The Rifleman
Welcome to The Writer's Corner
Fan Fiction

Finding the Truth
by Michelle Palmer

Introduction.....
 
He stood in front of the window and glared inside. The house was perfectly painted. Every window had flower boxes with carefully pruned flowers. The grass in the yard was nicely cut. Children could be heard playing through the row of houses that lined the street on the outskirts of North Fork.
 
A woman peered through the screen door and waved gaily with a smile pleasantly placed on her face. The smile reminded him of someone he didn’t want to be reminded of. A small child sat on her hip as another one clung to her skirt. Both children were clean and appeared to be happy.
 
Tears filled his eyes, and he angrily wiped them away. How dare she make him cry! How dare anyone make him cry! He didn’t want anyone to smile or greet him. He bent down and saw the stone laying on the grass. Picking it up, he aimed for the big picture window that took up almost the whole wall. He reared back and let go, then turned and ran as he heard the window shatter into a million pieces. “Mark! Come back!” he heard, but he just kept on running.
 

Chapter 1
 
Lucas wiped the sweat from his forehead. It certainly was a hot day, and he still had a few more sacks of grain to load on the wagon. His shirt was stained with sweat. “Lucas!” he heard. He looked up and smiled as Mrs. Jacobs came rushing up to him. But his smile disappeared when he saw the angry look on her face.
 
“What’s the matter, Anna?” he suddenly asked.
 
“Lucas, your boy just broke my window!” she declared, placing her hands on her hips. “The big picture window in my sitting room! Do you know how much that cost? Why I can’t believe it. He was just standing in front of the house staring at it. Then when I waved at him, he picked up a rock and threw it. On purpose, he did! On purpose! I tell you, I’ve never seen anything like it in my life!”
 
Lucas suddenly held up a hand. “What are you talking about?” he asked in shock. “Mark?”
 
“Well, do you have any other boy? Of course it was Mark! Who else? Why, he just reared back and broke my window, I tell you. Now I ask, what are you going to do about it?” The woman hardly came up for air!
 
Lucas took off his gloves and stuffed them in his back pocket. “It couldn’t have been Mark! He’s been at school all day.”
 
Mrs. Jacobs folded her arms across her chest and raised her head. “Well, it was around lunch time! Do you know that he was at school then? And there is absolutely nothing wrong with my eyesight, Lucas McCain. I’ve seen Mark often enough to know it was him!”
 
Lucas scratched his head. “Well ma’am, I don’t like to be contrary, but Mark would never do a thing like that!”
 
“It was him!” she declared, throwing her hands up in the air. “I’m going to the Marshal right now!”
 
Lucas suddenly looked around. The street was silent as everyone stood and watched the scene. “Don’t worry, Mrs. Jacobs. The Marshal is coming to you.” Lucas pointed across the street.
 
Micah stopped in front of Lucas and Anna Jacobs. Before speaking to them, he looked around the street. “All right, now let’s break it up! Everyone get back to their business!” He turned back to Lucas. “What’s this all about?”
 
Anna suddenly opened her mouth and started talking. “It’s his boy!” She declared, pointing straight at Lucas. “He broke my picture window! On purpose! I watched him do it!”
 
“Well, are you sure it was Mark?” Micah asked.
 
“Am I sure-“ Anna rolled her eyes. “I come and tell you a boy that everyone knows did something to me and I am declared crazy and unsure of m self? My eyesight is perfect! It was him – no one else!”
 
“What was he wearing?” Micah asked.
 
“What was he-“ Anna humped and folded her arms. “What does it matter? I wasn’t paying attention to what he was wearing! I tell you that boy is a menace and you best do something about it or I’ll go higher up then you, Marshall!”
 
Lucas held up a hand. “Micah, I can’t believe it’s Mark!” Lucas declared.
 
“Go get him and bring him to my office,” Micah said.
 
Lucas had his hands on his hips. But suddenly, he pointed straight at Micah as fire lit his eyes. “Now just a minute, Micah! My boy is innocent! He would never-“
 
Micah turned. “I’m still the law around here, Lucas! Go get him now!”
 
“He’s in the middle of a history test!” Lucas declared.
 
“Anna, you go wait for me in my office.” The two men watched her go. “Now Lucas, listen,” Micah started.
 
Lucas again pointed at Micah. “No, you listen, Micah!” Lucas started.
 
“Lucas!”
 
“Your gonna listen to what I have to say!” Lucas practically screamed. Micah clamped his mouth shut and stared at him. Lucas let out a long breath. “Now, you know my boy. He’s like a grandson to you. Can you honestly stand there and tell me that he is capable of doing something so wrong as to purposely throw a rock through a picture window of someone’s house who has always been nice to him?”
 
“No, I can’t.” Micah said quietly. Then he pointed at Lucas. “Go get him and bring him into my office.”
 
Lucas stared at Micah’s retreating figure. “Oh!” he exclaimed. He started walking down the street. He needed the walk to cool himself down a little bit. Lucas stopped when he got into the schoolyard and stared at the closed door. Slowly, he made his way up the steps and opened the door. Miss Adams was sitting quietly at her desk. Lucas looked around the room and could tell the children were in the middle of an exam.
 
He started to walk out, but Miss Adams suddenly looked up. “Mr. McCain!” she smiled. “Can I help you?”
 
Lucas removed his hat and nodded. “I-“ his voice cracked. “I need Mark.”
 
“Can’t it wait until after the test?” she asked, surprised that Lucas was interrupting Mark’s test.
 
“No. I’m afraid he can’t. Can he make it up after school tomorrow?” Miss Adams nodded. “Get your books, son.”
 
Mark stared at Lucas as they walked outside together. Lucas took Mark by the arm as they started out of the schoolyard. “Pa, what’s going on?”
 
“You have to talk to the marshal,” Lucas answered, his words choking in his throat.
 
