The Writer's Corner
Written by Deanne Bertram
Lucas and Mark McCain, Micah Torrance, and Johnny Drako stepped
from the Mallory House restaurant into the darkness of the night
when a stage entered the town of North Fork and stopped in front
“Little late for a stage run,” Johnny commented.
“Wonder what they’re doing here so late? The regular stage
arrived earlier this afternoon,” Mark replied.
“We’ll find out soon enough, son.” Lucas said as he placed a
hand on his son’s shoulder.
They waited for the three passengers to exit the coach and claim
their bags and trunks from atop the stage.
“Good evening gents. Welcome to North Fork.” Micah said, as the
men turned to enter the hotel.
“Good evening, ah Marshal. Unexpected to have you meet us here.
My name is Samuel Avery, this is my associate Seth Brody, and
this other gentleman is opposing counsel, Frederick Burris.”
“I’m Marshal Micah Torrance,” and then pointing to each one as
he introduced them, “my deputy, Johnny Drako, and Lucas McCain
and his boy Mark, they own a ranch just outside of town. What
brings you gents to North Fork?”
“Is there somewhere that we might talk, Marshal? We need to
discuss a situation and bring it to the attention of your town
council.” Samuel Avery stated.
“Well Lucas is the President of our town council.” Micah
answered. “We can go into the hotel, get you checked in, and
then talk in the restaurant.”
Mark watched the three men go up the stairs as his father,
Micah, and Johnny assisted in carrying the trunks to their
Mark observed the three men, Sam Avery was somewhat tall, but
not quite as tall as his Pa, and heavy set, probably about 45
years old. His eyes were narrow set, under black, bushy
eyebrows. Seth Brody was about as tall as Johnny Drako and
skinny, he looked like he was only in his early 20’s. His face
and hands looked weathered, as if he should be out in the
saddle, not in a suit. Mark also noticed he didn’t look
comfortable in the suit he was wearing. Frederick Burris, was
quite the sight. Mark couldn’t guess at his age. A very petite
man and the hat he wore, over emphasized how small of a man he
was. He walked stiffly, as if it would lend height to his frame.
As they returned to the restaurant and sat down around a large
table, Drako was the first to ask, “So what do three lawyers
need to discuss with our town council?”
“This ain’t no conversation for a boy, get him out of here.”
Brody stated, irritation in his voice.
“I don’t keep things from my boy. He has a right to know what
affects this town, Mister. I’m the one who’ll decide if he
stays, so you can just hold off giving orders when it comes to
my boy.” Lucas said with a defensive tone to his voice.
Avery motioned for Brody to leave, “Brody, if you can’t keep
your tongue civil, you can just leave.” Brody left the room, as
he reached the archway, Mark noticed he stopped and raised his
hand to his side, as if there should be a gun and holster on his
right hip. “Mr. McCain, I offer you my apologies for my
Frederick Burris started to answer Drako’s question. “Have any
of you heard of Dak Yates?” He watched as they nodded that they
had. “Well, he was captured and is to stand trial for murder and
“How does this affect North Fork? Heard tell he was captured
outside of Lubbock, Texas.” Micah stated.
“Gentlemen, Mr. Yates is my client.” Avery stated. “As you are
aware of his reputation this far away from Texas, you can only
imagine his reputation in Texas. A change of venue was granted
for this trial.”
“Chance of venue? What’s that?” Mark asked.
“Mark, a change of venue means to hold the trial in a different
town. A town that might not be as prejudiced against the
outlaw.” Micah answered.
“Yes,” Avery continued. “It was a long time coming to an
agreement between counsels as to where we would hold the trial.
My client will arrive here in three days. He’s being escorted by
a number of Texas Rangers, to make sure he gets here safe and
sound. We’ll require the use of your jail and I presume you have
a location we can use for the trial?”
Burris interjected, “We’ll also need to reserve rooms in the
hotel for the judge and the witnesses we’re bringing in.”
“Short timing, but I think we can see to those arrangements,”
Drako commented. “Who’s supposed to preside over the trial?”
Burris answered, “Judge Jarod Martin, from Lubbock. He’s
scheduled to arrive tomorrow.”
Johnny commented, “I know the judge, he’s a fair man. Quite
respected in the legal community. Most outlaws don’t want to see
the inside of this courtroom.”
“Gentlemen, tomorrow’s going to come soon enough. My boy and I
need to get back home. Micah, I’ll return to town tomorrow after
Mark and I finish our chores. Nothing we can do in town until
the noon stage arrives with the judge. Why don’t you and Johnny
make arrangements with the rest of the town council to have a
meeting, say an hour after the stage arrives.”
Lucas and Mark left the restaurant for a second time that
evening. The mounted their horses in front of the Marshal’s
office and headed home.
“The one called Brody… I, I don’t think he’s a lawyer.” Mark
“Just what makes you say that? Mr. Avery introduced him as his
associate.” Lucas said.
“That’s just it; he left us to think that ‘his associate’ would
mean that he’s a lawyer. When Brody was trying to get me out of
the room, he just didn’t sound like a lawyer. Also, the way he
carries himself, before he left the room, I think that he
actually wanted to pull a gun, only he wasn’t wearing one.”
“Mark, you don’t need to dream up trouble when there’s nothing
there. Let’s get home boy. We’ve a lot of work to do in the
morning before coming back to town.”
Members of the North Fork town council were already waiting in
the hotel restaurant when Lucas and Mark arrived in town. They
stopped at the livery and asked Nils if they could leave Razor
and Blue Boy there, not knowing how long they’d be in town. They
unsaddled their horses and put them in stalls for the day.
As they left the livery, the noon stage arrived, followed by two
riders wearing Texas Ranger badges, rifles held ready on their
thighs. The stage pulled up in front of the hotel. An older
gentleman was the first to step out of the stage. He carried
himself with an air of authority as he walked into the hotel. He
was followed by three other men who appeared to be business men.
Yet, it was these three men who constantly looked around, as if
in fear. They quickly collected their bags and entered the
Seeing the stage arrive, Micah Torrance and Johnny Drako left
the Marshal’s office and headed for the hotel, meeting Lucas and
Mark out front as the stage pulled away.
As Lucas was about to enter the hotel, he turned to Mark, “Son,
you best wait out here. I know you want to know what’s
happening, but this is a special meeting of the town council.
Not sure how these new arrivals would take to a 16 year old in
attendance. Why don’t you help the Rangers take their horses
over to Nils.” Lucas turned and followed Micah and Johnny into
Mark turned and addressed the riders. “Good Afternoon. If you’d
like, I can show you over to the livery where you can leave your
“We appreciate the offer, but we’ve not been dismissed yet,”
said one of the two Rangers as they dismounted. “You live here
“Na, my Pa and I live outside of town, we’ve a cattle ranch. My
name’s Mark McCain.”
“Nice to meet you,” said the first rider as he extended his
hand. “My name’s Kaleb Martin, this here’s my brother Keifer.”
As the second rider offered to shake Mark’s hand, Mark saw that
both men looked alike, as if seeing two pictures side by side.
And it wasn’t because both men wore black hats and tan dusters.
“Pleased to meet you.” Mark answered. “So you just have to
“Yes Mark,” Keifer stated. “Until the Judge dismisses us, we
still on duty.”
“Is the Judge your Pa? I notice you’ve the same last name.”
“You weren’t introduced to the judge, how’d you know his name?”
Keifer asked, a little concerned in how a boy knew information
that shouldn’t be common knowledge, at least not yet.
“Those three attorneys who came in last night. Said Judge Jarod
Martin would be arriving today and Dak Yates would arrive in
three with Rangers as escort.”
“Yes, Mark, the Judge is our father. We’re assigned as his guard
as well as protection duty for the three witnesses that arrived
with him.” Kaleb answered.
“They didn’t say anything last night about the witnesses coming
“Well, we didn’t tell anyone when the witnesses would arrive or
how they would be arriving on purpose. It was for their
protection. You said three attorneys?” Keifer asked.
“Yes, the first one is Sam Avery, then Seth Brody, and Frederick
Burris, if I remember their names right.”
“Brody ain’t no lawyer. He does the grunt work for Sam Avery.”
Kaleb said, shaking his head. “Well at least we know he’s here.”
Then from the hotel a distinguished voiced called, “Rangers,
“Boy, that means us. Mind looking after our horses for a spell?”
Keifer asked as he and Kaleb handed their reins to Mark and
stepped on the porch to enter the hotel. “Would you take our
mounts to the livery? I’m sure we’ll be able to find it once the
Judge is done with us.”
“Sure.” Mark replied.
The three witnesses were assigned rooms and immediately went
upstairs. The Judge and the two Rangers followed Micah, Johnny,
and Lucas into the restaurant where introductions were made all
The Judge laid out a schedule of events to begin the following
day. Jury selection would start, first with members of the town
council answering questions proposed by the attorneys, then if
the jury box was not fully filled; then members of the town
would be interviewed.
Arrangements were made for securing the jail, escorting the
prisoner between the jail and trial location, as well as
securing the safety of the witnesses.
The discussions continued until early evening when the Judge
called for a closure to the meeting so folks could go about
their evening meals. Lucas excused himself from the group and
left the restaurant to find out where his son spent the day.
Lou Mallory was behind the hotel counter as Lucas walked up.
“Lou, might you happen to know where Mark is? Didn’t think the
meeting would take so long.” Lucas asked, as he ran his fingers
through his hair before putting his hat on.
“I believe he’s spent the day helping Nils out over at the
livery. You plan to have dinner at the restaurant?”
“Not tonight Lou, Mark and I need to get home. Thanks anyway.”
Lucas turned and left.
Lucas walked into the livery to see Mark and Nils involved in a
game of checkers, obvious that Nils didn’t have a chance to win
“Hey Lucas, you here to rescue me from your son? He’s won every
game so far,” Nils said as he started to get up.
“Not yet, you two go ahead and finish. I’ll saddle Razor and
Blue Boy, and then if you need rescuing, I’ll see about it.”
Lucas grinned as he saw the expression on Nils face, indicating
he really wanted to be done with the game and not suffer another
defeat. Mark started to get up to help his Pa, but Lucas
motioned for him to sit back down and continue the game.
