The Rifleman
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Fan Fiction

The Trial
by Michelle Palmer

          Lucas had just finished unsaddling his horse and Mark rode up.  He usually jumped off Blue Boy and came running over to greet his father.  Not today, though.  Lucas watched his eleven year old son dismount his horse and tie the reigns to the hitching post.  He then walked into the house and closed the door.

Lucas walked inside after him.  “Mark?  Son, how was school?”

Mark was sitting down at the table, opening his grammar book.  “What?”
          “I asked you how school was today?”

“About like it was yesterday, pa,” Mark snapped.

Lucas was taken aback by the tone of voice his son had spoken.  “Mark!”

“Pa, I have a lot of homework.” Mark stated, shutting off any further conversation.

Lucas lifted his foot onto the chair and leaned across the table.  He placed his hand under Mark’s chin and lifted it up.  “Mark, don’t shut me out.  What’s wrong?”

Mark brushed his father’s hand away.  “I just had a bad day, pa.  I don’t really want to talk about it.”

“All right, son.  You are entitled to that.  Work on your homework for an hour, then I want you to start supper.”  Lucas stood up straight and watched Mark work in silence.  Mark wasn’t even concentrating on his work, but simply staring at the book.  Lucas started to ask him what was wrong again, but decided to leave him alone for the time being.

Lucas worked on chores for awhile.  He realized he was getting hungry and went inside to see how Mark was doing on supper.  He found Mark still sitting at the table, staring at his book.  “Mark!  Son, you were supposed to start supper thirty minutes ago.”

Mark stood up suddenly and threw down his pencil.  “All right, pa!” he shouted.

Lucas crossed his arms and cocked his head to one side.  “Mark, do not use that tone of voice with me again, son!”

Mark turned from him and went to fix supper.  Supper was eaten in silence, and Mark dismissed himself without desert, stating he was tired.  Later, when Lucas went to check on him, Mark was in his bed sound asleep.  He immediately went to sit in his chair to read his Bible. He concentrated on the 23rd Psalm.  Mark had never acted like this before, and he knew there was an approaching storm, but he was hoping he wouldn’t be blind-sided by it.


Chapter 2

Lucas sat the flapjacks on the table.  “Mark, it’s time to eat!” he announced.

Mark raced out of his room, half dressed.  He was looking for something while buttoning his shirt.  “Pa, is it okay if I skip breakfast this morning?”

Lucas poured fresh milk into Mark’s glass.  “Mark, sit down and eat, please.”

“Yes sir.”  Mark sat and ate in silence.

“Son-“ Lucas started.

Mark cleared his throat.  “Pa, I don’t really feel well today.  Is it okay if I stay home today?”

Lucas sighed.  He stood up and felt his young son’s forehead.  “There’s no fever.  I don’t think you are sick.”

Mark took a couple bites in silence.  “I don’t want to go to school today, pa.”

“Why not, Mark?  Is there a problem?” Lucas asked, looking into Mark’s eyes.

Mark lowered his eyes.  “N-no sir.  I just thought-“

“Talk to me, son.  I’m worried about you.” Lucas said quietly.

Mark looked up into his father’s eyes.  He opened his mouth, but shut it quickly.  Then he slammed down his spoon.  “Pa, do you love me?”

Lucas sat back in his chair with a deep sigh.  “Do you have to ask me that?  Mark, I love you more than anything else.  You are my world!”

“Okay.”  Mark stood up and drank his milk as fast as he could.  Then he picked up his books and started toward the door.  “Then can I please stay home and work with you today?”

Lucas shook his head.  “You know you can’t.”  Lucas stood up and walked over to his son.  He tenderly placed his hands on his shoulders.  “Mark, please don’t shut me out.  I want to help you.”

“Bye, pa.”

****************

          Mark tied the horses reign to the hitching post outside the school and walked inside slowly.  “Well, well, well…look who showed up today!” Mark turned around slowly to see Frank Arms standing behind him.

          “You thought I wouldn’t?”  Mark shot back at him.

          “I told you what would happen if you showed up today, son!” Frank shouted.  “I don’t like the McCain name, and neither does my pa! 

          Mark sighed.  “Leave me alone, Frank!”

          Frank sneered at him.  “You won’t have any friends by the end of the day, Mark McCain!  You are a great big sissy, and so is your pa!”

          Mark closed his eyes and silently slowed his breathing, trying to control his raging temper.  “Hey, sonny, yer pa is good with that gun!  Maybe we’ll come over there and jest take it from him tonight!”

          Mark turned around and gave Frank a shove.  “Don’t talk about my pa that way!”

          “You gonna go home and tell daddy what we said?  I think we already know what will happen if you do that!  You are just daddy’s sissy boy!”

          Mark was mad.  He gave Frank a great big punch in the nose.  Frank pushed him to the ground.  Soon him and Frank were rolling on the ground.  Ms. Adams rushed out of the school just then and grabbed Mark by the arm.  “Who started this?”

          Frank stood up and dusted himself off.  “I was just talking to this boy, and he started hitting me!”