“Why? What’s going on? Did something happen?” Mark asked.
 
Lucas nodded. They continued walking towards town. “Where were you at lunch today? Were you here?”
 
“N-no sir. I…I went somewhere,” Mark answered slowly. Lucas could tell he didn’t want to answer him.
 
“Where did you go, son?” Lucas asked.
 
“I-“ Mark stopped and hung his head. “I went for a ride on my horse.”
 
“Where to, Mark?” Lucas asked.
 
Mark shrugged. “Just around. I went down to the creek to dip my feet in it. It’s so hot today…”
 
“Did anybody see you?”
 
“No sir. Am I in trouble?” Mark asked.
 
Lucas sighed. “It kinda looks like we may have ourselves a problem, son. Did you go by the Jacobs’s place?”
 
“I might have passed it on my way to the river.” Mark took Lucas by the arm and forced him to stop.
 
“Pa, what’s this all about?” Lucas looked down at the ground. “Well, can’t you tell me?”
 
Lucas nodded. “It seems that you are being accused of throwing a rock through Mrs. Jacobs’s picture window.”
 
They stopped and stared into each other’s eyes. It was then that Lucas knew the truth.
 

Chapter 2
 
Mark stared at the Marshall’s office they were walking towards. “What do you want me to say, Pa?” Mark asked.
 
Lucas sighed. “You know what I want you to say.”
 
“But the truth could hurt me, couldn’t it?” Mark asked.
 
Lucas stopped Mark by grabbing his arm. He turned Mark around face him. Bending down onto one knee, he looked straight into his eleven year old’s eyes. “Son, no matter what you’re asked, tell the truth. You’ll be okay.”
 
Mark nodded. Lucas smiled and squeezed his shoulder. Then they bravely walked in as Lucas kept his arm securely around Mark.
 
Immediately upon their entering, Mrs. Jacobs stood up. “Mark, why did you do it?”
 
“I didn’t,” Mark answered.
 
“You can’t stand there and lie to my face! I can’t believe that-“ she started.
 
“How can you accuse him?” Lucas hollered protectively. He immediately stood behind Mark and sheltered him by putting both arms around him, pulling the back of his head into his middle.
 
Micah stood and held up a hand in front of both of them. “Do you have anything more to add?”
 
Mrs. Jacobs nodded. “Yes. I want to press charges!”
 
“He’s an eleven year old boy!” Lucas declared.
 
Mrs. Jacobs picked up her purse and tightened the strings on it. “Then you will pay the damages?”
 
“I didn’t do anything!” Mark insisted.
 
“Calm down, son,” Lucas patted him.
 
“Mrs. Jacobs, I suggest you go home now. We’ll be in touch.” Micah went and opened the door for her.
 
She walked to the door, but then turned and looked squarely at all three of them. “Wait until my husband hears about this! You’ll be sorry.”
 
Micah closed the door behind her. “Well, that’s a side of her I’ve never seen before!” Lucas declared.
 
Micah sat down in his chair. “Mark, your father told you what she’s claiming?”
 
Mark nodded. “Yes sir.”
 
“Well?” Lucas clinched his fists, even though his arms were still securely around Mark. Micah held up a hand. “We’re doing this by the book, Lucas. So you calm yourself down or you will leave!”
 
“Not without my son I won’t!” Lucas declared.
 
“I…I went to the creek at lunch, Marshal. No one saw me. I went all by myself. I probably went past Mrs. Jacob’s house on my way, but I swear I didn’t do anything!”
 
“She swears it was you. Lucas, while you were gone, she told me what Mark was wearing. It matches.”
 
Lucas suddenly let go of Mark and walked to the window. Suddenly he turned around. “Oh Micah, she knows what he wears – practically the same thing everyday! That doesn’t mean anything!”
 
“That’s not all, Lucas. Mrs. Smith from across the street saw it too. She was in here a few minutes ago. She swears it’s Mark.”
 
Mark had sat down in a chair. But he suddenly got up and ran to Micah. “I didn’t do it!” Mark screamed. “I didn’t do it!”
 
Lucas rushed over to Mark. Mark jumped into Lucas’s arms and Lucas held him close. Mark was crying. Lucas patted his head, trying to comfort him. Lucas pushed Mark away and Mark scooted back down to the floor. “What are you going to do?”
 
“You know what I have to do. Two eye-witnesses, no alibi. What else can I do?” Micah declared.
 
“He’s only eleven years old, Micah!” Lucas declared. Micah turned and what Lucas saw made his next angry words freeze on his tongue. Micah had tears shining in his eyes. His face suddenly looked very old wrinkled from the stress this situation was causing. Lucas suddenly understood that what Micah had to do was the hardest thing he had ever done.
 
Never in all the time he had known Micah did he see him cry.
 
“Okay. File your complaint, Micah. I understand.” Lucas nodded. He put a hand on Micah’s shoulder and squeezed. He did his best to give Micah a reassuring smile, but he couldn’t quite muster the smile up. Instead, he patted his shoulder. “Can I take him home now?”
 
Micah nodded. Mark hesitated, looking from Micah to Lucas. “What’s going to happen?” Mark cried.
 
Lucas put a secure arm around his shoulders. “I don’t know, son. I don’t know.”
 
They walked to the buckboard and Mark climbed on. “Pa, you believe me, don’t you?”
 
Lucas turned and looked straight into his son’s eyes. “I always believed you, son. I never doubted you for a split second!”
 
Mark smiled. Suddenly, he gasped. “Blue Boy!”
 
Lucas nodded. “Go get him and ride home. I’ll have to get the rest of my bags loaded up.”  Mark nodded as he slowly walked away. His shoulders slumped as if he were carrying the weight of the world. “Mark,” Lucas stopped him. Mark turned around and Lucas saw that he had tears in his eyes. He threw him a nickel. “Stop and get some candy on your way.”
 