As father and son rode home, Mark was eager to ask questions
about the town council meeting and the upcoming trial of Dak
Yates, however, he had learned over the years that when his Pa
was in “that” mood, it didn’t do Mark any good to push for
answers. So they rode in silence.
As they got home, Mark told his Pa that he’d take care of the
horses and took the reins and led the horses to the barn. Mark
also hoped that by the time he returned to the house that his
father would be in a better mood for talking. Mark took the time
to do a good currying of the horses, cleaning the bridle bits,
and wiping down the saddles before putting everything away.
As he turned from closing the barn door, he thought he saw the
silhouette of a person standing up on the hill, but as he tried
to focus his eyes on the exact location, he couldn’t make
anything out. So he went on to the house and said nothing. Mark
chalked it up to the sun light fading and shadows moving across
Dinner was over and Mark had just put the last of the dishes
away. He turned and watched his Pa sitting in his chair, reading
from the Bible. “Pa, I’m going to go ahead and turn in for the
night. Good night.” He waited, but received no response from his
Pa, so he turned and went to bed.
The sun rose on a beautiful summer morning. A gentle rain had
fallen overnight, leaving a sweet smell of freshness in the air,
as well as puddles on the ground, Mark realized as he walked
from the house to the barn. Mark turned the horses out in the
paddock and threw out hay to keep them occupied while he cleaned
their stalls. He fed the chickens and collected any eggs to take
to Lou for her restaurant.
As he returned to the house, he placed the basket of eggs on the
porch and stopped to pick up some firewood from the wood pile.
His gaze drifted to the hillside again, thinking he almost saw
someone. ‘Boy, Pa would just say I’m daydreaming,’ he thought to
Lucas was just setting a stack of flap jacks on the table as
Mark walked in to hear his Pa yelling, “Mark, rise and shine,
time for lazybones to get out of bed.”
“Pa, I’ve been up for a while.” Mark laughed as his Pa quickly
turned around, seeing his son entering the kitchen after wiping
his feet at the back door.
“Sorry, guess I’m just a little distracted.”
“That’s okay. You want to talk about it?” Mark asked.
“No, not yet. I’ll know more later today. Mark I want you to
stay here today. There’s plenty of work for you to do around the
ranch. There’s just so much going on in town, I’d prefer you
just stay at the ranch.”
Breakfast was eaten in silence. Mark saddled Razor and had him
waiting as his Pa finished getting dressed for the interview of
“Mark, I’ll be home when I can.”
Mark handed Lucas the basket with the eggs. Lucas mounted Razor
and rode at a leisurely pace to North Fork. Mark turned, walked
into the house and started to clear the table and get dishes
Jury selection started at 8:00 o’clock sharp. Some of the
questions asked were mundane and others were quite pointed. The
attorneys’ for both sides trying to find people who would be
sympathetic to their clients. As Avery and Burris sat behind
their respective tables, Seth Brody was not present.
As president of the town council, Lucas was the last person
interviewed and the final member of the jury seated. It was well
after 4:00 o’clock when jury selection was completed. Everyone
else was excused. Judge Martin kept the jurors for a while
longer to give them instructions; they needed to select a jury
foreman before the trial started. Without any hesitation, Lucas
McCain’s name was at the top of everyone’s list. With that done,
Judge Martin released the jury with instructions to return no
later than Noon the following day.
Lucas headed to the Marshal’s office before leaving town. Lucas
told Micah and Johnny of those seated for the jury and him being
“Now Lucas, I do wish there were some way you could of gotten
yourself out of the jury. I just don’t like it.” Drako was
saying as he paced the floor, walking from the door to the
cells, then to look out the windows.
“Johnny, it’s a privilege to be part of a jury. Why should I
have tried to ‘get out’ of it?” Lucas replied.
“Lucas, I know of Dak Yates. Him and his gang both, are mean
ones. Most of his gang was either killed when they captured
Yates or they’ve already stood trial and are waiting for the
gallows. But I know they didn’t get them all. I’m just worried
about what happens during and after the trial. North Fork could
really use you and your rifle.” Johnny explained. “I also know
Judge Martin and if you had told him about your abilities with
your rifle and that at times you’re our acting Marshal, I’m sure
he’d of let you off.”
“Lucas, Johnny’s right. I know this town is going to be filled
with Texas Rangers and they’ve been given special permission to
operate outside of Texas, but still, you know this town and her
people. Johnny and I sure could use you.” Micah said as he
poured himself another cup of coffee.
“Micah, Johnny, I know what you mean, but I also have a duty to
this community to sit on this jury. Besides, Johnny, with you
as Micah’s official Deputy, there’s not much need of me to be
acting Marshal. Listen, I need to get home. I kind of left Mark
out of my thinking, with all that’s going on. We rode home in
silence last night and this morning…” Lucas turned and headed
for the livery to get Razor for the ride home.
Johnny and Micah looked at each other then watched Lucas walk to
the livery. Both knowing that their comments didn’t ease the
concerns Lucas was already feeling.
As Lucas McCain rode out of town, a person, dressed in black,
entered the hotel via the back door. The person was led upstairs
to the judge’s room by Kaleb Martin, where they knocked and
waited for permission to enter.
“Enter,” came from behind the door.
They entered and closed the door behind them. While waiting for
the Judge to turn his attention from paperwork on the desk, they
both removed their cowboy hats. The judge turned around in his
chair and made a motioned for the two to have a seat. Kaleb went
to sit on the bed next to his brother. The smaller figure leaned
against the edge of the desk, while the judge leaned back in his
“Glad you made it to town. Any problems getting here?” Judge
Martin asked addressing the newcomer.
“No sir. Rode in quiet, just like you had hoped. No one paid any
attention to me, ‘specially with everyone paying attention to
you and the Rangers being in town and talking of the upcoming
trial. Done some looking around the town,” the person spoke.
“So, do you think anyone on the jury might be at risk?”
“Well, from the make-up of the jury, most live here in town, or
if they live out of town, they don’t have anyone that could be
used against them, except one,” Judge Martin stated.
Keifer continued, “Everyone who lives out on ranches has plenty
of hands to help guard their property and families, except Lucas
McCain. He and his boy, Mark, only have each other. Occasionally
they hire on an extra hand, but right now, there’s no need.”
“Sir, do you really think that those remaining from Yates Gang
who got away would be bold enough to try something in North
Fork? Can’t see them doing anything without a real leader.
Yates’ being captured was like cutting the head off a snake and
that snake didn’t have two heads.” The person asked.
“I wouldn’t put it past them. If Yates arrives here safely, you
can bet they’ll bide their time and pull something here,” Judge
“So what’s my assignment, Judge?”
“Kaleb or Keifer will take you out to the McCain Ranch, I want
you to keep an eye on their place, without them knowing it.
McCain’s a tall man, about six foot, five I’d say. Carries a
.44-40 with him all the time. Easy to identify him. His boy’s
about 16 years old, maybe about your height.”
“Listen, we’ve heard talk of Lucas McCain and his abilities with
his rifle. They call him the rifleman,” Kaleb said. “Just keep
out of sight. We don’t want him accidentally shooting you. Just
keep a look out for anyone who doesn’t fit in. If you get too
concerned, grab the boy and head for town. This is a small
community, so any of Yates Gang should stick out like a sore
The three stood and left the room. There was a brief discussion
on who would stay behind to keep guard on the judge and the
three witnesses. The newcomer left the hotel via the back door,
mounted a horse and rode to the outskirts of North Fork and
waited for Keifer Martin to exit the hotel from the front door
and to get his horse from the livery and lead the way to the
Lucas arrived home to find Mark had finished his chores and was
already fixing a dinner of smoked ham and fried potatoes.
“Evening son,” Lucas stated as he set his rifle down in its
holder next to the door and placed his hat on the table next to
his chair. “Dinner smells good. Thought tonight was my night to
“It was, but I know how concerned you’ve been about the trial
and all, so I thought I’d surprise you. It’ll be done in just a
few more minutes.”
Mark pulled the top off the skillet and stirred the ham and
potatoes one more time. He quietly set the table, then spooned
dinner into a serving bowl and carried it to the table. Lucas
joined Mark at the table and said grace.
“Mark, I owe you an apology. I’ve just had a lot on my mind with
the trial coming to North Fork. I’m sorry for shutting you out
last night and this morning.”
“That’s okay Pa, I understand. I knew you had your reasons and
needed some thinking time.”
“Still, I should have talked with you night or at least this
morning,” Lucas declared. With a little more upbeat tone to his
voice, Lucas continued, “They sat the jury today and I was
elected the foreman.”
“That’s great Pa!” Mark stated, but restrained himself after
seeing the still worried expression on his father’s face, “But
there’s something more than just the trial, isn’t there?”
“I’m starting to understand my nervousness a little more.
There’s been something nagging at me and I couldn’t put my
finger on it until I spoke with Micah and Johnny before heading
home today. I’m concerned for you Mark. I’m the only one on the
jury who doesn’t have someone else to look after their family
while I’m on the jury. If something were to happen while I’m at
the trial…. Micah and Johnny will be busy in town... So, you’ll
be here alone and …” Lucas didn’t know exactly how to continue
or what he really wanted to say to his boy.
“Pa, I’ll be okay. I can do my chores in the mornings and head
to Nils in the afternoons, if it would make you feel better?”
“It would, but there’s too much going on in town, too many
strangers are expected, I’d prefer you not come to North Fork
while the trial is in session. Guess that goes to prove that you
are growing up. I remember all the times when you begged me not
to leave you with Hattie or Millie, now you’re offering to stay
with someone just to make me feel better.” Lucas smiled and then
took a sip from the coffee cup he’d been holding in his hands
for a while. “There’ll probably be a lot of strangers coming
into town to see the trial and I’m sure not all of them will be
honest folk. No, you best stay here. I’ll be home each night.”
While making his last round of North Fork for the night, Johnny
Drako saw a figure exit the hotel and keep to the shadows and
leave town. Quietly he ran back to his horse and followed. He
saw the rider stop and wait on the outskirts of town. Shortly
another rider approached, then the two rode. Johnny followed
them as they took the road to Lucas’ ranch. From a stand of
trees he watched as one rider returned to the road to North
Fork. Johnny took the road to the McCain’s, a short distance
away he dismounted and tied his horse in a ravine, then he
walked closer to the McCain’s place, trying to stay out of site,
yet looking for the person that stayed. He watched and waited.
