The Rifleman
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Duchess' Daydream
The Lincoln County Story: Part 3
Written by Duchess McCain

The Rifleman-The Lincoln County Story Continued: A Way that Seems Right
Mark looked eagerly at Eliza, waiting for her answer. He ran through the mental to checklist to make sure that he had told her everything. She halted her book keeping, and looked at Mark. She held his gaze for a moment.
“You’re sure that you finished all of your homework? Nothing small that you ‘forgot’ about?”
“I promise Ms. Eliza! And I’ll be sure to keep a watch on time. I’ll be back with plenty of time to wash up for dinner.”
She smiled and shook her head him. “Okay Mark. See if Adam and Henry will go fishing with you.”
Mark let a small whoop for joy escape before he could stifle it. He turned to run out of the room but then paused and looked back, turning a little red.
“Uh, Sorry. Um, well uh, thanks for letting me go!”
The trees were beginning to bud small leaves in all shades of green. Spring was coming on, and Mark smiled with the thought of school being out soon. He kicked a rock that lay on his path to the creek. It wasn’t going to be as much fun since Adam and Henry had chores. He plopped down on the soggy bank and started to bait his hook. A rabbit hopped by the water’s edge. Mark looked aimlessly in the distance. Then he straightened up; an idea had popped in his head! Leaving his pole behind, Mark began to follow the creek, exploring beyond their property. Finding a large stick, he attacked the band of pirates that he now envisioned, valiantly trying to find his share of the treasure. Suddenly he lost his footing and fell hard to ground. Standing up, he saw a large rock covered in vines. Pushing the vines out of the way, Mark realized that he had actually stumbled upon a cave! As his eyes got used to the darkness, he saw a bag lying by the wall next to him.  Compelled by curiosity, he reached for the bag.
cla-Click. Mark’s face went white.
“You turn around real slow boy. Hands in the air.”
Mark did as he was told. He slowly raised his eyes to look up at the man.
“William. . .” he started. “William!”
The young man frowned, and his voice hardened. “What are you talkin’ about boy? How do you know my name?”
“William it’s me, Mark McCain. I know I was little when I saw you, and you’ve changed some, but I’m sure glad to see you!”
Billy’s eyes became soft as memory of happier times came back. Picnics and fishing, questions that never ended, checkers games, and knowing that a certain someone would always be as close as his shadow. The hard lines on his face seemed to fade away. And for a moment, the allusive Billy the Kid was once again just a young man whose greatest desire was to belong somewhere and be needed, even wanted. Billy’s features slowly began to reveal his youth of just 20 years.   Quickly he put his gun away. He smiled wide and went down on one knee to embrace Mark.
“I didn’t know you lived in Arizona Mark! What’s your Pa doing here?”
“He’s a deputy.” Mark didn’t notice Billy’s frown. “He’s gone right now escortin’ some prisoner somewhere. I know he’ll be so happy to see you when he gets back. I was getting kind of lonely with him being gone. But I sure am glad you’re here. Say William, what are doing here, why don’t you stay in town with me?”
Billy gave him a quizzical look. Certainly the boy had heard about his reputation. He decided to change the subject.
“How’s your Ma?”
Mark looked down. “I guess no one would have told you. She was really sick when I got home from Lincoln. She died two weeks after Pa got back. He tried to keep going, but he said there were too many memories. He said he wanted to start over somewhere different.”
Slowly Billy pieced together that in the wake of Margret’s death, Lucas couldn’t bring himself to tell Mark all that happened in Lincoln. He pondered telling Mark that he wasn’t the same person anymore.
‘I don’t know why I’m different, it just happened,” he thought. “He doesn’t have to know. They were all lies anyway; I can be who I was.”
“Whatchya got for me kiddo?”
Mark sat down next to Billy and handed him a small cloth bag. It had only been two days since they had reunited but to Mark it seemed much longer. He looked up at Billy and grinned, proud of what he’d been able to do for him.
“Well, I saved half of my sandwich from lunch, and here’s an apple. I know it’s not very much, but I brought my fishing pole. Maybe I can catch you some fish!”
Billy was glad to have someone make him laugh. “That would be nice Mark.” Suddenly he grabbed Mark and got a really suspicious look.
