The Writer's Corner
Bind — A Rifleman Story
Written by Deanne Bertram
With a smug expression on his face, the heavy-set man sat behind
an opulent wooden desk; the breadth of the man’s waist gave
indication of the good life he lived while in his current
position at the prison. The warden looked at the two men
shuffling in to stand in front of him; while inside he laughed
at their ill-fitting, county-paid suits that replaced the
striped uniforms they had worn for the duration of their stay.
Their sentences were based on convictions stemming from multiple
charges, but for their arrogance and defiance of the law by
assaulting a lawman, they faced the stiffest sentence, one that
saw them spend the last five years in prison. Their time spent
behind bars involved hard labor and hadn’t been easy on either
of them; but the warden didn’t care, his crew knew how to break
men’s spirit. But for all their suffering while incarcerated,
the most visible torment happened during their arrest; for the
rest of their lives, their faces would bear the scars from the
gunpowder and salt, not to mention the five years of hatred they
harbored towards the men who captured them. At the mercy of the
guards, the two men had suffered in silence knowing they would
eventually gain their freedom and revenge.
Holding two sheets of paper in one hand and a pen in the other,
the warden looked around his office, allowing his eyes to drift
from one framed newspaper article to another; articles in which
he was a prominent figure. Behind him hung a newspaper with the
headline, “Norman Michaelson, New Warden at Yuma Territorial
Prison,” with a picture of him shaking hands with the Arizona
Territorial Governor; behind them stood a contingent of armed
Returning his attention to the two men standing before him,
Warden Michaelson pompously stated, “You’ve paid your debt to
society, for now.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” asked the older and shorter of
the two men,
“I’ve seen the likes of you; you won’t stay out of trouble.
Within a year, you’ll be back.”
“So you say,” the younger and taller of the two men muttered
under his breath.
Michaelson dipped his pen in the inkwell and signed his name at
the bottom of the release papers.
“Griggson, give them back their possessions,” instructed the
warden, before he blew across the paper to dry the ink.
A burly guard standing to the side of the warden’s desk tossed
two paper packages tied with strings towards the men.
“That’s all you had when you arrived,” the guard stated.
Satisfied the ink was dry; Michaelson folded the sheets of
paper, slipped them into an envelope, and held it out for one of
the men to take; the older man snatched the envelope from the
warden’s hand and stuffed it into a pocket of the jacket he
“In addition to that, the county owes both of you one hundred
dollars for the work you done,” Michaelson stated as he set a
metal box on his desk that he had pulled from his bottom desk
drawer, and counted out the money.
“One hundred dollars!” declared the younger man. “Five stinkin’
years of hard labor and all we get is one hundred dollars?!”
“Your forgetting the room and board, and those suits?” asked the
guard as he tipped his rifle towards the men.
“Be thankful you’re getting that,” the warden replied, having
tossed the money to the other side of his desk, he leaned back
in the chair. “Griggson, get them out of here.”
Griggson motioned for the other guard standing by the door to
move the men.
As the second guard led the two men from the office, Michaelson
looked to Griggson and stated, “They’ll be back… They always
After cutting off the end of the cigar, the warden placed it to
his mouth, leaned forward, and waited for the guard to strike a
match off the side of his pants and hold it out to light the
cigar. He inhaled deeply as he sat back in his chair and slowly
spun around to look out the side window in his office.
Two guards closed and locked the gates behind the two former
prisoners, when the younger man looked to the other and asked,
“Pappy, what do we do now?”
“Now? We settle the score. No one kills two of my sons and gets
away with it. For five years, Daniel Malachi has waited for this
day,” Daniel Malachi looked down the road and began walking.
“We gonna get that marshal and that sodbuster!” Ben Malachi
stated as his eyes lit with anticipation and followed his
“First, we’re gonna get rid of these stinkin’ prison clothes and
buy us some guns and two horses… You best not lose that hundred
Lucas stood next to BlueBoy and waited for Mark to be released
from school for the weekend, before the two of them proceeded to
the hotel with plans to escort Lou to the train depot.
“Only a couple more weeks before school lets out for the summer,
hey son?” Lucas stated as he held out BlueBoy’s reins.
“Yeah, I’m gonna miss it.”
“Miss it? You, missing school?” Lucas teased.
“Lucas, Mark is excelling in school and I’m pleased he has taken
such an interest in learning about our Government,” Stevan
Griswald stated after overhearing Lucas’ comment. “You’ll
remember to study those chapters I suggested.”
“Yes, sir, Mr. Griswald,” Mark stated with enthusiasm as he
closed the flap to his saddlebag after placing his lesson books
“Still can’t get over the fact you’re the same son who would try
to come up with any excuse just to get out of going to school,”
Lucas stated as Mark took the reins. “I’m proud of my son,
Stevan; seeing him fulfilling his ma’s dream of a good
“Good education? It’s more than just that… Lucas I’ve had to
send for some college curriculum materials just to keep up with
his eagerness to learn. Between him and Percy Bullock…those two
boys are excelling more than I ever expected either of them to.”
“Hey Mark!” Percy Bullock called. “You coming?!”
“Can’t, Pa and I have plans tonight,” Mark replied and waved to
The small group looked towards where Percy prepared to mount his
horse; Lucas grinned at how ‘Americanized’ the boy…, no… the
young man had become over the past few years, though he ventured
to think Percy would never lose his British accent. Lucas knew
that Percy and his father had something to do with Mark’s desire
to learn, and appreciated they could instill the love of books
in his son.
“I’m sorry to have kept you,” Stevan replied.
“We have a few more minutes before we’re supposed to meet Lou,”
“But I however, need to have a discussion with Freddie’s
parents. If you’ll excuse me?” Stevan nodded goodbye and walked
over to greet the arriving parents.
“Guess you’re glad that’s not you arriving?” teased Mark.
“What did… No, that’s between Stevan and Freddie’s parents,”
Lucas admitted as father and son swung up into their saddles.
“When are you going to be back, Lou?” Mark asked as he and Lucas
stood next to the train.
“I’m not sure, but I don’t feel I should be gone more than two
weeks tops. Considering how long it took me to get my hotel
established, all by myself, I should be able to help Lynetta set
up her hotel in Silver City in no time,” Lou answered.
“You know your friend from Denver?” Mark asked, knowing Lou had
previously owned several establishments in the town.
“No,” Lou answered. “I know her from my homeland, Ireland.” Her
eyes sparkled at the mention of her former country.
“Well, I’m sure that Mrs. Donner will keep as good an eye on
your hotel as she does the General Store,” Lucas stated.
“I’m sure she will,” Lou replied.
“We’re gonna miss ya, Lou,” Mark stated.
“I’ll miss you too, Mark,” said Lou as she bent forward and
kissed Mark upon the cheek.
“Marshal?” called out a young man stepping from the next train
car, wearing the badge of a Deputy U.S. Marshal.
Micah assessed the young man, being in his early twenties,
probably still wet behind the ears and barely old enough to
shave, as he walked towards the young man and began a
Lucas handed Lou her luggage after she climbed the three steps
to the passenger car level.
“Ye take care of Mark, ye hear,” Lou stated as she took her
“And what about me?” teased Lucas.
“I think ye can take care of yerself, but just in case, do try
to keep out of trouble?” pleaded Lou.
Lucas whispered, “Don’t I get a goodbye kiss?”
“And have the women of town gossiping about me while I’m gone?”
Quietly she answered, “I’ll miss you too, cowboy.”
Lucas smiled as Lou turned and entered the passenger car. As Lou
walked down the aisle, Lucas started to walk along the platform,
intending to follow Lou until she took her seat, but stopped
short as a man stepping down from the front of the train car
drew his attention.
“Pa, what’s wrong?” Mark asked.
Micah bid goodbye to the Deputy U.S. Marshal, turned and looked
the same direction, “Lucas!” he called with authority in his
voice upon seeing Lucas’ posture.
“Merril!” Lucas yelled. “You were warned… the next time you
showed your sorry carcass… Keep your hands from your six gun.”
Lucas twirl cocked his rifle and motioned Mark to get behind
With very few people on the platform, the lever action was
clearly audible to the stranger, who stopped and lifted his
right hand far from his holster, “I don’t want no trouble,” the
man called out, not turning around.
“You caused enough trouble just stepping off the train!” Lucas
called out with eager anticipation in his eyes.
Mark noticed the man’s immobile stance, but with his knees
slightly bent as if ready to jump away. Mark presumed the man
couldn’t have been that much shorter than his pa, and maybe just
a little bit larger in his build by the fact the man’s jacket
stretched tight across his back. He wondered about the man’s
past and why his Pa was acting in such a manner.
From inside the train car, Lou looked out the window in horror
at the scene unfolding. She lowered the glass window and yelled,
Trying to prevent any unnecessary bloodshed, Micah yelled,
“McCain! Stand down! I’m the law!”
‘McCain?’ the stranger silently questioned.
The man dropped his carpetbag, and slowly lowered his gun hand
as he turned around, calling out, “McCain! Of all the low down…
sorry excuses for a human being. I swore the next time…” the man
Mark jumped back as Lucas lowered his rifle and readied himself
for the strike, while Micah readied his shotgun, and Lou
screamed, “LUCAS!” The two tall men locked arms around each
other and began laughing, the stranger picking Lucas up off the
ground in a bear hug.
“Lucas McCain, never in my life did I ever imagine running
across you again. My God, if you don’t look the same!” the man
called out as he set Lucas to his feet and slapped him across
“Good to see you too, Jordan,” Lucas stated as he took hold of
the man’s hand and began pumping it up and down; huge smiles
spread across both men’s faces.
“McCain, a word with you?” Micah asked as he tapped Lucas on the
shoulder with the barrel of his scattergun.
“Uh… Micah, I’d like for you to meet an old friend of mine,
Jordan Merrill.” Lucas turned to his friend, “Jordan, this is
Marshal Micah Torrance.”
“I should throw both of you in jail for disturbing the peace,”
Micah threatened. “I should just for my sheer enjoyment.”
Lou closed the train car window, sat down in her seat, and
crossed her arms, upset that Lucas had just played another
stupid prank at the expense of her feelings. She was pushed back
in her seat as the train lurched forward as it began its trek
“No need for that Micah,” Lucas apologized, “It’s just been so
long since we’ve seen each other and the last time…”
“No need to go into all the details, Lucas,” Jordan stated.
“Marshal, if we’re not being charged with anything, why don’t
you join the two of us for a beer. This town does have a saloon?
“It sure does,” answered Lucas as he slapped his friend on the
back. “Micah come on, we’ve some stories to tell.”
“Uh, Lucas, I forgot… You still need to ask Margaret’s
permission, right?” Turning to the Marshal, “You won’t believe
how well Margaret ‘wears the pants’ in their home. Lucas always
saying he couldn’t do this or couldn’t do that, until he’d told
his wife.” Turning his attention back to Lucas, Jordan teased,
“Well, let’s get this over and done with; time to place another
link in that ball and chain, Lucas. Maybe she…” Jordan stopped
talking when he saw the expression Lucas wore, and saw him walk
over to and place a hand on a teenage boy’s shoulder.
“I’m sorry, Mark… It’s just been a long time since Jordan and I
have seen each other. We used to do stupid stuff like that all
the time… And…”
“That’s okay Pa, as long as it was all in fun,” Mark stated as
color started to return to his face.
“Jordan, I’d like for you to meet my son, Mark.”
“I’m sorry if we scared you, but it’s been a long time since
your Pa and I’ve seen each other. Say, you wouldn’t mind running
home and telling your Ma that your Pa and I are going to do a
little celebrating at the saloon.”
“I…” Mark started to answer, but stopped, he didn’t know if he
should tell the man, or his Pa should be the one.
“Jordan,” Lucas interrupted as he squeezed Marks’ shoulder.
“Margaret died nine years ago. It’s just the two of us.”
“I’m sorry Lucas, I didn’t know.”
“That’s okay,” Lucas answered.
“Pa, if you want to catch up on old times… I can ride on home, I
don’t mind. I can start on my chores and do my homework.”
“Are you sure?” Lucas asked, really wanting the time to catch up
with an old friend.
“It was a pleasure meeting you Mr. Merrill,” Mark offered as he
extended his hand. “See you later, Micah.”
Lucas, Micah, and Jordan watched Mark as he walked along the
train platform, jumped to the ground, swung up into the saddle,
and waved before he rode off.
“Lucas, I can’t believe it…”
“But?” Lucas asked when his friend didn’t continue speaking.
“He’s the image of Margaret,” Jordan commented.
“That he is. And every day I thank God for allowing him to be so
much like her.”
“Yeah, one Lucas McCain is enough trouble,” Jordan teased before
asking, “Hey, how old is he now?”
“He’s sixteen,” Lucas answered.
“And a half. That boy keeps reminding Lucas of that ‘half’,”
“As he should,” Jordan smiled, “Well, come on, let’s get to
celebrating,” Jordan stated as he slipped between the marshal
and the rancher, placing his arms behind their backs, and
resting his hands on their shoulders.
“Aren’t you forgetting something?” Lucas asked as he turned and
looked back to his friend’s carpetbag sitting on the platform.
“Oh, my bag!”
Merrill jogged to retrieve his bag before he returned to join
Lucas and Micah for a visit to the saloon.
Late afternoon had turned to evening and Micah had long excused
himself from the saloon, stating, “I’ve a town to watch after,”
as Lucas and Jordon continued to catch up on each other’s lives.
As the two men talked, they were oblivious to the comings and
goings of the other patrons in the bar.
Having discussed everything they could think of, Lucas finally
asked, “Why’d you leave?”
“You know why I left.” Jordan stated as he set his empty beer
mug down on the table.
“No, I don’t…”
“Lucas, I was accused of murder; I saw how everyone kept looking
at me, even after I was acquitted.”
“That’s just it, you were acquitted.”
“Lucas, I just couldn’t stay any longer… I loved Penelope...
Everything in Enid reminded me of her… And the stares from the
people in town…”
“It didn’t matter to Margaret and me; we knew you couldn’t have
“Two people out of how many…”
“There were twelve men sitting on that jury,” commented Lucas.
“Okay, so fourteen people believed me innocent,” Jordan took a
drink from the beer mug he held in his hand before he continued.
“And then there was the letter from my parents telling me in
their eyes they had no son.”
“Jordan, we all have memories from the war we’d prefer to
forget, your parents just couldn’t accept that you’d gone off to
“Yeah… in their eyes I had to be a troublemaker in order to want
to go to war…” Jordan spoke as he motioned Sweeney for another
beer. “A troublemaker and a murderer… My holier than thou
Jordan took a long drink from the glass Sweeney handed him.
Knowing the hell he had personally experienced upon his return
home after the war, Lucas understood his friend better than
most, as he watched him drink half the glass.
“They found Penelope’s murderer a few months after you left…”
“Didn’t do me any good…”
“If you had stayed…” Lucas tried to say.
“Penelope was gone. There was nothing to keep me in Enid and
nothing for me to go back home to in Corydon…”
Wanting to change his friend’s mood, Lucas asked, “So, what
brings you to North Fork?”
“Just passing through; got tired of sitting on the train, wanted
to get off and stretch my legs. Then, someone called me out…”
Jordan’s expression changed, his face carried a brooding,
warning, “Lucas, if I hadn’t heard that woman and your marshal
call your name…”
“You’re not the kind who could kill for no reason,” Lucas
answered, remembering him for who he had been.
“Lucas, it’s been fifteen years. You don’t know me anymore…”
“Where are you heading?” asked Lucas, trying to change his
“Silver City; believe it or not, I have a job waiting for me.”
“I’m happy for you. Say, if you have the time, why don’t you
spend a few days with Mark and me? We’ve plenty of room at the
ranch; I mean it’s not big, but its home.”
“You know Lucas; I might just take you up on that offer.”
“Come on, finish up that beer and we’ll get you a horse from the
livery and we can head to the ranch. I’m sure Mark’s wondering
when I’ll get home.”
As Lucas and Mark worked their ranch over the course of the
weekend, Jordan applied his strong back to help with many of
their chores; three men working on some of the projects made the
tasks a lot easier than it would have been had it been just the
McCains. All the while, Lucas saw his old friend relax and ease
into their comfortable life.
After supper Sunday night, Lucas tended to the animals in the
barn while Mark finished the last of his homework, and Jordan
sat out on the porch, smoking a cigarette.
Setting his books aside, Mark stepped to the porch, and asked,
“You and Pa know each other a long time?”
“I was transferred into his unit close to the end of the war.
Afterwards, he sort of took me under his wing, like I was his
little brother; we did a lot of traveling together.”
“Pa says you’re going to Silver City for a job, what kind of a
job?” inquired Mark.
“Surprised Lucas didn’t ask me that question,” Jordan answered.
“Pa isn’t as inquisitive as I am. He says I get that from my ma.
I take it you knew my ma?”
“Yes, I knew your mother. Lucas and I eventually went our
separate ways, but one day, I happened into a little town in
Oklahoma and saw this pretty, little filly of a gal; just my
luck, after I bumped into her I saw the ring on her finger.”
“What happened?” asked Mark.
“I introduced myself and apologized, and then I found out she
was married to Lucas and when she found out I was an old friend,
she invited me home with her. You should have seen Lucas’ face
when we came riding up the road to their home… He was all
frazzled, couldn’t get you to quit crying.”
“Me? Crying? I don’t remember…”
“You wouldn’t. You couldn’t have been more than six, seven
months old at the time, your pa, he insisted that I stay on.”
“Because you served together during the war?” asked Mark.
“Yeah,” Jordan answered with more of a defeat in his attitude.
Mark heard and saw the change in the man’s demeanor, “People say
Pa had a hard time after the war, there were a few years where
no one in the family saw much of him, but some say he raised all
kinds of Cain.”
“We sure did…” Jordan answered as he pulled out another
cigarette from his pocket and lit it.
“You were with Pa?” inquired Mark.
“Part of the time, I don’t think he’d like me telling those
stories to you,” answered Jordan.
“What won’t I like you telling?” Lucas asked as he joined the
two on the porch.
“Pa, Mr. Merrill was starting to tell me a little about the two
of you… after the war.”
“He’s right, I don’t think you need to know about that,” Lucas
voiced his disapproval.
Lucas served breakfast Monday morning when Jordan stated, “I
best be betting back on the train today. Lucas, Mark, I really
want to thank you for your hospitality. You sure have the life,”
and set his carpetbag by the front door.
“Do you have a set date when you’re supposed to be in Silver
City?” Lucas asked.
“Not really,” Jordan answered.
“Then why head out so soon?” Lucas asked. “I mean, I’ve seen you
change since you arrived at the ranch. You look relaxed…”
“You don’t need me hanging around here, getting in your way,”
Mark spoke before Lucas could, “You’re not in the way, and it’s
good for Pa to have someone besides me hanging around here all
“Mark, if Jordan needs to leave…”
“I really do,” the man stated as his eyes clouded over as if he
remembered something from long ago.
“We’ll saddle the horses while Mark washes the dishes,” Lucas
As they neared the town, Lucas and Jordan waved to Mark as he
turned BlueBoy from the path to head to the school.
“He’s a good boy, Lucas. You should be proud of the job you’ve
done raising him.”
“I’m proud he’s my son, but believe me, there’s been times where
I wanted to tan his hide if not rattle his throat,” Lucas fondly
remember some of those trying times. “It wasn’t easy after
Margaret passed… But we made a life, together.”
“That you did,” Jordon commented.
The two continued into North Fork, greeting the marshal as they
halted their horses in front of the livery.
“Lucas, you saved me the effort of a ride to your place this
morning,” Micah stated.