Lucas saw a small smile play at the corners of his mouth. He shook his head sadly as he watched his son walk toward the store. Lucas wished he could take the burden from him, but he knew that ultimately it was his son who would have to carry it. Lucas turned and put a hand to his face as tears filled his own eyes.
 

Chapter 3
 
Lucas took another angry chop at the wood. He hadn’t slept all night, but sat up in a chair and watched his young son sleep. It had taken him some time to get him calmed down enough to get to sleep. Then Mark woke up early, fretting about what would happen to him.
 
Lucas had finally convinced Mark that he would not go to jail. But he wasn’t able to promise him anything more then that.
 
Lucas took another hard swing at the piece of wood. He was so deep in thought that he didn’t even hear the approaching rider. “Is that my head you have on that block?” Micah suddenly asked.
 
Lucas whirled around. “Oh, hi Micah,” he grumbled.
 
Micah frowned. “I know I’m not your favorite person right now. And I didn’t come here baring good news either. I have bad news, I’m afraid.”
 
Lucas wiped some of the sweat from his skin as he reached for his shirt. “What now?” he asked.
 
“Was Mark in the General Store yesterday afternoon?” Micah asked.
 
Lucas shot his head up and narrowed his eyes. “Why do you ask?”
 
“Just answer my question, Lucas Boy.”
 
Lucas nodded. “I felt sorry for him, so sent him to buy some candy on his way back to pick up his horse.”
 
“I was hoping he had stayed with you,” Micah stated.
 
“Micah, just say what you came to say!” Lucas suddenly shouted.
 
“Hattie wasn’t in the store yesterday afternoon, Lucas. A young lady named Molly was in there helping out. She stated that Mark came in as nice as could be and bought a nickle’s worth of candy. Then he walked out. Then not five minutes later, he came in and started walking around the store looking at stuff. She tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t even look at her. She watched him walk up to the pocket knives and stick two in his pocket. She went to stop him, but he pushed her out of the way and ran out. Lucas, she swears it was Mark.”
 
Suddenly, Lucas’s eyes filled with fear. He walked to the barn door and punched it as hard as he could. . “What’s happening, Micah?”
 
Micah shook his head. “The fact that Mark did go to the general store doesn’t help.”
 
Lucas again whirled around. “Now, you don’t really think Mark did it!” Lucas exclaimed.
 
“I’m afraid that I don’t know what to think, Lucas. I need to talk to Mark about it though.”
 
“No!” Lucas pointed a finger straight at Micah. “That boy is terrified already! You will not talk to my son about this.”
 
“Lucas, I only came out here to tell you because you are my friend. When I get back, I’m going over to the school and bringing him to my office.”
 
Lucas suddenly grabbed Micah by the collar and pushed him up against the barn wall. He locked eyes with Micah. “You leave my boy alone!” he ordered through clinched teeth. Suddenly, Lucas froze. He saw the surprise in Micah’s eyes. He loosened his grip on Micah. “Please! Mark is already so upset about this. He’s an eleven year old child that doesn’t understand any of this. How can he? I don’t even understand it!”
 
“Lucas, we have three eye witnesses, two of which have seen Mark on numerous occasions, swearing it was Mark McCain, your son.”
 
“He didn’t do it, Micah!” Lucas shouted.
 
“What do you want me to do?” Micah shouted back. “You tell me, just what do you want me to do?”
 
“Nothing! Just leave my boy alone! That’s all!” Lucas shouted back at Micah.
 
“Lucas,” Micah stopped and calmed himself down. “Lucas, I want to believe him. You know that.” Lucas turned from Micah. He had lost total control, and couldn’t get it back at the moment. He started toward the house.
 
“I’m getting Mark,” Micah stated as he mounted his horse.
 
“Micah, no!” Lucas shouted as he ran towards him. “You hear me! Don’t do this!” he screamed.
 
Lucas stood in the yard and watched Micah ride off. Suddenly, he looked towards the barn and saw Razor. He had Razor saddled in no time flat, then raced off across the prairie as fast as he could. He made it to the school at the same time Micah did. He jumped off the horse and ran to Micah. “Micah,” he put hands on both of his shoulders. “I’m begging you!”
 
“If you don’t get him, I will,” Micah stated. “I don’t want to do this, Lucas.” Micah’s voice cracked. He turned away and put a fist to his mouth. “It breaks my heart to do this.”
 
Lucas looked towards the school. “Alright. Let’s go to your office and talk over a cup of coffee. He’s not going anywhere, right?”
 
Micah nodded. “All right, Lucas Boy.”
 
Lucas tied his horse to the hitching post outside Micah’s office. “Lucas!”
 
Lucas turned around and saw Sweeny coming. “I don’t believe you let Mark come into town by himself at night!”
 
“I don’t,” Lucas declared.
 
“Well then, he snuck out of the house last night without your knowing it.”
 
Lucas felt his temper rising again. “What are you saying?”
 
“Last night, I caught Mark and some other boys out in the alley by the saloon. They were gambling. I sent them all on their way.”
 
“Are you sure it was Mark?” Lucas asked.
 
“Lucas, how many times have I seen and talked to that boy? It was dark, but I could still see him.” Sweeny shook his head. “Of course, he still wasn’t acting like Mark!”
 
“What do you mean,” Lucas cocked his head to one side as he listened to Sweeny’s answer.
 
“Well, he didn’t say a word. Just jumped up and ran away. And he talked really hatefully to the others!”
 
“What time was this, Sweeny?” Micah asked. He had been standing behind Lucas.
 
“About ten o’clock,” he answered.
 
Lucas turned around. Relief flooded his face. “Micah, it can’t be Mark! I was still trying to calm him down at that time. He was so afraid he was going to jail that I had to sit there and talk to him. He just clung to me, shaking last night. He was home!”
 