“You just be mighty careful,” he said in a low voice. “I’ve seen some awfully big fish in this stream. I’d hate to tell your daddy that they hooked you instead!”
Mark laughed as he smoothed his line. Carefully he baited the hook and tossed in it the serene water. He thought about all the things Billy had been telling him, of staying outdoors, setting traps, crossing the land, and seeing so much! There wasn’t enough time for him to hear it all. He looked back over his shoulder.
“Tomorrow will you show me how to set a rabbit trap like you were talking about? Pa’s never had time to show me how.”
“I’d love to Mark. The only problem is that I’m running out of string for making them. If I don’t get more soon, then I won’t be able to catch my own food.”
Billy watched Mark as he told him the dilemma. He cared deeply for the boy, but right now he needed him. Survival wasn’t easy, and Billy knew his days were numbered. Should circumstances have been different, Billy would have given up his own horse for Mark. Time and people had changed the youth into a young man, but things were no clearer now than they were two years ago. The law. How could anybody trust it? It hadn’t helped his friends. The criminals were running free, and promises were broken. But the boy. . . he knew nothing of such injustice. Billy looked around and became keenly aware of the tranquility of the forest while the stream steadily flowed by. They looked down and laughed at the foolishness of this man, and the problems that haunted him.
It was late afternoon when Eliza was able to get out into town. She quickly tied a bonnet on. It didn’t matter if she only saw the sun for 10 minutes, her face would become red. She sighed, thinking of all the times as a girl that she hadn’t worn a bonnet and paid greatly with a burnt face. Then a smile crept over her face as she thought of all the energy in her home while Mark had been staying with her. It wasn’t until today that she noticed how tired she was. If he wasn’t out with his friends, he was home asking her a thousand questions. Most of them revolved around food, and whether or not she had something he could use for his newest project. Just the other day he had asked for a ball of string. ‘What do you need it for?’ was her reply. ‘I’m working on a project. . . for Pa.’ His smile and pleading eyes had been convincing. Whatever this surprise was it must have been important because he was always gone to their home.
“Why Eliza, I didn’t expect to see you today!”
Lydia Tilley smiled at her best friend. They had always been close, supporting each other through the hard times. Eliza was the one responsible for Buckville’s teacher. For a whole year the children had no teacher, until Eliza persuaded Lydia to try.
“Lydia, I’m so glad to see you! I’ve been so busy with Mark and with the hotel. How’s he doing in school?”
“Not too well I’m afraid. He hasn’t been finishing all of his homework, and he seems rather absent-minded in class. I was surprised to see you here in the store Eliza. Today, Mark told me at lunch that he had to pick up some supplies for you. Usually I give them 35 minutes at lunch. He was 15 minutes late getting back to class. You must have given him a terribly long list!”
“But I didn’t ask him to get anything for me. And every day he’s told me that his homework is done, otherwise I wouldn’t let him go and play until it was finished.”
“It sounds to me like he’s trying to hide something. But he better shape really soon, because I know that his Pa is very strict about his grades.”
Eliza paused, and thought it over. “You’re right about Lucas. He is very focused on education. Lydia, why don’t you write down your concerns about Mark? Lucas will be home a couple of days. I’m not Mark’s mother.  I think it would be best for Lucas to handle this.”
Eliza paid for her items, picked up her basket, and walked out with Lydia. She heard a noise and glanced down the street. Several unfamiliar horses were tied by jail, and a crowd had gathered nearby, waiting to hear the latest news. A tall man with a mustache walked out with Marshal Adams. He mounted his horse, and rode towards the hotel.
“Mark, I need you to listen very carefully to me. Understand?”
They were sitting inside the cave. Billy had lit a small candle, and Mark could faintly see the outline of his face.  In the stillness he could hear Billy exhaling.
“Mark, I need your help. You’ve heard of Billy the Kid right? There are some people that think I’m him.”
Mark’s eyes grew wider like ripples in a pool and he opened his mouth, but could not find the words to speak.
“Now look, you’ve got to understand what I tell you, or someone will land a bullet in my back.” He rubbed his hands together, and Mark could see the outline of his features leaning forward.