          Ms. Adams looked around at the other students.  A couple girls nodded, stating that Mark had started the fight.  “Okay, Mark.  I’m giving you a warning.  If you get into another fight, I’ll send you home with a note.  Do you understand?”

          Mark nodded his head and shot Frank a dirty look.  “Yes ma’am!”


Chapter 3

          Mark sat on the steps eating his lunch.  Frank and Pete walked up to him.  “Like I was saying, Frank…I think Mark said he wants to watch us in action.  Isn’t that right, Mark?”

          “No!” shouted Mark.

          “No?”  sneered Frank.  “Okay.  Well, I always knew you were a sissy boy!”

          Mark stood up to move away from the bullies.  They followed him.  “Now, don’t get any ideas about telling you papa what you overheard yesterday.  You remember what happens if you do.”

          “I won’t tell…for now…” Mark stated.

          Pete smiled.  “I wonder how your pa would look with a slug right between his eyes?”

          Mark turned around and clinched his fists.  “Stop saying that!”

          Pete laughed.  “Maybe we’ll be there tonight to make sure you don’t snitch.  We only have to keep you quiet three more days.  It would be a shame if your papa got hurt before it happens.  He is out-numbered, you know…”

          Mark couldn’t control his patience any longer.  His father had lectured him so many times about being slow to anger, but no one threatens his pa and gets away with it!  He turned around, punching Pete this time.  Pete was hit pretty hard, and was wiping blood away from his nose.  “Why, you little“  With that, Pete gave Mark a hard shove.

          Mark turned to walk away, “Sissy boy, you best do just what I say!  Don’t say a word or a bullet hole will be in your pa’s head!”

          Mark punched him again.  Before he knew it, him and Pete were rolling on the ground.  Ms. Adams came out and lifted Mark up.  “Mark McCain, come inside with me now!”

          Mark was given a note and told to go home.  He could not tell his father what happened.  It was too early to go home.  He decided to go to the river and wait out the afternoon.  He was almost there when he saw Micah.  “Mark, why aren’t you in school?” he asked.

          “Oh, I got out early today,” Mark stated.  “I thought I would get some fishing in this afternoon.”

          Micah nodded his head.  “Well, good luck!”  Micah headed back to town.  He was walking into his office when Lucas rode up.  “Lucas boy!  I didn’t expect to see you in town today!”

          Lucas shrugged.  “Well, I had to pick up some more nails.  I’m trying to repair the fence that mean bull knocked down yesterday.”

          “Well, I just met Mark on the ourskirts of town.  He said he got out of school early and was going to fish.”

          Lucas sighed.  “He should let me know when they let him out early.  He knows better then to go off by himself and not letting me know.”

          “Well, he probably figured you were at home working.”

          “I’ll go tell him to come home and help me.  Thanks, Micah.”

          Lucas went to find his son.  He decided to go past the school on his way to the creek.  When he got by the school, he noticed horses still tied to the hitching posts.  He dismounted and went to the door.  He could hear Ms. Adams teaching.  Lucas didn’t understand why Mark wasn’t there.  He quickly mounted his horse and rode the rest of the way to the creek.

          Lucas found Mark sitting on the bank, tossing rocks into the creek.  “Hey, son.  Why aren’t you in school?”

          Mark stood up quickly.  “Oh, I got out early.” 

          “You did?  Why did you get out early?”  Lucas asked.

          “Oh, uh…did you need my help this afternoon, pa?”

          Lucas frowned and studied Mark in silence for a minute.  He was becoming angry with his son.  He turned around slowly and headed back to his horse.  Suddenly, he turned around and said, “Mark, I want you to go home right now.  When I get there, I want to find you sitting in your room.  We’ll deal with this when I get there.”

          “But pa-“

          “That’s enough, Mark!” Lucas yelled.  “No back talk, now go!”

          Mark walked toward his horse, then stopped and turned around.  “Pa, I-“

          “I said we’ll talk when I get home.  I don’t think you want to hear what I have to say right now.”


Chapter 4

          Lucas rode home slowly.  He had never had to deal with anything like this.  Something was wrong, and he didn’t know how to fix it.  He stopped a distance from the ranch and looked up at the sky.  “Lord, I really don’t know what I’m about to face.  Please give me strength!”  Then he rode onto the ranch and slowly walked inside the cabin.

          He slowly opened the door to the bedroom and found Mark sitting quietly on his bed.  “Mark, was there trouble at school?”

          Mark didn’t answer.  He stared at the wall.

          “Mark, I asked you a question.  You answer me, boy!”

          “Pa, I-“ Mark swallowed.  “I got sent home.”

          “Do you have something for me, son?”

          Mark nodded and slowly pulled a note from his pocket.  He handed it to his father and closed his eyes, waiting for the harsh words.

          “You got in two fights today.  Why were you fighting, son?”

          “Fred called me a sissy.”

          “He called you a-“  Lucas stood up and rubbed his forehead.  “You got into a fight because you were called a name?”  Lucas sighed heavily.  “What about the other fight?”

          “Pete called you a name.”