Lucas and Micah stared at each other. Suddenly, small smiles spread across their faces. “An evil twin?” Micah asked.
 
Lucas nodded. “Or someone who looks a lot like him.”
 

Chapter 4
 
Lucas turned back around. “Sweeny, do you know who the other kids were playing with the boy last night?”
 
Sweeny scratched his head in confusion. “Yeah, um…one of them was Freddie Toomey,” he answered. “I don’t know who the other two were.”
 
Lucas turned to Micah. “I’m going over to the school and talk to Freddie!” He leapt on his horse and took off.
 
“Micah,” Sweeny scratched his head.
 
Micah looked at Sweeny and shook his head. “Nevermind, Sweeny. Thanks.”
 
Lucas stopped outside the school. He took the steps two at a time and, without thinking, barged into the classroom. Mrs. Adams whirled around from the chalkboard where she was writing math problems. “Mr. McCain!” she exclaimed.
 
“Pa!” Mark started to stand.
 
“I need to talk to Freddie for a moment.” Freddie stood and slowly walked to Lucas. Lucas smiled at him and led him outside.
 
“Have a seat,” Lucas led him to a bench.
 
“Am I in trouble?” Freddie asked.
 
“Not by me. But what would your father say about your gambling?” Lucas raised his eyebrows.
 
“Are you gonna tell him?” Freddie suddenly got a panicked look on his face.
 
Lucas held up a hand to calm him down. “That’s not my place, though if you were smart you wouldn’t keep this from him - even if he would whip you. But that’s not why I’m here, son. You were playing with three other boys. You don’t need to tell me the names of the others, but the one that looks like Mark.”
 
Freddie nodded. “He asked me not to mention him at all – especially that he was a look alike, so I kept quiet.”
 
“Yeah, well I’m afraid he’s bad news. And keeping this secret is hurting my boy.” Lucas just sat there and looked sternly into Freddie’s eyes. “Well?”
 
“I don’t know his name. He said that his folks died some time back in some sort of train explosion. His baby brother was with them. He’s been wondering ever since.”
 
“Do you know where he is?” Lucas asked.
 
Freddie shook his head. “He hangs around town late at night when most others are asleep. I ran into him a few nights ago when he was digging for scraps behind the hotel. I’ve been sneaking him food.”
 
Lucas nodded. He patted Freddie’s shoulder. “Where’d you get the money to gamble?”
 
“From my pa,” Freddie answered.
 
“Does he know?” Freddie shook his head. Lucas gave him a frown. “What about Mark’s evil twin? Where’d he get money?”
 
Freddie shrugged. But Lucas didn’t miss the guilty look on Freddie’s face. “Where’d he get the money, Freddie?”
 
Freddie lowered his head. Lucas grabbed Freddie by the arm. “You answer me, boy!”
 
Freddie looked up into Lucas’s eyes. “He…he took it from the restaurant when people left their money on the table, he’d walk around and take it and-“
 
“And?” Lucas asked.
 
“A-and…he…snitched some off the drunk men late at night while they were leaving. He said it was easy.”
 
Lucas rubbed his forehead and nodded. “Okay, you can go back inside.” Freddie got up to leave. Lucas turned on the bench. “Freddie?” Freddie stopped and turned back. “Your Pa works hard for that money. He’ll start missing it sooner or later. Do you want to grow up to be like your Pa or like an outlaw?”
 
Freddie stopped and thought. “I’m sorry.”
 
“I’m not the one you need to say that to, son.”
 
“I’ll talk to Pa tonight.” Freddie smiled at Lucas.
 
“Good boy. Oh, send Mark out, will ya?”
 
Mark came and sat down on the bench. Lucas smiled as he wrapped his arms around him and hugged him. “The good news is that I can almost prove that you didn’t do any of the things you are accused of. I’m real close. The bad news is that we got a kid who looks just like you running around doing all sorts of bad stuff. Mark, I want you to stay with me at all times when you aren’t in school until this is over. Are you making up that test this afternoon?” Mark nodded. “Okay, I’ll pick you up around four. Will that be long enough?” Mark nodded again.
 
Lucas patted Mark and motioned for him to go back inside, then he went to talk to Micah.
 
***
 
Mark looked up from doing his homework. “Pa, I’m not a baby! I can stay here by myself.”
 
Lucas turned from drying the saucer. “I never said you were a baby, son. It’s just that this boy is making a lot of enemies, and since you look a lot like him, I’d feel better if you weren’t left alone. That’s all.”
 
“Why can’t I just go into town with you?” Mark suddenly asked.
 
“Mark.” Mark heard the warning in his father’s voice.
 
“Yes sir,” he mumbled as he closed his book. “I’ll go get ready for bed.”
 
Lucas turned and watched his son’s retreating figure. He shook his head with a short laugh. Just then, there was a knock at the door. “Thanks, Eddie, for coming to sit with Mark.” Eddie assured Lucas again that it was no problem. Lucas grabbed his rifle. “I hope I’ll be back before too late. But just in case I’m not, I made the cot up.”
 
Before Lucas left, the bedroom door opened a crack. “Pa?”
 
Lucas sat his rifle down and went into the bedroom. He saw Mark sitting on his bed. “Come on son, get under the covers.” He tucked the covers around Mark. “I want you to go to sleep and don’t fret.”
 
“You’ll be able to fix it so I’m not in trouble anymore?” Mark asked again.
 
Lucas laid his hand on Mark’s cheek and smiled. “What do I have to do to convince you of that?” Mark shrugged. “Everything will be okay, son. I promise.”
 
“You’ll come back tonight then?” Mark asked.
 
“Mark, I’ll be back as soon as I can. Now, you get to sleep!”
 
Mark suddenly sat up. “Pa, I was so scared last night. I didn’t know how I was going to get out of this.”
 