“What’s up?” asked Lucas.
“You received a wire this morning, and it’s pretty important.”
Lucas took the sheet of paper from Micah and read it.
“Trouble, Lucas?” Jordan asked.
“I don’t think so. I’ve been requested to the Territorial
Governor’s Office for a meeting and I need to be there by
Thursday. Jordan, this puts me in a real bind. Listen, why don’t
you stay on at the ranch until I get back. There’s a lot of work
that Mark and I were planning to do this week… I’ll pay you good
wages for helping me out.”
“Jordan, I’m the President of North Fork’s Cattlemen’s
Association and I have to go, there’s no one else. You yourself
said you didn’t have any specific date to be in Silver City…
Please, besides, I’m sure Mark would appreciate being able to
stay at the ranch instead in town while I’m gone…”
Taking a few moments to think, Jordan finally answered, “Okay
Lucas, I’ll stay.”
“Good, I need to send a wire to Franklin Galveston confirming
I’ll be there.”
Upon Mark’s arrival home, he was surprised to find Jordan
Merrill coming down the steps of the porch and walking across
“I thought you were needing to leave,” Mark curiously commented
as he stepped down from his horse in front of the barn. He
looked around trying to find anything out of place that would
indicate trouble. He remembered a few times from the past, times
when his Pa’s life was in danger; Dan Maury, Billy St. John, and
“I was, but plans changed.” Jordan stopped at BlueBoy’s head.
“Your Pa wants to talk with you inside. I’ll take care of your
Mark cautiously handed BlueBoy’s reins to his pa’s friend, and
approached his home; the route up the steps was a curious one,
as he tried to look in the front window without being seen,
still unsure that everything was okay.
“You get to meet the Territorial Governor?” Mark excitedly asked
after listening to Lucas explain the reason for Jordan
remaining, and his trip. “What are you going to tell him? I
mean… How will statehood benefit the cattlemen in the
“Well, I know how I think statehood would benefit the citizens,
but I hadn’t given thought on how it would benefit the
“Looks like you need to do some studying,” teased Mark as he
stood and walked into the kitchen to begin preparing to cook
“I asked Jordan if he wouldn’t mind staying here at the ranch,
there’s so much work we planned to do, this way you can stay
here. Mark, I realize you’re growing up, but I just don’t feel
comfortable with you staying all by yourself. Hopefully I’ll be
back no later than Sunday night or Monday morning at the
“I understand Pa, besides, I like Mr. Merrill, and he’s a friend
of yours… We’ll be fine.”
“I thought you’d feel that way,” stated Lucas and smiled in
“Are you going to take the train or ride Razor?” asked Mark.
Either way I’ll be pushing to get there by Thursday. But if I
take the train out Wednesday morning, I can help get some of the
work around the ranch done tonight and tomorrow.”
Wednesday morning Mark and Jordan rode into town to see Lucas
off at the train depot.
“Wish I could go with you,” Mark stated. “I could get extra
credit from Mr. Griswald.”
“You just pay attention to your school studies, if this trip had
been two weeks later, I’d have no trouble taking you along on
“I know, Pa. I can’t wait to hear all about your trip, when you
get home.” Mark looked to the clock hanging on the station wall,
“Sorry, but I gotta get to school.”
“Study hard,” stated Lucas as he hugged his son goodbye.
The train conductor called “ALL ABOARD!”
The train to Santa Fe pulled into the station a little before
suppertime. Lucas collected his carpetbag and his rifle before
he exited the train, to be greeted by Franklin Galveston.
“Lucas!” Franklin called as he waved his hand over his head,
trying to gain Lucas’ attention.
After acknowledging the man, Lucas made his way through the
“Glad you could come on such short notice, but Ross insisted in
meeting with you before the others arrived,” Franklin greeted.
“Ross, that’s Territorial Governor Edmund Ross?” inquired Lucas
as Franklin escorted him to a waiting carriage in front of the
“Yep. I was telling him about your little adventure a few years
back when Senator Borden stopped through North Fork, and you
prevented that assassination attempt.”
“It wasn’t just me…” Lucas added, trying to deflect so much
attention from himself.
“You and your marshal, but it’s part of Torrance’s job. You on
the other hand… Let’s get you settled in your hotel room. It’ll
be just the two of us for supper tonight.”
Thursday morning, Franklin Galveston greeted Lucas as he entered
the dining room in the hotel restaurant, where the two men
discussed their planned meeting with the territorial governor.
As the waitress cleared the dirty plates from the table,
Franklin looked at his pocket watch and stated, “We best get
going. We’re supposed to be at Ross’ office by nine.” Seeing
Lucas pick up his rifle, he added, “You best leave that in your
room. You won’t need it where we’re going.”
Lucas began to protest, but finally agreed to leave his rifle in
his hotel room when Franklin stated, “Ross’ security force won’t
let you anywhere near him, if you carry that.”
Lucas observed the Spanish influence in the architecture of the
buildings while the carriage drove the men through town.
“Here we are,” Franklin stated as the carriage came to a stop.
“Franklin,” Territorial Governor Edmund Ross extended his hand
in greeting, “And I presume you are Lucas McCain?”
“Yes, sir, Governor,” Lucas answered.
“Please, call me Edmund.”
“Won’t you have a seat,” the governor motioned for Lucas and
Franklin to take a chair.
“Now Lucas, I’ve heard a great deal about you from Franklin as
well as Senator Borden. Both speak very highly of you.”
“Thank you, but I’m just a rancher,” replied Lucas.
“You’re more than just a rancher; though I am disappointed you
didn’t bring your rifle…”
“Sir, I thought it best if he left it at the hotel,” Franklin
“Well, I guess a few of my associates wouldn’t appreciate you
bringing it… But still, to see the Rifleman’s rifle.”
“Edmund, my rifle is a tool and a tool only. I didn’t…”
“You’re right,” interrupted the governor. “My apologies. This is
a tough territory and her people do what they have to do in
order to live. I guess we should get to the reason why I’ve
asked Franklin to bring you here.”
“I’ve given it quite a bit of thought and honestly, statehood
means more for the individual citizens than it does for the
cattlemen. We already have an association that does a
pretty-good job in representing the needs of our members,
whether they’re a large outfit like Franklin’s or a small
outfit, like mine. A man should only hold as much as he can
Edmund raised his eyebrows and slowly moved his head back and
“I told you Edmund, Lucas McCain is quite different from the
majority of men. He’s self sufficient; I wish more of our
members were the same.” Turning to Lucas, Franklin continued,
“Lucas, as the discussion of statehood increases, there are
others who are petitioning us to open up more land to the
cattleman, driving off established and recent homesteaders
alike. Demanding the federal government step in and stop the
westward population expansion…”
“Since when?” a surprised Lucas asked.
“It’s going to be brought up at tomorrow’s meeting of the
Associations,” Franklin stated.
“I knew some of the larger ranchers were impatient to expand,
having too many cattle on too little range, but I didn’t know
their demands…” acknowledged Lucas.
The three continued their discussions for the rest of the
morning focusing more on how the ‘citizens’ would benefit from
the implementation of infrastructure, better roads in towns,
railroad spurs, more lawmen, and more schools.
“Lucas, I’m pleased to know there are civic minded people who
think of others and not just themselves. It’s people like you,
who will help convince others that statehood is a good idea.”
Lucas and Franklin left the office of the territorial governor
and returned to the hotel.
As Lucas stepped from the carriage, Franklin stated, I’ll send
my carriage to you around five this evening, we’ll have supper
at my place where we can formulate an agenda to see that
tomorrow’s discussions are in the interests of all.”
Mark returned home from school Friday afternoon to find a note
nailed on the door to the barn.
Lost track of time and forgot to check on the pregnant cows we
moved yesterday, should be back by 5:00.
Mark led BlueBoy into his stall in the barn and began to
unsaddle him, before proceeding to do his chores; cleaning the
stalls for their horses, picking out the corral, feeding the
animals, and milking the cows. With his rifle in one hand, Mark
pulled out his pocket watch and grew concerned when he realized
it was half past five.
As he looked at his watch, Mark also heard riders coming down
the road; as he watched the three riders draw near, he paused by
the water well, figuring they might be looking to water their
The clean-shaven man in the lead was dressed in a grey traveling
suit and a derby hat, he wore wire-rimmed spectacles, while the
other two wore working vests over their shirts, leather chaps
over their jeans, and cowboy hats; both also wore several day’s
growth of beards and mustaches.
“Hello,” offered Mark as the men stopped their horses. “Can I
“Yes,” answered the man wearing the derby, “Can you tell us if
this is the residence of Lucas McCain?”
“Yes, sir, it is. He’s my pa,” answered Mark.
“Might he be home?” the man asked.
“No sir, he’s not here, right now,” answered Mark. “Your horses
look like they could use some water, I’d be happy to draw a
bucket or two…”
“Thank you, we’d be obliged,” stated the derby man as he stepped
down from his horse.
Mark set he rifle against the stone and mortar wall so he could
lower the bucket into the well.
The man’s companions followed suit as they too stepped from
“Boss, he’s not here,” whispered the nervous man to the left of
the derby wearer; the man couldn’t have more than in his early
The man motioned for the other one to shut up, “We’ve come a
fair distance to consult with him, will he be back soon?”
“I’m sorry,” Mark stated as he drew the first bucket of water
from the well. “He’s up in Santa Fe; he’s meeting with the
“We have to stop him,” the nervous man called out again.
“Stop him?” Mark queried, unsure what the man meant, and pulled
the bucket over the edge of the wall.
Too late, Mark sensed danger as the third man approached him
from behind and brought the butt of his gun down on the back of
Mark’s head. Mark’s vision blackened as his fingers loosened
their grip on the handle to the water bucket; he fell into its
contents as the water splashed out of the bucket as it hit the
“See if there’s a horse in the barn and get it saddled,” ordered
the derby man.
“What for?” asked the man returning his gun to his holster.
“We’re taking him with us.”
“Why?” asked the man who had struck Mark.
“Do you think his father will continue to press for statehood,
knowing his precious son is missing… Ever since Senator Borden
survived his assassination attempt, Lucas McCain has become a
vocal force behind the bid for statehood.”
“Why take him? Just kill him…” the man nervously spoke.
“Boyle, think man; if we kill him now, no one will know why. We
take the brat with us and we get two for the price of one,” the
man stated as he returned from his horse, carrying a length of
rope he retrieved from his saddlebag.
“Is that what you’re planning, Hennessee?” the Boyle asked of
the man wearing the derby.
“Epps is right. You have a problem with that?” Hennessee asked.
“No, no problem…” Boyle answered.
“Good, after helping Epps tie the boy across his saddle, get
inside and stuff anything you can into those carry sacks.”
“I still don’t understand why we don’t go into town,” Ben
Malachi stated as he stretched out across the ground.
“And have everybody know were here,” Daniel Malachi answered.
“We’re free men. We got papers that say so.”
“And when they find Lucas McCain dead, and know we’re in town,
they’ll figure we did it. Does that explain why?” Daniel
Daniel and Ben Malachi leisurely waited on the hill overlooking
the road from North Fork to the McCain Ranch, until they heard a
“Pappy, there’s a rider coming,” Ben called as he scrambled to
look over the rise.
“Is it him?” Daniel asked.
“Sitting that tall in the saddle; cain’t be none other,” Ben
replied and looked as Daniel positioned himself to take a shot
with the rifle.
“Just a little closer,” Daniel whispered and waited, he pressed
his index finger firmer to the trigger. He exhaled and fired; a
few moments later the rider fell from the saddle, his horse
bolted sideways and galloped away.
Father and son returned to their horses, climbed up into the
saddles, and raced them to the fallen rider.
Ben was the first to jump down from his saddle and approach the
man on the ground.
“Pa, it ain’t him,” Ben stated after he turned the body over.
“What do you mean, it ain’t him?” Daniel Malachi asked. “Cain’t
be nobody else his size.”
“It’s been five years, but I swear, this ain’t the sodbuster.”
After closely examining the body, the elder Malachi bemused,
“Just like before… Drag him off the road and get in the saddle.”
“Whe’re we going?”
“To get The Rifleman,” Daniel stated, a vile smile spreading
across his face.
Upon their arrival at the McCain Ranch, Daniel and Ben Malachi
found it in a state of disarray; and after a thorough search of
the house and the barn, they found no sign of anyone around.
“What do we do now?” Ben asked as he stepped from the porch.
“Seems someone else beat us to him; found signs of a scuffle
over by the water well, we’re gonna follow those tracks.”
“But who would have taken him, Pappy?”
“I don’t know, but I want to make sure McCain is dead.”
“And if he ain’t?” asked Ben.
“Once we catch up with them, we’ll make sure he never sees
“But what about the marshal?” Ben asked as a second thought.
“We’ll take care of him, after I get me a sodbuster.”
“What about supplies? Weren’t nothin’ inside…”
“You know how to hunt, I taught ya, you and both your brothers…
We live off the land…”
Hennessee motioned for the two other men to halt as they came to
a small wooded area.
“What are we stopping for?” asked Boyle. “There’s still plenty
”There’s a cavern the other side of this stand of trees. We can
make camp and have a fire with none the wiser,” answered
Hennessee. “Drag the boy from his saddle and follow me.”
After tying their horses, Epps and Boyle pulled a moaning Mark
from the saddle and followed Hennessee into the cave.
“Drop him over there,’ ordered Hennessee. “Boyle, unsaddle the
horses and bring the gear in here, Epps, find some wood for a
Hennessee followed the two as they returned to the horses; he
pulled down his bedroll and the carry sacks, and returned to the
“I don’t understand how come we’re not heading to Santa Fe?”
Boyle asked as he opened a can of beans and set it down on a
rock next to the fire. “That’s where the boy said his Pa was.”
“Don’t you know nottin’?” Epps answered, disgustedly.
Hennesee answered, “In Santa Fe we’d be too close to the law…
The others are waiting for us over by the Gila Mountains, we
take the boy there, his Pa follows us, and both disappear… No
one will ever find them.”
“But his Pa don’t even know we took him,” a confused Boyle
“He will, in time.” Hennessee pulled off his derby and set it
next to his bedroll; he held out his hands in front of the fire
and regaled in the warmth as the temperatures began to drop for
the night. “This gives us time to set our trap. A well thought
out plan is better than a hurriedly conceived one.”
As Mark struggled to regain consciousness, the buzzing in his
head began to subside, allowing the pain across his ribs to be
felt. He tried to remember as bits and pieces of what happened
returned to his memory. Upon opening his eyes, everything looked
blurry; he tried to raise his hands to rub at his eyes, only to
realize his hands were bound behind his back. Shaking his head
and blinking his eyes, Mark thought he heard voices; with all
his concentration he finally focused his eyes and saw his three
captors sitting around a campfire, eating.
“You best let me go!” Mark called out, regretting the volume of
his voice as the ache in his head returned.
“Well looky, looky. Did you have a nice sleep?” Boyle tauntingly
“Why did you kidnap me?” Mark asked in a quieter voice as
Hennessee walked over to him and knelt in front of him.
“Don’t you know?” Epps asked as he walked over to stand next to
“If I did, I don’t think I would have asked,” Mark answered with
a sarcastic tone to his voice.
“Cut him loose,” Hennessee ordered.
“What for?” Boyle answered as he walked to stand next to Epps.
“Unless you plan on hand feeding the boy…” replied Hennessee as
he stood to his feet. His tone indicated he wasn’t thrilled with
the cowboy’s inability to reason things out on his own.
Boyle pulled Mark to a sitting position, pushed him forward, and
cut the ropes that bound his hands, “No funny stuff,” he said as
he tapped the point of his knife to Mark’s jugular vein, before
returning it to the sheath on the left side of his belt.
“I’m not hungry,” Mark’s tone voiced his disdain for the three
“Suit yourself,” Hennessee stated.
“Where are we?” inquired Mark as he rubbed at his wrists to
alleviate the tingling sensation in his hands.
“You don’t need to know that,” Boyle answered, hoping to sound
“I need to relieve myself,” Mark commented.
“Boyle, take the boy outside, but don’t let him get away,”
Hennessee stated as he returned to the campfire.
A few minutes later, with a revolver still pointed at his back,
Mark returned to the cave to hear the end of Epps’ comment,
Thinking the men were in favor of statehood, Mark stated, “My
Pa’s in favor of statehood. That’s why he went up to meet with
the territorial governor, telling him how it will benefit the
cattlemen of the area,”
“To hell with statehood!” declared Epps, jumping to his feet.
“We don’t need the government telling us what to do! I’ve had
enough of people telling me what to do and when to do it.” As he
walked, he balled his hands in and out of fists and clenched his
jaw as he ground his teeth.
“Statehood isn’t about the government telling…” Mark stopped
speaking and realized that maybe he should have kept quiet.
The rough cowboy continued to approach Mark, causing him to back
up until the cave wall prevented him from getting any farther.
The cowboy pulled back his right arm and punched Mark across the
cheek. As Mark staggered from the blow, the cowboy grabbed him
by the front of his shirt and threw another punch into the boy’s
middle, causing Mark to bend over and grab to his stomach. All
the while, the big man ranted against statehood and those who
stood for it.
Mark collapsed to the ground, coughing, as Boyle struggled to
restrain his companion and pull him away.
“EPPS!” Hennessee yelled with enough authority to break through
the man’s rage. Once he held the man’s attention, he continued,
“You can have your fun, later. If the boy’s not hungry, tie him
up for the night.”
Gasping against the pain, Mark resisted his arms being pulled
and bound behind his back.
“Quit fighting or I’ll tap you over the back of the head again,”
Epps cruelly commented.
With tears streaming down his face, Mark closed his eyes and
mentally cried, “Pa, please find me.”
Daniel Malachi followed the trail leading away from the McCain
Ranch until the sun slipped behind the mountains to the west.
The fact he could follow a trail surprised his surviving son. As
they made camp, Daniel insisted his son scour up some firewood
as he pulled out some dried jerky from his saddlebags. After
satisfying their empty stomachs, they laid out their bedrolls
and fell asleep.
The sound of nature was intermittently interrupted by sound of
snores as father and son slept.
With a throbbing head and sore ribs, Mark slept very little
during the night on the cold, hard ground. He gritted his teeth
upon hearing the others stir about their camp for the morning;
quietly he prayed that somehow his Pa knew he was in trouble.
“Wake up boy,” Boyle stated as he used the toe of his boot to
nudge Mark awake.
“I’m awake,” Mark stated.
The cowboy knelt down and pulled Mark to sit up; he untied the
ropes that bound Mark’s wrists and ankles.
“Come along, you get to collect wood for the fire morning,”
Boyle pulled his revolver from his pocket and motioned Mark to
get to his feet. Unable to contain the groan as his muscles
protested, Mark slowly stood to his feet.
“Get a move on, kid!” Epps yelled as he pulled on his boots.
Ten minutes later, carrying an armload of wood, Mark was pushed
back into the cavern. He dropped the wood next to the fire as he
fell to his knees.
“Uh, uh, I wouldn’t try anything,” Hennessee warned as he picked
up a few pieces of wood and stirred them into the fire. “Epps
has taken a distinct dislike to you, he might just get trigger
Hennessee set out a few biscuits and offered one to Mark.
“I told you, I’m not hungry.”
“Good, more for me,” stated Epps as he took a bite from one of
the biscuits. “Your Ma’s a good cook,” he continued to talk and
caught some of the crumbs before they fell on his dirty shirt.
“Don’t you talk of my ma,” Mark stated.
“Bet she’s purty, probably beside herself wondering where you
are. Hey, where was she yesterday? She left her little boy at
home?” Epps wickedly teased as he walked over to the camp fire.