          “I don’t believe it.  I just don’t believe this!”  He turned around and rushed back to mark’s side.  He knelt down beside him.  “Mark, this isn’t like you!  Talk to me, son.”

          Mark sighed.  He wanted so badly to tell his father what had happened.  He wanted to tell his father everything.  He knew what would happen though – his father would walk right into a death trap.  He couldn’t allow that to happen.  “Pa, I-“  He stopped and closed his eyes.  “I was just in a bad mood.”

          “Is that all you have to say?”

          “Ye-yes sir.” Mark answered quietly.

          Lucas stood up.  “All right. This note says that you won’t be able to go to school tomorrow either.  You’ll help me repair the fence today.  Then I want you to go sit in the hayloft until bedtime.  I have chores in town tomorrow.  You will do some extra chores tomorrow.”

          Mark nodded.  A tear trickled down his cheek.  “Mark, I know you aren’t telling me the truth.  That hurts me more than you’re getting into trouble at school.  You must be punished.”

          Lucas turned and walked to the door.  “Mark, I love you son.”  With that, he walked out the door.

*****************

Lucas walked into the barn later.  “Son, I have supper ready.  Please come in and eat now.”

          “I’m not hungry!” Mark stated in a muffled voice.

          “I didn’t ask you if you were hungry.  I told you to come in and eat.  If you choose not to eat, you will go hungry until morning.  But you will sit at the table.”  Lucas walked out, his shoulders heavy with the burden he was carrying.  He had spent an hour reading his Bible already, and it didn’t seem to help much.  He just didn’t know how to reach Mark.  Perhaps he’d talk to Micah tomorrow.

          Mark chose not to eat, but sat silently, staring at the table.  “Mark, do you remember when your mother died?”

          Mark sighed.  “I remember my ma not being there anymore.  I remember how sad you were that she was gone.”

          “You wouldn’t eat anything for a week.  I couldn’t reach you.  Then I sang you the lullaby your ma used to sing to you every night and you cried.  Do you remember that?”

          “Not really. “

          “Mark, I’m afraid that what going on now can’t be fixed with a lullaby.  I’ve been studying the Bible and praying, but I don’t know how to reach you.”

          Mark sighed.  “Pa, I told you I’m just in a bad mood.”  Mark started to stand up, but Lucas shot him a warning look.  “May I go to bed now?”

          Lucas sat back in his chair and crossed his arms.  “Okay.  Have a good sleep, son.  I’ll have a list of chores for you to do tomorrow.”

          Mark went into the bedroom to undress.  He was about to put his pajama top on when Lucas walked in.  He heard his father’s gasp, and knew that he had seen it.     

Chapter 5

Lucas rushed over to him and grabbed his arm.  “Mark, what happened here?”

          Mark tried to pull away, but his father’s grip was too tight.  “It’s just a scratch.”

          “Mark, this is not a scratch!  It’s infected!  Do you know how serious a cut like this is, son?”  Mark hung his head.  “Son, how did this happen?”

          Mark sat on his bed and cried.  He cried harder then he had in a long time.  He couldn’t hold back anymore.  “Pa, I-“  He started say a bunch of jumbled words together.  Lucas couldn’t understand many of them.  He heard the words knife, kill, and town.  He suddenly grabbed Mark by the shoulders to quiet him.  He looked straight into his eyes.  “Mark one thing at a time.  First of all, tell me what this cut is on your arm.”

          Mark swallowed hard.  “A knife.”

          “Who’s?”

          Mark hung his head.  “Pa, please tell me you’ll stay out of this!  Please!”  Mark threw his arms around his father’s shoulders and wept.  Lucas held him tight.  Tears poured down his own cheek as he felt his son’s hurt.  His heart ached harder with each passing sob.  After what seemed like a life time, Mark loosened his grip on his pa’s shoulders and wiped his eyes.  “I’ll tell you everything, but please promise me you won’t get involved.”

          “Okay, Mark, just start at the beginning.  First of all, who cut you?”

          “It was Fred,” Mark hung his head.

          “Fred-“ Lucas sat down on the bed.  “Fred Arms?”

          Mark sat down next to his father.  “I-I overheard them talking.  It was after school yesterday and I forgot my math book so I ran back into the school building and they were there…”  His words became faster and harder to understand again.

          Lucas placed a hand over his son’s mouth.  “Okay, I know you are really scared and upset, son.  But it is important that you stay calm so I can understand.”  Mark took some deep breaths.  “Mark, I know that this is probably one of the worse experiences you have faced.  I want to help you, but you have to stay calm.”

          Lucas left a hand on Mark’s shoulder, thinking it would help him stay calm.  He tried to keep eye contact with his son to reassure him that he was concerned.  “Okay, Mark, why did he cut you?”

          “I overheard him and Pete talking.  And-“ Mark took another deep breath.

          Lucas slightly shook his head. “Was this after school?”

          “Yes.  After school yesterday.  I went back in to get my math book.”

          “Okay.  So when you went in, Pete and Fred were there talking?”

          Mark nodded.  “They didn’t see me, so I snuck out the back.  I guess Pete looked back and saw me there.”

