The Writer's Corner
Written by Deanne Bertram
This story is a ‘what happened next’ from The Rifleman episode
The Second Witness. In
this episode, two deputies are traveling with a man who is
killed by a sniper’s bullet. After arriving in North Fork, the
deputies declare the man was their key witness against Slade
Burrows, a notorious outlaw who always managed to escape being
brought to justice because there was never a witness. Lucas
McCain and his son Mark arrived at the Marshal’s Office to hear
what happened to the man, when Lucas declared the dead man was
the man he saw riding with another murdered man and Slade
Burrows a month earlier; Lucas McCain is now the Second Witness.
Lucas agreed to testify, but based on what happened to the first
witness, he decided to travel to Silver City on his own.
A stranger stopped by the McCain Ranch during the night, and
unbeknownst to Lucas, spent the night in the barn, helping to
nurse Mark McCain’s horse, BlueBoy, back to health; that’s all
it took for Mark to declare the man his friend. Lucas attempted
to instruct his son not to act in haste in making new friends;
there’s more to someone being a friend than just helping once.
In time, Lucas remembered that the man carried a rifle, with
possibly a scope, in a scabbard on his saddle and the first
witness was killed from a long distance. Lucas hurried his son
off to school and ultimately was confronted by his son’s new
friend, who turned out to be the brother of the man Lucas is to
testify against. The two men fight inside the barn, with Mark
saving his father’s life when he tossed his father’s rifle to
Afterwards, Lucas inquired what brought Mark back, “Pa, you told
me about making friends in haste, yet you called Brad ‘our’
Have you ever wondered what happened after Lucas left North Fork
to testify against Slade Burrows in Silver City? Have you ever
wondered what happened to Brad Davis – did Lucas really kill him
or did he just wound him? Have you ever wondered why Lucas was
hesitant to buy Mark his own weapon and how to shoot it? I hope
this story answers your questions, and more.
The Final Witness
“I’ll be back in a couple of days,” Lucas McCain stated after
his son jumped into his arms as they stood, with Marshal Micah
Torrance, on the porch to the Marshal’s Office. He felt
bittersweet about the impending separation, but he knew he had a
job to do, a civic responsibility.
“I know you will, Pa,” Mark replied as he hugged his father.
Lucas grinned as he slipped a finger behind his ten year-old
son’s ear, “Don’t forget to wash behind your ears.”
“I won’t, Pa,” answered Mark, as he looked his Pa in the eye.
“You and Micah enjoy your fishing trip tomorrow.” Having set his
son to the ground and tussled his son’s hair, Lucas smiled, “And
Micah, if he gives you any problems, feel free to toss him
back,” he teased, as he climbed into the saddle on Razor.
“No problem, LucasBoy,” Micah called back. “Don’t worry about
Mark, you just testify against Slade Burrows and get back here
when you can.”
“Bye Pa!” hollered Mark as he waved goodbye.
Lucas waved as he casually trotted Razor from town; the only
witness against Slade Burrows, in a case Judge Marks was
presiding over in Silver City, New Mexico Territory. The man was
a notorious gunslinger with a mean reputation, who had a number
of lowlifes eager to do his bidding. One attempt had already
been made on Lucas’ life, but thankfully, it failed. The failure
wasn’t due to anything Lucas did or didn’t do, except he tried
to instruct his son to be careful with whom he chose to make his
friends. Lucas knew the world was full of more good people than
bad, and he didn’t want to jade his son against anyone, so he
had carefully selected his words, “You act in haste son, you
repent in leisure. It’s best to make friends slowly.”
Deputy Phil Rogers had left the previous afternoon for Silver
City with Burrows’ wounded brother, Brad Davis, in his custody;
but still, Lucas worried, would anyone else try to make a name
for themselves by killing the one man who could put the rope
around the neck of their boss.
Those who saw Lucas ride away, smiled and waved, under his
easy-going demeanor they didn’t see the turmoil he felt. On the
outskirts of North Fork, Lucas signaled Razor into a lope and
kept a watchful eye for anything on the horizon that might
indicate an impending ambush.
Closer to Silver City, Deputy Rogers welcomed a weary traveler
into his camp. The slender man unbuckled his gun belt and hung
it from the saddle horn as he stepped down from his horse.
“Don’t mean to cause you any trouble deputy,” the man stated.
“Looks like you got enough on your plate with your prisoner over
there; just happy to share your fire, and a cup of coffee.”
“Thanks for understanding,” Rogers stated as he slipped his
handgun back into his holster.
Turning his back, the deputy knelt to pour the stranger a cup of
coffee; the man pulled a hidden knife and threw it, striking the
deputy in the center of his back. Rogers fell to the ground
dead, oblivious to what struck him.
“Rogen, find his keys and get over here and get these handcuffs
off me!” ordered Brad Davis.
“How’d he catch you?” Rogen asked as he knelt to unlock the
shackles around Davis’ wrists.
“He didn’t. There’s another witness, someone else who said they
saw Slade riding with Manor. I tried to take him out, but I got
distracted. It won’t happen again.”
“What about this other witness? Is he going to testify?” Rogen
“Yeah, but I know a way to stop him. Come on, let’s go back to
Hearing Brad Davis moan as he stood to his feet, Rogen asked,
“The sodbuster shot me across the ribs. I’ll be fine.”