The crescent moon was still in the night sky when Johnny Drako
heard the unmistakable sound of a rifle being cocked from
behind. Slowly he stood, raised his hands, and waited for the
other to make a move. He felt his gun being lifted from the
holster and barely heard the footsteps backing away.
“Turn around slowly, without trying anything,” the voice said,
lowered to almost a whisper. “Take off your hat.”
Johnny obeyed, he turned around slowly, trying to make out who
held a rifle on him.
“Johnny Drako! Do you realize how close you came to taking a
bullet? Man, what are you doing out here?” The voice asked,
taking on a more feminine tone, as the person approached Johnny,
offering his gun back to him.
“I know you?” Drako asked.
Before answering the question, the person took off their own hat
and gave a big smile, “Guess you’d recognize me better if I were
still wearing skirts and pigtails, that and had the twins
standing in front of me.” The figure tossed their rifle to
Johnny. He looked the stock over carefully, recognizing the
“Khalyn, Khalyn Martin?” Johnny asked with an incredulous look
on his face. “What are you doing out here and dressed like a
“Johnny, hand me back my rifle and stop gaping your mouth,”
Khalyn answered. Then pointing to the deputy badge that Johnny
wore, “So, you’re a deputy now. Heard tell you settled down,
just a little. What are you doing out here?”
“I asked you the same question. Lucas and Mark McCain are good
friends of mine. I saw a figure exit the hotel, keep to the
shadows, then meet up with another rider outside of town. With
the upcoming trial of Dak Yates, I figured no good could come
it. So I followed. Now answer me my question, what are you doing
“The Judge asked for me to meet him in North Fork. Figured I
could help out, behind the scenes. Not all of Yates Gang is
accounted for. From those jurors selected the Judge figured
McCain’s boy would be most at risk. So I’m here to keep an eye
out, without anyone else supposed to be knowing.”
“Glad the Judge realized the risk, but why not tell the
McCain’s? They’re good people. Why not tell me and the Marshal?”
“Johnny, the Judge isn’t sure that there is a risk on the boy,
but just in case, that’s why I’m here. You’ll have your hands
full, if those left loyal to Yates try anything in town. I’ll
keep to the hills here watching over the boy. If nothing
happens, no one needs to know I was here. If the Yates Gang is
around, they’ll be watching you, your Marshal, and the Rangers.
No one will pay mind to a ‘tom-boy’ out riding around. This is
the way the Judge wants it Johnny. You best get back to town,
and remember, no one can know I’m here.”
“Just when did you get rid of the skirt and pigtails? You were
such a cute little girl growing up.” Johnny said with a wide
smile brimming on his face.
Speaking through her embarrassment, “Johnny you knew Kaleb and
Keifer taught me how to shoot and to ride. Why you, yourself,
gave me some pointers about using a rifle when I was first
learning. It was only because of Aunt Liza that I stayed in
skirts as long as I did. She passed when I was 16, guess it was
a few months after the last time we saw you. About a month
later, I decided to cut my hair. Pa was furious when he saw it,
well then he found out about everything else, me riding and
shooting. But then the boys insisted I show Pa how good I was
with the rifle. The three of us had a shooting contest, Pa knows
how good the boys are, so he knew they weren’t pulling any of
their shots to make me look better. So he simmered down a
“So how is it you’re here helping out? Why not one of the
Rangers?” Johnny asked.
“About two years back, the boys were out riding back from
Odessa, and they got pulled into a case, by accident. Johnny I’m
sure you heard the story…” Johnny had heard tell of the case and
how if a stranger hadn’t happened along, both boys could have
been killed. He’d heard tell that the stranger didn’t even hang
around to give their name.
“Pa wanted to keep it a secret that I was actually riding with them and it
was me who helped the boys, he realized then how much of an
asset I could be behind the scenes. So no one but the family
knew, so every now and then, with the Judge’s approval, I help
“So you were the stranger.’ Johnny said, while shaking his head.
“Before I go, one last question. You still that good with a
“From what I hear, only that boy’s father is better than me. I’d
rather not have to find out though. I’d rather just sit out here
with nothing more to do than track the sun and moon.” With that,
Khalyn headed back into the darkness and moved to her
observation spot to keep an eye on the McCain Ranch.
Johnny returned to North Fork.
When Lucas arrived in town the next day, Micah and Johnny had
posted “No Guns” signs equal distance all around the building
housing the courtroom. Anyone going to the courtroom or anywhere
near the courtroom had to turn in their guns.
Lucas didn’t care to be so far from his rifle, but he knew he
had no choice. He walked into Micah’s office and handed over his
“Morning Micah, when is Yates supposed to arrive this morning,
Micah?” Lucas asked.
“Anytime now LucasBoy, anytime. Can’t say I’m eager to have him
here, but Johnny and I’ll have plenty of help with the Rangers
that are coming as well. You best get over to the courthouse,
can’t have the foreman arriving late.” Micah said as he was
signing in the gun of the next person in line.
Dak Yates arrived in the company of four additional Texas
Rangers. A single Ranger rode into North Fork followed shortly
by a buckboard driven by one Ranger with Yates handcuffed in the
back. Two Rangers rode to the side and behind the buckboard,
rifles at the ready. A riderless horse was tied to the back of
the buckboard. The group stopped in front of the courtroom.
Yates was hauled out of the buckboard and led inside. One
Ranger stood guard out front, while the other three took care of
Yates. Once Yates was in courtroom, a Ranger exited and with the
Ranger who stayed out front, took all the horses to the livery.
The courtroom was packed, standing room only. Judge Martin
called the trial to order and the first motion made was by the
defense to request the jury be sequestered. This threw the
courtroom into rampant discussions. Judge Martin banged his
gavel in an attempt to bring the courtroom back to order. Judge
Martin motioned for both counsels to approach the bench.
“Mr. Avery, this is a highly unusual request. Why sequester the
jury? We already moved the trial location at your request.”
asked the Judge.
“My client deserves to have a fair trial and that includes no
outside interference of the jury. There are so many people
visiting this town because of the trial that anyone could try
and sway a juror.”
“I object, these jurors should have been informed in advance of
this request so arrangements could be made. We have to put all
twelve up at the hotel. How do you accommodate them?” Mr. Burris
“I’m tempted to allow this request, however, we need to address
this now, before we continue any further,” Judge Martin stated
as he motioned the counselors back to their seats. “Marshal
Torrance are you present?” Seeing Micah stand up, he continued,
“Marshal, I need for you to take the jury to the deliberation
room for the time being. “ Turning to address the jury, “You are
to stay in the room until I request your attendance. Marshal
once the jury is in their room, I want you and your deputy to
make arrangements at the hotel for the jurors. Right now, the
Rangers can be moved out of the rooms that had been reserved for
them and over to the livery. Rangers get Yates back to his jail
cell. Afterwards, you’re to then see to assisting any other
guests to other arrangements. This trial is in recess for two
Micah and Johnny escorted the jurors to the deliberation room.
Lucas, Stevan Griswold, John Hamilton, and Oat Jackford stood to
the side of the room as Judge Martin entered the room. None had
a happy look on their faces as they knew what all being
sequestered would mean. Other jurors were trying to address the
judge, asking exactly what sequestering meant.
“People, I understand your frustrations , but Mr. Avery’s
request is a valid and legal request. I have no choice but to
honor his request. All of you will be allowed to write notes to
your families and I’ll make arrangements to have them delivered
this afternoon, but for the duration of the trial, you must stay
either in this room, the courtroom, your hotel rooms, or the
restaurant. Even the restaurant will be closed to outsiders when
you are present. I am sorry, but that is my decision.” With
that, Judge Martin turned and left the room.
“I don’t like this!” Lucas stated as he slammed his fist down on
the table top. His concern for Mark was becoming even more real.
Who knew how long the trial would last. Would any remaining
members of the Yates Gang try to make trouble?
“Lucas, I’m sure Mark will be okay, I can have one of my men
head over to your place to help Mark, as well as keep an eye on
the place,” Oat Jackford offered. “Put your note to Mark with
mine, I’ll have Mason head on over. Your boy knows him.”
“Thanks Oat, I just wish I would have known about this
yesterday.” Lucas complained.
“Don’t we all.” Stevan Griswold added.
The last note that Johnny Drako had to deliver was to Oat
Jackford’s place. He waited for Mason to come in from the range
so he could personally hand him the note that Lucas had written
for Mark. Johnny explained why Oat had offered Mason to help out
at the McCain’s Ranch.
“Mason, you need to keep a good eye out. I don’t trust that
there won’t be trouble the longer this trial goes. You know how
Lucas feels about his boy. Don’t let anything happen to him.”
Johnny waited until Mason was ready to head off to Lucas’, then
he returned to town. Assured that with two people now keeping an
eye out for Mark, he’d be alright, if the Yates Gang did make an
attempt on Mark.
Back in town the trial was back in session. Seth Brody was still
nowhere to be seen, in the courtroom or in town. After both
counsels gave their opening arguments, the trial started in
earnest. As each witness took the stand, they were sworn in “to
solemnly tell the truth” before they sat, next to the judge’s
The day was long and tiring for the jury. Lucas was forcing
himself to pay close attention to what was happening in the
courtroom, questions asked and how they were answered. He tried
to not let his attention drift to thoughts of what was happening
The first day finally came to a close. Micah and Johnny escorted
the jurors back to the hotel for the night. Saw to it that each
one entered their room without making any contact with anyone
else. Micah waited at the top of the staircase, while Johnny
went down to talk to Lou who watched the procession from the
“Lou, you’ve one hour to finish serving everyone currently in
the restaurant. We’ll bring the jurors in at that time. The only
talking is to take their food orders, nothing more, no questions
about the trial.”
“But Johnny, that’s not fair.” Lou complained. The Irish in her
was extremely inquisitive.
“I know how hard it’s going to be for you, but this is the way
it’s got to be. There’ll be plenty of time once the verdict is
reached that you can gossip.” Johnny couldn’t help the smile on
his face as Lou turned, getting her Irish up and walked into the
As the jurors finished dinner, Lucas heard multiple gun shots
coming from outside of Sweeney’s saloon. As he stood up to leave
to offer Micah and Johnny any assistance, he was stopped by one
of the Rangers.
“I’m sorry Mr. McCain, but you’ve got to stay inside.” His eyes
pleaded that Lucas obey him.