          “That’s when he cut you?”

          “No.  He grabbed me by the arm and slammed me against the wall.  I was so scared, pa.  I thought he was going to kill me!  He clinched his fist and reared back to-“

          “You’re doing it again Mark.  Let’s take it slow.  I’ll ask you a simple question, and you answer it, okay son?  We’ll get to the bottom of this together.”

          Mark nodded and hung his head.  Lucas again lifted his head to look into his eyes.  “Mark, did he punch you?”

          “No.  He stopped himself and told me not to tell.”

          “What did you tell him then, son?” Lucas’s eyes were comforting and soft – not hard like they had been before.

          “I told him they wouldn’t get away with this.  That you and the Marshall would make sure of that.”

          “Then he pulled the knife?”

          Mark nodded slowly and tried to look away.  Lucas held his head so he was forced to look into his father’s eyes.  As long as they kept this eye contact, Mark was staying calm and rational.  “Okay, so he cut your arm to keep you quiet?”

          “He told me he’d slice me into little pieces if I told.  Then he said you’d get a –“ Mark swallowed hard and tried to look away again.

          “Mark just keep looking at me.  You’re doing good.  What did he say about me?”

          “He said he’d put a…bullet…between your eyes.”

          “So you agreed to keep quiet?”

          “Yes sir.”  Lucas released his son’s head.  He stood up and bent down at the side of the bed.

          “Okay, son.  I understand that part.  Now, I need to you be really grown up and tell me what you couldn’t tell.”

          “Pa, I-“  Mark started to stand, but Lucas placed a firm hand on his shoulder.  “They’ll kill you.”

          “Mark,” Lucas looked straight into his eyes, keeping his own eyes as soft and calm as he could.  “You must tell me, Mark.  That’s an order.  I want to protect you.  That’s a father’s job.”

          “What about a son protecting his father?”  Mark asked.

          “Mark, you are a young boy.  I know you love me, and if you do, you will tell me.”

          “They’re fathers are going to do something on Friday.  There’s a group of outlaws…I think five or six of them…that are riding in on Friday.”

          Lucas sighed.  “Why Mark?”

          “They-they’re planning on taking over the town.  They are going to start with the bank, then the store, Marshall, and everything.  They aren’t planning on killing anyone unless…”

          Lucas raised his eyebrows and bore into Mark’s eyes.  “Unless what?”

          “Unless they try to fight them.”

          “Mark, how many of these men do you think are going to give up without a fight?”

          Mark lowered his head.  Lucas stood up with a sigh.  “Mark, I know you are scared, but innocent people’s lives are at stake here.  I’ve talked to you several times about how important it is to protect the town.  You let your own fear for me – one person – take over.”

          “Pa, you are more important to me then-“

          Lucas shook his head.  “Nevermind that right now.  We’ll talk about that part later.  I’ve got to get into town to warn Micah and the others.”

          “I’m sorry, pa.  If they see you in town, they’ll kill you!” Mark cried.

          “Mark, your keeping quiet has wasted precious time we needed.” Lucas snapped.

          Mark had tears in his eyes again.  “I’m sorry, son.  I didn’t mean to snap at you.  I know how scared you are.  But you were wrong to keep this from me.  Your punishment for tomorrow still stands.  I’ll be in town all day tomorrow-“

          “I wish you wouldn’t.”

          “I know how you feel.  Let’s not go into it anymore.  You are to stay here at the ranch.  The chores I have you doing will take most of the day.  When I get home tomorrow, we’ll have a talk.  If you get done with these chores before I get home, I want you to sit in your room with the Good Book.  I think you need to be praying for our town.  Am I clear?”

          Mark sighed.  “What if you don’t come back?”

          Lucas rushed over to Mark’s side and placed his hands on Mark’s shoulders.  “Mark, I will come back.  This town will stand up to those guys.  You must have more faith in our town…and in our God.”

          “I want to come-“

          “NO!” Lucas said harshly.  “I told you what to do, and I expect you to do it!  Is that clear?”

          Mark hung his head and turned away.  “Well?”

          “Yes, pa.”

          Lucas took Mark’s arm and studied the scratch, a frown on his face.  “I wish you had told me about this when it happened, son.  It doesn’t look good.  Let’s clean it and put a bandage on it.  When I’m in town, I’ll try to track down the doc and get some medicine to help it.”

Chapter 6

          When Lucas got into town the ranch hands were beginning to filter in for their nightly drinking ritual.  Lucas tied his horse to the hitching post in front of the Marshall’s office and glanced at the saloon.  He saw Micah coming out of the doors, and he hurried over toward him.  “Quiet night, Micah?”

          “Lucas boy, you’re in town awfully late tonight!”

          Lucas nodded.  “There’s a problem.  Can we talk in your office?”

          Micah led him into the office and poured both of them a cup of coffee.  “Mr. Arms is over there drunk as usual.  He was trying to start a gun-fight.  I warned him that if it happens again, he’ll be in jail.”

          “Hmmm…that’s what I want to talk to you about.”  Lucas told Micah the entire story as he knew it.  Micah scratched his head a few times, but didn’t interrupt.