“I told you not to fret, didn’t I?” Lucas smiled. “I told you I’d get us out of this. It’s not over yet, but I’ll get to the bottom of it.” Mark hugged him. Lucas pushed him back down onto the pillow. “Now, go to sleep!”
 
Mark smiled as he turned over and went to sleep.
 

Chapter 5
 
Lucas climbed off of Razor and tied the reins to the hitching post outside Micah’s office. Micah nodded at Lucas as he stepped onto the porch. “Howdy, Lucas boy.”
 
“Any sign of him, Micah?” Lucas asked. He could feel there was still tension between them, but right now he couldn’t deal with it.
 
“It’s been pretty quiet. Did you leave Mark home alone?” Micah asked softly as he took a sip from his mug.
 
Lucas turned and glared at him. He didn’t even feel like answering that question. “I need a cup of coffee,” Lucas started to go inside when suddenly the waiter from the hotel restaurant ran up to them.
 
“Lucas! What’s that boy of yours up to?” he asked.
 
Lucas whirled around and narrowed his eyes at Jerry. “What are you talking about?”
 
“I caught him not two minutes ago stealing the money from the cash box at the desk!” He proclaimed.
 
“What way did he go?” Lucas suddenly asked, walking across the street. Jerry called that he went out the back door.
 
Micah grabbed his shotgun. Lucas turned. “No guns, Micah!” Lucas said.
 
“But-“ Micah started.
 
Lucas turned around and glared at him. “I said no guns! Come on.”
 
Lucas ran as fast as he could to the back of the restaurant. He peaked around the corner of the buildings to see if he saw anyone. Suddenly, in the distance he saw a small fire. Lucas turned and put a finger to his lips. Then he held his hand up, signaling for Micah to stay put. Slowly, Lucas stepped lightly as he walked out of town into the darkness. Each step brought him closer to the light. He quickly ran to hide behind a tree. Peaking around it, he saw a boy bent over the fire cooking what looked like canned beans.
 
He just stood in the shadows behind the tree and observed the boy. He could only get an outline of him, but he certainly appeared to be the same size as his son. Lucas scratched his chin. If he tried to sneak up on him now, he could very possibly run and never return. He didn’t want to take the chance. Lucas knew that eventually he would have to sleep.
 
It was an hour before Lucas finally got his chance. The boy finally laid down and covered himself with some old burlap sacks. Lucas shook his head, very interested to hear the story this boy had to tell. He waited a while longer until the fire started dying down. Then slowly, Lucas walked into the camp. He kneeled down beside the boy and studied his face.
 
All he could do was stare! He looked just like Mark. It was eerie that two children who had never before met could look so much alike! Softly, Lucas laid his hand on the boy’s shoulder and shook him. The boy’s eyes suddenly popped open. He just laid there for a minute as he stared up into the eyes of the big man kneeling over him. He gasped and suddenly threw his hands to his face.
 
Lucas gently smiled at him. “I’m not going to hurt you, son. It’s okay.”
 
But fear was etched out all over the boy’s face. He started to get up, but Lucas grabbed him around the middle. The boy began kicking with his feet and waving his arms around. “Let me go!” he demanded in a voice that sounded much like Mark’s. “You let me go right now!”
 
“Now, you’re not going to get loose, so you might as well just calm down right now!” Lucas demanded. The boy continued to kick him. “I mean it, boy! Calm down!”
 
Lucas tightened his grip on him and the boy, finally realizing that he was trapped, stopped moving and just stood there. “Now, start by telling me your name!”
 
“No!” the boy said. “I’m not tellin’ ya a thing! I don’t hafta an’ you can’t make me!”
 
“Now listen to me, boy,” Lucas said in a very stern voice. “You’ve been causing a lot of trouble the last few days, and I aim to get to the bottom of this. You can either talk to me here or talk to both me and the marshal from a cell!”
 
“Go ahead! Throw me in the cell! I don’t care!” the boy declared. “I don’t care what you do!”
 
Lucas picked the boy up and threw him over his shoulder. The boy once again started kicking his legs, but Lucas had a firm grip on him. He quickly walked back to Micah’s office. “I found him, Micah. Open the cell.”
 
Micah did as Lucas said. Lucas walked in and sat him down on the cot. Then he sat in a chair across from him. “Lock it, Micah.” Lucas said.
 
Micah locked it, then he brought in a lantern. His eyes grew wide and his mouth widened as he stared at the boy. “He could be Mark’s twin!” Micah declared.
 
Lucas could see his features a lot better too. “Yes he could! What’s your name, boy?”
 
The boy just sat there, his legs drawn up to his middle. He just stared at the wall. “How old are you?” He stayed silent. “Where are you from?” Still no response. The look on the boy’s face remained hard and cold. “Do you have any folks?” The boy’s head whirled around and he glared at Lucas. But he still said nothing. “This is your last chance tonight, boy.” Lucas waited.
 
Lucas stood up and crossed his arms across his chest. He came to stand beside the boy and looked down at him. Suddenly, the boy put his arms over his head and acted like Lucas was about to hit him. Lucas suddenly kneeled down beside him. “Hey son, I would never hit you! You don’t have to be afraid of me.” Lucas just stayed there and looked at him. Suddenly, father’s instinct lifted his hand to the boy’s hair. He began smoothing the boy’s hair. The boy turned and stared at him. His eyes began to tear up, but he quickly made his eyes angry, trying to hide the tears.
 
Lucas nodded and stood up. “All right, son. At least this will be a safe place for you to stay the night. In the morning Micah will see that you get a warm breakfast. I’ll be back to talk more tomorrow.”
 
Lucas went to the cell as Micah started to unlock it. “You mean you are gonna leave me here?” the boy asked in an angry voice.
 
Lucas turned and looked sternly into his eyes. “Yes. I am. You’ll be safer here then outside where someone could hurt you. And the hotel wouldn’t work because you’d run. You have gotten my boy in a lot of trouble these past few days, and I intend to find out why!” Lucas waited to see if he would say anything else. When he didn’t, he walked out of the jail room. Micah closed the door.
 
