The Rifleman
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Fan Fiction

His Father’s Son - part 2
by Anonymous

Chapter VIII

Lucas’ eyes fought to stay open as he pushed Razor to go a few more miles. In the last several days he’d been to San Miguel and was now pushing southwest, trying to catch up with the army. He was hoping to find Mark was with them or at least hear some news about his son. The outlaws had hit a few more ranches near the border and had killed yet again. Now the army’s orders were to pursue, capture and/or kill these men at all costs. Lucas could only pray that his son wouldn’t be caught in the middle.

Lucas stopped to set up camp. Sleep had been hard to come by recently. Night was the most difficult time for him. During the day, Lucas was compelled by his journey to find Mark. When the sun was up he could imagine each step his horse took bringing him closer and closer to his son. Once darkness fell and Lucas found himself sitting alone by the fire, thoughts and memories would flood his mind and his heart would literally ache. He didn’t even try to stop the tears that would fall in his nightly solitude. He would eventually lie down and close his eyes, but his eyelids did little to shut out the constant fear he felt. He missed his son so much. During these long and lonely nights, Lucas would look up at the stars and concentrate very, very hard. He would think about Mark and try his best to let him know he was all right. That he was going to find him and bring him home no matter what it took. Maybe it was his imagination, but Lucas always felt that Mark got these messages and it gave him hope. And hope is a powerful thing.

“I’m getting too old for this.” Micah thought as he shifted his weight in the saddle. It didn’t help that he was still in a fair amount of pain from being shot, but that was nothing compared to how he felt when he’d returned to Northfork and heard the news. Lucas and Mark were his family and to find them both in such danger was devastating. Everyone had tried to convince him not to go but that was as futile as Lou’s attempt to stop Mark had been. In no more time than it took to deputize someone to take his place, he was gone, trailing after Lucas who was trailing after Mark. He knew Lucas all too well and because of this, he also knew the kind of pain he was feeling. Nothing else came close to the place that Mark held in his father’s life and he would stop at nothing to protect him. Micah pondered these things as he tried to catch up with his best friend. He prayed he would get there in time.

Micah finally caught up with Lucas in Las Cruces. Lucas had stopped for some supplies and he was surprised but quite relieved to see his best friend. If there was anyone who could understand and help, it was him.

“Micah…I’m glad to see you’re feeling better. It means a lot to me, you coming out here like this.”

“Don’t tell me you weren’t expecting me, Lucas boy.” Micah replied. Lucas smiled for the first time in weeks.

“You’re a good friend, Micah. The best.”

“You’re not so bad yourself. Now what’s our next move.”

“Columbus”

The town of Columbus, New Mexico was a typical border town. The line between Old Mexico and New Mexico was much less distinct than it was further north. Lucas and Micah rode in and immediately began looking for a lawman. They finally found Marshal O’Keefe in the saloon. Lucas shot Micah a look. Both wondered if this guy would be any help at all. They approached him.

“Excuse me, Marshal, but we need to talk to you.” Marshal O’Keefe turned around slowly to look at his visitors and then turned back to his drink.

“Sit down.”

Lucas and Micah settled themselves at the bar. “Marshal, we’re from Northfork. We’ve been trailing a group of outlaws that have been attacking ranches throughout the territory. Have you had any trouble down here?”

Marshal O’Keefe sneered. “You don’t know what trouble is til you’ve spent a few days in this town.”

Lucas waited impatiently. “Well…what kind of trouble have you had?”

“The killing kind. What other kind is there?” The Marshal motioned to the bartender for another drink. Lucas tried again.

“Look Marshal, we just need some information. My son and a friend of his may have been taken by these men.”

Finally, the marshal looked up from his drink. Something Lucas had said caught his attention.

“Your son? And his friend?” The marshal asked.

“Yes.”

“I think you better come with me.”
Lucas and Micah followed the marshal to a boarding house down the street. Neither of them knew what this was about but it was obvious that the marshal had some information. Lucas didn’t dare hope that he was leading him to his son. They entered the house and the marshal spoke to someone quietly for a few moments. He then turned back to Lucas and Micah and began to speak.

“Three days ago a young woman was found on the south road out of town. She had been beaten and was in pretty bad shape. A local couple found her and brought her to town. She had been in the company of the men you are looking for but had managed to escape.” The marshal saw Lucas’ eyes light up. “She says she was only able to get away with the help of two other prisoners. Young men.”

Lucas couldn’t believe it. “I must speak with her.”

“She’s upstairs.”

Lucas raced up the stairs but paused outside the closed door. He reminded himself that this girl had been through an ordeal and needed gentleness, not a mad man demanding answers. He knocked and a middle aged woman let him in. He was not prepared for what he saw. The young girl in the bed had been beaten so badly her entire face was black and blue. Her eyes were still very swollen and she looked quite fragile propped up on the pillows. When she saw Lucas, her face lit up.