          “I hope you aren’t too rough on the boy, Lucas.  He was doing what he thought best.”

          “Micah, if you had your way, that boy would never be punished!  I’m sticking to my punishment.  Lessons are hard to learn – even when wrong decisions are made with the best intentions.  If I didn’t stick to my punishment that would be saying what he did was okay.  You know I don’t want him to think that.”

          “Well, maybe so. I’m just saying that he was just doing-“

          Lucas held up his hand.  “I didn’t come for parenting advice, Micah.  I came to warn you what’s going to happen.  We need to get the town together to keep this from happening.  Here’s what I think we should do.”  Lucas began laying out the plan.

Chapter 7

          Mark came out of the bedroom half-dressed again.  He yawned as he sat down at the table.  “You got back late last night, pa.”

          “Yes. Micah and I had a lot to discuss.”

          “So, are you…going to town today, pa?”

          Lucas took a sip of his coffee.  “Son, there’s oatmeal in the pan on the stove.  I’m working on the list of chores for you to do.”

          Mark sat down and put his head in his hands.  “Pa, now that you know what was wrong, you are still punishing me?”

          “You were expelled from school, Mark.  That’s a pretty serious charge in my book.  Also, you kept some important information from me, even if you were threatened.  You did start those two fights at school also.”

          “But, I thought I’d go with you-“

          Lucas held up his hand.  “Stop right there, son.  You will not leave this ranch until I say otherwise.  I don’t need to remind you of that.  I told you that last night.”

          “Pa-“ Mark watched his father head snap up and his eyes narrow.  Mark gasped.  He knew he was about to go too far.  “Yes sir.”  Mark stood and got the oatmeal to eat.

          Lucas stood up and took another drink of his coffee.  “Okay, here’s your list, Mark.  I think this should keep you busy most of the day.  I don’t know how long I’ll be gone.  I won’t tell you not to worry because it’s a waste of my breath, I know.  Son, I want you to do exactly as I have told you.  It’s very important you don’t disobey me.”

          “Will you just tell me what’s going on?  You usually don’t hide things from me.”

          Lucas laid a hand on Mark’s shoulder.  “Neither do you, son.  Listen, sometimes there are things a father can’t go into for their child’s safety.  Let’s just say that we are going to take care of the two men who have been causing the problems, as well as their sons.”

          “You will be careful?”

          Lucas smiled.  “Of course.”  He patted Mark’s shoulder.  “Now, I want to change the dressing on your arm and put some of this medicine on it before I go.”

************

          Mark stared at the list.  He just didn’t understand why he had to do all these chores while his father was fighting for his life.  He should be there helping his pa.  He couldn’t stand it.  Mark looked around the yard.  Then he looked at Blue Boy.  “Well, Blue Boy, sometimes we have to disobey out of love, right?”  With that, Mark started saddling up his horse so he could ride into town.

          Lucas and Micah were at the Last Chance Saloon.  Billy Arms and Ray Andrews were sitting at a table, deep in conversation.  Lucas slowly made his way over to the table.  “Can I buy you a beer while we talk?”

          Billy’s grin fell from his face as he looked up at the tall man hovering over their table.  “I don’t remember inviting you into our conversation, McCain.”

          Lucas placed a foot on the chair and leaned down.  He placed his gun on the table with a firm hand.  “I didn’t ask to be invited.  I’m interrupting this conversation to discuss something a little more important.”

          This time, Billy laughed.  “I heard tell your boy wouldn’t snitch.  I guess he’s a liar!”

          Lucas sat in the chair and got right into Billy’s face.  “You listen very carefully to me, Arms!  My boy was cut with your son’s knife the other day, and that makes me mad!  It makes me mad that my boy was threatened by you son.  It makes me mad that my son is scared to death.”

          “Well, well, well…he did snitch!” Billy sneered.

          “He’s a twelve year old boy, Arms!  You son is near fifteen…I don’t call that fair in any since of the word.  The two boys who bullied my son are now sharing a cell in the Marshall’s office.  That’s where you two will be shortly.”

          “What exactly did you sons tell you?”  Lucas rolled his eyes, knowing he was getting the treatment he expected.

Chapter 8

          Mark dismounted Blue Boy and tethered her to the hitching post by the church.  He didn’t want anybody to know he was here – especially his father and Micah.  He slowly crept down the street, keeping his eyes out for anyone who may tell his pa of his where-abouts.  Mark felt such guilt for being there instead of at home doing his chores, but he had to protect his pa.  He knew these guys, and he knew they wouldn’t stop until his father was dead.

          Suddenly, he heard angry voices coming from the saloon.  One of these voices belonged to his father.  Mark stood outside the saloon and listened. “You get this, Arms!  I want you to walk straight to the Marshall’s office.  I could pull this trigger right now and not think anything of it!”

          “You are a good man, McCain.  That son of your is gonna be sorry he didn’t keep his mouth shut.  My boy is going to cut him up into tiny pieces.  I’m going to cut you up!”