Lucas turned and walked back to the table and sat down. Everyone
around could see the frustration plainly on Lucas’ face. Lucas
being so close, but unable to help.
Dusk was falling as Khalyn watched the McCain’s place from her
hiding spot and saw a single rider coming down the road. The
rider fell backwards out of the saddle and then Khalyn faintly
heard the rifle shot. It had come from a long distance off. She
scrambled about, looking to see where the shot came from. There
was no movement, nothing to indicate the exact location of the
assailant. All she could do was watch, wait, and hope the
shooter would show himself. As the last light from the sun
faded, the rider didn’t move from where he landed. Khalyn
decided that she needed to get to the McCain’s ranch. Unsure who
the rider was, but knowing his death didn’t bode well for the
Khalyn made her way to the back of the house to find the bedroom
window ajar. Quietly she opened the window wide enough for her
to enter the darkened room. Once inside, she noticed the door
from the bedroom to the front room was open. Khalyn walked to
behind the door, looking around, trying to figure out how to get
the boy’s attention, to make him come into the bedroom so she
could talk with him, without anyone on the outside seeing a
second person in the lit front room. Before she could come up
with a plan, a shadow fell across the doorway and the boy
entered the room.
“Mark, don’t be scared. I’m here as a friend.” Khalyn spoke
with a firm gentleness in her voice.
Mark turned around quickly at the sound of the voice. Surprise
was evident on his face. His fists were clenched, ready for a
fight. “Who are you?” Mark asked, seeing a person about his size
coming from behind the door. Hat pushed back on their head,
wearing a dark shirt and pants, and hands held out to the side,
“Mark, I’m a friend. I need to get you out of here, for your own
“If you’re here as a friend, why not knock at the front door?
Why sneak in?”
“Because I couldn’t risk anyone seeing me. There was a single
rider on his way down the road. Someone killed him a while ago.”
“Pa?!” Panic welled inside Mark.
“Boy, I’m sure it weren’t your Pa. The rider wasn’t tall enough
and the horse had too much white to be your father’s horse.”
“How do you know my Pa?” Mark asked.
Khalyn made sure to not put her left hand anywhere near her
holstered gun, no need making the boy any more frightened than
she was sure he already was. “Mark, listen to me. I’ve been
watching your place since last night. I need to get you off your
ranch and away from the Yates Gang.”
“Why should I believe you? You could be one of them.”
“Mark, if I were one of them, I’d already have my gun drawn and
not having this conversation. The Judge sent me here. “ Khalyn
paused, hoping to see that Mark was believing her. “Look, I’m
going to leave by the window, but I need for you to trust me.
The shooter is probably watching the house. Go about your final
chores of the night. Go into the barn and saddle your horse,
when you leave the barn, blow out the lantern. Get back in the
house, blow out all the lanterns in the front room, light the
bedroom lantern, wait for a few minutes then blow it out. I then
want you to sneak out the window, keep close to the buildings,
then lead your horse out of the barn and quietly ride and meet
me at the small pond, the one with the two grave markers, one
says unknown, the other says Tip Corey. Can you do that boy?”
“Why should I trust you?” Mark asked, again, not believing that
this wasn’t a trap.
“Mark, my name’s Khalyn Martin. If your Pa ain’t home by now,
that means they’ve sequestered the jury. I’m here with the
Rangers and the Judge wants you safe.”
“Kaleb and Keifer?” Mark asked as he saw Khalyn nod. “So, if I
do as you say, where do we go from there?”
“I haven’t figured that one out yet. If it was someone from
Yates’ gang who killed that rider, I need to keep you safe and
taking you into town won’t help right now. I’m sure whoever it
is, is watching the road. It’s been a while since Yates was
captured and by now his gang has picked up more members that we
don’t know about, so that means you need to come with me.” Then
noticing the single rifle by the front door, “If it will make
you feel any better, bring your rifle and ammunition.”
Khalyn climbed back out the window and returned to the stand of
trees to get to her own horse. She watched as Mark walked from
the house to the barn. He stayed inside long enough to feign
working on chores, the lantern in the barn went dark. Then he
walked back to the house, extinguishing the lantern next to the
front door. The front room lantern went dark, then a light shown
in the bedroom. After a few minutes the light was extinguished.
It was dark enough without a moon that Khalyn couldn’t see Mark
climb out the window and run to the barn. There was no movement
or sound. All Khalyn could do was fervently hope that Mark made
it out of the house and barn and was enroute to their meeting
Mark quietly led Blue Boy from the barn, rifle in hand. In
effort to muffle any sound, he had tied burlap sacks around Blue
Boys hooves. He walked his horse quite a distance away before he
got in the saddle. He continued to keep Blue Boy at a walk as he
rode to meet Khalyn.
He arrived at the pond, he got down from his horse, dropped the
reins, and as he walked over to the grave markers he removed his
hat. Mark quietly talked to the crosses, apologizing for having
been a while since he’d come by, pleased to see that the flowers
he had planted so long ago were still blooming.
Mark turned as he put his hat back on. Standing next to Blue Boy
was Khalyn, holding her hat as she waited, her horse a short
“Didn’t want to disturb you Mark. Was he a good friend of
“No, only knew him for a few hours...” Mark let his explanation
fade into silence.
“Mark, I’m sorry.” Changing the subject, “See you were thinking
before you left your barn. Good idea about the burlap.”
“Didn’t want to take any chances. Also, I brought a few
provisions from home… So what do we do now?”
“We need to figure out a place where we can stay for a few days,
without anyone finding us. I figure the trial couldn’t last more
than two more days, then maybe a day for the jury to deliberate.
I can’t risk any of Yates Gang finding you. They’d hold a mighty
powerful trump card over your Pa. We can’t have Yates walk. Took
the Rangers way too long to track and capture him. We lost a few
Mark heard the sorrow in Khalyn’s voice and he tried to assure
her, “My Pa wouldn’t let a killer get away, he’s a good man.”
Mark kept quiet about how in the past his life had been
threatened against his Pa by outlaws. “He believes in justice.
Corey tried to get my father to give up on his principles, even
at the risk of Corey killing him, but he couldn’t, Pa just
couldn’t.” Mark was quiet, hoping that Khalyn would understand
what his Pa stood for. “There’s an old line shack out by on our
northern range, we could wait there. It’s got a small paddock
for the horses.”
“Mount up boy, lead on.”
They rode quietly, keeping their horses at a walk, both keeping
an eye out on their surroundings. Pausing every now and then to
listen for anyone following them. The only sounds they heard
were the leaves rustling in the trees, and an occasional coyote
or owl. It was close to dawn when they finally reached their
destination. They unsaddled their horses and turned them out in
the paddock. They walked into the shack carrying their bedrolls.
“You said you’d been watching our place for a couple of nights,
was your first night the night the jury was selected?” Mark
“Yes. Why do you ask?”
“Only that I thought I saw someone watching our place the night
before that; the night that the lawyers came to town.” Mark
Hearing this revelation caused Khalyn concern, she now knew that
the Judge was right in sending her. What was Yates’ gang already
planning in order to get Yates back? Whoever it was, was it the
same person who killed the rider the night before?
“Boy, why don’t you try to get some sleep. I’ll keep watch.”
“Khalyn, if you’ve been watching our place for a couple of
nights, you probably could use sleep more than I right now. I
can stand watch.” Mark suggested.
“Okay, I really could use some flat out sleep. Don’t build a
fire in the stove, don’t need to signal no one that we’re here.”
Khalyn said as she laid out her bedroll, took off her hat and
boots then pulled the blanket up over her shoulders.
It was well past noon before Khalyn woke. She saw the boy
standing, rifle in hand, looking out the window. “All’s quiet
Mark?” And Mark nodded. “Get your bedroll out and get some
Khalyn watched as Mark lay down and fell asleep. She left the
shack to investigate their surroundings and to formulate the
best way to defend their location should the Yates Gang track
and find them. Khalyn returned to the shack an hour later. She
sat in the open doorway, rifle across her lap, and watched.
Mark was just starting to wake as she pulled a couple cans of
beans from her saddle bag. She opened one and handed it to Mark.
“Sorry we have to eat it cold. You any good at setting rabbit
snares?“ After eating, Mark and Khalyn left the shack and went
to set some snares.
Around mid-day, the second day of the trial saw the jury being
escorted from the courtroom to the deliberation room as the
opposing counsels wanted to argue certain legal points in front
of the judge without the jury being present.
Impatience was wearing on Lucas as they waited. Oat Jackford
tried to ease Lucas’ growing fears. They’d all heard the
peacefulness of North Fork broken throughout the night. Oat was
trying to tell him how good of a hand that Mason was turning out
to be. Quite different than the arrogant boy who’d arrived in
North Fork two years previous, acting as if he was better than
anyone else. Oat had finally given in and gave the boy a job on
his ranch, hoping he could turn the boy around. He was
exceedingly pleased to see the improvement in Mason’s attitude
since he’d struck up a friendship with Mark, shortly thereafter.
Remembering a few weeks back, when he’d been out checking his
cattle and came upon the boys sitting under a tree, seen the
boys reading the Good Book when Mason said they were going to go
Lucas remembered back to the first time he’d met Mason. He
didn’t want Mark to have anything to do with the young man, but
Mark always had a way of seeing the ‘good’ in people, even if
they didn’t see it in themselves. It wasn’t long before Mason
was answering people, ‘Yes ma’am’ or ‘No sir, helping out around
town when he wasn’t needed out at Jackford’s. But then Lucas’
thoughts returned to Mark and how was he getting along at the
ranch, was he okay?
Lunch was delivered to the jury while they waited. Shortly after
lunch was finished, the jury was ordered back into the
Khalyn and Mark returned to the shack after setting the snares
Mark couldn’t stand just sitting in silence, so he struck up a
conversation. “So how long have you been a ranger?”
“I’m not a ranger, my brothers, Kaleb and Keifer, are the
rangers in the family.”
“You not old enough to become a ranger then?” Mark asked,
thinking the young man in front of him wasn’t as old has he
thought he was.
“No Mark, it’s not that I’m not old enough. They just don’t let
women become Rangers.” Khalyn looked at Mark to see the
surprised expression on his face.