“My mother’s dead.”
“Poor, little boy,” stated Hennessee.
“Stop it!” Mark yelled.
Angered by Mark’s outburst, Epps backhanded him across the face
and ordered, “Don’t you raise your voice to me. You don’t give
orders, you do as we say.”
Hennessee motioned for Boyle to move Mark to the other side of
“When do we head out?” Epps asked as his gaze followed Boyle and
Mark across the cave.
“Why the rush?” Hennessee asked.
“The sooner we get back to the others, the sooner we can dispose
of him and his Pa. ‘Sides, I don’t like the idea of the three of
us alone tangling with his pa.”
“Relax, Harvey is smart. He wouldn’t have sent us after the boy
if he didn’t have a plan.”
“I still don’t see why your brother didn’t send more men with
us. Would have been better to kill him right out.”
“See that’s why Harvey is the boss. Kill the man in his
hometown, everyone gets angry and demands to find the killers.
Kill a man while he’s searching for his missing boy… He just
doesn’t return and life goes on…”
“Still we were lucky his old man wasn’t home… Had you thought on
how to get the boy if McCain had been home?”
Taking a moment to think, Hennessee called out, “Boyle, you and
the kid saddle the horses. We leave in fifteen minutes.”
Even though these men were taking him farther from North Fork,
Mark was thankful that this time he was allowed to sit in the
As Saturday morning dawned, Daniel Malachi shook out his bedroll
to cast off the water from the rain that had fallen on them
during the night. He walked over and kicked his son awake, “Get
up, we’re losing daylight.”
Once in the saddle, the son watched the father as the father
watched the trail while they continued to follow their quarry.
Several hours later Daniel motioned for a halt, and stepped from
his saddle. Dropping his reins, he kept looking down as he
walked around the wooded area.
Upon hearing Daniel call out, “There’s their trail,” and point
at the ground, Ben asked, “Pappy, how’d you do that?”
“It’s easy,” answered Daniel. “Once you know what to look for.
See these hoof prints… This one has a different shoe on the one
hoof than the others; it’s the same three and one that was back
at the sodbuster’s. There’s a broken twig on that tree over
there.” Dropping to his knees, Daniel ran his hand over the
surface of the ground. “They left their horses here and started
walking that way, dragging someone…”
“The sodbuster?” an eager Ben inquired.
Ignoring his son’s question, Daniel stated, “And if my nose
doesn’t know any better, I’m smelling remnants of a campfire.”
“Pappy, where are they?”
“Don’t ask stupid questions.”
The two riders continued to follow the tracks and as the sun
crossed into the afternoon sky, they stopped to water their
horses and fill their canteens. Standing in the middle of the
creek, the elder Malachi stretched backwards before he took a
long drink. Wiping away the excess water from his chin with the
back of his sleeve, Daniel stated, “We’re close, boy. We’re
“How can you tell, Pappy,” asked Ben, as he hung his canteen
from the saddle horn.
As he stooped to refill his canteen, he replied, “I can feel it
in my bones. Five years of awaiting, and today, I feel it.”
The sun was close to setting when Daniel Malachi spotted a
campfire in the distance.
“Do you think that’s them?” Ben asked.
“These tracks lead in that direction… Leave the horses.”
Father and son stepped from their saddles, pulled their rifles,
and proceeded towards the camp.
As they hid in the nearby underbrush and looked into the camp,
Ben stated, “Pappy, the sodbuster ain’t in there. We came all
this way for nothing…”
“Shut your yap!” hissed Daniel. “Let me think…” After scratching
the stubble on his chin, he said, “You know, I remember that
sodbuster having a brat, and I bet ya that’s him over there.”
Daniel pointed to the far side of the camp; he felt a sickening
sense of pleasure as he watched a man backhand the boy several
times. The big man dropped the boy to his feet and turned around
to return to the fire. As the smaller figure collapse to the
ground, the man called out, “Next time, do as I tell ya, if ya
know what’s good for ya.”
Daniel realized the boy was bound hand and foot, as the boy drew
his knees to his chest.
“What’s that matter? We’re after the sodbuster,” Ben stated.
“Ben, that sodbuster killed two of my sons… your brothers…”
Daniel Malachi’s eyes showed fire and his voice spoke his anger.
“I think I should repay him… an eye for an eye. I just hope
those three don’t kill him first.”
A wicked smile spread across Daniel Malachi’s face as he
continued to formulate his plan. After a few minutes he said,
“You head back to North Fork and their ranch, keep an eye out
for that sodbuster. He’s sure bound to come after his kid. Leave
him a note; tell him his boy can be found in Pinos Altos. You
get back here and we can still have our ‘fun’…”
“Why do I have to go after him, why can’t I wait for him with
“He don’t know where his boy is, and that rain the other day
would have easily washed away a two-day old trail. The sooner
you leave that note, the sooner you get back here,” ordered
Daniel. “Now get!”
Sunday late afternoon, Micah stepped from the Marshal’s Office
and greeted Amos, the telegrapher.
“Got the packet that came in on the afternoon train for you
Micah,” Amos stated as he handed the brown paper packet tied
with string to the Marshal. “Also, got a letter for Lucas;
doesn’t surprise me Mark didn’t show up for church this morning,
considering the circuit preacher wasn’t supposed to be here, but
it’s strange he didn’t come into town yesterday to get their
“He and Jordan are probably trying to get everything done at the
ranch, you know, before Lucas gets home. He probably forgot all
about their mail, that or figured they could get it when Lucas
“He sure is growing up,” mused the telegrapher.
“Yes, he sure is.” Micah stated as he smiled, he thought of the
young man as a grandson. “Thanks for the packet, Amos. If
anyone’s looking for me, I’ll be at the café eating supper,”
Micah stated as he tossed the packet to his desk, turned around,
and locked the door to his office.
Having enjoyed a steak for supper and a brief conversation with
the Deputy U.S. Marshal, Micah hadn’t be able to draw out from
the man why he continued to stay on in North Fork. Micah finally
decided to put the deputy out of his mind and make his regular
stroll through the town, ensuring all was secure for the
After returning to his office and leaning back in his chair and
starting to prop his feet upon his desk; the packet sitting
precariously on the edge of his desk drew his attention. Micah
sat forward in the chair and with one hand, he reached for the
packet and with his other hand, he pulled out his knife and cut
the string before he opened the wrapping.
Micah took time to review several of the new wanted posters
before he found a bulletin issued from the various prisons
relating to prisoners released. Micah couldn’t believe the names
at the bottom of the list; Daniel Malachi and Benjamin Malachi
and the date they had been released.
“Damn!” Micah exclaimed as he realized two weeks had passed
since the father and son had been released. Micah reached for
his scattergun and left the office.
“Micah, sorry, I didn’t see you,” John Hamilton stated as he
steadied himself upon bumping into the marshal in front of the
“No, I wasn’t watching… Say, would you keep an eye on the office
for a little while?”
“Sure, but why?”
“I need to head out to Lucas’…”
“Micah, he left this last week, remember?” John spoke with a
hint of amusement in his voice.
“All the more reason I need to get to his place and warn Mark
“Warn them? Micah, what’s wrong?” asked John, all sense of humor
vanished from his voice.
“The Malachi’s were released from Yuma two weeks ago. They swore
revenge on Lucas…”
“And you! Micah, you can’t head out there by yourself!”
“I’m the law…”
“Then let me go get Nils to watch the office and I’m going with
you to Lucas’,” offered John.
“You think I’m incapable of doing my job?!” Micah demanded to
“No, I know you’re capable of doing your job, it’ll be dark by
the time you get there, besides the more eyes the better, in
case they’ve planned an ambush.”
“I may be blowing this all out of proportion…”
“I don’t think you are… And with Lucas out of town, we need to
protect Mark,” stated John.
Micah and John rode to warn Jordan Merrill of the wire advising
of the Malachi’s release. Even in the sun’s failing light, they
raced their horses, knowing the urgency. They turned off the
main road, and were a half mile from the ranch when they spotted
the form of a man’s body off the road. Both men reined in their
horses, stepped down and walked to the body.
As he turned the body over, Micah stated, “Its Jordan. Shot in
“How long ago…” John dared asked.
“Can’t be sure.”
“Mark…” breathed John as he looked in the direction of the
“John, you take Jordan’s body back to town, I’ll head on to the
ranch,” advised Micah.
“And what if they realized this wasn’t Lucas, and they’re
waiting at the ranch to ambush the next person who rides in.
They’ve killed two men thinking they were Lucas, they already
feel they have cause to kill you.”
“John, I’ve a bad feeling… This didn’t happen today, or even
yesterday… When Jordan didn’t return to the ranch, Mark should
have come to town and he would have found the body.”
“You think the Malachi’s already have him? But why?”
“If they realize that wasn’t Lucas they killed, what better way
to ensure Lucas would come after them…”
Micah climbed back into this saddle and with John Hamilton by
his side, they raced the half mile to the McCain Ranch.
“Mark!” Micah yelled as he reined in his horse in front of the
“Mark McCain!” John yelled as he reined in his horse in front of
“It’s too dark…” Micah stated in observation as he turned around
in the saddle.
“Heaven protect Mark…” John commented.
“Heaven help Lucas,” Micah answered as he reined his horse
Before leaving Lucas’, they entered the barn and gathered the
team horses and a coil of rope hanging on the wall. As they
returned to town, they stopped to pick up Jordan Merrill’s body
and tied him to the back of one of the horses. Upon arriving in
North Fork, John took the body to Doc Burrage’s while Micah
returned to his office to find the Deputy U.S. Marshal talking
with Nils, waiting for him.
“Did you encounter any trouble?” the deputy casually asked as he
stood to his feet.
The anger inside Micah turned on the lawman, “You knew something
was going to happen and yet you didn’t warn me!” Micah reached
for the man and shoved him, bending him backwards against his
“Micah!” exclaimed Nils as he reached for Micah’s arms.
“What are you talking about?” the deputy nervously asked.
“Stay out of this, Nils. Mister, lawmen don’t come to North Fork
for no reason, tell me what you know!” demanded Micah.
“I don’t know anything,” claimed the deputy.
“Then tell me why you’re here!”
“Just doing my job,” the deputy replied.
“Tell me, what job!” Micah stated has he position his forearm
across the man’s chest and reached for his revolver.
“MICAH! You can’t be serious?!” declared Nils.
“Tell me why you’re here,” Micah ordered as he placed the end of
his revolver to the deputy’s temple.
“Okay, okay… I’m trying to stay ahead of the Malachi’s. They
swore vengeance on you and another witness. Denver sent me here…
If I saw them, I was to send word. Besides, with me here, I’m
sort of a… a… protection detail.”
“Then you failed your job!” Micah declared as he pushed himself
back from the deputy, slipped his revolver into his holster,
turned and walked to the rifle rack on the back wall in the
“What do you mean, I failed. Lucas McCain is up in Santa Fe and
you’re here. And no one’s seen hide nor hair of the Malachi’s.
They probably high tailed it to Mexico,” the deputy stated as he
straightened the front of his shirt, swallowed deep in an effort
to calm himself.
“Lucas McCain has a son and he’s missing. That body we brought
in was a friend of Lucas’…a friend who was staying at the ranch
with the boy while Lucas is gone. Someone killed him in cold
blood. At their ranch, we found signs of a struggle and the boy
was nowhere to be found!” Setting several rifles and shotguns on
top of his desk, Micah pushed Nils out of the way, as he walked
behind his desk, opened a drawer, and pulled out several boxes
of cartridges and shells. Looking the deputy in the eye, he
hollered, “Get the hell out of my town!”
“Mark’s missing?” Nils asked.
“You’re deputized,” Micah stated as he toss a rifle to Nils.
“Get your horse, pack some supplies, and be ready to ride at
seven tomorrow morning.”
“You gonna wire Lucas?” Nils asked.
“He’s already on his way home.”
Daybreak was just painting the eastern sky as Lucas nervously
sat on the train, waiting for it to pull into North Fork;
without a conscious thought, his hand continued to play over the
trigger of his rifle. The closer the train came, the more
anxious Lucas became.
A clean-shaven, thin black man wearing the uniform of a
conductor walked up the aisle calling, “North Fork, next stop.”
Lucas stopped the conductor and asked, “How much longer?”
“We’ll be in North Fork in about thirty minutes, sir,” answered
Lucas was standing, carpet bag in hand, before the train
completely stopped. He stepped from the train to be met by
Micah, who hollered out “Lucas!”
“Micah, tell me, is everything okay?” Lucas’ intuition told him
“Let’s get to my office,” Micah stated.
Upon seeing the frenzied activity in town, Lucas asked, “Micah,
tell me…what’s wrong.”
As Micah closed the door to his office, Lucas demanded, “What
about them?” the gnawing feeling in the pit of his stomach grew
while he waited for the explanation.
“They were released from prison two weeks ago.”
“They should have been hung for killing Henry Trumble!” Lucas
stated. He couldn’t contain his emotions from the injustice that
he felt had been served five years before.
“Lucas, we had no proof it was them. Sure there was
circumstantial evidence, be there were no witnesses…”
“You and I know they killed Henry, thinking he was me!” Lucas’
words continued to voice his anger.
“I agree, but we couldn’t back it up with any proof. All we had
was Sweeney’s and my testimony about the sons disturbing the
peace and Stump’s killing, and their breaking out of jail after
their father assaulted me… Your testimony regarding their
resisting arrest in the mine helped seal their fate of prison.
Besides, they swore revenge upon both of us for Stump’s and
“Do you have any proof they’re heading this way?”
“Lucas, Jordan’s dead.”
“Jordan’s dead? How?” Lucas asked.
“We found his body, last night, not too far from your home, just
off the road. Now we don’t have proof that it was them, no one’s
seen them around town.”
“Where’s Mark?!” Lucas demanded, he felt his knees begin to
buckle as he steadied himself by using the front of the
marshal’s desk, deep down he already knew the answer.
“Lucas, there were signs of a scuffle… He’s missing… I’ve formed
“Missing?!” Lucas closed his eyes as he realized what had caused
his agitation his entire trip home.
“I’ve already sworn in those men outside to ride in the posse.
Hamilton’s getting the last of the supplies ready; we were
planning to ride out of here in a few minutes.”
“I’ll kill them Micah, I’ll kill both of them…” hatred colored
“Lucas don’t talk like that, we’ll get Mark back. And I’d prefer
to bring them in alive.”
“Only if they return Mark to me unharmed, and throw down their
weapons…” Lucas coldly stated his conditions, knowing there
wasn’t any chance that would happen. He turned to leave the
“Lucas if you want to join the posse, you’ll have to do as I
“You can wait for the posse if you want, I’m going alone.”
Lucas closed the door behind him as he left and headed to the
Lucas threw his dress jacket across a bale of hay before he
began to saddle Razor, within twenty minutes of returning to
North Fork, Lucas swung up into the saddle and rode to the
“Men, I thank each and every one of you for wanting to join the
posse to find my son, however, this is between the Malachi’s and
me. I can’t ask for any of you to risk your lives.”
Lucas turned Razor and took from John Hamilton the rope to the
packhorse’s halter, he signaled both horses into a gallop, as he
began his search for Mark. After taking a moment to disband the
posse, Micah followed the rancher to his home.
Desperate to find his son, Lucas raced his horse over the
terrain and home. Upon arrival, he stepped from his horse and
scanned the ground for signs of the scuffle; his eyes locked on
something near the water well. His son’s rifle lying on the dirt
next to the upturned water bucket.
“Lucas, I’m sure the tracks were more obvious before the rains,”
Micah stated as he finally caught up.
“Micah, how do I find him?” Lucas begged as the faint signs he
began to follow faded.
“We can send wires…”
“Wires?! What good will that do Mark?” Lucas demanded to know.
Lucas and Micah both turned at the sound of glass breaking from
the front of the house, both ran for cover as shots rang out.
“What do you want to do?” Micah asked as he peered around the
corner of the barn.
“You keep them busy, I’m going around the back of the barn and
into the house from the bedroom window. Hopefully I can get a
drop on whoever it is.”
Micah fired a few rounds in an effort to keep their assailant’s
attention from noticing Lucas as he ran between the barn and the
Lucas raised the wood and glass pane and lifted his long legs to
climb through the window into the bedroom. With his rifle in
hand, Lucas peered through the doorway and saw a figure crouched
down next to his chair, revolver in hand. Taking one more step,
the man at the window spun around as he heard a floorboard
creek. Grimacing at the sound, Lucas was surprised at the speed
in which the man stood, turned, and fired forcing Lucas to fire
his rifle without taking the time to aim.
The assailant’s bullets struck the doorframe to the bedroom,
sending splinters towards Lucas’ face. Lucas’ shots found their
target, as the impact forced the man backwards through the front
“LUCAS!” hollered Micah as he ran from the side of the barn.
“I’m okay! There’s just the one!”
Lucas was already kneeling next to the prone figure when Micah
stepped to the porch, and watched as Lucas rolled the body over.
“Ben Malachi?” Micah breathed.
With his breaths coming in ragged gasps, Ben tried to laugh.
“Where’s my son?” demanded Lucas.
“You may have killed me and my brothers, but Pappy’s out there,”
Ben struggled to speak, “And once he gets your boy, he’s gonna
“Where is my son?!” Lucas demanded as he grabbed Ben by the
front of his shirt, and raised his upper body off the porch.
“Pappy’ll get even with ya…” Ben stated before his eyes rolled
back in their sockets and his body went limp in Lucas’ hands.
Lucas dropped the man to the porch and stood.
“Micah, how do I find Mark?” Lucas pleaded.
“I… I don’t know.”
Lucas re-entered his home and realized it had been ransacked and
the cupboards in the kitchen were empty,
“Lucas, there’s a note,” commented Micah as he picked up a
folded sheet of paper with one word written on the top, ‘McCain’
Lucas took the sheet of paper from Micah and opened it to read,
Want your kid? Come to Pinos Altos and die. Pappy’ll get him and
both of ya are ded.
“Lucas, we need to go back for the posse,” stated Micah as he
confirmed the man was dead.
“I don’t have time,” Lucas stated as he started to walk away,
but after a few strides he turned to face the marshal and asked,
“Micah, what did he mean, once Daniel gets Mark?”
“What? I.. I don’t know Lucas,” Micah replied as he re-read the
note. “We need to get his body to town.”
“You do it and see that he’s buried deep, and don’t mark his
grave. I’m going after my son.”
Lucas ran for his horse, grabbed the rope to the packhorse, and
“LUCAS!” Micah hollered.
The door to Frank Toomey’s woodworking shop was open, allowing
the wind to blow away some of the wood shavings and dust that
accumulated on the floor. The heavyset man, straightened up from
sanding the plank of wood intended for the top of the coffin, he
stretched his back, backwards and saw the marshal leading a
second horse with a body slung across the saddle.
“Micah?” Toomey called out as he ran over to help the marshal.
“It’s Benjamin Malachi,” Micah stated as he walked over to pull
the body from the saddle.
“What about his old man?”
“Lucas is on his trail,” Micah answered and grunted as the full
weight of the dead man pulled at his body.
The woodcarver helped Micah carry the body into the clinic and
set it on one of the examination tables in the room.
“Micah, a moment?” Doc Burrage asked as the marshal and Toomey
turned to walk out of the clinic.
“Doc, I’ll have the coffin for Merrill ready later tonight. I’ll
work on one for this one tomorrow,” stated Toomey, who turned
and crossed the threshold.
“What’s up?” Micah asked.