          Mark heard his father cock his riffle and knew a confrontation would happen soon.  The voices were getting closer to the door, so he quickly moved around the corner to hide.  The saloon doors swung open and the two men walked out.  “You know that you won’t get away with this.  We have some friends coming in tomorrow.  They’ll be suspicious when they don’t find us there waiting for them.  Then they will blow this town apart!”

          The swinging doors opened.  Mark peaked around the corner to see the two men walking out, hands held high.  His father was following close behind them with his riffle pointed at them.  Micah opened the door to the Marshall’s office and allowed the men to come in.  The door closed behind the group.

          Mark sighed.  He was surprised to see that part had ended peacefully.  He wanted to get close enough to the Marshall’s office to see what they were planning on next.  He knew that if he was caught in town, he would be skinned for sure by his father.  He started to leave his hiding place when he overheard two men talking behind him. 

          “Good thing we came a day early, Earl!”  One of the men stated.

          “We could have been in trouble if we had come in when we told those two.  You sure were right in not trusting them, Ned!”

          “We’ll wait until it’s dark and that tall man leaves the Marshall’s office.  Then we’ll take the Marshall hostage first,” Ned declared.

          “No, Ned!  I’ve got a better idea!” Earl sneered.  “That tall man’s name is Lucas McCaine.  I had a run-in with him when he was living in Oklahoma.  We have to take him out first!”

          Mark gasped.  He had to get into the Marshall’s office to warn them, but he wasn’t sure how he would do it without the outlaw’s seeing him.  He wasn’t sure where the rest of them were.

          “Alright, Earl.  I’ll gather the rest of the men.”  Mark heard the men walking away.  He quickly moved from his hiding place and started to run across the street.”

          Suddenly, he was faced with two long pairs of legs.  He looked up into the angry eyes of his father.  “Pa, I’ve something to tell-“

          Lucas grabbed Mark by the arm.  “Get into the hotel now, Mark!  Tell Eddie to let you in an empty room.  Crawl under the bed and stay there!”

          “But pa, those outlaws came-“

          Lucas held up his hand.  He quickly pointed his finger toward the hotel.  “March, now!”

          Mark hurried to the hotel.  His father was right on his heals.  He poked his head inside.  “Eddie!”

          Eddie rushed to the doorway.  “What is it?”

          “Put Mark in an empty motel room.  I want you to lock these doors and make sure everyone stays inside.  We have some trouble brewing.  Eddie, Mark is your hostage.  Don’t take your eye off of him for a second.”

          “Be careful, pa!” Mark cried.  Lucas gave his son a hard look.  “Pa, I-I’m sorry.”

          “I’ll deal with you later!”  Lucas turned away.  But he knew he was entering into a dangerous situation and didn’t want to leave what could be their final words like that.  He quickly turned and bent down to his son’s level.  “No matter what, son, I love you.  Nothing can ever change that.  Be good.”  Mark hugged him before Lucas left.

Chapter 9

          “Micah, we have a problem!” Lucas declared as he slammed the door to the Marshall’s office.  Micah came from the other room where the prisoners were.  He closed the door and looked at Lucas’ hard face.

          “Lucas Boy, what’s wrong?”

          “Mark’s in town.”

          “I thought you left him at the ranch with strict orders to stay there no matter what,” Micah said.

          “I did.  That boy!”  Lucas shook his head.  “He’s at the hotel.  Eddie’s to make sure he stays under a bed and not move until we’re done.”

          “Lucas, he just wanted to protect you.”

          “Micah, the boy needs to learn how to follow orders!  I guess I’m his greatest strength and weakness like he’s mine…” Lucas’s face screwed up with anger, worry and…pride.

          “It makes you proud to have a son with so much respect for you, doesn’t it, Lucas boy?” Micah nudged his best friend with his elbow.

          Lucas gave a slight nod then heaved a deep sigh.  “Well, as far as I can tell, there were two men in the alley.  One of them is Earl Baker.  I had a run-in with him back in Oklahoma.”

          “I wish I knew what they were planning,” Micah stated, worry lines lying heavily on his forehead.

          “I’m glad we warned everyone this morning.  I figured they wouldn’t wait until Friday to show up.  No one would trust those loons we have locked up in the cell back there.” Lucas looked out the window.  He saw four men walking down the street.  Earl was one of them.

          “Well, I see four men coming.  I don’t know if that’s all of them or not.  Micah, you best check on the prisoners and make sure they are being have themselves.  I’ll fire a warning shot.”

          Lucas opened the door to the Marshall’s office and fired his riffle – two quick shots, a five-second pause, then one single shot.  He watched the men stop and put their hand on their guns.  Then he saw the doors to the buildings close as men from inside stepped out on the street.

          Micah joined Lucas outside.  They counted about 15 men standing, waiting to defend their town.  “You remember a year ago when you were taken hostage in Hattie’s store?” Lucas asked.

          Micah nodded.  “No one stood up with you then.  But now we have a lot.  I’m proud to call this my home, Lucas Boy.”

          Lucas looked toward the hotel.  “Lucas, Mark will be okay.”