Lucas poured a cup of coffee. “I hate locking him up in there like a criminal, but I don’t know what else to do with him!”
 
“He is a criminal,” Micah stated.
 
“He’s a boy. He looks just a tad older then Mark – 12 or 13 maybe.” Lucas sighed. “He’s terrified, Micah.”
 
There was suddenly an eerie silence in the air as the two men sipped their coffee. Both men were thinking about the fight that had happened between them, but neither voiced anything. Micah finally sat down his coffee cup. “Lucas,” he started.
 
Lucas turned and looked at him. He slightly shook his head. “No words need to be said, Micah. We both know the truth now and that’s all that matters.”
 
“Maybe so, but-“ Micah started.
 
Lucas suddenly sat down the coffee cup and stood. He walked up to Micah and put an arm around his shoulders. Squeezing him on the shoulder, he said, “I’ll be here in the morning.”
 
Micah nodded with a smile. “Thanks, Lucas boy.”
 
Chapter 6
 
Lucas quietly walked inside the house and found Eddie asleep in the rocking chair. He gently laid a hand on his shoulder. Eddie startled awake and wiped his eyes. “Oh, Lucas.” He laughed. “I’m sorry I fell asleep.”
 
Lucas waved him off. “It’s too late for you to go back to town tonight, Eddie. Why don’t you sleep on the cot?”
 
Eddie nodded. Lucas took off his boots and softly padded into the bedroom. He quietly undressed and started to climb into bed. But he turned and looked at Mark. He smiled as he went over and brushed the hair from his face. Mark had kicked his covers off, so Lucas tenderly tucked them back around him. The he softly bent over and kissed his forehead. “Thank you, Lord,” Lucas breathed out a prayer.
 
Lucas went to his bed and was asleep the minute his head hit the pillow. There were still so many unanswered questions, but his son was once again safe, so he could sleep peacefully.
 
It didn’t seem like he was asleep very long when he suddenly felt the sun shining in his eyes. He opened his eyes and sat up. Smells of freshly made coffee and fried ham and eggs drifted from the other room. Lucas quickly dressed and opened the door. The image that met him was enough to make him want to go back in and go to sleep. “No, Mr. Halstead, the ham isn’t supposed to curl up like that! Pa always turns it over.”
 
“Well,” Eddie looked into the skillet.  “I think the eggs are ready to flip then.”
 
Mark bent down to look closer into the pan. He scratched his head. “I don’t think the middle’s supposed to be that stiff. I think that-“
 
Suddenly, Lucas cleared his throat. “Well well well, look at this!  Two bachelors who don’t even know how to fry an egg!” Lucas walked to the stove and looked in the skillet. He immediately picked it up, opened the door, and threw the contents out in the yard. “Why don’t you two very bad cooks sit down at the table and let me do this!”
 
It didn’t take long for Lucas to get a proper breakfast set on the table. Eddie and Mark looked at each other and smiled. “I suppose that’s one easy way to get your pa to do the work!” Eddie declared.
 
Lucas sighed. “Well, I wanted to eat decent is all!” He took a sip of his coffee. Suddenly, everything was quiet as Mark looked questionably at him. Lucas softly put down his coffee cup and wiped his mouth. “We found him.”
 
Mark smiled a relieved smile. “Does he look like me?”
 
Lucas nodded and laughed. “The spitting image!” he answered. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say he’s your twin!”
 
Mark sat down his fork and smiled. “That’s all right!” he declared. “What’s his name? How old is he? Did he say why he did it?” Mark asked back to back questions. He stood up and leaned over the table, his face getting closer to Lucas’s with every question. “What’s he doing here? Is he a run away? Does he have any family? “
 
Lucas held his hand up and shook his head. ‘He’s not talking to us! I left him in jail last night.”
 
“In jail?” Mark asked, shocked. He sat down and took a bite when he saw his Pa’s stern expression. “Pa, you put a kid in jail?”
 
Lucas took a sip of his coffee as he looked defensively at Mark. “Where did you want me to put him? He’d run away if given the chance! Besides, that’s the safest place for him right now!”
 
“Well maybe so,” Mark screwed up his face. “But still, in jail…There’s something about the bars that…”
 
Lucas sat down his coffee cup. “Well, I’m going in as soon as I get you off to school and try to talk to him.”
 
Mark sat down his fork and leaned into look at his Pa. He put his elbow on the table and cupped his chin on his hand. Mark was only inches from his father’s face. “Pa?”
 
Lucas slowly sat his coffee cup down and leaned into where they were almost touching noses. “Since when did we put elbows on the table, son?”
 
“Can I go with you to talk to him?” he asked. Lucas lifted his eyebrows. Mark lifted his head just a little and plopped his elbow back into his lap. “Me being a kid, maybe I could help.”
 
Lucas started to shake his head. He looked at Eddie for advice, but Eddie merely shrugged. Lucas rolled his eyes at him. Then he turned and looked back at Mark. He wiped his face with the napkin, stood up, and went to the window. Mark looked at Eddie as Lucas stared out the window, deep in thought.
 
Finally, Lucas turned from the window. “All right, son. We’ll give it a try.”
 
Mark jumped up excitedly and started to take his dishes to the sink. Lucas came and put a hand firmly on his son’s shoulder. “But first finish eating!”
 

Chapter 7

 
Lucas and Mark walked into the Marshal’s office later that morning. As they walked in, Lucas noticed Micah sitting at his desk. “How is he?” Lucas asked.
 
Micah shook his head slowly and took a sip from his coffee. “I can’t get a word out of him.
 
Lucas nodded. “All right. I’ll see what I can do first. Son, you stay here.” Lucas opened the door to the cell room and walked in. The boy was lying on the cot staring up at the ceiling. “I take it you had a good breakfast.”
 