Lucas made camp as the sun disappeared behind the western hills,
the vivid colors of the late evening sky changed to dull shades
of grey and eventually to black, while wisps of clouds drifted
in front of the starry blanket. After starting a small campfire,
he pulled the saddle from his horse, draped it across a boulder,
and flung out his bedroll. From the bag which had hung from the
back of his saddle, Lucas pulled out a tin coffee pot and
fixings, he also pulled out a can of peaches and a brown paper
packet containing beef jerky that Hattie had insisted he take.
It wasn’t much of a supper, but it stopped the gnawing in his
A restless sleep greeted Lucas as his dream replayed his visit
to Micah’s office and hearing the man had been killed for
agreeing to testify, and against whom he was to testify. His
dream changed to outside their barn, the sound of a gun being
cocked and the desperation he felt in needing to send his son
away, any place but there. As the dream continued, a sleeping
Lucas began breathing heavily, remembering the exertion and
fear, fear he wouldn’t be good enough to prevent his own death.
Lucas startled out of his sleep when his vision showed his son
struggling to pull the hammer of a Colt Peacemaker, and Lucas
heard the sound of gunfire.
Lucas sat up and looked around; in the still of the night, a
nearby owl hooted, as he tried to come to terms it had only been
a dream. Calming himself, Lucas crawled over to his campfire,
stirred the embers and waited a few moments for his coffee to
reheat, he poured a cup and sat down on his bedroll, trying to
forget his dream. In the distance a solitary wolf howled in the
night, Lucas shivered as the mournful sound echoed across the
Upon arriving in North Fork, Davis instructed Rogen to wait for
him at the saloon as he thought on the best way to distract
McCain. Davis rode to the schoolhouse and found a couple of
young boys cleaning erasers.
“Howdy boys!” Brad called as he stepped from his horse. “You
mind if I help myself to some water?”
“Sure, go ahead,” answered the blonde-haired boy.
“I remember there was only one way a boy would get assigned to
clean erasers. You two get in trouble at school?”
“We was only talking,” answered the boy with red hair and a face
full of freckles.
“Yeah, but Miss Adams warned us to keep quiet,” the first boy
“What were you two talking about that got you into trouble?”
“We’re talking about how Mark got to stay with the Marshal and
they was planning to go fishing tomorrow.”
“That wouldn’t be Mark McCain, now would it?”
“You know Mark?” the inquisitive redheaded boy asked.
“Why sure do. Him and I, and his Pa, are good friends. I was
coming for a visit, sort of a surprise, you might say. You say
young Mark is staying with the Marshal? I hope nothing happened
“Nah, he’s traveling to Silver City to testify,” boasted the
“Mark said his Pa was going to testify against Slade Burrows,”
the redheaded boy bragged.
“Now I heard he’s one mean gunfighter,” stated Brad Davis.
“Mark’s pa can beat any gun,” the redheaded boy replied.
“Sure can with that rifle of his. Say… you know, I might want to
surprise Mark tomorrow, meet him and the marshal at the pond.
Could you tell me how to get there? And this will be our
The two boys agreed, nothing better than surprises; they told
Brad Davis how to get to the pond.
The sun had yet to rise over the hills when Lucas woke, he
reheated his coffee, and pulled out the biscuits Hattie had
packed. He was in the saddle and ready to travel the rest of the
way to Silver City by the time the first pink rays of morning
streaked the sky.
Mark and Micah arrived at the pond before lunch. While Micah
unsaddled the horses, he sent Mark off to find two small tree
branches he could whittle into fishing poles. Mark pulled a
length of twine from his saddlebag and a paper packet containing
the hooks for their poles. The two picked out their spots to
sit, and in anticipation of a quiet afternoon of fishing, Micah
and Mark ate the sandwiches Hattie had fixed for them. Micah
settled back against a tree and sent his line sailing across the
water, and watched as it drifted on the surface before sinking
into the depths. Mark tried to imitate Micah’s cast, but it flew
a few yards before landing on the water and sinking. As time
passed without any fish nibbling, Mark became bored, and decided
to explore around the pond, as Micah quietly dozed.
“Micah! Micah!” Mark called out, rousing the marshal from his
sleep. “Look what I found!”
Mark came running across the ground, tripped and lost his prized
catch as the bullfrog flew from his hands, landing in Micah’s
“What the?!” Micah hollered as he instinctively reacted, jumping
to his feet and pushing away that which landed in his lap.
“It’s just a frog,” laughed Mark as he climbed to his knees,
laughing at the marshal’s reaction. The bullfrog croaked loudly
as it jumped its way back to the water.
Around mid-day, Lucas looked around before he pulled out the
packet of beef jerky; he continued to ride while he ate. He had
just wiped his hands on his trousers when a shot ricocheted
nearby. Lucas kicked Razor into a gallop in an effort to get out
of range of the assassin. Daring to slow his horse, Lucas looked
over his shoulder to see if anyone followed, he halted his horse
when he didn’t see or hear any signs of being pursued. Allowing
Razor to catch his wind, Lucas pondered the one shot, and
signaled his horse to walk.
Hattie stood on the porch in front of the General Store and
looked down the main street of town, hoping to see Micah and
Mark returning with a batch of crappies, expecting her to fry
for their supper.
“Good evening Hattie,” Frank Toomey stated as he and his son,
Freddie, walked past the general store.
“Hello,” a distracted Hattie answered.