“I was preparing Jordan Merrill’s body for burial, and went
through his possessions, to see if there were any papers of next
of kin to notify…”
“Lucas said something about him having folks back in Corydon,
“Micah, that’s not what I was getting at. I found this inside
his boot, he had a pocket stitched inside the boot.”
Doc Burrage handed Micah the sheet of paper, already unfolded.
We have need of your specific talents to resolve a matter of
great importance. If you are successful, you will be compensated
double your price.
Make your way to Pinos Altos at your earliest convenience.”
“Lucas said he was on his way to a new job in Silver City,”
Micah stated as he looked at the backside of the sheet of paper
and thought a moment, “Pinos Altos…”
“It’s just outside of Silver City…”
The realization struck Micah that Lucas was in more danger than
he realized, “Doc, Malachi stated his Pappy had Mark at Pinos
“From that letter, you think Merrill was a hired gun?”
“It’s beginning to look like he might have been.”
“But Lucas was his friend,” declared Doc.
“Maybe he hadn’t been informed who his intended target was…”
Micah removed his hat and scratched the back of his head. “I’m
trying to figure out how the Malachi’s and Merrill figure into
this… I mean, taking the boy when they swore vengeance on Lucas
Micah shook his head from side to side before replacing his hat.
“Are you going to wire Lucas?” Doc Burrage asked.
“Pinos Altos is almost as bad as Lordsburg. I wish there were
some way I could warn Lucas.”
Daniel Malachi began his crawl into the camp; he planned to do
whatever was necessary in order to take the son of Lucas McCain
hostage. As he crept closer, one of the men rolled over and woke
to see the old man, holding a knife over his head as he prepared
to strike. Boyle yelled as he fought Daniel Malachi, but the old
man’s momentum drove the knife into the man’s chest. Hennessee
jumped to his feet upon hearing the commotion, he reached down
for his gun as Malachi pulled his revolver and fired, striking
the man in the chest and spinning him around. Epps rolled
sideways and fired blindly towards their assailant as he felt
fire tear into his shoulder; he feigned death as he heard the
man get to his feet. He dared open his eyes and saw the man walk
over to the boy and heard him say, “Them three caused me a lot
of trouble, but now… you’re with me.”
As the pain Epps felt in his shoulder eventually caused him to
pass out, he didn’t see the fear appear in Marks eyes as he
recognized the man who approached him.
“No!” Mark screamed in his mind as he struggled against his
restraints and the man who pulled him towards the horses.
Needing only as much time to saddle and bridle the boy’s horse,
Daniel Malachi threw Mark across the saddle, “Stop your
squirming else I hammer you over the head with the butt of my
Mark remembered the man who now was his captor; knowing he could
kill in cold blood, he accepted the fact he had no other choice
but to let Daniel Malachi tie him across the saddle. The horse
followed where he was led, and regardless what Mark tried to do,
he couldn’t find a comfortable position, and cringed at the
continual jolting to his ribs and the ache in his head as he
Morning dawned as Epps stood unsteadily on his feet and walked
to check on his companions, confirming both were dead. With his
left shoulder drooping, he walked to the horses and struggled to
saddle and bridle one. He grabbed the saddlehorn with his right
hand and jumped to place his left foot in the stirrup and swing
his right leg over the cantle of the saddle. He urged his horse
in the direction of the Gila Mountains.
Riding into the mining camp, Epps felt overwhelmed as the
landscape towered above him, combined with being lightheaded
from a loss of blood, the walls seemed to dance.
The canyon walls showed years of wear, from man and Mother
Nature; areas blasted out to use as staging areas or blasted to
remove large boulders to gain better access to the mine. Other
areas bore indications of rockslides. Along one wall, a long
slow grade, remnants of a cart path carved into the stone and
dirt led to the entrance of one mine about seventy-five feet up
the face of the wall.
Outside Pinos Altos, in a long-abandoned mining office, a man
who bore a striking resemblance to Hennessee sat on the front
edge of a desk, and stated, “I have a backup plan.”
The man stood just under six foot tall, with a non-descript
build and features, but he carried himself as someone with
self-imposed importance; he could care less of what others
thought, unless they stood against him. He chose not to wear a
revolver at his hip, but carried several derringer pistols
hidden within his clothes.
“Sperry, most of those who stand in favor of statehood only do
so because they know others are in favor… What do you think will
happen when their peers start mysteriously dying?” the man
inquired of the other man in the office with him.
“Harvey, it could incense the people to be more vocal and drive
them against us,” Sperry stated.
Sperry lounged in a chair on the other side of the desk, his leg
hanging over the arm of the chair. For all practical purposes,
he looked like he would be better suited behind a telegraph
desk; compared to Harvey, Sperry was small and diminutive.
“But if they disappear and die, with no real connection… This
territory is still uncivilized; bandits and Indians roam the
“So what’s your backup plan?” inquired Sperry.
“A hired gun from Kansas,” Hennessee answered.
“No, not a gunslinger, a hired gun.”
“There’s a difference?” Sperry asked.
“You might say so. Gunslingers are out to make a name for
themselves and everyone knows about them. Hired gun on the other
hand… Prefers that only his clients know about him.”
“So who is this… hired gun?”
“Never heard of him.”
“That’s why I’ve hired him. Bring in a known gunslinger and
people will start deriving a conclusion. Once people start
dying; however, my plan depends on Merrill’s quiet reputation. A
friend of mine compared him to a ghost, and he is most cautious
in who he chooses as clients.”
“When’s he supposed to arrive?” Sperry asked.
“His wire didn’t say.”
Harvey Hennessee and his brother, Roger Hennessee, had once
before orchestrated the assassination of a political figure
because of his favorable stand on statehood. Upon that failure,
both bemoaned the increased support the movement gained and
vowed that instead of the head, they’d go after the body, the
Epps sagged against the outer wall of the office and began
beating the door. “OPEN UP!” he yelled.
“Harvey,” Epps called as the door opened.
“Epps, where’s Roger?”
All Epps managed to say was, “McCain found us, he killed your
brother,” before he passed out from the loss of blood.
“Get him inside,” Harvey Hennessee called as others crowded into
An hour later, Harvey Hennessee stood over the bed Epps laid in
and watch one of his men cauterized the wound and finished
putting a bandage around the man.
“He should be waking up soon,” the man stated. He walked away
from the bed, with a severe limp, and headed outside to the
horse trough and pumped water to clean his arms and hands. Upon
his return to the bunkhouse, Hennessee stated, “Chandler, seems
you haven’t forgotten what you learned in the war.”
“You help operate on as many people as I did, you don’t forget,”
“Tell me, is he going to survive?” Hennessee asked.
“Only if he tells you what you want to hear,” Chandler answered.
The former Confederate army medical technician had spent too
many years riding with Harvey and Roger Hennessee, and he knew
how close the brothers were. Chandler didn’t give his patient
much chance of survival after he woke.
“You were supposed to protect him. See that he got McCain here!”
It took a few moments, but Epps was able to stand to his feet;
he knew lying on a bed when Harvey Hennessee was irate was
viewed as a sign of weakness.
“He wasn’t there I tell ya. He was already up in Santa Fe. We
went ahead and kidnapped his kid, just like Roger said you
ordered, and that would bring him here. He came after his kid
all right, found us last night, just outside of Pinos Altos. He
stabbed Boyle first and then he shot Roger. I fired at him and
missed because he shot me.”
“Too bad he missed…”
“Missed? He shot me!” exclaimed Epps as he began to point to his
Harvey pulled out his derringer and fired as he finished his
sentence, “… your heart.”
“Get this mess out of here. Feed him to the vultures,” Harvey
stated as he stepped over the dead man’s body. Knowing where his
brother had planned to rest before coming into the Gila
Mountains, Harvey ordered his riders to mount up, he was going
to bury his brother and personally go after McCain. “Damn fool
brother of mine. He was only supposed to keep an eye on McCain
and report back here. Why’d he have to go and do a fool thing
like kidnapping McCain’s kid?”
Chandler answered, “You always know how he was always trying to
prove he was as good as you… He probably figured this would be
one way to get McCain away from North Fork.”
“What about your backup plan?” Sperry asked upon closing the
door as others dragged the dead body from the office.
Harvey Hennessee answered with a cold, calculating voice, “That
was before McCain killed my brother. First we bury Roger, then
we kill a sodbuster.”
Harvey Hennessee and his men halted their horses as they looked
upon the scene around the campfire, where the two men lay dead.
The front of Boyle’s shirt was stained with his blood and he
still laid on his bedroll. Roger Hennessee had collapsed face
down a few feet from his bedroll.
Harvey stepped from his horse and slowly walked to his brother
and knelt beside him. As he rolled his brother so he laid face
up, Harvey looked into his brother’s vacant eyes, and closed
“Get busy and start digging,” Harvey ordered to the men who rode
The rest of the men stepped from their horses and chose two
different spots to bury the men.
Harvey watched as they finished burying his younger brother.
After saying a few words over the grave, he turned and said,
“And now for McCain, only he won’t be so fortunate to die
Harvey returned to his horse and started following the trail
heading south of Pinos Altos.
The sun had set long before a frustrated Lucas halted Razor;
without the light from the moon, he strained his eyes in an
effort to see what lie ahead. Dejectedly Lucas stepped down from
his horse and set about making camp near Pinos Altos.
An uneasy feeling settled over Lucas as he ate from a can of
beans; wondering where or when Daniel Malachi would spring his
trap. As his memory replayed his last meeting with the twisted
mind of Daniel Malachi, Lucas worried if he would be good enough
to save the life of his son. Five years in prison could have
warped the man’s mind even more. Daniel Malachi had held his son
for almost a week and had at least two days head start on him;
and Lucas feared Daniel would take his revenge out Mark.
As he lay down on his bedroll, Lucas couldn’t shake the feeling
that Mark was close by and in danger; but where? Lucas turned
his back to the campfire and prayed, “Margaret, forgive me for
not being there and allowing Mark to be placed in this danger.”
Hennessee and his men spent the rest of the day following the
tracks that ultimately led to a dilapidated, long-abandoned
homestead; a main house, a barn, a bunkhouse, and several other
buildings the men presume were storage shacks. Behind the main
house, the land rolled towards a large stand of trees, and
ultimately rose sharply towards a crag of boulders.
A winded Sperry ran across the open terrain and returned to
where the others waited with their horses, “There’s only the two
of them; they’re in the main house.”
“Where?” Hennessee calmly asked.
“Front left corner,” Sperry replied.
“No one kills McCain but me. Ya hear!!!”
Slowly the men spread out as they sought the best cover for
In the front room of the house, Daniel Malachi nervously paced
back and forth, “Ben should be back by now.”
“Not if my Pa caught up with him,” Mark thought he said quietly
enough that the man wouldn’t hear him.
Daniel stormed over to where Mark sat in a chair, his face mere
inches from the boy’s face, “Your Pa may have killed two of my
sons, but he won’t have the chance to kill Ben; he knows how to
get in and out of places with none the wiser.”
“You know, you’re gonna get sent back to prison,” Mark stated.
“You’re wrong… the country out there… No one will think twice
about one boy getting lost, his pa setting out to find him, and
neither come back… No one will find your bodies. Just a simple
“You won’t get away with it, people will figure out the truth!”
Mark angrily answered.
Daniel Malachi grabbed the front of Mark’s shirt and prepared to
backhand him, when the window next to the chair where Mark had
sat shattered as a bullet flew into the room. Daniel released
Mark who fell to the floor and rolled closer to the wall, all
the while searching for the safest place in the room. With his
hands still tied behind his back, he crawled to hind behind a
desk along the back wall of the room. Mark bit his lower lip to
keep from crying out as his movement aggravated the pain in his
Daniel Malachi pulled out his revolver and broke out another
window in order to return fire.
From outside they heard, “McCain, you’re a dead man!”
Daniel stopped firing his gun, and gave thought to what the man
yelled. He realized the warning meant they thought he was
McCain, without looking towards Mark he laughed, “They think I’m
your pa. They think your Pa killed them others.” Daniel gave a
vile, morbid laugh.
“McCain, it’s your choice how slowly you die!” Harvey yelled.
“I’ve ten men out here with me. You’re the only one in there
with a gun; how long do you figure to last? You can’t watch
every room! What are you going to do come nightfall?”
“Boy, he’s making good sense,” Daniel stated and began to panic
when he looked around and didn’t see Mark in the room, “Boy
where are you?!”
Mark kept quiet and prayed this was all just a cruel nightmare,
but in his heart, he knew he was in a life or death situation.
From outside Hennessee called out, “Men don’t waste your
ammunition, wait till dark!”
Keeping his gun in hand, Daniel ran to the upstairs rooms,
testing the doors before he closed them, thankful they squeaked
as they moved. In the other rooms on the first floor, Daniel
pulled down what remained of the window shades. Upon entering
the kitchen, he noticed the square cutout in the floor, using a
ring nailed to a board, he lifted the floorboards and found a
ladder leading into an oddly configured hole. Carefully he
slipped his gun into his holster before he stepped down the
ladder. Upon reaching the bottom, the man struck a match and
mumbled, “Ain’t a cellar, but maybe an escape tunnel?” Climbing
back up the ladder he realized the tunnel headed in the
direction of the trees out back. As he continued to look around
the kitchen, Daniel walked over to a wall cabinet with the doors
only hanging by their bottom hinges and pull a tin can from a
bottom shelf and saw ‘Kerosene’ painted on the can. He shook the
can and heard the liquid inside sloshing around.
Sparingly, Daniel started pouring the Kerosene on the floor;
from the kitchen, through the foyer area, up the stairs, and
into the front room. He threw the can to the other side of the
room and he reached into his pocket and pulled out a match.
Striking it on the wall, Daniel tossed the match and jumped back
as the Kerosene burst into flames.
“Boy, it was nice knowing ya,” Daniel yelled and laughed as he
ran to the kitchen and stepped to the ladder, closing the trap
door above him before he climbed all the way down. He fumbled
for a match to light his way, once it was struck, a few yards
down the corridor he saw what appeared to be a piece of wood to
be used as a torch lying on the ground. Before the flame nipped
at his fingers, Daniel held it to the torch and prayed it would
The flame flickered at the torch as the torch teased Daniel that
it would take. The tar around the ball of cloth at the end was
so dried; the flame couldn’t catch hold. Dropping the torch and
what remained of the match, Daniel felt along the rough honed
walls and prayed there would be a way out.
Smoke filled the room as the fire spread beyond where the
Kerosene was poured; the flames furiously burned the old, dried
lumber in the house. Mark started coughing as he looked out from
under the desk and around the room to see his only exit blocked
by a wall of flames. Fighting his rising panic, Mark stood to
his feet and quickly ran to the nearest window. As he launched
himself towards the window, he twisted so he would break the
glass with the back of his shoulders. He closed his eyes as he
felt the glass give way against his momentum.
Hennessee walked to where a coughing Mark lay on the ground,
having rolled off the porch.
“Who are you?” Mark asked as he struggled to rise to his feet.
“Someone who wants to see your Pa dead,” Hennessee answered and
pulled Mark to his feet.
“Why?” coughed Mark.
“Where’s your old man?” Hennessee demanded.
“He’s not here,” answered Mark as another coughing fit struck
when the wind started blowing the smoke from the expanding fire
towards where they stood.
Hennessee pulled Mark farther away from the burning house, and
pushed him to walk towards the barn. As they walked, he yelled
for his men to surround the house and keep an eye out. “Don’t
let McCain escape!”
Yanking Mark by the arm, Hennessee turned the boy to face him.
“Some brave rancher; sends his little boy out to face us,”
Hennessee stated in disgust as he pushed Mark into Sperry.
“That wasn’t my Pa!” Mark retorted.
“Not your Pa?” taunted Harvey. “Listen to him, the son tries to
save his pa,” Harvey continued to mock the boy.
“He wasn’t my Pa. Just you wait until my Pa get’s here.”
Sperry roughing spun Mark around and looked him straight in the
eye, the two stood the same height, “Why should we?”
“He’s killed others for kidnapping me…”
“Maybe, but that was the past. He won’t survive to see another
sunset, once he gets here,” Hennessee stated. “Get him to the
“Now that we have the boy…” Sperry began to speak.
“Why do you want to kill my Pa?” pleaded Mark.
“For killing my brother!” Hennessee stated as he towered over
“Your brother?” asked Mark.
“Yes, the man who wore the derby, he was my younger brother,
Roger. I’m Harvey Hennessee.”
“But that wasn’t my Pa! My Pa didn’t kill your brother!”
“So you say.”
“But he wasn’t!” Mark pleaded, trying to get the men to
The building started to collapse upon itself as the fire ate
away at the old timbers.
“You best hope your daddy got out of there.”
“I tell ya, he wasn’t my Pa!” declared Mark.
“Maybe… maybe he wasn’t,” Hennessee stated and started to
believe the boy. ‘He’s not grieving, if that were his pa…’
Aloud, Hennessee ordered his men to mount up and return to the
“If that wasn’t his Pa, what about your backup plan -- Jordan
Merrill? How do you know we’ve not missed his arriving?”
Chandler asked as the joined the group.
“Gardner’s keeping an eye out for him in Silver City. He’ll
bring him to us once he arrives. One way or another Lucas McCain
Traveling among the crag rock face along the entrance to a
canyon, Lucas stepped from Razor to stretch his legs. Days in
the saddle wore on the tall rancher as he trailed after those
who kidnapped Mark. As he replaced the cap on his canteen, he
heard riders approaching. As he looked over the edge, he spotted
a dozen riders making their way along the floor of the canyon;
he pulled back, but as he did, he recognized one rider in the
middle, hands tied behind his back, the only one not wearing a
hat. Even from the distance, Lucas saw the vibrant bruises on
his son’s face. Steeling himself to be patient, Lucas returned
to Razor, grabbed the reins and led his horse and the packhorse
back the way they had come, and left them hidden in a stand of
trees near the opening of the canyon.
As quickly as he could, Lucas quietly made his way back up to
the rim of the canyon, keeping an eye out for any sentries
posted as he followed the edge, searching to find where those
riders were taking his son.
As he settled down above the mining camp, Lucas pulled back as
the door to an office opened, he couldn’t hear what the man was
saying but he understood the man’s body language as he pushed
Mark from the office and pointed to the mine opening above them.
As the men piled from the mine office, Lucas struggled to
understand why none of the men appeared to be Daniel Malachi, he
thought, ‘Maybe he’s still inside?’
“Harvey? Oh, I get it; no one will find their bodies.” Sperry
stated as he marveled at the sheer ingenuity of the man’s plan
as they stood on the porch to the office. “Who wants to dig
through a cave-in to search for them…”
“Get the kid up there and tie him to one of the ore carts deep
inside. Branson is already laying the dynamite and the black
powder…” Harvey Hennessee stated as he returned to the office.
“Once his old man arrives, we’ll seal their fate.”
Using the shadows the sun cast to his advantage, Lucas carefully
made his way down the face of the canyon wall, praying no one
would notice him.
Half way to his goal, Lucas heard, “LET GO OF ME!” and looked in
the direction of the voice to see two men pulling a struggling
Mark towards the mine.
Lucas looked around and regretted he hadn’t seen the large
crevice that blocked his path in getting to his son. Realizing
the only way to get to his son was to finish climbing to the
floor and start back up, Lucas abandoned some of his caution.
Once he was on the floor, Lucas didn’t needing any encouragement
to run faster, until he heard, “It’s McCain!” and a shot
ricocheted off the rock behind him, he crawled his way up the
wall until he found a boulder to use for cover as bullets
continued to strike the rocks around him.