Only silence answered Lucas. Lucas sighed. “All right, I’ll give it to you straight, boy. You intentionally threw a rock through a picture window and shattered it, you stole stuff from the General Store, stole money from the hotel, and snitched money off of drunk people. You got some of the kids here in town involved in a game of poker with this stolen money. And, most importantly, you have caused my son a lot of grief.”
 
Suddenly, the boy sat up. “Your son?

Lucas nodded. “Son, come on in.”
 
Mark slowly walked in and walked up to the cell. The boy stared at Mark and Mark stared at the boy. Slowly, he stood up and walked over to the bars. Clinging to them, he stared into the eyes of Mark. “Why, it’s like looking straight into a mirror!” Mark stated.
 
“Do I…know you?” the boy asked. Mark shook his head. “You…it’s like a ghost!”
 
Suddenly, Mark smiled at this boy. Lucas watched in wonderment as this boy smiled back at him. “Hi,” Mark greeted, holding his hand out. “I’m Mark McCain.”
 
The boy smiled. “Hi. I’m Scott Ferguson.”
 
“I’m eleven year old,” Mark announced.
 
“I’m twelve. Almost thirteen.”
 
They continued staring into each other’s eyes. Lucas backed away from the cell so the two could talk, but stayed so he could hear and observe every word. “How long have you been here?” Mark asked.
 
“I walked into town a week ago. They came to take me away…to take me to a work camp…I ran away.”
 
“A work camp? What’s that?” Mark asked.
 
The boy swallowed and slid down to the floor. Mark sat down on the floor as well. “It’s a place they send kids when they don’t have any folks.”
 
“Not an orphanage?” Mark asked. He had heard stories of orphanages in bigger cities.
 
The boy shook his head. Suddenly, a tear squeezed from his eye. “My…my folks left me with neighbors while they took my baby brother on the train to visit kin up North. The…train…” The boy couldn’t talk. He swallowed and tried again. “Well, it…”
 
Lucas came forward and kneeled down beside Mark. “Exploded?”
 
For a brief moment, anger again appeared in the boys eyes. But suddenly, the boy stood and ran to the cot. He threw himself down and began sobbing out loud, his poor body shook with the sobs. Lucas quickly got the keys to the cell and unlocked it. Then he ran over to the bed and laid a hand on Scott’s shoulder. Scott turned and threw his arms around Lucas. Lucas picked the boy up, walked to a chair and sat down, holding the sobbing child.
 
Mark’s own eyes filled with tears. Lucas motioned for him to leave the room, and he merely nodded obediently and walked out. Lucas began rocking the boy back and forth as he shook with sobs. “Oh, Ma!” The boy began crying. “Oh, Pa!” For a long time – many, many minutes, the boy just clung to Lucas and cried. After a while, he sat up and wiped his eyes. His eyes were red and swollen as he wiped them. Lucas silently handed him a kerchief and the boy wiped his face.
 
Lucas could tell the boy needed to stay on his lap with Lucas’s arms securely around him. “That’s the first time you cried?” Lucas asked in a little more then a whisper.
 
The boy lowered his head and nodded. He wiped at his eyes some more. “Son, you have a right to cry. There’s nothing shameful about it.”
 
“Have you…ever cried?” the boy suddenly asked. From the look in his eyes, Lucas could tell he had trouble seeing a big, strong man like him cry.
 
“Yes,” Lucas smiled at him. “After my wife died, I had a good cry just like you. I cried on my brother’s shoulders while he hugged me. Then I cried alone. I never thought the tears would stop.”
 
The boy’s eyes grew big as saucers. He gently laid his head on Lucas’s shoulders. “I was at school when the marshal came in and got me. He took me out on the street and told me I needed to take what he was going to tell me like a man.” The boy shook his head and closed his eyes as he remembered that day.
 
Lucas smoothed his hair back. “Go on,” he coaxed him gently.
 
“He said, ‘Son,’” Scott’s voice cracked and he took a deep breath and he sat up to look into Lucas’s eyes. “’Son, you’re a man now. The train your folks were riding on exploded. They won’t be coming back.’ I started to cry but he put his hand on my shoulder and shook me. ’Now, men don’t cry, boy! You just have to face up to it!’”
 
Lucas’s heart melted for this little boy. He laid a hand on the boy’s cheeks, and the boy lifted his eyes to him. “That Marshal is wrong. A real man grieves so his heart will heal. That’s the only way he can regain his strength.”
 
“I do feel strong now,” the boy allowed a small smile to play on his lips. “The folks I was staying with…they didn’t want another boy, so they sent for someone to take me away. They said there was a work camp for boys not far away that I could go to.”
 
Just the mere thought of a place like that made Lucas’s blood boil. “Those things should be closed down. A lot of outlaws came out of those camps!” Lucas looked at the boy. “You won’t go to a work camp. You did right in running away.”
 
The boy wiped his eyes and smiled. “But, we still have a problem. You still committed some crimes around here.”
 
The boy hung his head. “I…I’m sorry, sir. I was so angry!”
 
“Yes, well the ‘Be a man and don’t cry attitude’ makes many people angry. But that’s not an excuse for what you did.” Lucas looked sternly into the boy’s eyes.
 
Lucas suddenly heard the door to the Marshal’s office open and slam shut. He and Scott slowly walked out. Mrs. Jacobs’s had opened her mouth to talk to Micah, but then she merely closed it in shock. “Why…it was you who broke my window.”
 
The boy nodded but said nothing. She walked up to him. “You look just like Mark! Why, you’re the spitting image of him!” She folded her arms. “Well, what are you going to do about my window now, boy?” she asked.
 
The boy suddenly lifted his head. “I’ve never done anything like that before…honest.”
 
“Right,” she laughed shortly.
 