“Where’s Mark?” asked Freddie.
“Uh? Mark? He should have been back long before now,” Hattie
stated, wringing her hands in the folds of the apron she wore.
“Now Miss Hattie,” Toomey answered. “You know how boys are.
There’s been many times where I’ve had to track down my own son,
after an afternoon of him and Mark fishing. The boy probably
just lost track of the time.”
“But it wasn’t just Mark. He left this morning with Micah and I
know Micah wouldn’t stay gone this long… What with Lucas being
gone and there being no one to stand watch in the Marshal’s
“You say the boy went with Micah?”
“Freddie, you head on home,” Frank Toomey ordered his son. “Tell
your Ma, I’m gonna go get John Hamilton and we’re gonna ride to
the fishing hole.”
“But Pa, I want to come too,” cried Freddie.
“You do as I say. I’ll be back soon.”
Hattie watched the big man run towards the banker’s home before
she stepped back into the store.
Daylight was fading as John Hamilton and Frank Toomey rode their
horses into the clearing surrounding the fishing hole; only to
find no one there.
“We didn’t pass them on the road, maybe Micah took Mark to the
ranch…” Toomey offered as he turned around in his saddle.
“What for?” asked Hamilton. “What was that?” he asked as he
quickly turned around, looking away from Toomey.
“What was what?” Toomey replied.
“I thought I heard… There it is again,” the banker declared,
looking around, as he stepped down from his horse. He walked
towards a group of bushes surrounding the pond. “Over here!”
yelled John as he rushed into the thicket and knelt down.
“Toomey, its Micah!”
Toomey reached the bushes as John Hamilton stood up, his arms
wrapped around Micah’s chest and pulling him out. Together, the
two men gently laid the marshal to the ground.
“That’s blood!” declared Toomey.
John unbuttoned Micah’s black vest and saw the vivid red
spreading across the white of the marshal’s shirt. He unbuttoned
the shirt in order to examine the wound. “He’s been shot.” John
reached into the inner pocket of his jacket, pulled out a
handkerchief, and pushed it into the open wound in the marshal’s
shoulder, causing the man to groan.
“How’re we going to get him to town?” Toomey asked looking
around and not seeing Micah’s horse anywhere.
“Let’s carry him to my horse; I’ll hold him in front of me.”
With a barely conscious Micah’s help, they managed to get Micah
in the saddle, Frank held onto the marshal while John climbed in
the saddle to sit behind him.
“Toomey, I’ll need both my hands to keep him from falling,”
“I’ll lead ya, just yell out if he gets to too heavy.”
The big man took the reins, leading his friends to where his
horse stood. He mounted and signaled his horse into a trot.
Hamilton was thankful his horse had a smooth trot, but he
couldn’t keep from bouncing as he struggled to keep the
unconscious marshal in the saddle.
Hattie ran across the street as the riders stopped in front of
“Get the door,” Toomey called as he and Hamilton lifted Micah
from the saddle and carried him inside.
“What happened?” asked Doc Burrage as he entered the clinic from
a back room.
“Micah’s been shot,” answered Hamilton.
“Where’s Mark?” Hattie fearfully asked.
“We didn’t see him,” Toomey answered.
“We didn’t look for him,” Hamilton grievously answered.
“All of you, out of here, I need room to examine my patient,”
Doc Burrage declared.
“You want to go back?” Toomey asked Hamilton, looking away from
John nodded and walked over to stand in front of Hattie, taking
her by the shoulders he said, “We’ll find him.”
As the two men left the clinic, Hattie followed and nervously
teethed the knuckle of the index finger on her right hand,
having pulled her fisted hand to her mouth.
With torches to light their search, John and Frank continued to
call “Mark! Mark McCain!” as they searched the grounds, looking
behind any bolder and under any bush, circling the entire
“He ain’t here, I tell ya,” Toomey dejectedly stated. “If some
outlaw came gunning for Micah, he would have sent the boy away…
Why didn’t the boy come to town?”
“Frank, I don’t think they were gunning for Micah. I fear they
were after the boy.”
“After the boy? Why?” Toomey asked, he couldn’t believe what
John Hamilton was implying.
“Why else wouldn’t we have found him? The boy’s father is
traveling to testify against Slade Burrows, I wouldn’t put it
past that man or his gang to use Mark against Lucas.”
After extinguishing the torches in the water of the pond, the
two men raced their horses through the dark of the night, back
to North Fork.
“What do you mean, Deputy Rogers hasn’t arrived?” demanded Lucas
as he met Judge Marks and the Sheriff in the Silver City Jail.
“He and Burrows’ brother should have arrived this morning,
“Burrows’ brother?” asked Judge Marks.
“Brad Davis is Burrows’ brother and he killed your first
witness, Thomas Williamson. And he made an attempt on my life.”
“And you lived to tell?” the Sheriff stated, scratching his
“It’s a long story, but yeah. Rogers had him in custody and they
left the afternoon, day before I did.”
“We didn’t receive any word from Rogers, and they haven’t
arrived,” Judge Marks answered. “Maybe they got delayed.”
“I didn’t see them on my way here,” replied Lucas.
“What matters is, you are here. The trial will start first thing
tomorrow morning,” Judge Marks informed Lucas. “There should be
a room for you over at the hotel, just tell them to send the
bill to me. Go get a good night sleep and you’ll feel better in
“You leave the matter of my deputy to me,” declared the Sheriff,
as he saw Lucas to the door.
