda – Madam (Sister of Deputy Dave Vestor)
Dominique / Enola – Miss Matilda’s / wife of Silas
Agnes – Miss Matilda’s
Leila – Miss Matilda’s
Angeline – Miss Matilda’s
Veronica – Miss Matilda’s
Mugua – Indian Chief
Mueglion – son of chief
Keeno – Ironwood’s young assistant – Mescalero
Pate - Mescalero
Quantra - Mescalero
Mondola – Mescalero
Ranchero Orchha founders left Europe in search of the adventure
in the New World. As America became more populated, the cities
and towns reminded the men of the bitter lives which forced them
to flee across the ocean, so they set out in search of new land,
where they could live as they saw fit. Living off the land, but
for everything they take, something is given back.
They are distrustful of those who greedily seek their fortune at
the expense of others, yet at the same time, champion the
Morgan Dakkar – Ranchero Orchha
Curly Smythe – hand at Ranchero Orchha
Parson Boggs – hand at Ranchero Orchha
Reginald Ambrose – teacher from Cambridge who lives at Ranchero
Doctor Herbert Milano – physician at Ranchero Orchha
Lin Tang – housekeeper/cook/major domo at Ranchero Orchha
Lieutenant Charles Drake
Trey Provo – Aaron’s brother - deceased
Deuce Hollender - former military - deceased
Abe Moffett - possible mountain man - deceased
Zeke Hansen - young kid (twentyish) - deceased
Sheriff Wade Pattison - deceased
Jedidiah Jones – guide - deceased
Horatio Pettigrew - home for wayward boys - deceased
Giles (Malloy) – man servant for Horatio Pettigrew - deceased
This is a story based on the TV
series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
around The McCain Ranch