“I don’t know that your Pa told you about this, so I’m gonna fill you in. A little while after you left, some of the Murphy men murdered Tunstall. Now George and Frank, and myself, and several other men weren’t going to let them get away with it. We banded together under the name ‘The Regulators.’ We fought back with zealous ferocity. Things ultimately got out of hand. The Army was called into Lincoln and that was the end of the war. When Governor Wallace held the trials and promised amnesty to those who testified, I took him up on the offer. When all the testimonies were over and done with, they decided both sides were in the wrong. But still, they needed someone to make an example of. Because I was the one who shot the corrupt Sheriff, they put out a warrant for me.”
“But William! What about the promise?”
“I wrote the Governor several times, petitioning him for his help. He denied it.” Billy paused again. He took a quick breath.
“Mark, I’ve been on the run ever since. I. . .I can’t live a normal life. The newspaper made up stories, they made up Billy the kid. Pat Garret has blood in his eyes. I think he’s afraid of something happening again, so he’s trying to make himself big. For his own gain, he’s willing to abash an innocent man, and deny me a chance to set the record straight. I didn’t do anything Mark! They’re all lies. I need your help. I’ve. . .I’ve got to leave.”
A huge lump found its way into Mark’s throat, something pressed hard in his chest.
“Pa, he always says that you can get a fair trial. . .” His voice was hollow, and did not sound like his own.
“Mark this is different. Your Pa is a good man, but this is different. They don’t know the truth, and they won’t believe it. My only chance at justice is to run. I’m gonna have to stay in the cave from now on. I can’t risk someone seeing me. My candle is almost out; do you think you could get me a lamp?  And I need you to listen for me. Tell me anything that you hear.”
Mark started forward. “William. I’m scared.” Billy grabbed his shoulders, and looked into his face for a moment. In the flickering light Billy’s clear blue eyes hardened.
“You can’t be Mark; there will be time to fear later. Right now you’ve got to do what you know is right.”
Lucas urged his horse into a canter. He missed his home and bed. He missed Mark’s incessant questions. Those adorable eyes and infectious smile. . . Lucas’s stomach interrupted his thoughts. The page in his mind suddenly turned to supper, and consequently Eliza. Absorbed in reading his thoughts, he soon found himself tying his horse to the post outside of the O’Neal house. He glanced up at the sign and strode inside. Eliza was clearing a table when she heard the familiar ‘thump, thump’ of a certain pair of boots. She drew a quick breath, and hurriedly wiped her hands on a nearby napkin. She wore a rich brown dress with a deep forest green ribbon adorning her waist. While she suppressed an enormous grin breaking out, her bright green eyes betrayed the feeling. Lucas however, did not hide his joy. He instantly removed his hat.
“I hope you have some food for a hungry deputy.”
“I think I can find some.” She looked down, and then let her radiating smile break forth. “I was expecting a certain deputy home soon. I took the liberty of fixing an apple this morning, if of course he wants it.”
“I’d better put away as much of it as I can before Mark comes down here!” He plopped his hat on the table, glad to be out of the sun. Eliza came back with a gigantic pie piece and a large cup of coffee. Just before he put the first delectable bite in his mouth, Lucas couldn’t help but inquire about his son.
“I guess Mark couldn’t keep himself from fishing, even with me coming home?”
Eliza hesitated. She had hoped to postpone this discussion. Lucas looked at her and became aware that something was troubling her. He put his fork down, pie still untasted, and leaned forward to look her in the eyes. She read the unspoken question and sighed. Lucas slowly drank his coffee as Eliza rehearsed all that had taken place in his absence.
Lucas looked across at Mark. He had been back for almost 2 hours before Mark came home. Still Lucas had not decided in his mind what to address first, school or Sheriff Pat Garrett being in town. He still hadn’t touched his food, and Luke was running out of patience.
“Have a big lunch Mark?”
“Huh?” He looked up, as if just woken up.
Lucas raised an eyebrow. “Son, you haven’t touched your food. I thought you’d be excited for me to be back. Something bothering you?”
“No. . . I mean, nothing that matters.”
“Did you hear about the Sheriff in town?”
Mark stared at his food. He couldn’t bring himself to look at his father. “Pa, it isn’t true what they say about William is it? He didn’t. . . he didn’t kill anybody did he?”