“Who do we wire for help?” Nils Swenson, the town’s blacksmith,
asked of those standing in the Marshal’s Office.
“Now listen here,” John Hamilton yelled, trying to quiet the
small crowd. “I’ll send a wire to the U.S. Marshals; maybe
they’ll have a deputy in the area they can send.”
“Lucas should be in Silver City by now. Why not wire him? He has
a right to know his son is missing,” Hattie insisted.
“Hattie, he needs to testify against Slade Burrows,” John
“Burrows be damned! He needs to save the life of his son!”
declared Hattie in reply.
“We could wire Judge Marks, tell him what happened and let him
decide what’s best,” suggested Toomey.
Everyone turned as the door opened, and Doc Burrage stepped
“Well Doc? Is Micah gonna pull through?” the rancher Dave Merrar
asked, stepping from the group to address the weary doctor.
“I think he has a good chance at a full recovery.”
“Can he talk? Can he answer questions about Mark and what
happened?” Hamilton asked.
“No, not before morning; he lost a lot of blood. I dosed him
heavily, that bullet penetrated fairly deep into his chest,” Doc
“We need answers now,” Hattie stated.
“You all should understand, had Toomey and Hamilton not found
Micah when they did, I doubt he’d be alive.” The words spoken
cast a pall over the small group.
“Well, that settles it,” Hamilton stated.
“We’re on our own?” Sweeney, the town’s saloon proprietor, asked
of no one in particular.
“I’ll wire the Marshals and notify Judge Marks,” Hamilton stated
as he stepped from behind Micah’s desk. Those in the office
offered the banker their moral support.
“But what about the town?” Nils asked.
“Dave, you send word to the outlying ranches, the rest of us
will keep an eye on the town. There will be two men here at all
times. No one walks the town alone; no one is left in the office
by themself. We look out for each other.”
“For how long? I have a business to run,” Sweeney stated.
“Until Micah is healthy enough to resume his duties,” answered
Silver City’s Sheriff woke to someone pounding on the back door
to the office, “Just a minute!” he hollered as he lumbered to
pull his feet off his desk and stand. Upon looking through the
peek hole, he opened the door and declared, “Arnold, what’s the
meaning of this? Don’t you know what time it is?”
“Sure do, but I got this wire. Thought you might want to see it
first,” the telegrapher answered.
Silver City, NM
Lucas McCain’s son missing /stop/
Feared kidnapped /stop/
Marshal gravely wounded /stop/
Have wired U.S. Marshals /stop/
North Fork, NM
“This complicates matters,” commented the Sheriff.
“What’s wrong Purdoen? Lose another witness?” Slade Burrows
called from his jail cell.
“Ain’t none of your business!” declared Sheriff Purdoen.
Burrows laughed as the sheriff pushed the telegrapher out the
door. “Go wake the judge pronto. Tell him he’s needed here,” he
“Kidnapped?” Judge Marks declared after reading the wire.
“McCain has a son? How old?”
“Don’t know. You gonna tell him?” Purdoen asked.
“And have him bolt at testifying! I want Burrows hung!”
“But he’s got a right to know.”
“All that town knows is the boy is missing. They don’t know for
sure he’s been kidnapped. It’s just supposition on their part.”
“Are you willing to risk the boy’s life?” asked Purdoen.
“I won’t be risking it. McCain knew there was a chance others
might do something to try to stop him… He came here on his own.”
“Do something to stop him, yes… But would you have thought
they’d take his son…”
“We don’t know anyone took his son. That’s for the U.S. Marshals
to decide. I have a trial to preside over.”
From the jell cell, Burrows called, “Too bad you’re not gonna
have your necktie party!”
“Shut up!” Marks ordered as he stood in front of the cell. “Tell
me right here and now if you ordered your gang to kidnap
“Now how would I do that? I haven’t had any visitors since my
attorney’s assistant stopped by to see me last week.”
“You’re interrupting my sleep. Blow out the lanterns when you’re
done talking.” Burrows laid back down on the bunk, pulled up the
cover, and turn on his side, his back to those in the office.
The morning sun was well in the sky when Brad Davis lifted Mark,
hands bound, and set him in the saddle on BlueBoy, Mark kicked
out; catching the man unawares and causing him to stumble
backwards. Mark grabbed the saddle horn and kicked his horse,
yelling “YAH!” BlueBoy bolted forward as Mark continued to kick
him to run faster.
Looking over his shoulder, Mark saw the other man racing after
them, twirling a lariat over his head. Mark saw the man throw it
towards him; his head snapped forward once the lariat settled
around him, and the man jerked him backwards from his horse. The
impact of landing on the ground forced the air from his lungs,
and his vision went black as his head struck the dirt.
Davis arrived as Rogen looped the lariat and removed it from the
“Why’d you do something so stupid?” Davis demanded as he ran to
where the child lay.
“He was getting away!”
“Getting away?! All you had to do was grab the reins!”
Rogen stepped to his saddle, “Wouldn’t have been as much fun.”
Davis placed his hand to Mark’s chest and felt a sense of relief
as it rose.
“Go get his horse,” Davis stated.
“You want it, you go get it,” Rogen answered as he turned his
horse to ride away.
“It said get that horse!”
Rogen halted, turned his horse so he faced Davis again. “What’s
it to you? Leave the kid for the buzzards. Don’t know why we
came after him when it’s that sodbuster we need to stop.”