“You’re a girl? But you dress like a boy, ride like a boy, and
“Mark, that’s how I can fit in best, it’s a simple disguise, one
without trying. No one pays much attention to a boy riding into
town on a horse. If I came into town with my hair, long like a
girl and wearing a dress, well, I couldn’t just ride into town
now could I?”
“But don’t you miss being a girl?” There was a sure look of
confusion on Mark’s face. Here he’d spent this whole time
thinking he was riding with a boy not too much older than
himself, and it was a young woman! She knew how to ride. Mark
had friends who were girls that knew how to ride, but they
always reminded Mark in one way or another that they were girls.
He’d seen women in town wear pants, but you always knew they
were a woman. This young woman wasn’t filled out with curves
like most of the young women in North Fork. She also wore a
holster and gun down her left leg and carried a rifle.
Everything she did, wasn’t “girl-like.”
“Guess with older brothers, seven years older, they got to do
more than sit home doing needle point. I always wanted to have
the fun like they did. Kaleb and Keifer realized how much I
hated wearing skirts, so whenever Aunt Liza went into town or
away to visit her family, they’d teach me. First it was just how
to ride. When I was fourteen, they taught me how to shoot, first
it was just empty cans, then I’d go hunting with them. I enjoyed
that more than being the ‘young lady’ my Aunt Liza tried to
teach me to be. Oh, sure, I know how to curtsey and be a young
lady, when it’s required. With the boys as my teachers, I got
pretty good with a rifle, holding my own when it came to
rough-housing with them, and riding. The judge wasn’t none too
pleased, but he finally accepted it. Even surprised Johnny Drako
during one summer when he stopped by. If Aunt Liza ever found
out about me riding and shooting, she never said anything. She
passed on about four years back.”
Khalyn was quiet for a few minutes, and then asked, “What about
you and your Pa, just the two of you?”
“Yes, it’s been just the two of us for about ten years now. Ma
passed when I was six. We left Enid, Oklahoma shortly thereafter
and after a few years of us moving from one town to the next, Pa
taking on one job or another, trying to get up a stake for our
own place again, we finally settled in North Fork. You didn’t
say anything about your own Ma? How she felt about you taking up
“Never knew her. She passed giving birth to me. She’d been sick
for a long time while carrying me. When Ma took sick, Pa sent
for Aunt Liza to come live with us and help out. She ended up
staying on, raising me and helping to raise the twins.”
Both were quiet for a long time, both thinking of their own
“My brothers say your Pa’s pretty good with a rifle, say he’s
called the Rifleman.”
“Oh, he’s good with the rifle. When we first arrived in North
Fork and after Micah became Marshal, he’d help out whenever
Micah needed someone to be a deputy or acting Marshal when he
had to leave town. All that was before Johnny became Micah’s
official deputy. Pa’s taught me how to shoot, only I had to
learn there was a responsibility to owning a rifle, first. Pa
wouldn’t buy me one just because I wanted one since all my
friends had rifles, I had to understand and respect what it
meant to own a weapon. He also said he didn’t want me to have to
grow up before my time.”
“Sounds like the same conversations my brothers had with me.”
“When I was growing up, I daydreamed about growing up and
becoming Micah’s deputy, that is, becoming his deputy someday
after Pa had taught me to shoot. Guess seeing my Pa help Micah
out all the time, and now Johnny, it’s not quite the same as in
the dime-store novels. But we do need lawmen out here, as much
as we need good preachers. I remember one time I asked my Pa if
we’d ever get a real, full-time preacher to come to North Fork?”
“How’d your Pa answer that question?” Khalyn inquired, realizing
there was more to this young man than most people probably
Mark took a moment to remember back, “He said ‘Yes, North Fork
is just bad enough to need one and good enough to want one’.”
Both fell into silence as they remembered their own growing up
“Mark, what say we go check your snares. Beans aren’t quite as
filling as a good rabbit.” As they checked the snares they did
find one rabbit. Mark made quick work of skinning and gutting
the rabbit. Khalyn make a small campfire not too far away from
“What about the smoke being seen?” Mark asked.
“That’s why I set it here, the leaves in these trees will help
to diffuse the smoke, shouldn’t be that much anyhow.” Khalyn
placed the rabbit over the small fire and waited.
The afternoon of the third day of the trial, the town had been
quiet for the morning and Johnny Drako decided to head out the
Lucas’ place to check on how Mark and Mason were getting along.
He knew Lucas was on pins and needles not knowing anything about
how Mark was handling his Pa not being home.
Johnny wasn’t too far from the ranch house when he saw a body
lying on the side of the road. He jumped down from his horse,
ran to the body, and turned it over to see it was Mason. Johnny
checked his pockets and found he still had money in his inside
vest pocket, as well as the note from Lucas to Mark.
Johnny ran back to his horse and raced on to the McCain’s. He
found the place quiet and then noticed the front door standing
wide open. He stepped down from his horse, drew his gun and
walked to the porch. Quietly he entered the house to realize
that no one was home. He ran to the barn, no Blue Boy. The team
was also missing. Johnny ran to the back side of the barn, saw
the busted paddock railing, looking to the horizon, he saw the
team horses eating grass up on the hill. He yelled Mark’s name.
No answer. Johnny ran back to the house. He checked the stove
and found it cold to the touch, it hadn’t been used today.
Figured it has been a couple of days since the fire in the
hearth had been lit. He wrote a note for Mark. As he turned to
leave the house, he noticed that Mark’s rifle was missing from
its stand next to the door.
Johnny left the house and scanned the landscape hoping to see
Khalyn. Asking himself, “Where’s Mark? Where’s Khalyn? Are they
okay?” Johnny got back in the saddle and rode. He stopped and
picked up the Mason’s body, slung in over the withers of his
horse, and then Johnny rode back to North Fork.
Johnny entered North Fork and headed to the backside of the
doc’s. He didn’t want anyone to see him arrive with the body.
Both counsels had presented their closing arguments, when the
judge called the third day of the trial to an end. The judge
declared the trial in recess and that the jury would begin
deliberations at eight o’clock the following morning.
Johnny returned to the Marshal’s office to find Micah just
returning from taking the jurors to the hotel.
Both the Martin brothers were coming from the back of the jail
after seeing Dak Yates taken care of for the night.
“Micah, we got problems.” He motioned for the twins to close the
door to the jail cell area.
“What’s the problem?” Micah asked.
“Mason is dead and Mark’s missing. I went out to Lucas’ place
this afternoon, figured he’d like to know that Mark was okay.
He’s not been there at all today. Mason never made it to Lucas’.
Found him dead on the road out there.”
Johnny pulled the note from his pocket and showed it to Micah and the
Rangers. “Boys, Khalyn’s missing too.” He said as he turned to
“What are you saying?” Kaleb asked.
“Look, I know that Khalyn’s been out watching over Mark since
that first night you arrived. I spotted one of you and her
leaving town and followed. You boy’s sure taught her good, she
got the drop on me and told me not to let anyone know that I
knew she was here. First time anyone’s gotten the drop on me.
But this is different. Mark’s not at the ranch and the door was
forced open. Who knows how long!”
Micah got up and started pacing. “Just who is Khalyn and what is
a ‘she’ doing watching over Mark?” A little miffed that
something was happening that he wasn’t aware of, especially when
it came to keeping Mark safe and the fact the person involved
was a girl!
Keifer answered Micah, “Khalyn’s our sister and that’s how the
judge wanted it.” Hoping that the Marshal would accept his
“We have to tell Lucas and the Judge, he can declare a
mistrial.” Micah stated.
“No we don’t tell them. This trial has to come to conclusion.
The jury starts deliberating in the morning. So far no one knows
about this, so the jury hasn’t been influenced. We’ll tell them
as soon as the jury announces their decision and sentence is
passed.” Keifer demanded.
“Boy, it’s your sister out there!” Johnny barked at Keifer.
“Don’t you think I know that! Yates has robbed and murdered too
many innocent people and too many Rangers lost their lives
bringing him to trial. I can’t stop the trial just because my
sister is out there and might be missing. Anyway, if Mark is
missing, she might be tailing them. You don’t know what’s
happened and we can’t jump to conclusions. We tell no one!”
Sorrow was evident in Keifer’s eye as he realized what he was
saying and what it meant.
Morning dawned for Mark and Khalyn on the fourth day of the
trial. Khalyn decided that today they would return to the McCain
ranch to stock up on a few more provisions. As they crested the
hill overlooking the ranch, they saw three riders coming out of
the house. Mark didn’t recognize any of them as being his Pa or
anyone from North Fork.
“Mark, we’re getting out of here, now!” They wheeled their
horses around only to find out that they had been spotted and
the three were giving chase.
After two and a half days of listening to testimony and looking
at the evidence presented, the jury began their deliberation.
Neither Mark nor Khalyn felt they could make it to North Fork
with the riders chasing after them. Mark led the way to a cave
he knew about on the ranch. A place that would be easy to
defend, yet difficult to assault. Before they could reach the
cave that Mark had hope would protect them, their chasers were
gaining ground. It was getting too risky to continue as their
pursuers were firing their guns at them.
“Mark, that ravine down there and then the rock outcropping,
it’ll have to do!” Khalyn called as they rode. They rode down
the ravine and up the other side, stopping their horses behind a
large outcropping of rocks that they could climb to get the
upper hand. They reached a vantage point that would allow them
to take cover and still protect themselves, rifles in hand, just
as their pursuers reached the ravine. Khalyn fired the first
shot, striking near one of the riders.
“That’s just a warning shot!” Khalyn yelled. “Ride on out of
here and no one gets hurt.”
“We want the boy, give us the boy and we might just let you
live!” one of them yelled.
“Khalyn, I know that voice.” Mark stated. Khalyn looked at him,
the expression on her face asking “who?” “I think that’s Seth
Brody. He came into town with the lawyer’s. Your brothers said
he does the grunt work for Mr. Avery.”
Bullets started to ricochet off the rocks near them and sent
rock chips flying, a number of them hitting Mark, drawing blood.
“So they got a crooked lawyer too. Figures!” Khalyn returned her
attention to their pursuers. Another shot rang out from below,
but it was too wide to pose a risk to either Khalyn or Mark.
“Mark, I’ll keep their attention here. I want you to ride on out
of here. Head into North Fork, tell your Marshal and Drako, and
my Brothers. I’ll keep them busy so they can’t give chase to
“Khalyn, let me stay. I can help.” Mark pleaded.