“Are you Mr. McCain? You must be. You look just as I pictured you.” Her voice sounded small but strong.

“Yes, I’m Lucas McCain. Did you know I was coming?”

“Oh yes. I mean, I didn’t know you were coming here but I knew as soon as I saw you that you were Mark’s father. You are just as he described……tall and strong with kind eyes…just like him.”

Lucas winced at the sound of his son’s name. He sat down on the bed. “Please, tell me everything you can about my son. How is he? Have they hurt him?” Lucas waited, afraid to hear the answer, but desperately needing to.

“Mr. McCain, I won’t lie to you. Those men…they’re…they’re very evil men. They did things, horrible things…” Her eyes welled with tears. “I was taken from my home 2 weeks ago. I was all alone and terribly afraid. Mark and Grid were there when they brought me to camp. They had them tied up along with a few others. They had not been treated well, but they were alive. I was tied up next to Mark. It was obvious he had been beaten badly, but he did his best to calm me. When we were able to speak he told me about you, about the ranch. How he had left to find you.” She paused and a slight smile came to her face. “Mostly he talked about you. He kept me calm by talking as often as he could.” Her face darkened again. “The men…they would often taunt him about you. They had your rifle and they told him they had killed you. That they’d left your.....” She stopped. “They….they were so….” She bent her head as the tears fell. Lucas took her hand. She continued. “They were so cruel.” She looked into Lucas’ eyes and the tears that fell silently down his cheeks. She took his hand and leaned forward as best she could. “But he didn’t believe them, Mr. McCain, not really. He told me that he knew you were alive…that he could feel it. He said he woud know it if you weren’t.He said he knew that you were looking for him. He had a plan to get away. But…he…he wouldn’t leave the others behind.”

The room was quiet for a few moments as Lucas tried to find the courage to ask a question.

“Do the men know that he helped you escape?”

She looked down at her hands. “Yes sir.” There was a pause and she looked back into his eyes. “But don’t give up, Mr. McCain.”

Lucas winced as he heard these words.

“What is your name?” he asked.

“My name is Molly.”

Lucas stood up and gently brushed her hair back from her bruised face.

“Don’t worry, Molly. I’ll never give up on my son.”

Chapter IX

The hot summer sun beat down on a group of Arizona Pine trees as well as the men who were camped beneath them. There was no shade in the heat of midday. They were sprawled out, waiting for something it seemed. Or perhaps they were just bored. Either way, they were an ominous looking bunch. A man who appeared to be in charge sat on a large rock cleaning a rifle that he considered to be his. Actually he had taken from a man he killed. A smile crossed his face as he thought back to that day. Most everything he had was taken from someone he killed, but he was especially proud of this rifle. Not only because it had been modified with a screw pin so that it could rapid-fire, but because of the man he had taken it from. A man they called the Rifleman. True, it had not been nearly as thrilling to kill him the way he did. It was practically suicide the way he and that marshal had ridden into camp to get those women. Either way, though, the feeling of accomplishment he got from killing wasn’t subdued by the circumstances. He didn’t really care how he killed someone, the feeling was the same. It was power. It was a rush of absolute domination that made him feel indestructible. It didn’t matter who his victim was. Man, woman, child….like those boys who had tracked them into the Dona Ana mountains a few weeks ago. One of them had been the Rifleman’s son. What fun he had had with that one. It was laughable to think that those boys had thought they could take he and his men with a sidearm and that dinky .22. He’d kept them around for a while after finding out they had been following him. At first it had made him angry that two little punks like that were able to find them, much less be on their tail like that. His anger had turned into amusement, however when he realized who his young prisoners were. He remembered the look on the kid’s face when showed him the rifle and then described in detail how he had killed his Pa. His face went from hot anger to utter despair in mere moments. Something had broken in the boy after that. He no longer resisted or fought against his constraints. He’d had to watch that other one, though. He knew how to use that gun and never let his guard down. He wasn’t sure exactly why he kept them alive as long as he did. It had been a mistake. Anger built up in him as he thought about what had happened after he brought that girl back to camp. The McCain kid seemed to come back to life after that. Those kids had then helped one of the girls escape. That had been it. He’d made sure that those boys would never interfere with his plans again. No, they would never interfere with anything again after that day. Another smile crossed his face….another amusing memory.

Suddenly the camp was filled with commotion. Javier had returned from his supply run and was extremely excited about something. He dismounted and ran over to the man on the rock.

“Carlo! Carlo, you’re never going to believe this.” Javier spit out between gulps of air.