“We use the kid to stop his Pa from testifying,” answered Davis.
“You gone soft! Loco!” Pulling his handgun from his holster,
Rogen answered, “This is how you stop a sodbuster, dead!” He
fired the gun striking a prairie dog that happened to look out
from its burrow at the wrong moment.
Lucas sat in the front row of the crowded courtroom, listening
as the opposing lawyers gave their opening remarks.
The sheriff eventually called Lucas to the stand, asked him to
place his right hand on a bible and raise his left hand.
“Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing
but the truth? So help you God?” asked the Sheriff.
“I do,” answered Lucas.
“Take your seat,” instructed the judge.
The prosecutor asked Lucas to introduce himself and tell how he
happened to see Slade Burrows and Elijah Manor, together.
After Lucas gave his testimony, the prosecutor stated, “Your
witness,” as he returned to take his seat.
The defense counsel approached the witness stand, “Mr. McCain,
you have a son?”
Lucas answered, “Yes,”
“You’re wanting to set a good example for him?”
“Yes, any father would…”
“And you were mistaken when you thought you saw my client riding
on Landon ranch…”
“Objection!” demanded the prosecutor. “Counselor Holcomb is
trying to lead the witness.”
“I’ll rephrase, Your Honor. Now Mr. McCain, how could you
positively identify my client as the one you claim to have
“I saw him, and Elijah Manor.” Lucas proceeded to describe the
horses the men were riding and the part of the ranch where two
men were seen.
“And how can you be certain of the date?” Defense Attorney
Holcomb asked. “A month is a long time ago.”
“I have a bill of sale for some cattle I bought, dated the day
before Manor was killed,” answered Lucas as he reached into his
back pocket to pull out his evidence.
“YOUR BOY’S DEAD!!” yelled someone in the crowd, causing an
uproar within the courtroom.
Lucas grabbed the arms of his chair and stood.
“ORDER!” demanded Judge Marks, hammering his gavel on the top of
this bench. “ORDER!”
In the continued distraction the outburst caused, Holcomb leaned
forward and said, “You had your warning, McCain. I gave you the
opportunity to know what was at stake regarding your son. If
Burrows swings, you’ll wish you never heard of Slade Burrows.”
“I’LL KILL YOU!” screamed Lucas as he lunged for the attorney.
“Sheriff, restrain the witness!” hollered Marks as he continued
to hammer his gavel and attempted to restore order to his
“I’ll kill him, no one threatens my son!” Lucas hollered, as he
was led away from the courthouse.
“Mr. McCain, please… This trial can’t end in a mistrial; he has
to be found guilty by the jury.”
“Let go of me!” demanded Lucas.
Sheriff Purdoen pulled his gun on Lucas. “I’m sorry, but this is
for your own safety. Until the verdict is in, you’ll remain in
“He threatened my son! A man has a right to defend his family!”
Purdoen pushed Lucas into the jail and locked the cell door,
“Don’t let them get to you; bating you to get you to change your
testimony. They tried to kill you once and failed; now they’re
out to convince the jury you’re out to get Burrows, for no
“No reason?!” demanded Lucas as he reached through the bars of
the cell, grabbing towards the Sheriff.
“Don’t you think your people would have wired had your son been
Ignoring Lucas’ continued protests, Purdoen hung the keys to the
jail on a peg on the wall, turned, and left the office.
“PURDOEN!” yelled the angered Lucas while shaking the jail cell
The jury foreman stood and informed the judge, “We have come to
a verdict, Your Honor.”
“Are you all in agreement?” asked Judge Marks.
“Yes, yes, sir,”
“And your verdict?”
“Guilty of murder,” the man spat out the words and quickly sat
The crowd in the courtroom started buzzing at the announcement
of the verdict.
“Order!! Order!! Slade Burrows, you have been found guilty of
murder and I sentence you to hang, at nine o’clock tomorrow
morning, and you shall hang until you are dead.”
Sheriff Purdoen pulled Burrows up by the arms and forced him out
of the courthouse and back to the jail, a cell next to Lucas’.
“You’re a deadman McCain!!” Burrows yelled as Purdoen opened the
cell Lucas occupied.
“I’m sorry Mr. McCain, I had to do as the judge instructed.”
“Where’s my rifle?” Lucas demanded.
“On my desk. And I took the liberty of ejecting all the
cartridges… Mr. McCain, go home to your boy. Forget about
Burrows and Holcomb, leave them to the law.”
Lucas stopped by the telegraph office and inquired if any wires
were waiting for him.
“No sir,” Arnold answered.
Lucas clutched his rifle, relieved that the Sheriff had been
right, and left to return to the hotel.
From behind the curtain separating the office from Arnold’s
sleeping quarters, Judge Marks stepped out, “You told the truth,
that’s all you had to do.”
Arnold nervously nodded and watched the judge walk out the door,
thumbs hooked through the armholes in his vest.
Lucas wanted nothing to do with a hanging, regardless that it
was legal. But he just couldn’t head home until he knew for sure
that Burrows was dead. Lucas waited in the saloon; he figured
he’d know soon enough that justice had been served.
Lucas looked to the clock on the wall, “eight, fifty-five,” when
he heard the crowd down the street hollering.