“Mark, no one knows where we are. You and I talked the other
night about how your Pa feels about you and these kinds of
situations. Keep your rifle for hunting game, not men. You’ll
grow up soon enough.” She was sincere, she truly understood the
bond between Mark and Lucas, and was ready to respect Lucas’
Mark waited next to Khalyn, waited for her to send him away. He
looked around, trying to see how best he could help her, without
“Mark, get ready to run. NOW!” Khalyn started firing, slow and
accurate. Shots aiming to keep Brody’s and his cohorts’ heads
down. Hoping to give Mark time to get away. One of Khalyn’s
shots ricocheted and struck one of Brody’s men. He dropped his
gun and grabbed at his head, groaning as he fell to the ground.
The other continued to fire wildly, after a while his gun and
belt were empty. He reached for the other’s gun. Khalyn fired a
shot that struck the man in the hand. He pulled back, waiting
for the inevitable.
Mark was on Blue Boy and riding. He started towards North Fork
and then once he knew he was out of Khalyn’s sight, he circled
around. He knew a way to get to the other side of the
outcropping where Khalyn was holed up. As he approached, the gun
fire had stopped. To Mark’s horror he saw Brody crawling and
gaining an advantage over Khalyn. The angle Brody was crawling
was out of Khalyn’s sight. Mark knew he was too far away to
yell. He kicked Blue Boy and rode fast, as he started climbing
he saw Brody fire a shot striking Khalyn in the back. He saw her
fall to the ground and drop her rifle. Brody got to his feet and
walked over to her.
“Where’s the boy?” Brody demanded as he kicked Khalyn in the
ribs, turning her over to face him.
Khalyn struggled to get to a kneeling position, grabbing her
ribs. “He’s gone. He’s safely out of your reach. Soon everyone
in North Fork will know what you and Avery were up to.”
“Avery? It weren’t Avery, he don’t know anything about this. See
he don’t even know that Yates is my brother.”
Brody let out a wicked laugh. “Avery thinks I’m just a punk, he’s full of
himself. Thinks he’s such a great lawyer. Regardless, my brother
ain’t going to swing. That boy’s my ticket to get my brother out
Mark had just arrived, overhearing the entire conversation, and
now he had the advantage over Brody, if only he could pull off
his bluff. Could he make Brody believe that he would pull the
trigger? Even though he wasn’t sure he could do it himself.
“Brody, drop the gun!” Mark yelled, as he stood, cocked his
rifle, and came out into the open behind Brody.
“Boy, you best drop your rifle or your friend here is dead.”
Mark gave his best bluff by speaking slow and deliberate, “Move
your hand one inch and I pull this trigger! My rifle’s at the
ready! Care to bet on your own life?”
“Matt, take the kid out!” Brody yelled, but received no
“BRODY, DROP YOUR GUN!” Mark yelled one more time.
Brody turned quickly and brought his gun up to fire at Mark.
Mark didn’t think, he just reacted. He fired his rifle, striking
Brody and knocking him down. Khalyn reached for Brody’s gun and
pulled it away from him. She then grabbed her own rifle and
Both stood and stared at Brody, lying on the ground, reaching
for his shoulder, screaming in pain and he cursed. Cursed better
than any sailor could, Mark thought to himself.
“Mark, get some rope, we’ll tie him up.”
Mark ran to Blue Boy and brought him back to where Khalyn’s
horse waited, he returned with his saddle bags and rope to tie
Brody’s hands. He checked Brody’s wound and found it was just a
deep crease to his shoulder. He then turned his attention to
Khalyn, set his saddle bags down next to her and pulled out an
old, clean shirt and clean rags to use as a bandage. He wrapped
the back of her shoulder as best he could, to try to stop the
“How bad is it? Does it hurt bad?” Mark’s voice was comforting,
he wasn’t panicking as Khalyn had half expected.
“I’ll be fine. Let’s get him down and check out the other two.”
Mark assisted Brody in getting to his feet, and then followed
him down to the ground. Mark kept an eye on Khalyn, making sure
she didn’t need any help. A couple of times her footing slipped,
but she never fell.
Mark tended to the wounds on the other two outlaws, then got
Brody in the saddle and tied his hands to the saddle horn. The
other two were treated the same way. After getting the three in
the saddle, Mark ran back to get Khalyn’s horse and Blue Boy.
Mark assisted Khalyn to get in the saddle. They followed their
prisoners and headed back to North Fork.
It was noon time when the jury announced they had come to a
decision. The jury was led back into the courtroom. Lucas stood
as he was addressed by Judge Martin.
“I understand the jury has come to a decision. Is it unanimous?”
“Yes sir, your honor,” Lucas answered. “We gave all the evidence
due consideration and it is the finding of this jury that Dak
Yates is guilty of all the charges.”
“Your son’s dead McCain! He’ll be dead before nightfall!” Yates
screamed as he tried to bully his way past the Rangers.
The courtroom exploded into wild conversations as people heard
Yates threat and knew that no one threatened Lucas McCain’s boy.
Judge Martin was banging his gavel, yelling the courtroom to
return to order. Ordering the Rangers to restrain the defendant.
“Order, I’ll have order in the courtroom!” Judge Martin yelled.
“This court is still in session. Anyone who does not return to
their seat will be held in contempt of court!”
Finally the courtroom was quiet. “It is the decision of this
court that Dak Yates has been found guilty of robbery and
murder. You shall be transported to Yuma prison where you are
sentenced to hang, until dead!” Judge Martin banged his gavel
one last time, indicating the trial was over.
“You’ll never hang me! Try and my gang will tree this town like
no other town’s been treed before!” Yates continued to yell.
Finally one of the Rangers pulled out his bandanna and gagged
Yates. Handcuffs were placed on Yates and he was forcefully
restrained and carried by six Texas Rangers back to his jail
Lucas could barely contain himself. This outlaw had threatened
his son and he had been stuck in a courtroom, unable to protect
Judge Martin ordered all spectators out of the courtroom.
Turning to the jury, he excused everyone, but asked for Lucas to
“Judge, that man just threatened my son, I’m leaving. I’m going
home where I should be. With all due respect,” Lucas answered.
“Mr. McCain, as a father myself, I understand your feelings, but
I order you to not leave this room.”
Lucas turned slowly and faced the judge, fire burned in his
eyes. Lucas stared at the judge, pointing his finger getting
ready to speak, when two rangers and the Marshals returned to
the courtroom. They saw the two men having a contest of wills.
Who would win?
Kaleb and Keifer looked at each other then Keifer broke the
Both men turned and looked at those standing just inside the
“Pa, its Khalyn, she and Mark McCain are missing.”
Fury was evident in Lucas as he tried storming back to Micah and
Johnny. Demanding answers!
“Lucas, Johnny went to check on Mason and Mark at your place
yesterday afternoon. Johnny found Mason dead on the road. When
he got to the ranch, Mark and Blue Boy were missing. Your front
door had been forcibly entered.”
“Mason’s dead and Marks been missing for at least a day and
you’ve said nothing? What kind of a friend are you?” Lucas
yelled, his blood was boiling. He tried to push past them. Kaleb
and Keifer restrained Lucas.
“Mr. McCain, it was my decision,” Keifer pleaded. “We didn’t
even tell our father that our sister was missing. We couldn’t,
we needed this trial to end without a mistrial being declared.
We needed for Yates to be found guilty or not guilty of the
crimes he was accused of committing, without outside
The judge was struggling past his own pain in realizing what his
boy had said, “Mr. McCain, it was my decision to have my
daughter keep an eye on your place and your boy, just in case
those remaining from the Yates Gang tried something. If you’ll
regain your composure, we’ll ride to your place and then set out
in search parties to look for them.”
Lucas yanked his arms out of the grasp of the two Rangers who
held him and grabbed his rifle from Micah. “I ride as soon as I
get my horse. I’m not waiting for anyone else to protect what I
should have protected all along! Believe me, if anything has
happened to my boy, I will hold each one of you personally
responsible.” There was no doubt about the volume of anger held
within Lucas’ voice. All he heard was his boy was missing.
Everyone exited from the courtroom and ran to the livery. Horses
were saddled in record time. The group was ready to leave town
when Toomey yelled and pointed towards the hotel.
Lucas turned to see a small group of riders entering town,
heading for the Marshal’s office. The front three riders had
their hands tied to the saddle horns, slumped and defeated as
they rode in their saddles. Blood was evident on each one. The
two riders in the back had their rifles at the ready on their
knees. Lucas saw the nearest of the two back riders looked as if
he was using his rifle to keep him straight in the saddle, he
saw the bandaging around the shoulder, he couldn’t see the red
of blood on the black shirt. The last rider rode a little behind
the rest, Lucas noticed the blood on the left sleeve and the
face, and then he realized… “Mark!”
Lucas jumped down from Razor and ran to Mark as the group
stopped in front of the Marshal’s office. Close on Lucas’ heels
were Micah and Johnny, guns drawn, leveled at the three
Kaleb, Keifer, and Jarod Martin were immediately at Khalyn’s
side, helping her down from the saddle.
Mark stayed in the saddle, rifle still on his knee, not ready to
relax his guard. Slowly he realized his Pa was standing beside
Blue Boy. “Pa, I’m okay.” Mark turned from his father and
watched as they carried Khalyn into Doc’s office. He then
watched as Micah and Johnny cut the prisoners’ hands loose and
motioned them into the jail with the other Rangers following,
rifles pointed at the outlaws. Mark accepted his Pa’s help as he
got down from his horse; he turned and melted into his father’s
“Mark, you’re bleeding, let me get you into the doc’s.” Lucas
tried pushing Mark to the doc’s, but Mark wouldn’t budge.
“Pa, Khalyn needs the doc worse than I do. Brody shot her in the
back.” Mark turned his head to see the door to Doc Burrage’s
office close. “You can take care of me Pa. These were just from
rock fragments from ricochets.”
Nils, Toomey and a few other people were there to take care of
the horses as Lucas led Mark over to the hotel. Lou had seen the
commotion in the street and was just getting to the door when
Lucas entered with Mark. Seeing the blood on Mark’s cheek and
sleeve, and the pain in Lucas eye’s she led them upstairs to
room five. Lou returned downstairs to get some alcohol and
bandages. While she was out of the room, Lucas helped Mark take
off his shirt. Mark placed his hat on the night stand as his
father grabbed the water pitcher and a wash cloth to clean
Mark’s wounds. Lucas tended to Mark in silence, afraid he
couldn’t contain his emotions if he spoke. Lou returned to the
room and quietly stood beside Lucas, handing him the alcohol and
bandages as he asked for them.
