The Writer's Corner
by Michelle Palmer
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
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
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
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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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.
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
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
“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
“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
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
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
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,
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
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 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,
Micah nodded. “All right, Lucas Boy.”
Lucas tied his horse to the hitching post outside Micah’s
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
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
“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
“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
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.”
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
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.
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
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
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
“You’ll be able to fix it so I’m not in trouble anymore?” Mark
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.
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’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
“But-“ Micah started.
Lucas turned around and glared at him. “I said no guns! Come
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
Lucas gently smiled at him. “I’m not going to hurt you, son.
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.”
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
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
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.”
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
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!”
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
“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!”
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!”
“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
“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
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
“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
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
“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
“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
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.
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
Scott nodded. “Thanks, Mr. McCain for everything you did. You
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
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
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
The Writer's Corner
Table of Contents
around The McCain Ranch