The clock began to strike nine when gunfire erupted outside,
Lucas bolted to his feet, grabbing his rifle from the tabletop,
and ran out the door, arriving in time to see Burrows riding
double, heading out the far end of town.
“DAMN!” declared Lucas as he returned to collect his hat.
The telegrapher came up behind Lucas, “Mr. McCain?”
“You best trail after him…”
“That’s for the law,” replied Lucas.
“Sir, you don’t understand…. The night you arrived, the Judge
received a wire from North Fork…”
“Your boy… Your boy was missing and your marshal was gravely
“You said you didn’t receive a wire!?”
“No sir,” Arnold tried to explain, “You asked if there were a
wire for you, it came addressed to Judge Marks, he was in the
back room yesterday…”
Lucas ran down the street to the livery to saddle Razor, he
heard the winded breath of someone approaching him.
“McCain!” yelled Judge Marks.
“Out of my way!”
“Be reasonable man. This is a case for the law!” declared the
“The Law! You knew they had my son!” As Lucas vented his anger,
the judge tried to plead his case, but Lucas ignored his
pathetic attempt. Lucas continued, “You kept the truth from me!”
Lucas turned to face the man, pointing to the man’s chest,
jabbing him, as he spoke, “You had better pray nothing happens
to my son...”
Lucas swung up into the saddle and signaled Razor into a gallop.
Slade Burrows bullied his younger brother as they argued in the
middle of the abandoned barn, “How the hell could you let him
make it to Silver City?!”
“Slade,” Brad explained. “I killed the first witness. You never
said anything about a second witness. If I hadn’t hung around
North Fork, I’d never of heard the gossip about a second
“You should have taken him out before he left town!”
“I tried. I tried! Had everything planned on how to make it look
like he left on his own… none the wiser. His kid came back
“A kid! You didn’t kill him because of his kid?!”
“Slade, listen to me…” Davis tried to explain.
“You should have killed them both.”
“I plan to, this time,” Brad’s eyes gleamed with evil.
“What do you mean, this time?” Slade asked his brother.
“Rogen, bring the kid out,” Brad ordered.
Grabbing the collar of Mark’s jacket, Rogen half dragged, half
carried the bound and gagged Mark McCain, who struggled against
the rough way the man treated him.
“You! You’re the one who yell out in court! The two of you
planned this?” demanded Burrows. “McCain’s a madman because of
you two dimwits!”
Burrows pulled his weapon and fired at Rogen, who still held
Mark. The boy tried to jump sideways as the man fell dead, but
the man’s deathgrip drug him to the ground.
Diligently, Lucas trailed after Burrows, vowing the man would
die should he harm his son in any manner. Swearing revenge on
those who conspired to keep the truth from him, should anything
happen to his son. Growing angrier at having to slow down and
reexamine the ground to make sure he was following the correct
tracks, cursing when he had to back track.
Night had fallen when Lucas came across a long, abandoned
homestead; the house was dark, but the faint glow of a lantern
could be seen through one of the broken windows in the barn.
Under the moonless night, Lucas approached the side of the
building, making his way to the window.
Lucas didn’t hear the man coming up behind him, who knocked him
Lucas opened his eyes to find himself inside the barn, surprised
he was untied.
“Where’s my son?” asked Lucas as he sat up.
“See Mr. McCain, I can be a kind man. I understand the love a
son has for his Pa. Brad untie the boy’s hands and ungag him,”
ordered Burrows. “It’s totally unnatural for a father to outlive
“Mark, are you okay son?” Lucas called out, watching Brad untie
the ropes that bound his son.
“Pa, they’re gonna…” Mark cried out after pulling the gag from
his mouth, but Brad pulled him backwards, stopping him from
saying anything more.
“Let my boy go.” Lucas’ words were an order. “This is between
you and me.”
“Pa, they killed the other man!” Mark cried and began struggling
against Brad’s restraining hand.
“You were warned what would happen to your son if you
testified,” Brad called out.
“I didn’t receive any warning! Holcomb asked about my boy at the
trial. I didn’t know you had him until the telegrapher told me
this morning!” answered Lucas.
Brad took his eyes off Mark as he pulled his weapon from his
holster and pointed it towards Lucas, “You got in a lucky punch
the last time, but I won’t give you a second chance… OW!”
declared Brad as Mark repeatedly kicked him in the shin and
managed to slip from the man’s grasp. Mark picked up a broken
piece of wood and swung it towards Brad’s gun hand. Brad slowly
limped to retrieve his weapon, Mark quickly ran to where the
weapon landed and picked it up, and ran into the shadows of the
Lucas took the moment to rush Burrows and the two crashed to the
ground, resulting in the gunman losing his grip on the weapon.
With all his might, Lucas struggled to prevent the outlaw from
reclaiming his gun. Lucas managed to land a blow to the outlaw’s
jaw that stunned his opponent. From behind him, Lucas heard a
voice call out, “Now, now, now… You wouldn’t point a gun at your
friend?” Lucas turned to see Brad Davis pulling a weapon from
the back of his belt, approaching his son. And Mark, standing in
the shadows on the other side of the barn, holding a Colt
Peacemaker with both his hands, trying to cock the hammer.
Déjà vu struck Lucas as he recognized the scene from his dream.
“You stay back!” Mark ordered, his voice shaking with fear.
Burrows yelled, “Kill the brat!”, and tripped Lucas as he tried
get to his feet to rush Davis. As he fell, Lucas heard the
gunshots and looked up to see his son fall backwards.