After Mark’s face and arm were tended, Lucas motioned for him to
lie down in the bed. Mark was practically asleep as soon as his
head hit the pillow. Lucas removed Mark’s belt and boots, and
then pulled the covers over his son.
Lucas sat on the edge of the bed and watched his son sleep. He
watched his son’s chest slowly rising and falling in a steady
rhythm. He saw his boy’s face soften, indicating he was in a
peaceful sleep. Lucas felt Lou’s hand on his shoulder and then
heard her voice softly in his ear, “Lucas, I’ll go get you
something to eat. Stay here with Mark.” Lou turned and left the
Shortly there was a knock on the door, Lucas didn’t turn his
attention from his son as he answered, “Enter.”
“Lucas Boy, how’s Mark?” Micah asked as he and Johnny entered
“Sleeping now. A couple of those wounds on his arm are deep. I
think the doc should look at him.” Worry was evident in Lucas’
“Once he gets done tending to the girl, he’ll be over here
Lucas.” Johnny answered.
“Girl? What girl?” Lucas turned and looked at them.
“Lucas, the other rider who came in with Mark was the judge’s
daughter. She’d been keeping an eye on Mark. Judge’s orders, I
couldn’t tell you.” Johnny stared at the floor as he spoke,
knowing his secret had hurt Lucas.
“How long have you known about someone else watching over my
“I found out accidentally, the night after the jury was
selected. Lucas, she kept your boy safe. If it hadn’t been for
her, it might not have been only Mason that I found dead out
there yesterday. Lucas you couldn’t have done anything more to
protect Mark once you were on the jury. I had hoped by having
the girl and Mason at the ranch, Mark would be all right.
“Lucas I told you before that I knew the judge and that he was a
fair man. If I hadn’t known the girl was out there, I would have
kept better tabs on Mark.” Johnny paused, trying to understand
the expression on Lucas’ face. The expression that said, ‘We
were friends and how could you have kept this from me?’ “Lucas,
it’s not just the Judge, I know the whole family, the twins and
the girl. They believe in the law and the Good Book… It was the
Judge who realized that Mark might be at risk.”
Johnny continued to talk, hoping his words would lessen Lucas’
anger, but he knew he needed to say more. “Lucas, only the judge
knows who I really am. Oh, they all know I’m Johnny Drako and my
reputation. But see there’s more to it.” Johnny hesitated before
he continued to tell his other secret, “See the judge was
married to my sister.”
Johnny let his comments sink in. He knew Lucas was in pain;
seeing his son injured and knowing his friend had kept him in
the dark about the true risk to his son and the plans that were
made in an attempt to keep him safe.
“Lucas, I trust that family as much as I trust you. I just hope
in time you can come to trust me again.” Johnny turned to leave
the room, unsure if he should really be there.
“Johnny, the girl? She’s your niece? How bad is she?” Lucas had
stood and walked to Johnny, placing a hand on his shoulder,
giving it a gentle squeeze, hoping it would convey his
forgiveness to Johnny.
Johnny turned and did see forgiveness in Lucas’ eyes. “We don’t
know yet. Doc’s working to remove the bullet as we speak.”
“Well since Mark’s probably going to sleep for a while, let’s go
down to the restaurant. We can talk without waking the boy.”
Lucas kept his hand on Johnny’s shoulder as they left the room;
in his other hand was his rifle. Never again did he plan for it
to be out of his reach. Micah closed the door behind them as
they walked down the hall. They entered the restaurant and Lou
put them in a quiet corner, away from anyone else. Lou served
them all coffee and then sat down with them.
“Johnny, you must be pretty torn up, choosing between our
friendship and your niece.” Lucas commented. “I’m sorry, I was
only thinking of myself. I wasn’t hearing that anyone else was
“Niece?” Lou asked.
“Yes Lou. That girl and the boys are all that I have left, other
than memories, to remind me of my sister. She was married to the
judge.” Johnny explained.
“You never said anything about family.” Micah said.
“I’m kind of the black sheep of the Drako family. When Sarabeth
married, Jarod was a prominent attorney. After the boys came
along, I felt it was best for them to not know I was their
uncle. I knew how Sarabeth felt about my reputation. Oh, she
loved me as her little brother. Then Sarabeth became pregnant
with Khalyn, she was so sick most of the time, towards the end,
the fever hit. The doctors said probably both of them would die.
Sarabeth was dead when the doctor pulled the baby from her womb…
Jarod brought in his brother’s widow to take care of the girl.
As they grew up, I was just became a friend of the family. I
never went looking for trouble, you know that Lucas, but once I
got my reputation as a gun fighter; others just had to know if I
was really better than them. Those kids didn’t need to know
about me being family. I’d visit every now and then, as they
grew up. Pleased when the twins became Rangers. Surprised when I
found out the girl was such a good shot.” With a hint of a smile
on his face and a laugh in his voice, Johnny continued, “That
girl can probably give you a run for your money in a shooting
It was getting close to dinner time when Doc Burrage and the
Martin’s entered the hotel lobby. Lou called to them, then got
up and walked over to escort them into the restaurant. She
informed a couple of guests at the hotel waiting in the lobby
that the restaurant would be closed for the night. They could
get some sandwiches over at Sweeney’s bar or the café down the
Lucas asked Doc if he weren’t too tired, could he take a look at
Mark’s arm. Lucas said he felt a couple of the wounds could sure
“Sure Lucas. I’ll follow,” Doc replied.
Lucas and Doc entered Mark’s room, the boy was still asleep. Doc
Burrage gently removed the bandaging, got out a needle and
suture thread, and proceeded to put a couple of stitches in
Mark’s arm. He re-wrapped the arm and placed it back under the
blankets. Mark never woke.
Doc and Lucas returned to the restaurant.
“Doc, how’s Khalyn doing? Is she going to be alright?” Johnny
“Johnny, the girl’s going to be fine, given time. She’ not going
to be able to use her right arm for a while, at least until the
shoulder muscle heals,” Doc answered. “Mark did an excellent job
in getting her bandaged to stop the loss of blood... I remember
one time I asked Mark if he wanted to be a doctor when he grew
up? With all the time that boy’s stepped up to take care of his
Pa, he’s a natural.” Doc Burrage reminisced.
Lucas commented as he recalled the conversation, “I believe at
that time, Mark said he wanted to grow up to be my partner at
After dinner, conversations continued to wander aimlessly for
the rest of the evening. Everyone had questions, but the only
two who could answer, were sleeping. Doc finally excused
himself; he wanted to check on Khalyn one more time before he
turned in for the night.
He saw the expression on Judge Martin’s face, “Judge, let the
girl be tonight. She’ll be fine. You and your boys just get
upstairs and get some sleep. And that’s an order.” With that Doc
left the hotel.
“Lucas Boy, why don’t you head upstairs and get some sleep
yourself,” Micah stated has he set his coffee cup down on the
table. “We all best get some sleep, once those two are able to
answer questions tomorrow; I expect we won’t get much time for
making up for lost sleep.” Micah tipped his hat as he stood up
and walked out of the restaurant.
Lucas and the Martin’s walked upstairs to their respective hotel
rooms. The witnesses had left on the afternoon stage to return
to their own homes and it was no longer necessary for the jurors
to stay at the hotel, making rooms available for Kaleb and
Johnny escorted Lou to her home on the back side of the hotel.
He gave her a quick kiss on the cheek as he turned to leave.
“Johnny, I’m here if you need to talk.” She was excited to know
he had family, but didn’t want to push the issue, just yet.
“Lou, I appreciate it. Maybe once everything settles down and
returns to normal, we can have a picnic lunch and talk.”
“I’d like that Johnny. Good night.”
Johnny turned and left. He walked to his own apartment above the
Lucas entered the hotel room, saw that Mark had rolled over onto
his right side. Lucas set his hat and rifle down on the dresser.
He turned down the lamp before he removed his shirt, belt, and
boots and lay down on top of the blankets, curled up next to his
son. As he settled in, Lucas felt Mark lean into him as if he
was a little boy again, wanting the comfort of being close to
The sun was just starting to shine through the hotel window when
Lucas woke and realized Mark had slept through the entire night.
Lucas understood his son was growing up. How many times in the
past had Lucas needed to calm his son because of a nightmare
after a tragic experience? How long had it been since the last
nightmare? Lucas felt Mark starting to wake. He rolled out of
the bed and walked to the water pitcher, poured some water in
the basin and washed himself before dressing again.
“Pa?” Mark was starting to sit up in bed, stretching his arms,
and trying to stifle a yawn. He brought his arms down and
started rubbing the bandage on his upper left arm.
“Does it hurt son?” Lucas asked, watching his boy from the
“A little, itches more than anything.” As Mark came fully awake,
“Pa, what about Khalyn?”
“Doc said last night that she’d be fine. It’ll take her a little
while to recover.” Turning to face his son, “Do you want me to
order room service or do you want to get cleaned up and eat
Mark gave a little jump as he got out of bed and walked over and
stood next to his Pa, “I think downstairs would be fine Pa. Give
me a few minutes.” Mark washed himself and then turned, he saw
his belt and boots next to the bed, but didn’t see his shirt,
“Where’s my shirt?”
“I think Lou took it last night to see if she could get the
blood out of it. Let me go downstairs to see if it’s dry.” Lucas
returned to the room, a brand new shirt for Mark in hand,
courtesy of Mrs. Donner over at the general store.
Micah and Johnny were waiting in the hotel lobby when Lucas and
Mark came downstairs. Both were carrying on about how they
probably should retire. Seeing as how a mere boy and girl were
taking the law into their own hands or maybe, those youngsters
should be arrested for interfering with duly authorized lawmen.
“Now Micah,” Mark started. “We were just protecting ourselves,
honest. Khalyn sent me to go get help…, I couldn’t leave her
alone,” Mark added as he saw the expression on his Pa’s face
after blurting out how he had put himself into more danger.
Again, Mark had disobeyed an order meant to protect him.