Thankful he was safe from ambush from the opposite side of the
canyon and below, Lucas returned fire and in time, heard two men
scream as his bullets struck and they fell from their sentry
posts. Lucas turned his attention to those above him when he
heard a bloodcurdling scream, “NO!!” He looked up in horror to
see another man pushing Mark off the ledge upon which he had
stood. With his hands tied in front of him, Mark struggled to
stop his downward descent as more rocks rained join in the
Lucas fired his rifle, striking a sentry who peered over the top
of the cliff. Lucas heard several other shots ricochet around
“He hit the black powder!” yelled the man who pushed Mark as he
came running to the cart path.
Lucas fired another shot, striking the man and watched as the
man fell into the slide as well.
Lucas tried to keep an eye on his son and at the same time avoid
the massive rockslide cascading towards him. He picked a path
and began to cross over, hoping to get to Mark and keep him from
being pummeled at the bottom of the hill. As the rockslide
passed, he felt the vibration through his boots and felt the
pelting of dirt and stones against his clothes, but ignored them
as he thought on how best to rescue Mark. Timing his actions
just right, Lucas reached out and grabbed for Mark’s
outstretched hands, but his son’s momentum pulled him into the
slide. Father and son tumble down the hill, as the sounds of an
explosion blasted from the opening of the cave above them,
showering more rocks and dirt down on them. Father and son came
to an abrupt halt at the base, only to have more debris bury
them. Over the rumbling of the rockslide, Lucas heard Mark
scream in pain.
In time, the only sounds Lucas heard was his heavy breathing and
the debris settling over him. Using his anger, Lucas pushed at
the rocks and dirt so he could extricate himself and get to his
son. Upon digging around where he’d last seen Mark, Lucas found
him unconscious, bruised, and bloodied; Lucas rechanneled his
hatred to dig out his son. As he uncovered Mark’s waist, he
found the reason for Mark’s final scream, a piece of wood had
impaled the boy in the right side of his abdomen.
Lucas ripped open his own shirt and removed it. From his son’s
abdomen, he pulled out the piece of wood before lifting him from
the ground in order to tie his shirt tightly around his son’s
waist, stuffing the shirttail into the gaping wound.
Lucas attempted to stand, only to realize his left leg wouldn’t
bear his weight. With sheer determination, Lucas forced the pain
from his mind as he struggled to get to the mine office.
Searching around, Lucas spotted a horse milling about. With slow
encouragement, Lucas coaxed the horse to stand still long enough
for him to catch the rope tied to its halter. Sorely limping,
Lucas led the horse to his son, who began moaning.
Kneeling next to Mark, he lightly smacked Mark’s face, “Son, I
need your help. You have to help me get you up on the horse.”
“Let me sleep…” whispered a semi-conscious Mark.
Lucas smacked his face even harder, “Son you have to wake up!”
“What?” Mark called as he opened his pain-laden eyes.
Lucas recognized the pain in his son’s eyes as they mirrored his
“Come on son, we can do this.”
Carefully, Lucas helped Mark to his feet, while he limped to get
to the horse; Mark practically hung from his father’s arm. It
took every ounce of strength for Mark to pull himself deadman
fashion over the back of the horse. Lucas led the horse to a
large rock he could use to help him get behind his son; he
grimaced as he swung up to the back of the horse. With one hand
steadying his son, and the other using the rope and halter to
guide the horse, he returned to where he left Razor.
As he slid from the horse, Lucas felt Mark’s weight shift and
could do nothing to prevent his son from sliding from the back
of the horse.
Limping to his horse, Lucas pulled has saddlebags down and
pulled out more rags to use as bandages for his son and to tie a
splint around his own leg.
After slapping his son across the face to bring him back to a
semi-conscious state, Mark weakly climbed into the saddle and
slumped forward as he again lost consciousness. Lucas climbed
into the saddle behind his son. He didn’t regret his rough
treatment of his horse as he turned him for the nearest town
with a doctor, Silver City. Lucas focused all his attention to
saving his son’s life.
With an unconscious Mark sitting in the saddle in front of him,
Lucas struggled to keep the boy in the saddle and guide his
horse over the rough terrain. Hours passed and the sun began to
set, before they reached Silver City; Lucas raced his horse
through the town, coming close to knocking down people as they
went about their own business and almost too late, tried to get
out of his way. As he approached the town center, Lucas rein in
Razor as he found the sign indicating the Marshal’s Office, and
just beyond, he saw the sign, Battle Medical Clinic. Urging his
exhausted horse on, Lucas stopped in front of the clinic, and
balanced his son in the saddle while he climbed down.
Several people on the boardwalk ran over to help the stranger
carry the unconscious boy into the clinic.
As night settled over Silver City, two women stepped to the
street from the boardwalk in front of the café. Both women were
about the same height and build; one was a redhead with green
eyes and the other a brunette with green eyes, and to hear them
talk, anyone would recognize they shared a past from their
matching Irish accents. Not quite halfway across the main
street, they heard the sounds of a horse racing towards them,
“Of all the stupid…” the brunette claimed, jumping out of the
way. Upset at the rider’s careless disregard for the people of
“Can’t be,” the redhead stated as she barely caught a glimpse of
the riders racing past them.
“Lou, what are you talking about? Can’t be? Can’t be what?” the
“Lynetta, not what, who?” Shaking her head and giving the riders
no more thought she finished by saying, “I must be missing home
more than I thought.”
“No, North Fork,” Lou stated as she proceeded to cross the
“Ye have a beau!” Lynetta declared. “Ye didn’t tell me you have
“No, he’s not my beau, he’s just a good friend.” Lou’s
expression revealed she wished it to be more.
“And does HE have a name?” Lynetta asked, eager for news about
her friend’s friend.
“A Scotsman?!” Lynetta asked in surprise.
“No, not a Scotsman, a real American cowboy,” Lou spoke with a
glowing smile as she wrapped her shawl tighter around her
shoulders and stepped to the boardwalk in front of the hotel.
“I want to hear all about your Lucas McCain,” Lynetta stated.
“Don’t you make anything more out of this, he’s true friend,”
“And true friends are the best kind to have…”
“Lynetta!” exclaimed Lou as she blushed.
“Don’t Lynetta, me. What would yer father say?”
“My father would say, ‘don’t count yer chickens before they
hatch’. So don’t ye go marrying me off to Lucas!”
A few minutes later, as they started up the staircase in
Lynetta’s hotel, Vicki Battle ran into the lobby, “Miss Lynetta!”
she called out.
“Vicki? Child, what’s wrong?” Lynetta asked as she turned to
face the young woman.
“I need daddy, have you seen him?”
“No, I haven’t. Lou and I just finished eating at the café and
he wasn’t there.”
“Miss Lou,” Vicki continued to walking towards the staircase,
“You’re from North Fork? Right?”
“Yes I am.”
“Do you know a Lucas McCain?”
“Yes, she does,” Lynetta answered coyly.
“Lynetta, it’s nothing like that,” answered a flabbergasted Lou.
Vicki quietly stated, “You might want to go to the clinic while
I try to find daddy.”
“Those two on the horse…” Lou spoke as she started to realize
her mind hadn’t played a trick on her.
“The boy’s hurt real bad and needs surgery, and I fear his
father’s leg is broken. Please will you go there, until I can
return with daddy?”
Lou didn’t wait to bid goodbye to her friend before she ran from
the hotel, down the boardwalk, and across the street to the
Lynetta stepped to the lobby of her hotel and said, “Vicki, if I
know yer father, he’s probably playing a game of chess over at
Chad Riley’s General Store. Why don’t ye go back to the clinic
and aid the McCains, I’ll go find yer father.”
“Oh, Lynetta, thank you,” Vicki gushed as she turned and ran
back to the clinic.
Sensing the urgency in Vicki’s search, Lynetta wrapped her shawl
tightly around her shoulders before she left her hotel and made
her way to the General Store. As she reached the front door, she
tried to open it only to find the door locked. As she peered
into the window, she saw the lanterns were extinguished,
however, she noticed light from beneath the door to Riley’s
living quarters in the back of the store. Stepping to the corner
of the building and into the alley, Lynetta made her way to the
back door entrance.
“Mr. Riley! Doc Battle!” called Lynetta as she pounded on the
“What’s all the ruckus about?” Chad Riley asked as he opened the
door. The merchant was an older, heavy-set man, with a thick
mustache and beard. Even with his store closed, he still wore
his white apron.
“Doc Battle is needed at the clinic. From what Vicki said, it
sounds like a matter of life or death,” Lynetta called out to
the man sitting the other side of the chessboard.
The tall man stood, pulled on his jacket, and placed his hat
upon his head.
“Chad, seems duty calls. We’ll pick this up where we left off…
My turn,” Simon Battle stated as he exited the residence. “Miss
Lynetta, why don’t you go on back to your hotel.”
Standing in the light cast from inside, Lynetta didn’t move as
the doctor walked into the alley and turned towards the clinic.
“Would you like a spot of tea to calm your nerves, you look like
you’ve seen a ghost,” the merchant stated with a father’s
“If you’d seen how desperate Vicki was…” Lynetta stated as she
entered the residence to have the merchant close the door behind
Lou entered the clinic, paused long enough to take a deep breath
before she entered the door to one of the other rooms, “Lucas?”
she quietly spoke.
In front of her, Lou couldn’t believe the scene before her, Mark
lying on the table, bruised and battered with Lucas’ bloody
shirt tied around his waist. Lucas bore evidence of bruises and
scrapes as well.
“What happened?” she barely breathed out.
“Mark was kidnapped. Lou, get me some more bandages.”
Lou set out to help Lucas as best she could until Vicki found
Turning at the sound of the bell indicating the opening of outer
door; Lou looked into the front office and was appalled to see
Vicki returning alone.
“Mr. McCain,” Vicki called. “Would you please help me? I need to
get ready for when Daddy arrives.”
Lucas entered the front room to help Vicki while Lou worked to
wash the dirt from Mark.
“Who the hell do you think you are, racing through town like you
did?” the marshal demanded as he entered the clinic. The marshal
stood around six feet tall, with a slender build. He wore a long
handlebar mustache that twirled upwards into ringlets at the
Vicki focused on what her father would need for surgery and
continued to hand items to Lucas from one of the cabinets in the
front room of the clinic.
“It was a matter of life and death,” Lucas answered, not taking
time to turn and look at the marshal.
“I’ll take those Mr. McCain,” Vicki stated.
“I’ve got them,” Lucas replied and started to walk to the door
to the room following Vicki.
Pulling his pistol and cocking the hammer back, the marshal
stated, “You hand them to Miss Vicki. You’ll stand there and
answer my questions.”
Lucas handed the medical supplies to Vicki and turned to face
“Mister if my…”
“I’m the marshal of this town and you’ll answer my questions.
Miss Vicki is capable of handling any trail hand brawl you and
your friend go into.” The marshal tapped the barrel of his
revolver in the palm of his other hand, indicating his
disapproval of the tall rancher standing in front of him.
“That’s my son!” Lucas pointed towards the room as he started
towards the marshal but backed down when the lawman swung the
barrel in his direction.
“Have a seat, Mr. McCain.”
The marshal suspiciously looked the shirtless Lucas up and down,
taking note of the dirt, blood, and scrapes along his torso and
the splint around his leg.
“McCain,” Simon Battle stated in recognition as he entered the
clinic and set his hat on a table inside. “Miss Lynetta said I
had a gravely injured patient at the clinic… You don’t look like
a matter of life or death.”
“Simon…” Lucas answered as he watched the big man enter the
“Daddy, in here. It’s Mark!” Vicki called out as she heard her
Simon Battle looked from Lucas to the closed door from behind
which his daughter’s voice sounded.
Lucas stood up and pleaded, “Simon, that’s my son…”
Lucas prayed that the man understood from the few words he spoke
that in his hands was the life of the only person in the world
who mattered to Lucas. Without saying another word, Simon walked
to the door, opened it, and entered the room.
“Lucas,” Lou stated as she exited the room and walked to stand
next to the tall rancher and hoped her hand on his forearm was
in some small manner, comforting. “He’s in good hands; Lynetta
says he’s the best. Vicki said you could wear this.”
Lucas accepted the clean shirt Lou held out for him, but didn’t
put it on.
Walking to the cabinet, Lou pulled out a bowl, a bottle, and
some gauze pads.
“Lucas, let me tend to you,” Lou stated as she began cleaning
“I’m sorry, Mr. McCain, I’m Marshal Moores, I didn’t realize…”
the marshal stated apologetically. “What kind of an accident
were you involved in?”
“It wasn’t an accident, it was pre-meditated attempted murder.”
Lucas’ emotions boiled over as he allowed the words to settle in
“MURDER?!” exclaimed Lou, her Irish temper expressing her
Ignoring Lou’s plea, Lucas continued to explain Mark’s
kidnapping and what he knew.
“Marshal, I’m not sure exactly what happened except I thought I
was trailing after Daniel Malachi, and end up finding my son
being held hostage by others…” Lucas tried to understand how the
others came to have his son, but gave up. “They were waiting for
me, and planned to dynamite a mine closed, with us inside…”
“Lucas, I don’t think any of those cuts will require stitches,
so why don’t you put on that shirt,” suggested Lou, having
gently bathed the ranchers chest and back, her cheeks flushed
with mild embarrassment as she thought what the women of North
Fork would think of her for her ministrations.
“Mr. McCain, if you can describe the area where you found your
son, I’ll take a posse out and bring back anyone we find.”
Trying his best to remember, Lucas sketched out a rough drawing
of the area where he’d found his son.
“Ye came all the way from there? With Mark?!” Lou asked, shocked
at the distance they had traveled.
“If you’ll excuse me,” Marshal Moores stated as he turned to
leave the clinic.
“Vicki, what’s wrong with the boy?” Simon asked as he entered
“Daddy, the bruises and contusions are mild, and I believe he’s
severely sprained his left wrist, I don’t think it’s broken. He
was impaled by something on the right side of his abdomen. Mr.
McCain did a good job of stopping the outward blood loss. I’ve
already prepared him for surgery.”
Removing his jacket, Simon Battle turned his attention to the
young man lying on the operating table. The room was brilliantly
lit with numerous lanterns set around the room in addition to
the lanterns hanging from the ceiling. Vicki had draped two
sheets over Mark, one covering his chest, the other covering his
lower body, only his head and his abdomen were visible.
“Is he unconscious or have you administered the ether?” Simon
“I’ve not begun administering the ether, wanted to wait until
“Good girl. Go ahead and begin.”
Waiting a few minutes to ensure the ether had taken effect;
Simon began the operation. Delving deep into the boy’s abdominal
cavity the doctor kept to himself his fears upon seeing all the
dirt and splinters of wood in the wound.
Over an hour later, Simon rested, bearing all his weight on his
hands upon the side of the table and hung his head.
“Daddy?” Vicki worriedly asked.
“He’ll recover,” answered Simon. “We’ll keep an eye on him for a
while, before we advise his father of his condition.”
A tired Simon walked over to the sink and washed his hands as
Vicki operated the pump handle.
“Was it that bad?” Vicki asked, trying to read her father’s
“That boy is lucky that whatever impaled him missed any vital
organs, but it did perforate his intestines, and there was a lot
“You’re worried about an infection?”
“I am.” Simon nodded. “Would you get me a syringe and the
After handing the items to her father, Vicki stood by his side
and watched as he administered the serum into Mark’s arm.
“Shouldn’t we let Mr. McCain know his boy is going to be
alright?” asked Vicki. “I mean, he had a broken leg, and it
“Broken leg? Who has a broken leg?” Simon asked, not remembering
any other patient.
“Mr. McCain, his leg was splinted when he brought Mark in.”
When her father didn’t reply, she continued, “Daddy, I know
you’re worried because of your past with Mr. McCain, but I’m
sure, if anything were to happen to the boy, he wouldn’t blame
you. He’ll understand you tried your best to save his life.”
Simon extinguished the flames from most of the lanterns in the
room and turned down a few others before he allowed his daughter
to walk through the doorway before him. As they entered the
front room of the clinic, Simon saw a red-headed woman curled up
on the couch and in the chair he saw Lucas McCain, standing his
rifle in front of him and resting his head on his rifle, eyes
open but not recognizing.
“McCain,” Simon quietly called as he stood in front of the
“Lucas,” Simon called again and placed a hand on Lucas’
shoulder, rousing Lucas.
“Simon?” Lucas asked.
“He made it through surgery. Vicki said your leg was broken.”
“Forget about my leg, just tend to my son,” Lucas replied.
“For the time being, I’ve done all I can for your boy. Now let
me see your leg.”
Upon removing the splints supporting Lucas’ leg, Simon slit the
jeans the rancher wore so he could get a better idea on how
badly the leg might be broken. The doctor took his time
manipulating Lucas’ leg and palpating the muscle.
“Well, I think you might have lucked out. I don’t believe it’s
broke clean through, but partially fractured. You did a good job
splinting it, and I think it would be best to keep it splinted.”
Retrieving supplies from another cabinet, Simon returned to
where Lucas sat.
“I’ll wrap some padding around your leg first, that way the
splints won’t rub your leg raw. You’ll still need to keep off
your leg for a while.”
“I’ve a ranch to run, Battle.”
“Not for the time being… You have a son who you’ll need to take
care of, first.”
Lucas’ eyes drifted to the room with the closed door.
“Lucas, I won’t lie to you. There’s still the possibility of
infection, but the good news is, there was no damage to any
vital organs. I sutured the laceration that I found in his
intestine and did my best to find any other potential
lacerations. I cleaned out the wound the best I could, but with
the volume of blood he lost… I pray he has the strength to
fight. It will take time, and he’ll need to take it slow in
order to allow his body to heal.”
“May I see him?” Lucas asked.
“For a few minutes,” Simon nodded. “You can stay at the clinic
tonight, I’ve an empty room down the hall.” Turning to Vicki,
Simon stated, “Why don’t you wake Lou and get her back to
As the sun crested the hills, announcing morning to the town of
Silver City, Marshal Moores and a posse set out to the mine to
find any survivors and bring back the dead.
Following the crude map Lucas drew, the posse finally arrived at
the location of the mine. Moores shook his head upon seeing the
devastation from dynamiting the mine and the rockslide it
caused. The marshal couldn’t believe the McCains had survived.
“Men, search the ground and look for any dead bodies.”
The members of the posse stepped down from their horses and
spread out in search of the dead or any survivors.
Moores walked into the main office and began searching through
the desk drawers. After pulling out numerous sheets of paper and
setting them on the desktop, the marshal sat down and began to
“Marshal?” called a man who stepped into the office. “We found a
total of four killed by bullets and one more killed in the
rockslide. The boys found a buckboard and a few horses and
they’re working to harness the team and load up the bodies.”
The marshal nodded at hearing the report. Upon walking closer to
the desk the man asked, “What’s all that?”
“Evidence,” replied Marshal Moores. “McCain thinks that Daniel
Malachi had his son, but it’s worse than he ever imagined. These
men are tied to an anti-statehood faction. These men have groups
all over the state and from these documents, they’re well
organized and are prepared to do almost anything to keep New
Mexico from voting on statehood.”
“Statehood, I thought that was just a rumor…”
“Rumor or not, I can’t believe our luck in stumbling on these
papers. We’ll take these back with us and forward to the U.S.
The marshal stood and organized the papers into several neat
stacks, and finally into one stack.
“Hughes, get my saddlebags from my horse,” instructed the
From where they sat in the café, Lucas McCain and Simon Battle
watched the posse leave.
“You need to eat to keep up your strength to take care of your
boy,” Battle stated as he told the waitress to duplicate his
order for his companion.