“He’ll pay you for the damages,” Lucas assured her. “He’s going to come work for me and earn his pay. He’s also going to return all the money he stole to every person he stole from, and repay the General Store.” Lucas turned to the Marshal. “Would that square him, Micah?”
 
Micah nodded. “Now just a minute!” Mrs. Jacobs folded her arms. “He must be punished!”
 
“He’s being punished, Mrs. Jacobs,” Lucas declared. “My way.”
 
“I want to talk to his folks now! He needs a good, old-fashioned thrashing!” She declared.
 
Lucas shot his head up and started towards her. “I think you should leave, Mrs. Jacobs.”
 
“My husband will be back tomorrow, and I’m sure he will make sure he get’s the correct discipline he rightly deserves!”
 
“Your method of discipline will only put more hatred in his heart!” Lucas stated. Mrs. Jacobs started to open her mouth to say more, but Lucas pointed at her. “Now you listen to me! His folks were recently killed in a train explosion. He was going to be sent to a work camp where he would have been forced into hard labor that not even some grown men ever face. When they don’t work, they are starved and beaten. Then when they turn 18, they are thrown out onto the street without any instruction on what to do. Is that what you want to see happen to this boy?”
 
Her face reddened. She opened her mouth to say more, but closed it quickly. Then she turned around and stomped out of the office, knowing she had been defeated. Micah couldn’t stop the smirk from coming onto his face. “Well, I guess you showed her all right!” he stated.
 
Mark smiled. “You sure did put her in her place!” Lucas turned and looked at Mark. He raised his eyebrows at him and shook his head. “Son, I want you to go on to school now.”
 
“Oh, but Pa!” Mark started.
 
“Mark, now would not be a good time to argue with me!” Lucas stated sternly.
 
“Yes sir,” Mark said in a disappointed voice.
 
“Do you have any family, son?” Micah asked Scott.
 
Scott nodded. “My folks were on their way to visit my ma’s sister, Aunt Margaret. She lives in Kansas City.”
 
“Do you know her last name?”
 
“Yes sir. It’s Simpson.” The boy stood up and raced over to the Marshal’s chair. “You gonna tell her?”
 
Micah nodded. “I’m going to try. You think she would take you?”
 
“Oh yes!” he said excitedly. “They wouldn’t even think about sending me. They said it was a waste of money – that the work camp would teach me more then my aunt.”
 
Lucas placed a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Well, Micah will send a telegram. What do you say we head on over to the café and get you a piece of pie. Then we’ll head back to my ranch and you can stay there until we get a hold of your aunt and make arrangements for her to come get you?”
 
The boy nodded as Lucas grabbed his rifle and started out the door. “Sir,” the boy stopped him. Lucas turned around and looked down at the boy. His eyes were filling up with tears again and Lucas kneeled down in front of him and wiped a stray tear off his cheek with a smile. “I just…Well, what I mean is…I…” The boy could say no more, but threw his arms around Lucas and hugged him.
 
Lucas broke the embrace and smiled gently into his eyes. “What I’m trying to say is…” The boy swallowed hard. “Thank you for…well, you know.”
 
Lucas nodded. “Don’t forget that you have to work off the damages before you can leave!”
 
Lucas waved at Micah as they headed out the door. He got the boy’s dessert as promised, then he lifted the boy up in front of him on his horse and they started for home.
 
Afterward
 
Lucas came out of the stage depot after purchasing the ticket. The driver put the boy’s suitcase of the newly purchased clothes on top of the coach. Scott and Mark sat on the bench, solemn looks were on their faces as they had to say goodbye. The boys had been inseparable over the past two weeks. They had gone fishing, rode across the range, done chores, and even eaten every meal together. They were together when Mark wasn’t in school, and the boy was excited that he would be starting back in school when he arrived in Kansas City.
 
Lucas walked up to the stagecoach driver and handed him the boy’s ticket. “Make sure he gets to Kansas City. He’s a bit nervous about traveling by himself. He’s a good boy. You shouldn’t have any trouble!” The driver assured Lucas he would take care of the boy.
 
Lucas came over to the two boys. This was going to be hard on all of them, he knew. He bent down in front of Scott. “You’ve done a fine job these past two weeks, son. You paid back all the damages you did, plus you’ve earned five dollars besides. Lucas held out the coins for the boy to take. “You save those for something you really need, you hear?”
 
The boy nodded. “Mr. McCain, you…” the boy’s eyes suddenly clouded up, and he quickly wiped the tear that had strayed from his eye. “You are so much like my Pa!”
 
Lucas patted his shoulder. The driver suddenly announced that it was time to go. Lucas looked toward the stagecoach.
 
Mark stood up then. “It was really nice meeting you, Scott,” he said.
 
Scott nodded. “Thanks, Mr. McCain for everything you did. You too, Mark.”
 
They watched him get onto the stagecoach. As the coach pulled away, he waved one last time. Mark and Lucas watched as the coach drove away. “He sure did get me into some trouble!” Mark stated.
 
Lucas stood behind Mark and wrapped his arms around Mark’s neck. “He sure did.”
 
Mark lifted his head up to look into his father’s eyes. “Were you scared?” He suddenly asked.
 
“I was more then scared, son. You are the most important thing in my life.” He ruffled Mark’s hair. “But we’re fine now.”
 
“Hey pa,” Mark suddenly asked. “If something were to happen to you, you reckon I would be sent to a work camp?”
 
Lucas looked toward Micah. “I think we have enough friends here in town that someone would take care of you, son.” Then Lucas patted Mark on the shoulder. “But let’s not dwell on that. I have plenty of work waiting for you at the ranch.”
 
Mark groaned as they started off toward their horses. Micah shook his head with a smile as he watched his two best friends ride off toward home. Things in North Fork were once again restored thanks to the wonderful wisdom of Lucas McCain!

 

These stories are based on the TV series The Rifleman
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