Lucas wiped his mouth with his napkin. “Mark, everybody likes to tell a big story. They like to love the good guy and hate the bad guy. After the Lincoln County War, there was no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ side. Everything had gotten mixed up. The governor made William some promises, but he ended up not keeping them. People wanted a person they could point a finger at, say was bad, and the court decided to pick William. . . ”
“So he’s innocent then!”
“I wasn’t done. Mark, it was wrong that they put that on him, but he didn’t deal with it the right way. You can’t run from the law son.”
“But Garrett is accusing him when he’s innocent! It’s not fair. He shouldn’t be a lawman.”
“Look here Mark; Sheriff Pat Garrett is doing his job. There is a warrant out for William, and he’d be wrong to let him go. You don’t know that he’s innocent, a jury will figure that. You don’t have a reason to think the Sheriff is bad, and until you do, you give him your respect like always. Now eat your supper.”
Mark’s lower lip curved down slightly as he glared at his plate.
“I’m not hungry Pa,” he said deliberately. Lucas got up to clear his place, and reached for Mark’s plate as well.
“Then you can go get ready for bed.”
Mark turned, and shut the door hard. As he unbuttoned his shirt, hot tears began to travel down his cheeks. He tugged his neatly tucked sheets loose and climbed into bed.
Pat Garrett slowly walked down the boarded side walk. He knew they were close, but trying to pin Billy down was like catching a greased pig. And dislike it as he may, Garrett knew Billy was better and quicker than him. He had caught him once before, only to see Billy kill his close friends. James and Robert, gone forever. Any doubt that Garrett had concerning Billy’s guilt was gone. His thoughts were quickly diverted as he entered the jail.
“Mornin’ Garrett. I want you to meet my deputy Lucas McCain. He got in last night from escorting the prisoner.”
Lucas nodded, “Sheriff.”
Garrett’s mustache twitched slightly. “Marshall Adams has told me about you. Glad you could come help us. I’m sure you’ve heard about Billy the Kid. Ever since he ruthlessly broke out of the Lincoln County jail I’ve felt it my personal responsibility to bring him to justice. Billy is a smart kid, and it will take everyone we have to track him down. But I’m sure with your and the Marshall’s help we’ll catch him in no time.”
Mark stirred where he sat, and quietly cleared his throat.
“Now who is this?” said Garrett, walking towards the corner where Mark sat.
“Sheriff, that’s my son Mark. He’s here catching up on some of his lessons.”
“What are you reading boy?”
Mark looked at his book, and then ventured a glance at Lucas. Head down he whispered “parts of King Arthur.”
“King Arthur?” replied Garrett. “I loved reading that book as a boy. I hope you are enjoying it as much as I did.”
Mark gave a slight nod, and tried to look like he was studying. Much to his relief, the adults had moved on.
“Marshall, I’m going out to check on the men that I posted on the outskirts of town. I would like for you to ride with me. I know you have your own business to tend to; however I covet your knowledge of the land.”
“That will be fine Garrett. Lucas will be here to watch things in town, and not too much has been happening lately.”
When the two men had left, Mark looked imploringly at Lucas. He spoke quickly, afraid of losing the small amount of courage he had been able work up.
“Why can’t I go play with Adam and Henry Pa? They weren’t able to play all week! I only saw them at school. I’ll finish this tonight, honest!”
Lucas shifted his weight from one leg to the other and pushed back his hat. “Mark, you know that you’re supposed to finish your school work before you play on the weekends. And based on your recent trend in school work, I think you’re going to stay here until I’m sure that you caught up in your work.” He paused, and then picked up his rifle and headed for the door.
“Now look, I have to go see about getting a new bit for Alcor. I’ll be back soon.”
Mark reined his horse to a stop, and dismounted. Blue Boy snorted and shook his mane as Mark tied him to a nearby tree.
“Now look Boy, just because I’m nervous doesn’t mean you have to make it worse.” The horse nudged his young rider. Mark turned away and drew a box out of his saddle bag. Walking towards the creek, he began to talk aloud.
“Come on, you gotta stop second guessing yourself! You know you’re doing what’s right. Remember what William; they took all he had, and he’s just getting what was rightfully his.” Mark sunk down to the ground and threw a rock into the pond. The soft plunk brought ripples which only seemed to intensify his conflicted spirit. “And besides, Pa would be proud of you. He’s always saying that you should help out your friends.”