“I can’t believe it’s been long enough for him to grow up like
he has…” Simon stated as he tried to coax the rancher into
Simon finally allowed the big man sitting across the table from
him to brood; he understood how grieved the man must be, because
he’d feel the same way had it been his child lying in the
After they finished eating and the waitress removed the dirty
dished, Lucas stated, “Simon, I don’t think I thanked you last
night for saving Mark’s life.”
Knowing their past, Simon simply nodded. Even though they had
come to an understanding four years prior, he knew apologizing
didn’t come easy and now the rancher was beholden to him for
saving his son’s life.
“Simon, those men…” Lucas sat forward in his chair and looked
out the window to a group of riders trotting down the middle of
Turning to look outside, Simon asked, “What about them?”
“Are they from Silver City?”
“I can’t say that they are; I don’t recognize them.”
“That paint…” Lucas was to his feet, rifle in hand. “I swear
that’s one of the horses from the mine…”
Simon Battle was right next to the rancher, with his revolver in
Simon and Lucas, forgetting the need for crutches, hurried along
the boardwalk, one on either side, motioning for the citizens to
get indoors. Lucas pulled back into one of the doorways as three
of the riders stopped in front of the Marshal’s Office and three
other continued to ride, eventually stopping in front of the
clinic. The riders turned to look around before stepping down
from their horses, pulling their handguns as they stepped to the
“HOLD IT! Drop your guns!” Simon yelled, making his presence
The riders ran for cover and began firing in Simon’s direction.
Patiently, Simon chose his shots, striking one of the men with
his first shot.
The big window in the front of the Marshal’s Office shattered
from a shot fired from within. The three riders who dismounted
in front of the Marshal’s Office ran for cover, away from their
immediate danger. A temporary deputy continued to fire towards
the three men, striking one who fell and didn’t move again.
With the remaining riders’ attention focused on Simon and the
deputy, Lucas took the distraction to maneuver closer to the
men. Lucas saw his opening and dispatched another man after
rapid firing his rifle twice. The gun battle continued until
only one man remained and neither Simon nor Lucas had a
clear-shot at striking the gunman as he continued to fire. The
sound of his gunfire changed from a revolver to a rifle, with
several of the man’s shots coming close to striking within
inches of where Simon stood, forcing him to retreat. Finally,
the street was quiet.
After several minutes without any gunfire, Lucas demanded,
“THROW YOUR WEAPONS OUT!”
The man threw out his revolver before he threw out his empty
rifle. With his arms raised, the man stood from behind the water
Lucas moved out into the open, “Keep your hands up and move this
way.” He motioned with his rifle and continued to watch the man
slowly walk away from the clinic. Out of the corner of his eye,
to his left, Lucas saw movement and turned to look; giving the
man the opportunity to lower his hands and draw a hidden
derringer from his waistband and fire.
Upon hearing two simultaneous shots Lucas turned to look at the
man, only to see the man standing on his toes, shoulders
hunched, and his knees about to buckle. Lucas continued to look
to the right when he saw Simon Battle walking towards him,
opening the cylinder of his revolver, emptying the spent bullet
“That’s two, you owe me, McCain,” Simon stated as he stopped
next to Lucas. “Friends of yours?”
“No, I think that one’s the leader. They’re the men who had
“Any idea what you did to piss them off?”
“I’ve never seen them before.”
From the left, Lucas realized a deputy had initially distracted
him and allowed the man to pulled out his hidden weapon.
An eerie post-shootout quiet blanketed the street as one by one,
people stepped from their hiding places. The deputy organized
several men to make their way to the dead bodies, picked them
up, and carried them to a building at the far end of town, with
UNDERTAKER written above the door.
“Let’s go see Mark,” Simon stated as he allowed Lucas to use him
as a crutch.
“Daddy!” Vicki called out upon seeing her father enter the
clinic. “What happened?”
“It’s all taken care of. How’s our patient?”
“I was just coming to get you and Mr. McCain. I think Mark’s
regaining consciousness, but he’s calling out.”
Lucas entered the room to find his son mildly thrashing in the
bed, moaning ‘No’, repeatedly. Lucas sat on the edge of the bed
and attempted to restrain his son, anxious to see his brown eyes
Mark’s eyes bolted opened as he sat up and screamed ‘NO!’,
thrashing his arms and striking out at his adversaries,
struggling against Lucas’ restraining hands.
“Son, you’re safe!” Lucas called as he held Mark’s wrists.
Mark continued to fight the assailants he saw in his mind.
“Mark!” Lucas demanded.
Lucas sensed Simon standing next to him, and from the corner of
his eye, he caught Simon preparing to smack his son across the
face; he closed his eyes because he knew it was for the best.
Lucas felt his son stop fighting and opened his eyes to find his
son collapsing into his arms.
“Simon?” Lucas pleaded.
“Lay him back down. Let me look at his incision.”
A few moments later, Simon turned to Lucas and said, “He didn’t
rip it open, thank God.” Turning to his daughter Simon stated,
“Vicki, the antibiosis serum.”
“Simon, what about his wrist? You didn’t say it was broken.”
Lucas asked as he gently placed his boy’s arm on top of the
sheet, wondering if he had aggravated his son’s condition when
he was trying to restrain him.
“Like you, it’s not broken, just severely sprained. I imagine it
was bent underneath him at some point during the rockslide.”
As he began to administer another shot, Simon sensed the boy
flinch as the needle pierced his skin. Simon gently pushed the
plunger of the syringe and heard the boy start moaning, “Pa...
Setting the syringe aside, Simon said, “Talk to him Lucas.”
Simon and Vicki stepped back to give Lucas and his boy some
The door to the room opened, “Mark!” Lou quietly gasped as she
saw Mark’s eyes open into narrow slits
“Pa?” Mark called. “Find me… Please Pa.”
“I’m here son. I found you,” Lucas quietly replied as he swept
his son’s bangs from his face.
“Pa?” Mark called again not trusting his ears, opening his eyes
a little wider and tried to focus them. “Pa? Are you real?”
Lucas half laughed and smiled, “I’m real son. You’re safe.”
Mark opened his eye wide and called, “Pa!” He ignored the pain
in his side as he sat up and wrapped his arms around Lucas and
buried his face in his Pa’s shoulder. “Pa!” Mark cried, “You
Simon took Vicki by the arm and led her from the room, while Lou
walked to stand next to Lucas and placed a hand on his shoulder.
The Marshal returned to town in the late afternoon with five
dead bodies in the back of the buckboard that followed the posse
as they rode down the middle of the street. Others in the posse
led several strings of horses.
Lucas and Simon sat in the Marshal’s Office and listened as the
marshal identified the dead men as members of an anti-statehood
faction that has been harassing the southwest territory of New
“But I thought the Malachi’s had Mark,“ Lucas stated as he sat
in a chair , crutches lying on the floor next to him.
“I can’t believe those men would have hired Daniel and Benjamin
Malachi. I heard they were released from Yuma a few weeks back,”
Marshal Moores asked.
Lucas nodded, “They were sent to prison five years ago after
Marshal Torrance and I apprehended them.”
“But why would you think they had your boy?”
“We found Ben Malachi waiting in ambush when I arrived home.
Before he died, he said his pappy was going to kill Mark in
Pinos Altos and I trailed after them. They swore revenge upon
Micah and me. Ben accidentally killed his brother when he tried
shooting at me. We put Ben and Judd in jail and waited for the
elder Malachi. He arrived and assaulted our marshal, and broke
his boys out of jail. They came after me, but killed my hired
hand instead. When we were trying to arrest them, Judd was
killed. Daniel blamed me for both his son’s deaths.”
“They only got five years for murder?” Moores asked.
“We didn’t have any witnesses when they killed Henry Trumble and
we couldn’t prove it was them. And now, a friend of mine is dead
because of them, but again…” Lucas shook his head back and
forth, knowing if the Malachi’s had been involved, there was
still no proof against them.
“I don’t know how the Malachi’s got mixed up with these men…”
Marshal Moores displayed the documents across the top of his
desk. “Maybe your boy will be able to answer your questions,”
“If he can,” Simon Battle stated as he sat on the edge of the
desk in the Marshal’s Office. “I don’t want you pushing him to
remember. He’s not a child any more, but with all he’s gone
through, let him tell you in his own time.” Before Lucas could
say anything, Simon continued, “Lucas, the good news is, the men
who had him are dead and soon buried. Speaking of your Marshal
Torrance, have you wired him that you’ve found your boy?”
Lucas indicated no by shaking his head back and forth.
“Come on, I’m sure he’s worried about the two of you.”
Simon escorted Lucas to Silver City’s telegrapher.
Lucas returned to the clinic to find Lou still in Mark’s room.
“He’s not woke since ye left, Lucas,” Lou stated as the tall
rancher entered the room.
“I am now,” a sleepy Mark stated.
“How are you feeling?” Lucas asked as he sat down on the edge of
“I hurt,” Mark answered as he moved his right hand over his
abdomen. “How bad did I break my wrist?”
“You didn’t break it son,” Simon Battle stated as he entered the
room. “Vicki diagnosed it as a severe sprain.”
“Doc Battle?” Mark asked.
“Hi Mark. Good to see you awake again. Are you hungry?”
In the lull of the conversation, all heard the growl from a very
As embarrassment appeared upon Mark’s face, Lucas, Lou, and
“I guess I don’t have to answer that question,” Mark sheepishly
“Lucas, I’ll head to the café and place an order for supper, for
all of us,” Lou stated as she stood to leave the room.
“Just a heavy broth for the boy…, and some bread. Nothing more
substantial,” stated Simon.
“I didn’t think getting kidnapped would place me on bread and
water rations,” teased Mark. “I didn’t eat much while those men
Mark’s statement was obvious to Lucas, though his son had always
been slight of figure, his ribs showed even more than usual.
“Son,” Doc Battle stated as he sat down in the chair Lou had
vacated, “With the surgery I performed on your abdomen, your
system won’t be ready to handle anything heavier for a few more
days. Maybe in a couple of days we’ll see how you can handle
eating gravy and biscuits. But I don’t mind you eating
frequently, you just won’t be able to digest a steak or
vegetables right away.”
“Doc Battle, thank you for saving my life,” Mark stated. “But…”
“But?” Simon asked.
“When can I go home?”
Simon barely heard the pleading in the boy’s voice, but he saw
it in the boy’s eyes. Though his father was by his side, he
wanted to be surrounded by his family and friends in a place he
felt safe… but still, the doctor wondered, would he still feel
safe once he returned home.
“Give me a couple more days to make sure you’re healing, and
then your Pa and I will decide,” Simon answered.
After the group ate supper together, Lou insisted Lucas return
to the hotel and sleep in a real bed, and maybe get a proper
“I’ll head to the barbershop first thing in the morning and see
about getting bathed there. As for sleep…”
“Lucas, I don’t mind you staying in the room down the hall, if
you don’t care to sleep in a very comfortable bed, like they
have at the hotel.”
Lucas agreed to continue sleeping in the room down the hall.
“Pa,” Mark stated. “Do you think the barber…” and ran a hand
over his cheeks.
“You think your peachfuzz needs shaved?” Lucas laughed, his
release of tension felt good. “I’ll ask him tomorrow.”
Mark woke upon a firm hand being placed over his mouth and felt
the cold steel of a gun placed against his cheek.
“Your Pa here boy?” Daniel Malachi asked, his face inches from
the boy’s ear.
Mark shook his head.
“Don’t lie to me boy. I heard tell of a tall man bringing you to
town. Where is he?”
Again, Mark shook his head. As he saw the increasing fury in the
old man’s face he whispered, “The hotel. Doc told him he had to
sleep at the hotel tonight.”
“Keep your mouth shut, you’re coming with me,” Daniel stated as
he again poked Mark with the barrel of his handgun.
Mark grimaced as Daniel Malachi pulled him from the bed; Mark
collapsed to the floor as he felt pain from his incision.
“Get up boy, or I’ll plug you right now!” hissed Daniel.
Daniel picked up some clothing from the chair and threw them
towards Mark, “Get dressed.”
Less than three minutes after entering the boy’s room, Daniel
Malachi pushed Mark from the clinic.
A faint moonbeam streamed through the window when Lucas woke.
Unsure, he looked around the room before he sat up and swung his
legs from the bed. Bending his head forward and then left to
right, Lucas tried to ease the tension in his body. He listened
intently in an effort to determine what had woke him from a
sound sleep. He could still hear the sounds from the piano and
the rowdy men in the saloon, but he didn’t think that was the
cause of his waking.
Reaching for the crutches on the floor, Lucas stood up and
decided to check on Mark.
As he entered the hallway, he heard the sound of the back door
From the office in the front of the clinic, Lucas heard the door
open and boot steps on the floor.
“Lucas? What are you doing up?” Simon asked.
“Something woke me… You been in your office?”
“Yes, I was catching up on some reading. Why?”
“I thought I heard the back door close.”
Simon hurried and proceeded to open the door to Mark’s room when
from outside they both heard, “I WON’T GO!” followed by a
Daniel Malachi pushed Mark through the back alley.
“Where are you taking me?” Mark asked.
“Some place where it can just be me and your pappy.”
“I WON’T GO!” Mark yelled and started to run.
Trying to ignore the pain in his side, Mark ran blindly down the
alley, he tripped and fell as he heard the sound of a gun being
fired behind him.
Surprised at how winded he was from what little running he did,
Mark crawled around a corner and under a wooden staircase to
“Boy!” hissed Malachi.
“FIRE!” Mark yelled. “FIRE!”
Mark heard the offkey sound from the piano as those in the
saloon heard his frantic yell. Patrons spilled out of the saloon
looking to see what was on fire.
Daniel Malachi fired several more shots in the direction Mark
had run, he turned the opposite direction when he heard the boy
again yell ‘FIRE!’
The back door to the clinic opened as two tall men exited, one
with a six-gun in his hand, the other with a rifle.
Daniel Malachi fearfully called, “Someone yelled fire!”
“MALACHI!” Lucas yelled and raised his rifle.
The old man fire a shot towards the two men before he ran away
from the men. Turning, he lost track of where he was and ended
up in a dead-end ally.
“Malachi! Throw out your gun! Give yourself up!” declared Lucas
as he pulled back around the corner, Malachi having fired
another shot at them.
“Where’s my boy? What’d you do with Ben?!” Daniel yelled in
“He’s dead Malachi. All three of your boys are dead.”
“Dead? My boy… My boy’s dead?” Daniel plaintively answered.
“Malachi, there’s no way out for you!” Simon hollered.
Neither man paid any attention to the running footfalls coming
“You’re all alone! Give yourself up!” Lucas called again.
The men waited as a crowd formed behind them. After a few
minutes, a pistol flew though the air and landed in front of
Lucas and Simon.
“Come out with your hands raised,” ordered Marshal Moores.
Shuffling his feet, Daniel Malachi walked out from the alley;
his posture was of an old man totally defeated. Marshal Moores
and his deputy approached the man and took him into custody.
“MARK!” Lucas hollered. Turning around, he called out, “People,
my boy’s out here somewhere.”
The men in the crowd looked to each other, but no one knew
exactly what to do, they started to mill about and return to the
saloon, some upset on how there wasn’t a good fire.
“Mark!” Simon yelled. “Mark McCain!”
Both men turned when they heard from behind them, “Here I am.”
Lucas hobbled to where his son weakly stood using the corner of
a building for support.
“Are you okay?” Lucas asked.
Mark nodded, he caught himself as he felt his knees begin to
“And how am I going to get the two of you back to the clinic?”
“Daddy, Mr. McCain can use these, while you help Mark.”
Vicki approached the others carrying the crutches Lucas had
dropped in the hallway.
Lucas positioned the crutches under his arms, while Simon walked
to stand next to Mark.
“We’ll take it slow and easy,” Simon stated. He knew the boy
needed to walk on his own, yet he wanted to be close in case the
boy couldn’t manage to walk all the way to the clinic under his
Mark heavily collapsed on the bed, unable to control his body.
Lucas elevated his son’s legs to lie flat on the bed.
“Let me look at your incision,” Simon stated.
Simon pulled the shirttail from the boy’s pants and examined the
“Well?” Lucas asked.
“It’s a little strained, but if he takes it easy, I don’t see
any problem with it healing.”
“Doc?” Marshal Moores called from the front of the clinic.
“In here, Marshal,” Simon yelled in return.
“Mr. McCain, I presume that was Daniel Malachi?” the Marshal
asked as he stepped into the room.
“Yeah, that was Daniel Malachi,” replied Lucas. “He came back
and took Mark a little while ago.”
“I’ll charge him with kidnapping and attempted murder, and
conspiracy to commit murder. He’s not gonna get a chance to try
anything else. I’ll need you and Doc to sign the papers, oh, and
I’ll need the boy’s statement, too.”
Simon turned to look at his patient and stated, “That will have
to wait until morning. He’s asleep and I want to keep him that
Mark woke to the sounds of a town coming to life, outside his
door he heard his Pa talking with someone else.
“Pa?” Mark called out.
The door opened for him to see the marshal standing in the
hallway as well.
“How’re you feeling today, young man?” the marshal asked as he
entered the room.
“Hungry. I overheard you talking about the charges against Mr.
“We were son. But you don’t need to concern yourself with that.”
“Pa, I do.”
“Son,” Marshal Moores spoke. “We’ve enough witnesses against
Daniel Malachi for kidnapping you last night and attempting to
murder your Pa and the doctor. He’ll go back to prison for a
“You can add murder to the charges too,” stated Mark.
“You saw him kill Jordan?” Lucas asked.
“I saw him kill Roger Hennessee and another man named Boyle. He
stabbed Boyle in the chest and he shot the other man with his
gun. There was another man named Epps that he shot, too. They
were the ones who kidnapped me from the ranch.” Mark quieted and
closed his eyes to the memory.
“Mr. McCain it sure looks like we have a witness to a triple
murder. He’ll hang for sure,” Marshal Moores happily declared.
“Does he have to hang?” asked Mark. “Can’t he just get sent to
prison and never get out?”
“That’ll be up to the judge to decide,” answered the Marshal,
I’ll wire Albuquerque and request a special judge be sent here.
There’s a lot that needs to be seen by more than just us here in
Two days later the special judge arrived and after hearing
Lucas’ and Simon’s testimony, he indicated he wanted to hear
Mark’s account surrounding Daniel Malachi.
“I’m sorry, but I’d prefer to hear what the boy has to say
without any outside interference. Just me and my assistant are
allowed in the room with the boy,” Judge Scranton stated as
Lucas insisted in sitting in the room with his son.
The judge firmly closed the clinic room door behind him. An hour
later, the judge stood and as he turned to leave he said, “I’ll
take under consideration your request against hanging.”
As he entered the hallway, Lucas stood from the chair next to
“Mr. McCain, you have a fine son. Quite detail oriented. I’ve no
doubt Malachi will never bother you or your son again,” Judge
Scranton stated. “Good day.”
The following morning, Simon Battle met Lou and Lucas as they
entered the clinic, “Good news for both of you. I’m releasing
Mark to return home today, but there’s one provision.”
Simon Battle had struggled against his own wishes to keep the
boy in Silver City, but he saw the longing in the boy’s eyes to
go home. He saw how their experiences were tormenting the boy
and his father.
“One?” Lucas asked, “What provision?
“I want him sedated for most of the train ride home. Slip one of
these packets into a glass of sarsaparilla and he’ll get sleepy
within half an hour. Give him one more with supper.”
“Do you have some I can give to Lucas?” Lou teasingly inquired.
Vicki entered the clinic and handed the train tickets to Lucas.
Father and daughter followed father, son, and friend to the
“Lucas, here’s a letter to give to your physician when you get
home. It’ll help him understand the restrictions that need to be
placed on your son, and why.”