          Lucas shook his head.  “I don’t know, Micah.  It doesn’t feel right.  I’m afraid there’s a couple more hiding somewhere.  I think we should play it safe.”

          “Okay, McCain, what do you want?”

          Lucas twirled his gun to cock it.  “I want your weapons on the ground now!”

          Earl laughed.  “You gonna shoot us down if we don’t?”

          Lucas shot a warning shot, which just missed Earl’s head.  “You don’t think your close enough?  Well turn around.  There’s men surrounding you.”

          Earl turned around and looked.  He saw several men behind him.  “You think you are pretty clever, don’t you?  What if we was to shoot you and your Marshall friend there down?  You think these men would still protect the town?  No!  They would run back into their precious buildings, scared that the great, godly Rifleman is dead!”

          Lucas’ face was stone cold.  “Let’s get a couple things straight, Baker!  First of all, these men are tough and love this town.  We have a nice town and we are all friends.  They aren’t afraid.”  As he paused, sounds of cocking riffles and guns could be heard all along the street.  “Second, there’s nothing godly about me being the Rifleman.  My God is protecting this town and he’s given me the ability to help in the area of this Rifle.  I don’t want to be idolized over that fact!”

          The men looked around at all the men on the street.  “Earl!” one of the outlaws shouted.  “We’re outnumbered!”

          “Shut up!” Earl shouted.  “What if I was to tell you, McCain, that there are more than four of us?  We have some other men in hiding just in case we got ambushed?”

          “Bring ‘em on, Baker!”

          Earl slowly pulled his gun out of the holster.  He cocked it slowly.  “I wouldn’t do that if I were you!” Lucas growled as he raised his gun towards Earl.

          Earl stared at Lucas for a minute.  “Al right,” Earl uncocked his gun and threw it on the ground.  He held up his hands.  “I’ll surrender.”

          Lucas looked at the others.  “What about your friends?” Lucas asked.

          Earl turned to look at his friends.  “Earl, where’s Joe?  Where is he?”

          “He couldn’t make it!  We’re done.”  The other men threw down their guns and held up their hands.  All four of them walked slowly toward the Marshall’s office.  Lucas kept the gun trained on them.  He wasn’t going to take any chances.

          “You just keep those hands where we can see them boys!”

          The men got to where Micah and Lucas were standing.  “Okay, stop right there!”  Micah shouted.  He waved his riffle towards the first man.  “You come up and put your hands on the wall.”  The man did so.  “Lucas check him for hidden weapons.  I don’t trust them.”

          Lucas searched, but found nothing.  The first man was ordered to stay against the wall while the second man was searched.  Earl was the last to be searched.  Lucas found a knife in his pocket.  “Hmmm…I don’t think you’ll be needing to slice anything.  We’ll cut your meat up really small for you!” Lucas sneered.

          Soon, all four men were in the cell as well.  Lucas stood at the window while Micah locked them up.  When he came out, he said, “You think there’s anymore?”

          Micah shook his head.  “I think it’s over, Lucas Boy.”

          Lucas looked around the street. The men still stood in the positions, their guns still cocked. “I don’t know, Micah.  Something just doesn’t feel right.”

          Because Mark was hiding in the hotel, his eyes shifted in that direction.  He looked up into a window of the hotel.  “Wait!  There he is.”

          “What’s going on?” asked Micah.

          “The last gunman.  He’s in that window!”  He saw the last gunman break the glass in the window and point his gun towards Nels, who was standing with his back to the hotel.  Lucas quickly snuck out the door and down the street.  When he was in good firing distance, he quickly took aim and shot.  The gun man shot back and Lucas rolled to dodge the bullet.  He shot again, then there was silence.

Chapter 10

          “Did you get him?” one of the men called.

          Lucas shook his head.  “I don’t know.  You guys keep an eye out.  I’m going in.”

          He ran to the hotel and opened the door.  Slowly, he made his way up the stairs and opened the door to the room that should have held the gun man.  He saw a man lying on the floor.  Lucas’s trained eye told him he wasn’t dead.  “Alright, on your feet, mister!” Lucas shouted.

          The man didn’t move.  He cocked the riffle.  “I’m not telling you again!”

          The man still didn’t move.  Lucas fired a shot that barely missed the man’s ear.  “I said move!”

          The man slowly stood up.  He held his hands up and cried, “Okay, you’ve got me.” 

          “Yes I do!  And you’ll have plenty of friends in the jail to keep you company!”     

Chapter 11

          Mark heard the last shot.  Then he heard his father’s voice in the hall way.  “You thought you were going to get away with this, but we love this town, and no half-brained group of outlaws are gonna take it from us!”

          Mark crawled out from under the bed and started for the door.  Eddie grabbed his arm.  “You can’t leave until your father comes to get you.”

          “But-“ Mark sighed.  He had to see his father.  He ran to the window to watch.  The men were putting away their guns.  People were going back onto the street.  “It’s over. I think we can go now.”

          Eddie shook his head.  “From the look of anger that was on your father’s face when he brought you here and gave me my orders, I’m thinking it would be better for your skin if you stayed put until he got you.”