Micah and Johnny burst out laughing as they heard desperation
in Mark’s voice at the thought of being thrown in jail,
especially when he knew who was already in there. And they saw
the expression on his face as he looked up at his Pa.
“That’s okay Mark, as long has you’ve learned your lesson,”
Micah stated as he pointed and shook his index finger towards
Mark. Johnny and Micah left to take breakfast to their
Lucas put his hand on Mark’s shoulder and motioned for him to
continue on into the restaurant and took a seat in the far
corner. Alice came in to take their order. Mark ordered oatmeal
and a large glass of milk. Lucas ordered the same, except
Surprised, Lucas asked, “You okay Mark? Usually you order a big
breakfast when we’re eating at the restaurant.”
“I’m okay, just not that hungry this morning.”
“You should be considering you slept through and missed dinner
last night.” Lucas didn’t push his son any more, when he saw
Mark wasn’t quite his normal self.
Shortly after they finished eating, the Martin’s came down for
breakfast and joined them.
“Keifer, I owe you an apology for my actions yesterday. I had no
right to treat you like I did, especially since I now know what
you had at risk.” Lucas said.
“Apology accepted Mr. McCain. Let’s just focus on getting these
two healthy.” Keifer said as he looked over at Mark and then
glance out the archway, hoping the Doc would arrive shortly to
state his sister was doing okay.
Doc Burrage entered the restaurant a few minutes later and to
everyone’s surprise, he was walking with Khalyn beside him. Her
right arm was in a sling and she still looked a little pale, but
she was walking on her own. Her brothers stood up from their
chairs so quickly, they knocked them over backwards. Both rushed
to stand on either side of their sister as she walked to the
table. As they approached, Mark stood and held a chair out for
Johnny and Micah finally joined the group after making sure
their prisoners were fed their breakfast and after making
arrangements for the prison wagon to transport the prisoners to
“What’s going to happen to Brody and the others?” Mark asked.
“Did you know that he and Yates were brothers?”
Everyone looked at Mark. Questioning whether they heard
“Oh, it’s true. He admitted it while he had a gun on me,” Khalyn
Judge Martin then asked, “Do either of you two care to explain
everything that happened?”
Mark and Khalyn took turns telling their story. Answering
various questions asked as they continued. Towards the end Mark
got very quiet. His Pa felt he was holding something back,
something he wasn’t ready to say in such a large group. Lucas
reached over and placed his hand on Mark’s arm, “Son, take your
time, we’re not pushing you.” Mark got up and excused himself.
He quietly walked out the front door. Concern showed on Lucas’
“Mr. McCain, go talk with your son. I think you alone need to
listen to him. I can tell the Judge the rest of the story.”
Khalyn said as her eyes followed Mark out of the room.
Lucas followed Mark as he entered the church. Mark removed his
hat and sat down in the back. Lucas saw his son sitting,
looking… ashamed. Lucas removed his hat as he entered.
“Mark, want to talk about it son?” Lucas asked as he sat down
next to Mark and put a comforting arm around his shoulder.
“Not yet, Pa.”
“Son, I know how much you liked Mason as a friend. I’m sorry I
wasn’t there to protect you.”
Mark waited a few minutes, and then continued. “Pa, maybe we
should talk. I don’t want to keep this bottled up inside me. It
hurts too much as it is.”
Lucas listened as Mark told his father of his feelings and why
he was ashamed of himself. In how turning his rifle on another
person, he had just reacted, he hadn’t even thought about
pulling the trigger. He, a boy, was just trying to bluff an
outlaw. How he saw Brody turn, raise his gun, and next thing he
knew, he’d pulled the trigger.
“I wasn’t even aware that I had pulled the trigger until he was
on the ground,” Mark stated, his eyes never leaving the floor of
Mark said he felt ashamed of all the times when he was younger
that he bragged or was proud that his Pa was so good with the
rifle and that he had killed an outlaw. He said he truly
understood why the gun should only be used as a means of last
resort. But he knew that there were times when the gun was
necessary and couldn’t be avoided.
Mark went on to say, “The only reason I don’t feel any worse
than what I do, about what I did, was because I didn’t taken
someone’s life. I can’t imagine what I would be feeling if I had
“Mark, I understand how you feel. Every time I’ve taken
another’s life, I’ve always tried to find comfort in the Good
Book and ask God for forgiveness. Every time you’ve been
present, I’ve regretted it because I felt I was making you grow
up sooner than you should. Afterwards, I wanted you to
understand how it pained me to take the life of another. I
wanted you to see that it wasn’t easy dealing with my emotions,
my conscience afterwards. I wanted you to understand it’s not as
the ink and paper make it out to be a glamorous life written
about in dime-store novels. It’s real, the people are real, and
death is final.”
As Lucas spoke, Mark turned and looked at his father. Lucas saw
there were tears in his boy’s eyes.
“If you like, we can just sit here and when you’re ready, we can
“Pa, I think I’d like to sit here for just a while. But, I think
I need to have private conversation with God.” Mark said.
Lucas stood up to leave his son to his conversation.
“Pa? Thank you for listening… and understanding.”
“It’s all part of being a father.” Seeing his son needed more,
“I do love you, Mark.”
Lucas left the church and walked to Micah’s.
As Lucas arrived, the other Texas Rangers were leading their
prisoners to a wagon; they were heading out to Roswell to meet
up with the prison wagon traveling to Yuma.
Lucas took a seat in front of the Marshal’s office next to
Micah, after a while both had their chairs leaning back, Lucas
enjoying his cigar, and talking about how Mark was growing up.
“Lucas Boy, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mark chose to become a
lawman one of these days. After you and Mark left, the girl told
us of some of the conversations she had with Mark while she was
hiding him. Didn’t realize he looked up to me and Johnny so
much. Knew how much the boy looked up to you…” Micah stated,
looking out the corner of his eye at Lucas. A pride was welling
in his own chest.
“Well, I don’t know if that boy will ever choose on his own.”
Lucas stated, remembering all the conversations he and Mark had
shared over the years about what Mark was going to be when he
grew up, a writer, a surveyor, a doctor, a mind reader, and now
Micah was proposing a lawman. “I think events will decide for
him. I can only pray that I’ve given him the guidance he needs.”
Lucas’ gaze eventually drifted to the church, to finally see
Mark walking towards them, still scratching at the bandage on
his arm. Lucas noticed the smile on Mark’s face and the ease of
his stride. He knew his boy had come to peace with himself over
the events of the past several days.
The McCain’s stayed in town for one more night. Lucas was
needed to help out as an ‘acting deputy’ in order to get North
Fork to return to the quiet, peaceful town they loved. That
evening, they enjoyed dinner with the Martin’s and were informed
they would be heading back to Lubbock, Texas in the morning.
Before desert arrived, Judge Martin presented Mark with a Texas
Ranger badge. “It may not be ‘official’, but we know you have
the heart of a Ranger, Mark. And it’s a small token from me to
say ‘thank you’ for saving the life of my daughter.” He glanced
sideways to his youngest, before proceeding, “It was supposed to
be the other way around.
“Thank you, sir. Well, it did take both of us to bring them in.”
Mark said with a smile on his face.
The following morning Lucas and Mark McCain waited in the lobby
of the hotel to say their final goodbyes to the Martin’s. Mark
stood, gaping his mouth a little, as he saw a pretty young woman
in a simple blue, floral dress with a white shawl over her
shoulders, come down the stairs; only to realize that it was
Khalyn, after he saw the twins behind her carrying their
luggage. Mark removed his hat before his Pa could do it for him.
As the men shook hands, Khalyn gave Mark a small kiss on his
cheek, “Mark, that’s for coming back and saving my life,” she
whispered in his ear. “The Ranger badge was from my father and
my brothers, this kiss was from me.”
“That’s the first time I’ve heard you call him ‘father’, every
other time you’ve called him ‘the Judge’,” Mark commented.
“He’s always my father, but it’s easier to call him ‘the judge’
when I’m wearing pants. I treasure calling him ‘father’ when I’m
dressed as his little girl.”
“Guess you do know how to be a young lady. I’m sure your Aunt
Liza would be proud of you,” was all that Mark could say before
he became too embarrassed to continue.
There was a smile on Judge Martin’s face as he overheard the
Johnny Drako and Lou Mallory walked up to the group, arm in arm,
Johnny stating, “Khalyn, I must say I like you better in a
dress. You remind me a lot of your mother.” Then to the rest of
the group, “Tell you what, next time I’m near Lubbock, I’ll stop
by and say ‘howdy’,” as he shook hands and said goodbye to the
Khalyn stepped up and gave Johnny a kiss on the cheek, “I hope
you do more than stop by to say ‘howdy’, Uncle Johnny.”
Taken back, Johnny stammered out, “You know?”
The Judge answered the question, “I thought it time they knew
Johnny. I’ve seen the change in you while I was here in North
Fork. I know how you loved Sarabeth so I agreed, when they were
little, to keep your secret. I saw no reason to keep it a
secret any more. Tried telling them last night, seems they
already knew. When Sarabeth was starting to get sick, she kept a
journal for each one of them, explaining everything. I knew
about the journals Sarabeth kept, but I never read them, they
were for the children.”
The stage arrived and the boys handed the luggage up top as the
Judge and Khalyn boarded. Kaleb and Keifer untied their horses
from the hitching post and mounted, Kaleb had Khalyn’s horse
tied to his. They waved as they rode out of North Fork.
Lucas and Mark left the front of the hotel and headed to the
livery to get their horses and head home. As they stopped back
in front of the Marshal’s office, Johnny offered, “Lucas, I’ll
be out to help you later this afternoon with any chores that
need to be done, seeing as you look to be one arm short of a
good hired hand. “ A grin escaped his face and Lou slapped at
his arm, telling Johnny it was no laughing matter, in her best
“Now I don’t know Johnny, seems to me like the boy conjured up
more ways to get out of taking care of his responsibilities at
the ranch while his Pa was fulfilling his civic duties and all.
Young man goes gallivanting off, saving a damsel in distress,
when he should have been home tending his own business.” Micah
added in, “Why should Johnny have to give up a perfectly good
day spending time with Lou just to help get Mark out of
trouble?” There was a sly grin on Micah’s face as he spoke and
watched Lou’s cheeks blush.
This is a story based on the TV
series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
around The McCain Ranch