“Thanks, Simon. Maybe someday you’ll return to North Fork and we
can try to repay you.”
“I’ll forward my bill to you, that’s payment enough.”
Lucas entered his son’s room and announced, “We’re going home.
Doc released you this morning.”
“Pa? How are we getting home?”
“Train tickets,” Lucas held up the tickets for Mark to see.
“Pa, I… What about BlueBoy? I mean, he’s out there… ” Mark
“No he’s not, we found him mixed in with the herd of horses that
were left at the mine… He and Razor are enjoying being stabled
next to each other in the livery. I’ve already made arrangements
for them to travel with us, in the livestock car.”
“Pa, I thought I’d lost him…”
Settling into their seats, a porter returned with their orders
for drinks, as Mark looked out the window, Lucas slipped the
medication into his drink.
“Son,” Lucas stated as he held out his drink.
Mark drank almost a half of the glass before he rested his hand
with the glass on his knee.
“Sure is different seeing the country from the train than from
horseback,” Mark stated as his gaze returned to look out the
Keeping a close eye on Mark, Lou was first to notice the
medication taking effect; she took the glass from Mark’s hand
before it could fall to the floor and shatter.
“Lou, I’m sorry we kept you from finishing helping your friend,”
an apologetic Lucas stated.
“Ye didn’t keep me from helping Lynetta, we were almost done
when ye arrived.”
“Still… you didn’t need to stay on in Silver City; you have the
Mallory House to take care of.”
“As a good friend informed me, Mrs. Donner would take as good a
care of it as she does my General Store.” Becoming frustrated at
the tall rancher sitting in the seat across from her, Lou
remembered her parting statements to Lucas, ‘Ye take care of
Mark’ and ‘Do try to keep out of trouble’ she chose her words
carefully, “Lucas McCain, a good friend I am and as such, I
chose to stay, to watch over the both of ye.”
Lucas anxiously waited for Doc Burrage to come out from the room
where Mark was being examined; if he hadn’t been on crutches he
would have paced. He sat to the front of the chair when he heard
the door to his room open.
Without saying a word, Doc Burrage entered Lucas’ room and began
to examine his leg. Keeping a running commentary, Doc finally
pulled the pant leg down over the splint.
“How you didn’t break that leg clean through is a miracle, from
what I read in Doc Battle’s report.”
“Doc, enough about me, what of Mark?”
“Lucas, as you well know, his bruises and the contusions will
fade over time, they already are. I say give him another week or
so and the splint on his wrist can be removed, he’ll know how
much he can or can’t use it; same as you and your leg. As for
the stitches, they probably can come out by the end of the week.
Sure, the boy will have a scar over his abdomen, but it’s just a
scar,” answered Doc Burrage.
“Just a scar!” an angered Lucas declared.
“Lucas, you know what I mean; his being impaled could have been
so much worse. If there had been any significant internal
damage… Battle has a good reputation, and from what I’ve seen
upon examining your boy and reading his report, he did the best
job any doctor could do.”
Doc sat down across from Lucas and looked long and hard at the
“Lucas, you want to know what happened. I can see it in your
“What happened is madmen kidnapped my son…” declared Lucas.
“We all know that, you want to know what else they did to him…
Lucas, I’m your friend and I just want to warn you to tread easy
with the boy. Right now, he can be emotionally fragile.”
“What do you mean, ‘emotionally fragile’, Mark’s a strong boy…”
“Physically he’s strong, otherwise he probably wouldn’t have
survived. What I’m talking about is what he thinks. If you
demand for him to tell you everything and he sees your anger in
response… you could push him to hide certain facts, just to keep
you from getting so angry.”
“I have a right to be angry, those men kidnapped my son and
almost killed him,” declared Lucas.
“Yes, you can be angry at those men, don’t push your boy… Let
him decide when he’s ready to tell you.”
“He’s already gave his statement to the judge,” Lucas stated.
Upon getting no response from Doc Burrage, he sat for a few
minutes to consider the doctor’s words, “When can I take him
“I’d prefer to keep both of you here, overnight. I’ll write out
a list of instructions for you to get him through the rest of
the week until he’s healed enough I can take the stitches out.”
For three days and nights after their return home, Mark tried to
push the events of his kidnapping out of his mind, focusing on
the work required about the ranch. When he was in Silver City he
dreamed about how good it would be to get home, but… Each time
he dressed after waking or dressed for bed, the scar as well as
the bruises and contusions over his body, not to mention the
splint around his left wrist kept reminding him. His dreams
continued to torment him as he relived his initial kidnapping
and the argument that started the beatings, and his subsequent
kidnapping by Daniel Malachi and… Mark woke in a fearful sweat
when he felt himself falling; unsure and scared, his heart
pumped faster. It took a few moments before he recognized he was
home and his father slept in the bunk across the room. Mark
placed his right hand to the scar on the right side of his
abdomen as he grimaced upon standing. Stepping from their
bedroom, Mark walked through the front room and stopped before
opening the door; he looked to the two rifles in their stands,
side by side, and picked up the smaller of the two before
stepping to the porch.
Sitting on the porch with his rifle across his lap, Mark allowed
his tears to fall as confusion muddled his thoughts.
“Mark?” Lucas called as he stopped at the threshold.
“Pa?” Mark acknowledged before he used the heel of his right
hand to wipe the tears from his face.
Lucas picked up his rifle, and with an obvious limp, he stepped
across the porch and stood next to his son.
“Are you okay son? I can get the medication…”
“I’m fine… Pa, I’m just confused.”
“I’m here,” Lucas stated as he sat down, stretching out his
splinted leg, and placed his rifle across his lap.
It had taken great restraint on Lucas’ behalf during the three
days they had been home to keep from demanding his son tell him
what had happened, only because he knew his own hatred towards
the men could hamper his son’s ability to put all that had
happened to him behind him. Or worse yet, make his son think he
was mad at him. It took time for him to agree with the sage
advice received from Doc Battle and Doc Burrage, but he was
thankful he listened.
“They came here looking for you, said they came to consult with
you. I told them you weren’t home, you were on your way to Santa
Fe… They seemed so nice… I drew water from the well for their
horses, that’s when…”
Mark stopped talking when he couldn’t prevent his body’s
reaction to remembering the first blow to the back of his head.
“Take your time son. It’s just the two of us…” Lucas encouraged.
“When I woke, we were in a cavern. I overheard them talking
about statehood. I didn’t hear all of their conversation; and
just had to go and open my big mouth.” Mark’s shoulders slumped
in defeat after his admission, “Pa, I told them you were in
support of statehood and so was I. I didn’t know they were
opposed to it…that’s when the first beating happened.”
Mark wrapped his arms around his middle as he bent forward,
almost resting his head to his knees and cried again.
Lucas used his left hand to rub his son’s back, “Son, I’m sorry…
Mark sat up, “No Pa, you didn’t do anything wrong, you left Mr.
Merrill here to help me.”
Mark’s eyes distanced themselves from seeing what was currently
in front of him; he remembered his fears in hearing the gunshots
and fearing his Pa dead when he saw the body. It was only a few
moments later, when Lucas lifted him from the ground, that he
realized it was Henry Trumble lying dead in the barn. His memory
switched from being kidnapped by those against statehood to
being kidnapped again by Daniel Malachi.
“How could he hate us so badly that he’d allow his sons to be
killed,” Mark shut his eyes tight as he tried to understand.
“Malachi, but I thought…” a confused Lucas stated, trying to
follow his son’s explanation.
“Pa, I remember him from years ago, and you testifying against
him and his son… He came to their camp; he killed the men who
had me. At first, I was thankful he was rescuing me…” Mark
hesitated while trying to remember. “But as he came closer, I
realized, he wasn’t there to rescue me. Pa, I don’t understand…”
“Son, I’m not really sure I can explain it all to you. Daniel
Malachi still hated Micah and me for the deaths of his two other
“But they didn’t have to die!” Mark declared.
“I know they didn’t, but they gave us no other choice,” Lucas
voiced his hurt as he tried to convey to his son that sometimes
death couldn’t be avoided.
Mark quickly stated, “Pa, I’m not saying what you did was wrong…
They chose their actions…” Mark struggled to explain his
feelings in a way his Pa could understand, “But now, all his
son’s are dead and he’s going back to jail. How can a man raise
his sons that way?”
Lucas shook his head; he knew his son’s emotions were
“And those other men, Pa, they came after Mr. Malachi and me...
How can so many people want to see us dead?”
Lucas thought long and hard before he answered his son, “Mark,
Daniel Malachi and his son, and the anti-statehood factions were
two different events that…happened to collide at the same time.
You need to separate the two in your thinking.”
Mark asked, “They were all out to kill us!”
“Son, I think, in order for you to understand, you have to try
to separate the events.”
“How can I? I mean… I know you had a past with Mr. Malachi and I
know why he hated you, but those others… Would they really have
killed us, just for wanting statehood for New Mexico?”
“People will do whatever they feel necessary to keep their way
of life. Our country has fought wars… against England and
against herself,” Lucas stated.
“But which is right?” Mark asked.
“Right?” Lucas answered.
“Is it really so wrong for us to want New Mexico to become a
“Mark I can’t answer that for you, you know my feelings on
statehood, but you need to come to your own conclusion. Forget
what those men tried to do… you know the history of this land
from your school lessons. I’m here to listen to you and offer
you guidance, but… I can’t tell you to believe that statehood is
right or that it’s wrong… ”
The clock on the table in the front room read just past two
o’clock when Lucas made a final suggestion, “Mark, I know you’re
struggling with all the happened, and because you’re still
healing and still hurting, you’re not able to reason clearly. I
have a suggestion, why don’t you write out your feelings things
start getting too much to think about.”
“Pa?” a confused Mark asked.
“Just listen… when you get to thinking about the Malachi’s,
write on one sheet of paper your feelings. And when you get to
thinking about statehood, write it down on a different sheet of
paper… Right now, everything is jumbled up there. I’m sure your
mind is racing from one moment to another; not allowing you to
fully comprehend before the next image makes its presence
known,” Lucas stated has he swept his son’s bangs back on his
head. He knew his own confusion in trying to understand his son.
“But, maybe, if you write out your feelings separately, on
different sheets of paper, I’m sure you’ll find the answer that
you seek and be able to put this whole thing into perspective.”
“Do you think so?” asked Mark.
“You won’t know unless you try,” Lucas stated as he tried to
stifle a yawn.
“I’m sorry for waking you, Pa.”
“You didn’t wake me, my leg was itching, and I’ve wanted to have
this conversation with you, about what those men did, but…”
“I heard Doc Burrage tell you not to push me… I hoped I might be
able to put it aside on my own. Pa, maybe in the morning… can we
ride to the pond? I want tell you everything.”
Father and son set their rifles inside the door as they stepped
into their home and to their bedroom.
Later in the morning Lucas woke to find Mark’s bed empty, as
quickly as he could, he pulled on his jeans in order to go
search for his son; he didn’t have far to go, just to the front
room. The lamp on the table was turned down low and Mark’s upper
body rested on the table, his head rested on his arms, which lay
on top of several sheets of paper bearing his handwriting.
Again, Lucas mourned the loss of his son’s innocence; Mark only
wore jeans, and the fading bruises on his body and his face told
only part of the story. Using the one crutch leaning against the
fireplace, he left the house and crossed their yard to the barn,
in order to start their morning chores and to get away from the
reminder he had not been there to protect his son.
Lucas returned to their home to find Mark in the kitchen, fully
dressed, and cooking flapjacks. Looking to the table, Lucas saw
it was set and the papers were not in sight.
“How are you feeling?” Lucas inquired.
“Last night helped, but I’m sure our talking at the pond will
help even more,” Mark answered as he set two plates on the
Mark picked up the dirty dishes from the table and walked to the
kitchen sink, “Pa?” he asked.
“Yes,” Lucas stated as he came up behind his son.
“I don’t blame you for not being here… I mean, you couldn’t have
known what was gonna happen.”
“Pa, I still love you,” Mark stated as a large smile spread
across his face.
After hobbling their horses and unsaddling them, Mark recounted
his experiences at the hands of those against statehood and
events surrounding his time with Daniel Malachis. As the story
progressed, a fragment of a memory surfaced, “Pa, the other Mr.
Hennessee, he and one of the others were talking about your
friend, Mr. Merrill….”
“What about Jordan?” Lucas asked.
“Did he ever say why he was heading to Silver City?”
“He had a job.”
“I know that, but did he tell you what kind of a job?”
“No, and I didn’t ask. If he wanted me to know I’m sure he would
have told me.”
“I think, maybe, Mr. Hennessee hired him…” Mark stated. “They
were talking about waiting for Mr. Merrill. Pa, I didn’t get the
feeling that it was because he was trailing after me.”
Lucas looked to his son, attempting to understand the
implications of the words his son overheard.
“Pa?” Mark called for a second time.
“I guess I didn’t know Jordan as well as I thought,” Lucas
quieted. Jordan’s words haunted him, ‘It’s been a long time, you
don’t know me anymore.’
Several weeks had passed and both father and son had healed from
their injuries. The only visible sign indicating Mark had
experienced anything other than a normal summer was his
inability to be as trusting of people as he once had been when
he was introduced to strangers in town.
While working around the homestead or out on the range, Mark had
no qualms about removing his shirt in order to keep cool,
however, if anyone besides his Pa was there, Mark kept his shirt
on and the lower two buttons, buttoned.
When other riders would approach, Lucas noticed his son always
looked to his twenty-two and forced himself to relax. Lucas
chose not to say anything to his son, he knew this was something
his son would have to work out on his own.
The sun had set when Mark handed several sheets of paper to his
Pa as he sat on the front porch, enjoying a quiet evening.
“What’s this?” Lucas asked.
“Pa, you were right, the writings helped me put everything into
“I know, I’ve seen you change over the past couple of weeks. The
biggest improvement was right after our talk…”
“I hope for the better?” Mark questioned.
“Yes, you’re returning to being the Mark McCain I raised.”
“Pa,” Mark hesitated to ask, “If I hadn’t been able to write
“What are you getting at?” Lucas replied.
“If my writing this hadn’t helped me straighten out my thinking,
could you still love me?”
“Mark, you’re my son. And I would love you, regardless.”
Mark smiled due to the love his father devoted to him, yet, he
was saddened to know that not every father raised their son with
such compassion and nurturing.
Mark sat down and said, “You should know, I came to my own
decision and I want you to be the first to read.”
Lucas set aside his cigar, and using the lantern hanging on the
wall behind them, he read his son’s inner thoughts. What he read
surprised him, because he didn’t expect his son to have written
A month had passed and it was only a few weeks before Mark’s
final year of school began.
“Mark, get a move on!” Lucas hollered as he hung his carpetbag
from his saddle horn before he climbed up into the saddle on
“Coming!” Mark yelled in return as he ran from the house,
carrying his carpetbag and placing his hat upon his head.
“The door?” Lucas asked.
“Oh, sorry, Pa.”
Mark skipped the step to the porch as he hurried to close the
door in order to get to town.
“You’ve been talking about today for a whole week, and here
you’re fixing to be late.”
“I’m sorry, Pa, I just couldn’t sleep last night and… We’ll I
didn’t mean to oversleep,” Mark answered as he tied his bag to
his saddle horn.
Lucas smiled at his teenage son; he was proud that Mark had
received an invitation from Territorial Governor Edmund Ross to
visit the Territorial Capital in Santa Fe to present the paper
he had written regarding his desire to see New Mexico granted
“Do you have everything you need?” Lucas asked.
“Sure, I’ve packed my Sunday clothes, and other clothes to wear;
I wish I could take my rifle with me,” Mark stated, still unsure
in traveling such a distance.
Even with Lucas beside him, Mark held himself a little in
reserve, not sure about meeting so many strangers after his
“I don’t think it would be appropriate on this trip for you to
take your rifle. And, I think you’re forgetting something,”
“Like what?” asked Mark.
“What about your paper, on the table in the front room?” Lucas
raised his eyebrows in askance, slowly shaking his head from
side to side.
“My paper!” exclaimed Mark as he jumped down from BlueBoy and
ran back into the house.
Lucas watched and called, “Don’t forget to close…”
“…the door. I know,” finished Mark.
Micah and Lou stood on the train platform, waiting to see the
McCains off on their trip.
“Having second thoughts about your trip?” Lou asked as she
watched Mark fidget.
“Not so much the trip, but… just the reason for it,” stated
“Mark, you know how busy the territorial governor is, and he’s
excited to hear from others who share his viewpoint,” Lucas
“I’m excited to meet him, but… I don’t understand why he wants
to meet me and see my paper. I mean couldn’t you say you wrote
it?“ Mark asked as he placed his paper in the inner pocket of
“No son, you wrote it. Those are your words, your beliefs,”
“But you feel the same way… Besides, no one would know any
different,” replied Mark.
“Son, I thought you were excited about this trip?” Lucas asked,
worried that maybe it was too soon. But Lucas also knew the best
way to bring closure for his son was to make this trip.
“I am. I’m just not sure I’m ready for all those people up in
Santa Fe,” answered Mark while remembering all the different
people who were involved with his kidnapping.
“Mark, I’ll be right there with you, every step of the way.”
Lucas placed his hand upon his son’s shoulder.
“What I don’t understand is how he knew what I wrote?” Mark
“I had something to do with that,” Stefan Griswald stated with
pride as he joined them. “Mark, with all you went through this
summer, I am humbled you could write with such maturity and am
honored you allowed me to read what you wrote. But… your words
haunted me; I couldn’t get them out of my mind. So… I asked a
friend of mine, who’s the editor of the Santa Fe Gazette, to
read it and he chose to publish it as an editorial in the paper.
He agreed your feelings would resonate with the citizens of New
Mexico. When he told me what he wanted to do, I insisted it had
to be printed anonymously; you’d been through enough, and I
didn’t want to cause you any more hurt. And once the Governor
read it, he demanded to know from my friend who had written such
a passionate plea; he wanted to meet the person.”
“I just wrote what I believed, as a way to help me come to terms
with what happened, there’s nothing special about that… I’m just
a kid,” replied Mark.
“Mark, you’re not just a kid. You’re a young man growing up.
You’re special, young people such as yourself need to voice your
opinions, and the older generation, like me, needs to know you
care. We need to listen because you are our future.” Mr.
Griswald paused as he gave Mark the chance to acknowledge his
underlying fears. Once Mark looked him in the eye, Mr. Griswald
continued, “When school starts in a few weeks, I want a full
report of your experiences at the Territorial Capital. Mark, I’m
excited that one of my students will have such an opportunity to
make their voice heard in such a setting.”
“I just hope they don’t think I want to become a politician,”
Mark nervously commented.
“Why not?” asked Micah.
“You know I want to be a rancher, like Pa,” Mark boldly
“Welcome back, Lucas,” Territorial Governor Edmund Ross greeted.
“Governor Ross, I’d like for you to meet my son, Mark,” Lucas
The governor’s face took on a perplexed expression as he looked
to Mark. “And it was you, who wrote the editorial? I thought you
might have been Lucas’ brother, I didn’t know…”
“Yes sir, only I didn’t write it as an editorial. I wrote it in
order to get my thinking straight,” answered Mark as he
remembered to remove his hat.
“Your thinking straight?” repeated Ross.
“It’s a long story, sir,” answered Mark.
“Well, as long as it was written… Please come in. May I offer
you something to drink? Maybe a sarsaparilla for you and a
brandy for you, Lucas?” Ross asked as he looked first to Mark
and then to Lucas.