          Mark sucked in his breath.  “Yeah, I guess I sure blew it!”

          He sat down to wait.  An hour passed.  He watched out the window to see when his father would leave.  Finally, he saw Lucas leave the Marshall’s office and his make way for the hotel.  Lucas looked tired and sad.  He stepped slowly, his shoulders slumped.  Mark knew his pa well enough to know what that meant.  He wasn’t looking forward to the confrontation that would soon follow.

          Eddie opened the door. “He’s in here, Lucas.”

          Lucas stepped inside.  Mark saw the tears in his father’s eyes. Tears of relief, and tears of disappointment.  Mark ran to his father and they embraced.  “I’m glad you’re okay, pa!” Mark cried.

          Lucas pushed Mark away after the embrace.  “Let’s go home, boy.” He gave a sad smile.

          “Pa?” Mark stopped Lucas.

          Lucas turned and bent down to look into Mark’s eyes.  “Son, we’ll talk when we get home and I think for awhile.  Right now, I’m still too angry, hurt and…disappointed.”

          “Are we going to be okay, pa?” Mark asked.  Lucas knew Mark was talking about their friendship.

          “Mark, I’m not going to mince words.  You have gotten yourself into a lot of trouble.”  He could tell Mark was tormented by his expression.  He sat down in the chair.  “Come here, son.”

          Mark stepped forward and sat on his father’s knee.  “Mark, Adam and Eve were given the entire garden to do whatever they wanted.  But God put one tree in there and gave orders for them to stay away from that one tree.  Unfortunately, it’s that one thing in the whole scheme of things that’s the hardest to stay away from.”

          “Why is that?” Mark asked.

          “I don’t know, son.  Maybe God wants to show us just how much we do need Him.  Maybe it’s so we can see for ourselves who we really are.”

          “I guess I didn’t pass that test.”

          “No one ever has, son.  You see, Adam and Eve did eat from that tree, as you know.  And every human being since then has given in to those evils one time or another.” Lucas sighed.  “This is a hard lesson son.  One I had to learn, and one you are having to learn now.  As you get older, there will be more of these moments, and I won’t always be there to keep them from happening.  I trusted you to do the right thing today and you didn’t.”

          “Pa, it was for a good reason – you.”

          Lucas tried to keep the pride out of his eyes, but he couldn’t.  “I know that Mark.  But you must learn to obey, no matter what.  I am older and wiser.  I’ve seen things that you haven’t seen.  You have another hard lesson coming today.  One that’s going to hurt you a lot.”

          Mark saw a weriness come into his father’s eyes.  “Pa, what lesson is that?”

          “This will probably be the greatest punishment of all.  You see son, good things are easy to loose, but hard to get back.  Today, you have lost a really good thing and I’m afraid you are going to have to work for a while to get it back.” Lucas sighed.  He had to think of his next words carefully.

          “What’s that?” Mark asked.

          “My trust.”

          Mark gasped.  “Pa, I-“

          Lucas held up a hand to silence his son.  “Mark, I want you to know that I love you, and there is nothing on this earth that will change that.  I also want you to know that I’m very proud to have you as my son.  You are turning into a fine young man.  But after the things that have happened the last couple of days, I can’t trust you like I was able to before.  Now, with hard work and patience, you can gain my trust back.”

          Tears were shining in Mark’s eyes.  “I’m really sorry.”

          “I know you are.  And this trust isn’t something I’m taking from you.  It’s something inside us – something that goes away rather I want it to or not.  And son, I didn’t want it to.  Do you understand?”

          Mark nodded.  “Is that my punishment?”

          “No, Mark. That’s just a fact of life.”

          Mark threw his arms around his father.  They held each other for a couple minutes.  Suddenly, a big growl escaped one of their stomach’s.  They laughed.  Mark stood up.  “Son, let’s go home and get something to eat.”

          Mark nodded.  “Well, we are at the hotel, pa.”

          Lucas sighed.  “I think I’ve seen enough of this town for the day.  I want the safety and security of my own home.  Besides, we still have a lot to talk about and I prefer to discuss them at home.”

          “Like what?”

          Lucas put an arm around Mark’s shoulders.  “Well, like lots of extra chores for a long time!”

          Lucas looked down at Mark who frowned.  “Oh, I kinda thought it was something like that.”

          “And spending some time in the Good Book, learning some lessons.”

          “I figured that to.”

          “Oh, and let’s not forget the dishes.”

          “Dishes?”

          “Yeah, you see son, I know how much you love to wash dishes every night.  Well, you will get plenty of practice in for a long time!”

          Mark held up his hands.  “Okay, okay pa!  I think I’m going to be sick.”

          Lucas laughed.  “Let’s go home.”

          Mark smiled.  “Pa, I’ll take any punishment you want to give me.  I know it’s out of love.”  With that, Mark jumped on his back and shouted, “Hurry, pa!”

The whole town of Northfork could hear the laughter between father and son as they mounted their horses and rode off towards home.

This is truly a story about a father & son and what they mean to each other, thanks Michelle for sharing this with us.

These stories are based on the TV series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!

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