“NO!!!” screamed Lucas, as the reverberation from the gunshots
echoed in the barn.
Lucas savagely kicked Burrows in the head as the man crawled in
his direction; a sickening snap came from the man’s neck as he
fell deathly still to the ground. Rolling away from his
opponent, Lucas picked up the handgun that he had been fighting
to keep the outlaw from reaching. Struggling to position
himself, with tear-filled eyes, Lucas brought the weapon to bear
upon Davis and fired, striking the outlaw in the back of his
shoulder blade, spinning him around. As Davis twisted and sank
to his knees, Lucas didn’t see the red spreading across the
front of the man’s shirt; his eyes were focused on where he last
saw his son.
“Mark?” Lucas quietly called as he stood to his feet. “Mark?!”
he called louder as he ran across the floor. Looking down on his
son, Lucas reached down and threw the hay bale out of his way.
Tears fell down his face as he knelt beside the still body. He
pulled the Peacemaker from his son’s hand and threw it across
the barn. Lovingly Lucas picked up his son into his arms. “Maarrkk!”
he cried, raising his face to look up, unable to bring himself
to look into his boy’s angelic face.
Lucas didn’t hear “McCain!” yelled from outside as the barn
doors crashed opened, nor did he acknowledge the small posse of
lawmen storming inside. Lucas, with eyes closed, cradled his
son, and buried his face in his son’s chest. He was oblivious to
the hand placed on his shoulder as he mourned the death of his
When he finally realized he was not alone, Lucas lovingly laid
his son’s body to the ground. As he breathed, the slow rise and
fall of his shoulders indicated the hatred he felt towards those
who had kept secret the fact his son had been kidnapped, and
they had allowed this to happen. Painstakingly he turned, spoke
to the Judge and those who stood around him, his voice lowered
to almost a growl, his voice accusatory, “This is your fault.
You knew! You wanted to see Burrows hang so bad you didn’t care
about the life of one, small, innocent child.” Deliberately and
with conviction, Lucas continued, “My son’s blood is on your
hands. Pray God has mercy on your souls, because as God is your
final witness… you’ll never… never…” Lucas hesitated as he
struggled to express his outrage. He shook his head at the trick
his mind began playing on him.
“McCain, your boy,” the marshal closest to Lucas stated, and
“Pa?” a plaintive voice called. “Pa?”
Clinching his fists and closing his eyes, Lucas dared turned his
head to look. When he opened his eyes, he saw his son’s eyes
half opened and Mark holding his right hand to the back of his
“Mark?” Lucas hesitantly asked. “Mark!” Carefully, Lucas picked
up his son and cradled him in his arms, supporting his son’s
head against his own chest. Tears of joys streaked his face as
he heard, “Pa… what happened?” whispered.
“Nothing… Nothing,” Lucas whispered.
“Pa? Did you get him?” asked Mark.
Lucas looked to where Brad Davis lay dead on the ground; he saw
the blood stain across the front of the man’s shirt.
“Yeah, I got him,” replied Lucas, knowing he’d shot the man in
the back. He lied to protect his son from experiencing the guilt
of having killed a man.
In the background, Judge Marks ordered the marshals to remove
the bodies of Burrows and Davis.
“There’s another, over in the corner,” Mark pointed. “His name
“Don’t worry about him son. Are you all right? Did they hurt
“Pa, I… Oh Pa…, Brad shot Micah!” cried Mark as he buried his
face into Lucas’ chest. ”I hate him. He killed Micah!”
“Shhh… Shhh… You’re safe…” Lucas comforted his crying son.
“Sir, if I may?” a deputy marshal asked as he knelt and placed a
hand on Mark’s shoulder.
A still crying Mark turned and looked to the man who spoke to
“I have some news I think you’d like to hear.” He waited while
Mark wiped his sleeve under his nose.
“Sir?” replied Mark.
“My name is Jeffrey Dunham, I’m a Deputy U.S. Marshal. We
received word that your friend, Marshal Torrance, is expected to
make a full recovery.”
“He’s… Micah’s alive?” Mark asked and looked to his Pa.
“The marshals don’t lie, son,” offered Lucas.
“Mr. McCain,” Deputy Dunham stated, “My men and I’ll accompany
you and your son back home.”
Lucas looked to the man and said, “Thank you.”
One of the other deputies offered the bandana from around his
neck and a water canteen to Lucas, who used them to clean his
son’s dirty, tear-streaked face.
“Are you up to riding Razor with me?” Lucas asked as he stood,
Mark still in his arms.
“BlueBoy’s out back, Pa,” answered Mark as he pointed towards
“Deputy Tilman, get the boy’s horse from around back,” ordered
Deputy Dunham. The deputy immediately ran from the barn.
Lucas and Mark exited the barn, squinting their eyes in finding
the morning sun cresting the eastern hills.
“Do you want to spend the night in the hotel and head home in
the morning?” asked Lucas.
“Pa, if it’s alright with you, I want to go home… now,” answered
As Deputy Tilman halted BlueBoy in front of them, Lucas set his
son in the saddle.
“We’ll stop at Silver City long enough to pack a few provisions
and to wire your people you’re coming home,” stated Deputy
Before the sun had set, Lucas and the Marshals organized camp
for the night, with Deputy Dunham ordering his men to stand
two-hour shifts through the night, watching the McCains.