Both nodded their heads as the governor motioned for them to be
seated in any one of the overstuffed chairs that set about his
“Matilda,” the governor called to a young woman standing next to
a table with pitchers and glasses, “Please see to our guests.”
“Yes, governor,” the woman replied.
Lucas chose a chair to sit in and relaxed back into it, while
Mark chose to sit in the matching chair next to Lucas, however,
he felt overwhelmed by the fullness of the chair cushion and the
richness of the fabric cover. The governor’s aide moved another
chair in the room closer to where the McCains sat, before the
governor was seated.
Matilda handed a glass of brandy to Lucas, a glass of
sarsaparilla to Mark, and a glass to the governor, before
leaving the room.
“Young Mr. McCain, are you in your next to last year or last
year of school?” Governor Ross asked.
“I’ll be starting my last year in a few weeks, sir, but…”
“Don’t stop talking just because you don’t think what you have
to say is important to me. I like to hear what all my
constituents have to say.”
“I was just going to say that… even though I have another year
of school, my teacher has sent away for more advance studies for
me to learn from this past year.”
“Good, good, the more educated the people are, the better
informed they can be to make their decisions.”
“Sir, if I could?” Mark was hesitant to ask.
“Go on,” Governor Ross stated as he offered a cigar to Lucas.
“Pa and I have an idea how statehood would affect the people of
the territory, but… How would it affect you? I mean, you were
appointed by the President…”
“Someone has been paying attention during school…” teased the
governor. “You’re right, the position of a territorial governor
is by appointment, and it would no longer exist, at least as it
is currently fulfilled. If I wanted to run for Governor of the
State of New Mexico, I’d have to run for election, just like any
other governor. The people would have a voice in whether I would
get the job or someone else.”
Lucas was impressed with the governor, how he really listened to
what Mark had to say and answered the questions honestly and
with great thought.
The group had lost track of time when the double doors to the
office opened, “Governor?”
“Yes Wally?” Ross responded.
“You asked me to remind you about your dinner engagement with
your wife,” Wally answered.
“Is it that late?” Ross asked in surprise.
“I’m afraid it is.”
“Well, one can get lost in time when listening to the voices of
the people. Mark, Lucas, Wally will be by to pick you up day
after tomorrow afternoon around noon. Tomorrow is yours to
explore our town.”
The following afternoon, a clean-shaven man, dressed in a suit
jacket over a vest and jean, wearing a cowboy hat entered the
busy outer office of the New Mexico Territorial Governor. As he
looked around the office in search of someone, he unbuttoned his
jacket, he allowed it to hang open and display the U.S.
Marshal’s Badge pinned to his vest.
“Wally!” called out the Marshal when he couldn’t find who he was
As the skinny young man popped his head up from within a group
of people surrounding a desk, “Mr. Langley,” Wally walked over
to greet his old friend. “What brings you to Santa Fe?”
“An article that was printed in the Santa Fe Gazette; I heard
the young man who wrote the story was going to be introduced to
some of Governor Ross’ esteemed colleagues.”
“He is. He and his father arrived yesterday. Governor Russ has
the town hall reserved for tomorrow afternoon.”
“What does Ross know about the young man?” Langley asked.
“He was surprised to find out how young the boy was; he met
Lucas McCain and presumed that it was Mr. McCain’s brother who
wrote the editorial, not his son.”
“I presume Ross hasn’t read this report,” Langley stated as
handed a folder stuffed with sheets of paper to the governor’s
“What’s the report about?” Wally asked.
“I think Ross had better read for himself.”
“Is he going to regret inviting the boy here to speak tomorrow?”
“No, but I think he better know just who this young man is; not
just that his father is known as The Rifleman.”
Perusing the first few pages, Wally looked up, “This is an
official report from the U.S. Marshals.”
“I think you better present it to Governor Ross.”
Wally escorted the Marshal out the door, down the hall and
outside, to the garden, where Governor Ross sat enjoying lunch
with a few friends.
“Excuse me Governor Ross,” Wally begged as he chose a moment to
interrupt the conversation.
“Miller! Miller Langley, if this don’t beat all!” Governor Ross
declared as he stood to greet his old friend. “Men, this here is
U.S. Marshal Miller Langley, he was my first body guard when I
was appointed Territorial Governor for New Mexico. Then they go
and steal him away from me and assign him up in Denver. Miller,
how have you been? Please join us for lunch.”
“Thank you, Governor,” Miller Langley stated as Wally brought
another chair for the marshal.
As the luncheon broke up, and Ross bid goodbye to his colleagues
and addressed Marshal Langley, “So Miller, what brings you back
to Santa Fe?”
“I think you had best read this report before your get-together
Langley handed the file folder and its contents to the governor.
“Is this something I should be concerned about?” Ross asked when
he saw Confidential stamped on the first page.
“It just gives you a little more information regarding the young
man who’s going to be speaking tomorrow. I’m fairly sure neither
he nor his father would have explained this to you.”
“When do you need this report returned?”
“Tomorrow morning. My superiors would have my hide if they knew
I let you read what’s contained within those pages, but I think
you need to know.”
Wally preceded Mark and Lucas as they entered into the town hall
filled to capacity.
“Who are all these people?” asked Mark.
“Just Senators, Representatives, and reporters,” Wally stated.
“Sir, I can’t,” Mark stated as he backed away from the doorway.
“Mark, what you wrote, it means a lot to me and I’m sure it will
mean a lot for my contemporaries to hear it from the person who
wrote it,” Governor Ross stated as he joined them.
“But, I can’t. Not in front of all those people. I didn’t know
there would be this many.”
Lucas heard the fear in his boy’s voice and placed his hand to
his son’s shoulder, “Son, you wrote in your paper that you could
no longer be forced into silence…”
“But that was…”
“A lie?” Governor Ross asked.
“No sir, I didn’t lie. It’s just, I’ve never spoke to such a
large group and it’s quite intimidating,” Mark replied, hoping
they wouldn’t make him go through with the reading.
“I could read you paper, but it wouldn’t have as much of an
impact on all those people, same could be said if your father
read your paper. Mark, you had the courage to write your
feelings and the courage to come all this way to meet me.”
Knowing how intimidating all these influential people could be,
Ross stated, “You want to know a trick I used, when I first had
to start addressing large crowds?”
“Imagine every one of them out there wearing nothing but their
longjohns. Some wearing white, others wearing red, and some…
well, let your imagination decide,” the governor suggested.
The room quieted as Governor Ross, Lucas, and Mark walked across
the stage, Lucas and Mark took two of the seats behind the
podium and listened.
“I thank you all for coming on such short notice. I’m thrilled
that so many of my contemporaries as well as my constituents
chose to attend. As for those from the press, please accurately
report what happens here today. As most of you know, we have a
long battle ahead of us in this fight for statehood.
Those present acknowledged the governor’s statement by loudly
clapping their hands.
The governor continued speaking after waiting for the room to
quiet, “There are many levels upon which this battle will be
fought, and as in any battle; there are people outside the
political arena who are affected by our actions. Many of you
read the editorial published in the Santa Fe Gazette last
Another round of applause interrupted the governor.
“I was able to track down the writer and invited him to visit
me. I wanted to know firsthand what inspired him to write such a
passionate plea, possibly the desire to see better for his
children, as he wrote.
“I will admit I was not prepared to meet the writer of the
editorial. It shocked me to know that a boy… no, a young man
could write so eloquently of his beliefs. Sitting behind me are
Lucas and Mark McCain, from North Fork, New Mexico. You probably
think it was the father who wrote the plea for statehood, and
like me, you would be wrong.
“Gentlemen, I present to you, Mark McCain.”
The room quieted as Mark stepped to the platform. Stopping half
way, Mark looked back to his father and was encouraged by Lucas’
nod of his head and the smile he wore.
“Thank you, Governor,” Mark stated as he pulled the sheet of
paper from his pocket and turned to face the multitude of people
in the room. As he stood there, he felt his throat tighten and
looked to the side as someone set a glass of water for him on
the podium. He quickly took a long drink in hopes it would
settle his nerves. ‘Think of them sitting there, wearing nothing
more than their longjohns’ repeated in Mark’s mind. Taking a
deep breath, Mark raised his voice so he could be heard
throughout the room and began,
“A little over one hundred years ago, the land we call America
was nothing more than a colony under British rule. This
so-called ‘territory’ strove to break away from a ruler her
people thought oppressive, in order to form their own
government. Fifty-six men, representing the original thirteen
colonies, our Founding Fathers, wrote and signed the Declaration
of Independence giving America her voice. Though they were
bullied, and fought a war for their beliefs, they had the
courage to stand up for their convictions.
“Do you remember The Declaration’s opening paragraph? When in
the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people
to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with
another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the
separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of
Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of
mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel
them to the separation.
“I believe the same holds true for the opposite reason. When in
the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people
to join a political band which will connect them with another…
these people should declare the cause which impel them to become
“Statehood is defined as the power or authority represented by a
body of people politically organized under one government. But
to me… statehood is a lot more. Some may call it a dream, but a
lot of what America has endured started out as someone’s dream,
and it eventually became reality, because people were willing to
stand up for what they believed. Statehood means we would
officially be a part of The United States of America and have a
voice in the decisions affecting her people.
“Today, New Mexico is a part of the land we call America, but
she’s nothing more than a territory, a side note when it comes
to representation in Washington. But her people are more… Many
of her people came West in the hopes of raising a family, or to
get away from the reminders of the Great War that painfully
divided our Nation, or to even strike it rich in the goldmines
of California, but never concluded their journey. Regardless the
reason why, these people heeded the call, “Go West Young Man.”
The people of New Mexico consider themselves Americans. But
because we’re a territory, are we considered second-rate
citizens? Some of her people are second and third generation and
have never been east of the Mississippi. Why shouldn’t we dream
of being granted the full rights and privileges as a citizen of
a State… One of the United States… The United States of America.
“There are people out there, who will stop at nothing to keep
New Mexico and America separate; for whatever their reasons,
they have forced oppression upon those who do not agree with
them, with no compassion for the lives of others. They will do
anything within their powers to prevent the people’s voices from
being heard. Yet, as much as it hurts to speak up, one must
stand for their own convictions when they feel they have been
wronged. We cannot let these men bully us into submission, to
give up on the dream. The people of this territory have a right
to have their voices heard, without threat of losing their
livelihood or even their lives.
“I’ve heard others say that people like me don’t know what we’re
talking about, that we’re just repeating words without
understanding… We’re nothing more than sheep following along
because we’re too stupid to understand! I object to being called
a sheep. This is cattle country! So, if I don’t understand the
truths of statehood, teach me…
“Tell me, is statehood an ill-conceived idea? How many other
territories have joined the original thirteen colonies in
declaring the desires of statehood? Just in this century alone,
count them: Louisana, Indiana, Mississippi, Illinois, Alabama,
Maine, Missouri, Arkansas, Michigan, Florida, Texas, Iowa,
Wisconsin, California, Minnesota, Oregon, Kansas, West Virginia,
Nevada, Nebraska, and last, Colorado. Why shouldn’t New Mexico
join this roster?
“If you consider statehood for New Mexico an ill-conceived idea,
would you dare tell our Founding Fathers their dream to form one
sovereign nation was an ill-conceived idea? How many men lost
their lives fighting during the Revolutionary War? How many men
lost their lives fighting to keep American united during our
most recent war?”
“As I have taken pen to paper, I’ve come to realize I can no
longer be forced into silence… Too many people have lived and
unfortunately died for this dream, and others… others have
suffered to an extent no one ever should have to suffer through,
just because of their dream.
“The Preamble of the Constitution of the United States begins
with, ‘We the People’, regardless of what anyone thinks, I’m one
of The People… I dream, one day… that New Mexico will be granted
statehood and OUR voices will be heard; as we are given the
right to help choose a path for this great country, the right to
send people to represent our visions, and the right to make our
voices heard. My words are not to declare independence, but to
declare, I have a right to be heard, for my voice to count!
Maybe not in my lifetime, but I dream one day, that maybe… maybe
my children will see this dream of Statehood for New Mexico come
Mark paused as he finished reading from his paper. He looked at
those in attendance and said, “The governor stated this is a
battle, and in any battle there are casualties… I pray the only
wounds inflicted are from words… There’s an old school rhyme,
‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm
me.’ Instruments of war shouldn’t be used to fight this battle.
The people need to have a voice and if the majority says yes,
then the powers that be need to draft and send a referendum to
Washington. However, if the majority says no, then it won’t
happen, not today. But that doesn’t mean it will never happen.
The only way it will happen is for brave people to stand against
the bullies and protect their weaker neighbors, but also, the
educated people need to explain the benefits of statehood in a
way that everyone will understand; not just in lawyer speak. The
people need to understand the value of statehood; and how it
will help them, not that this is just something that you people
want. The people of New Mexico need to want it too. As I think
about what Governor Ross stated earlier and as I’ve rethought
what I wrote, I’ve come to understand that politicians can be
just as wrong as the bullies, if you can’t explain to the
regular people what it means to be a State.”
Mark stepped back from the podium and started to walk to where
Lucas stood, while those present silently considered the words
spoken and the person who had spoke. He stopped mid-stride when
he heard one chair scrape along the floor followed by the sound
of a single set of hands clapping. Mark looked across the sea of
people and in the far back of the room saw one person standing
and clapping with fortitude; his eyes were drawn to others, as
more people stood to their feet and began clapping their hands,
he tried to understand what was happening.
From behind him, Mark saw the Territorial Governor clapping and
walking towards him. The man paused only long enough to place a
hand on Mark’s shoulder and return him to the podium.
“Gentlemen, please…” Ross called out as he motioned for the
people to take their seats. “As I said earlier, I know a number
of you read the editorial in the newspapers several weeks back,
and were as moved as I was, but never could we imagine these
words were written by someone so young. I’ve had the pleasure to
host Mark McCain and his father, Lucas McCain, for the past few
days and I stand here to announce, I am humbled by the character
of this young man.”
Lucas walked to stand next to his son as the governor continued,
“Lucas McCain was in Santa Fe to talk with me about statehood
and the benefits for the various Cattlemen’s Associations.
Unfortunately, as young Mr. McCain alluded to, there are those
who stand against our bid for statehood and they sent forces to
silence Mr. McCain, only they were too late and encountered his
son. It was only yesterday that my aide brought to my attention
certain information. Belatedly, I have read reports and I can’t
believe someone who has gone through such an experience, could
still be passionate about his beliefs. I’ve not told the McCains
that I know about the events from this summer, until this
moment.” The governor turned to look at Lucas and Mark in
apology, before he returned to address those present.
“I tell all who will hear me, those who consider what happened
to Mark McCain, a means to an end and justified… If any of you
remain alive, YOU CANNOT HIDE!” The governor emphasized his
point by pounding his fisted hand upon the podium. “You will not
oppress those who truly understand the call for freedom. Justice
will be served! You may have initially intimidated this young
man by your actions, but ultimately, you failed! This young man
had the courage to speak up; he wanted his voice heard, if only
as a way to help him deal with his fears. Well, hear me now! We
have heard his voice because of his teacher’s belief in his
student. I say, if this young man has the courage to stand up
and let his voice be heard, then those in this territory need to
stand up to demand our voices be heard in Washington, just as
our Founding Fathers demanded their voices be heard in England.”
Those who had sat down as Governor Ross spoke, stood and clapped
in a renewed show of their support.
Looking to Mark, the governor asked, “If I may use your words?”
Mark shrugged his shoulders.
The governor turned to address those in the room, ”I stand here,
not to declare our independence; I stand here declaring the
right to be heard as a citizen of the State of New Mexico! We
will press on, in our continued push for statehood!”
The room shook from exhilaration as those present cheered and
clapped their hands even louder.
Territorial Governor Ross stepped from the podium and motioned
for Lucas and Mark to accompany him. Outside the meeting hall,
as they entered his carriage, the governor stated, “I hope you
understand why I divulged what I did.”
“Not really…” replied Mark.
“Son, as I said, I am humbled by your character. After reading
the marshal’s report, your words haunted me even more. Your
survival speaks volumes to the strength of your father and the
young man he’s raised you to be… You are the future of those who
will see this territory into statehood. May I ask, did your
father help you write any of what you wrote?”
“Seems that question would have been better asked before I spoke
in there,” answered Mark.
Lucas rebuked Marks’ statement by calling his son’s name,
“No Mr. McCain, your son has every right to make that statement.
I guess I should have at that,” replied the territorial
“The only help Pa gave me was the suggestion to write it, as a
way to help clear up my confusion… to not allow my being
kidnapped to muddle my beliefs in my stand on statehood, sir,”
“Well, just let me know whenever you’re ready to go into
politics. You have the making of a fine politician, if you can
rouse those people to such frenzy.”
“Sir, I think your words had a lot more to do with that,”
“But your word were the heart, I just gave them the shove to
realize what they needed to do. So, you’ll remember my offer,
I’ll introduce you to some of the most influential people to
help get you started,” offered the governor.
“Thank you sir, but…”
“But what?” the governor asked once Mark didn’t continue.
“But, I think back there is the closest I ever want to come to
politics, unless it is to stand up and vote.”
Governor Ross laughed at Mark’s statement while Lucas slowly
shook his head and placed his hand at the base of the back of
Mark’s neck and shoulder and gave him a firm squeeze, the facial
expression he wore stated, ‘when we get home’.
The following morning, Wally, the governor’s aide, met Lucas and
Mark at their hotel, “Are you sure you can’t stay longer?” the
man asked. “The governor wants to personally introduce the two
of you to some of his peers.”
“Please tell the governor, we really need to get home. We’ve a
working ranch that’s been neglected far too long,” replied Lucas
as he closed his carpetbag.
“If that’s the case, I’ll make your apologies. Please, the
governor has offered the use of his carriage for your trip to
the train station.”
With the sun setting on the right side of the train, Mark
watched the landscape fly past the windows.
“Penny for your thoughts,” Lucas stated to his daydreaming son.
“Just thinking on my report to write for Mr. Griswald; he’s not
going to believe how we’ve lived for the past few days,” Mark’s
eyes shined at the memory.
“Would you want to live in the city?” Lucas hesitantly asked.
“Pa, for all the fancy carriages and hotels…”Mark’s eyes shone
as he remembered all the sights and sounds, “it was nice, a fun
place to visit, but…” Mark’s expression changed, a look of
longing appeared on his face, “There’s nowhere I’d rather be
than our home. I can’t wait to get back. To get in the saddle
and race home.”
Lucas smiled; he yearned for the same.
Cast of Characters
Daniel Malachi - patriarch
Ben Malachi – surviving son
Judd Malachi – killed in the salt mine (in reference only)
Stump Malachi – accidentally killed by Ben who was shooting at
Lucas in the saloon (in reference only)
Simon Battle – doctor
Vicki Battle – daughter
Senator Borden (in reference only)
Ties That Bind
Boyle – associate of Roger Hennessee
Chad Riley – owner of the General Store in Silver City
Chandler – med tech during the war – with Harvey Hennessee
Edmund G. Ross – Democratic Governor appointed by President
Epps – associate of Roger Hennessee
Franklin Galveston – President New Mexico Cattlemen’s
Griggson – prison guard
Harvey Hennessee – conspirator against statehood, older brother
of derby wearer
Jordan Merrill – old friend of Lucas, turned gunslinger
Lynetta – Lou’s friend in Silver City
Marshal Moores – town marshal in Silver City
Miller Langley – U.S. Marshal
Norman Michaelson – prison warden
Roger Hennessee – derby wearer and kidnapper
Sperry – Harvey Hennesse right hand man
Wally – Territorial Governor’s Aide
This is a story based on the TV
series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
around The McCain Ranch