A twig behind him snapped. Mark froze as he heard an all too familiar voice.
“Would I Mark?”
Mark turned to look at the towering figure of his father. Unable to speak, Mark looked down at the ground. He could feel his cheeks growing hot. The box in his hand had doubled in weight. Lucas squatted down beside his son. Slowly he lifted the box of bullets out of Mark’s hand. He examined them for a moment, as if pondering what to do. The slow, measured breathing of Lucas seemed the only sound in the forest. Lucas placed the box in his own saddle bag, and then sat down on a fallen tree trunk. Mark followed slowly, and now stood facing his father.
“How did . . .” Mark swallowed. “You followed me?”
“No, Adam saw you ride towards home.” Lucas looked hard at Mark, wishing there was an easy way to solve this. “Mark, something is bothering you. You gotta tell me what’s wrong.”
“Who says I need help Pa?” He looked at the ground, not quite convincing himself.
“You do son. You wouldn’t have been talking like that if you didn’t. Mark, you’ve always trusted me for everything you needed before, why not now?”
Mark looked down again. It all seemed so messed up. He wanted to tell his father everything, but William had said that since Lucas was a lawman he wouldn’t understand. Lucas wrapped his arm around Mark and drew him closer. Biting his lip, Mark wavered. As the tears began to blur his vision, he threw himself on Lucas. Between sobs he said “Oh Pa! I’m so confused.” Lucas fingered Mark’s hair. As he calmed down again, he pushed himself back to look at his father.
“I met William. I was out fishing. . .and I found where he was staying. He told me about what happened. Then the Sheriff came to town, and William asked me to help him. I was bringing him food and other things while you were gone. I couldn’t tell anyone. That’s why I caused so much trouble for Ms. Eliza. He told me he was innocent, and that Pat Garrett was going to kill him. He asked me to bring him some of their ammunition. He said that they stole it from him.”
“And did that justify you stealing?”
“But he was in the right Pa. The Sheriff is wrong, so helpin’ him would be wrong! I guess you think different cause you’re a deputy. But Pa, I did what was right, least what I figured was.”
Lucas set Mark on the ground. He knew that he needed to deal with problem first, despite the urge to comfort his hurting son.
“Mark, I’ve taught you that deception and stealing are wrong, and you knew that.  On top of that, you haven’t been doing your best in school.  We’ll settle about William later, but right now we need to talk about you.”
“I already told you Pa, you. . . you just can’t see it the right way.”
“Whether William did right or wrong doesn’t matter, because you know what you did was wrong. Mark, it’s my job as your father to teach you right from wrong, and correct you when you go wrong. Sometimes it’s fairly easy to teach you. Then there are other times when it seems like you refuse to learn. But you see, I can’t just decide to quit and walk away. I can’t because I love you too much to do that. I have a commandment from God to raise you, and I can’t ignore it.”
Lucas stood up, his gaze fixed on his son. Mark looked at his boots. He couldn’t bear to look into his father’s eyes. Complete disapproval mingled with disappointment was more than enough to churn his stomach.
“Turn around.”
Slowly Mark obeyed. No matter how he tried, he could not lose the lump that had formed in his throat.  His father was never mean or vindictive, and it wasn’t even the smarting of the belt that hurt most. Tears began to form, and he turned to look at Lucas. Nothing stung more than the look of pain on his father’s face. Mark took a big breath, and whispered ‘I’m sorry’ as he wrapped his arms around Lucas’s waist. Lucas held tightly to Mark with one arm, rubbing his back with the other.
Mark stopped crying and opened his eyes.   He began to squirm, and Lucas let him down. He reached for his hat and put it back on.
“Pa?” He paused, and then made up his mind. “I’ll show you where William is.”
Lucas and Mark tied their horses near the cave. Mark looked at the scabbard on Alcor’s saddle.
“You’re leaving the rifle?”
“William is our friend. I’m not going to need it.”
Mark nodded slowly and then walked towards the cave. He called out first, as William had asked him to do.
“It’s me William. I’m comin’ in.”
Mark stood in the mouth of the cave; William smiled as he came in.
“Did you get them? Were you able to get the ammo?”