“Is that really necessary?” asked Lucas.
“Just a precautionary measure, Mr. McCain. I’m sure most of the
members of Burrows’ gang will move on once word of his death
spreads. I am under orders to see you and your son safely home.”
After eating, Mark found it difficult to keep his eyes open and
“I think it’s time for you to get in your bedroll, son,” Lucas
“Yes sir,” answered Mark as he pulled off his boots and crawled
under the blanket.
Lucas caressed his son’s head as he wished him peaceful dreams,
“Mark, what’s this lump on the back of your head. Does it hurt?”
“It did, Rogen lassoed me and pulled me backwards off BlueBoy,”
a yawning Mark answered.
Lucas looked to Dunham as he placed a hand to Lucas’ shoulder.
“He probably shouldn’t sleep for a while, he could have a
concussion,” Dunham stated.
“I don’t understand, wouldn’t sleep be the best medicine for
him?” asked Lucas.
“Under normal circumstances, but a blow to the head like that…
Sir my father was a surgeon during the war. He told me there
were plenty of good men who, took blows to the head…, no outward
signs of trauma, and they never woke up from their sleep the
next morning. Between the fall from his horse and the blow to
his head back in the barn, it’s best to try to keep him awake
for a while. Just to make sure there’s no headache.”
“Come on son, I think we’ll listen as the deputies tell us of
some of their adventures.” Lucas picked his son up and carried
him, setting him in his lap as they sat down and listened.
Mark’s eyes widened as the deputies retold their individual
stories involving several notorious outlaws.
As one deputy finished his story Mark declared, “Hey, I thought
Wild Bill Hickok killed him!”
The other deputies laughed at their companion and at Mark’s
“How’s your head,” asked Dunham. “Any headache or blurred
“Not really sir,” answered Mark.
“What do you mean, not really?” asked a fearful Lucas.
“Well… My head doesn’t hurt, but this lump sure does,” Mark
winced as he touched it.
“I think its okay to let him sleep,” Durham stated.
Lucas helped Mark stand to his feet and motioned him to crawl
into his bedroll, again.
The people of North Fork stared as Lucas and Mark rode in the
middle of a group of men wearing Deputy U.S. Marshal Badges;
they whispered among themselves as the group continued to the
middle of town, stopping in front of the clinic.
Lucas dismounted from the off side of his horse, turned around,
and reached up for his son, “Come here, boy,” Lucas stated.
Mark allowed himself to fall into his Pa’s arms, and be carried
into the clinic on his Pa’s hip.
“Lucas!” Doc Burrage called as he saw the two enter the clinic.
“Thanks, I’d like for you to look Mark over, he took a good lump
to the back of his head,” stated Lucas as he set his son on the
examination table, and removed his son’s hat. He leaned his
rifle against the doctor’s desk.
“Pa!” Mark declared.
From the back room they heard, “Is that you, LucasBoy?”
“Go on Lucas, Micah’s back there. He’ll be okay, in time. I’ll
bring Mark back once I have a look at him.”
Lucas hesitated, but knowing he was home, he left the room to
visit his friend.
“Lucas…” Micah weakly called out again.
“Yeah, it’s me Micah. How’re you doing?”
“Did you find Mark? Is he okay?”
“He’s with Doc.”
“Lucas they surprised us. I tried to stop ‘em,” Micah stated as
he attempted to sit up.
“I know you did; Mark told me all about it on the way home. You
just lie back down and take it easy.”
“Lucas, I’m sorry. I should have kept a better watch over him;
foolish of me to take him so far from town. I didn’t think
Lucas interrupted, he didn’t want his friend to feel guilty, “I
didn’t either. Even with Davis in custody, I figured there was a
chance someone would come after me… I never thought they’d come
“Lucas, how is the boy? Is he okay?”
“Doc’s checking him out right now. He was scared; he thought
Brad had killed you…”
“He almost did, LucasBoy. He almost did.”
Micah looked up as Doc Burrage entered the room. “How’s Mark,
Doc?” quietly Micah inquired.
“He’ll be fine. Lucas just needs to make sure he takes it easy
for a few more days.” Doc motioned for Mark to come stand next
to him. “Micah, are you up to another visitor?”
Micah motioned for Mark to come to over to the bed, he raised
his hand to the boy’s cheek and wiped his thumb across it,
wiping away a solitary tear. “Good to see you, boy.”
“Good to see you too, Micah. How long you gonna be laid up?”
Doc Burrage answered, “At least two weeks.”
“You looking for a temporary deputy, Micah?” asked Lucas.
“Raise your right hand,” replied Micah. Lucas did. “You’re
“Lucas, he needs his sleep,” Doc stated. “As for my diagnosis of
“What’s wrong?” Lucas quickly asked.
“I think he could use a hearty supper over at the hotel
restaurant. Go on, get out of here.”
“Can I order anything I want?” asked Mark.
“As long as you eat your vegetables, I don’t see why not,”
replied the doctor.
“Oh,” sulked Mark. “You sound like Miss Hattie.”
“Speaking of Miss Hattie, come here and give me a hug,” Hattie
stated as she entered the room.
Mark turned and ran to embrace the grandmotherly woman, asking,
“Did you miss me?”
The men grinned at the young boy’s reaction.
In the famous words of Paul Harvey… “Now you know the rest of
This is a story based on the TV
series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
around The McCain Ranch