“I did have them. . .” Mark drew aside the vines hanging in front of the cave. “. . .but my Pa got wind of it. He has them now, and well, I brought him here.”
Lucas stepped into to view. Billy couldn’t decide whether to draw on him or be glad. Lucas had been one of the few people he respected, who had treated him right, but Lucas was a deputy. Billy’s arm hung loosely by his gun. Slowly he stepped out into the open.
“Luke, what are you. . .” his voice trailed off, and then he began to laugh. “Well if this was meant to be a trap, then I’d say you got me.”
“No William, it’s not. But I wish we didn’t have to meet this way.”
Billy’s clear blue eyes tried to harden as they always when someone had said he was wrong, but they could not. Few people had he ever known whom he both liked and respected. For a moment, Billy wished to erase all the darkest that covered the past few months. Lucas stepped closer.
“William. . .”
“Lucas, you haven’t seen what I have. Sure you were there when they killed Tunstall, but you left right after. The mayhem which followed. . .you just haven’t seen anything like it.”
“I was in the War, William. I know what mayhem is. I saw brothers shooting at each other. Families were torn apart never to be put together. And then in the wake of the Union victory, I saw justice forgotten as government tried to avenge Lincoln’s death.”
“They made me a promise Lucas! I went to that courtroom with the understanding that after that I would be free! Instead they gave me that mark of Cain, bound to wander until someone caught up and killed me. What else is there for me to do?”
“You didn’t have to murder those two guards in Lincoln.” Lucas said softly.
“And just let them kill me?”
“No! I don’t know what you should have done. But taking two lives in order to save your own is not the answer. Maybe you could have appealed, had the trial outside Lincoln, I don’t know. But what I do know is that with those two murders on your record, you will never have a chance at the freedom you look for.” Lucas sighed, and put his hand on Billy’s shoulder. “I would have defended you. I would have stood by you all the way, and tried to see you get a fair trial.”
Billy looked down; he shrugged off Lucas’s hand and walked around nervously. “I’m sorry about all the trouble I landed Mark in, but there’s no goin’ back now.”
Mark let out a cry. Billy spun around and addressed Mark. He blinked back tears as he grabbed him by the shoulders.
“You hear me now, all right. I didn’t. . .,” he choked, looking back at the man, crumpled on the ground. “I didn’t hurt him bad; I just knocked him on the head.”
Mark chewed hard on his lip. Billy reached into his shirt pocket.
“Here, take this piece of gold. I may have done a lot of things, but I am not going steal from your Pa.”
He shoved the coin into Mark’s hand. He walked to where Lucas had left his horse tethered. Mark stood dumbfounded as Billy took the saddle off Alcor and gently set in on the ground. Mounting bareback, he turned to leave.
“William,” Mark pleaded.
Billy paused and looked back. “He was right. Nothing is going to save me now. You listen to your Pa, boy.  He’s a good man.”
Mark stared as Billy rode away. Uncertain of how to help his father, he wavered. With sudden determination, he mounted his own horse and rode for town.
UUughhh. Lucas grabbed his head as he tried to sit up. Eliza came to his side, and gently laid him back down.
“Not just yet Luke. You stay right there and relax. The doctor said that it would be a couple of hours before you could go home.”
“Home. . .where is Mark? What happened?”
“I’m right here Pa.” He walked couch were Lucas lay. “William, Billy, he hit you over the head. He handed me a gold piece, said he couldn’t steal from you. He unsaddled Alcor and then rode off on him. I jumped on Blue Boy and got the Marshal. I told him about everything. Garrett came out there with his men, but they lost the trail. Billy got away. They were the ones that carried you to the wagon then drove you into town. Doc said to stay here with Ms. Eliza ‘til at least after supper.”
“You told the Marshal about Billy?”
Mark nodded.
Lucas smiled, “I’m proud of you son.”
Mark nodded once, and one corner curved up into a smile. Then he paused, and took a step closer to Lucas.  “Pa?”
“Pa, I’ve been thinking about Billy. He’s done some pretty awful stuff, but I guess he didn’t have a father like you, to teach him right from wrong.”
“No Mark, I guess he didn’t.”
THE END!!!!!

These stories are based on the TV series The Rifleman
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