“Believe what?” Carlo said coolly.

“He’s alive. He’s still alive! They both are.” This got Carlo’s attention.

“The boys?”

“No! His father, that marshal!”

“What?!” This wasn’t possible. No, this couldn’t be possible. “How?”

“I don’t know how, but I saw them. They were getting supplies in Columbus.”

Carlo froze. “Are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure! Do you know what this means? Do you know what he’ll do when he finds-“

Carlo interrupted him. “He has to catch us first. Come on. Break camp, now! We have to get moving!”

He couldn’t believe this. He just couldn’t believe it. Hot anger boiled inside of him. All this time he’d been relishing the thought that he’d killed the Rifleman he’d been a few days ride away. Had he found his son? Or what was left of him, anyway? If so, he knew he was in grave danger. Lucas McCain with nothing to lose was very dangerous indeed.

Carlo mounted his horse and kept the rifle in his hand. Riding furiously he realized that he was letting this man get to him. He took a few slow, calm breaths. The wicked smile played on his lips once more. So what if he was still alive? That was a temporary situation. He would enjoy this. It wasn’t often he got to kill a man twice.

Chapter X

Lucas stopped his horse and dismounted. He looked around him…trees, a rock…it was obvious to his keen tracking sense that a group of people had camped here not very long ago, despite their half-effort to cover their tracks.

“Micah! I think they were here less than an hour ago.” Lucas’ voice quavered with anticipation. “We’re getting close. Too close for them. Looks like they left here in a hurry. They must know we’re trailing them.” Lucas scoured the ground for evidence of his son, but saw nothing. His heart pounded. He hadn’t slept in days. He felt dizzy.

“You okay, Lucasboy?” Micah asked. He knew it was an absurd question. Of course he wasn’t okay. He may never be okay again. But all Lucas said was…

“I’m fine, Micah. Let’s get going.”

It was a silent ride. Lucas wasn’t talking and Micah knew better than to draw him out. The look on his face told him all he needed to know. He knew what thoughts were plaguing his friend and he knew there was nothing he could say or do that would help. Frankly, Micah was worried what Lucas would do when they did catch up to these men if Mark wasn’t with them. For that matter, he wasn’t so sure he could restrain himself. Suddenly, familiar rifle shots shattered the silence.

“Take cover!” Micah yelled. Lucas jumped off his horse and turned around and fired in the direction of the shots. Micah grabbed him by the arm.

“Lucas! Take cover!”

“No!” Lucas pulled away. He’d waited long enough. He couldn’t wait any longer. He kept firing. He even began running in the direction of the shots fired from his own rifle. Then he caught a glimpse of him…the man who had shot him, left him for dead. The man who had done something with his son. Lucas didn’t care any more if he lived or died. He just kept running. He could hear Micah shooting it out behind him with the other two men. Carlo saw Lucas running towards him. He saw the look of fury on his face. He didn’t even have time to fire another shot. In no time at all, Lucas was there in front of him, sailing over the rocks that had shielded him, tackling him to the ground. The men rolled to the ground and Lucas came up fighting. Four weeks of fear and desperation came out as he pounded this man into the ground. Carlo was at a loss. He had underestimated this man. No matter how he tried, he couldn’t get the upper hand. Finally Lucas found himself with his hands around Carlo’s throat. He squeezed as hard as he could. Then Micah was there.

“Lucas! Stop it! Let go!” Lucas ignored him, concentrating on Carlo’s purple face below him. He would choke the life right out of him.

“He’s the only one who can lead us to Mark!” Micah shouted. Lucas halted. He knew Micah was right. He let go of Carlo’s throat and grabbed his shoulders instead.

“Where is my son? Where is my son, you piece of filth?” Lucas shook Carlo violently as he held him pinned to the ground. “So help me, I’ll kill you!” Carlo gasped for breath. He didn’t dare answer. This was getting them nowhere. Micah reached for Lucas’ arm.

“Lucas…settle down. Now we have to use our heads. Let me put the irons on him and then we’ll get him to talk.” Lucas reluctantly released Carlo. He stood up and began looking around him. Mark could be here. He could be right here.

“Mark! Mark! Are you here?” He searched frantically. There was no sign of him. Carlo chuckled.

“Why you…” Lucas went for him again but Micah stopped him.

“Lucas, not now. He’ll get what he deserves, but right now we need to find Mark.”

Lucas looked down at the shackled man on the ground. He saw his rifle lying in the dirt beside him. The rifle that had protected his son so many times. He picked it up and pointed it toward Carlo.

“Okay, start talking. Just know that if my son isn’t alive and well, you don’t have long to live.”

Carlo remained silent. Lucas cocked the rifle. Carlo could see he was moments from pulling the trigger. Reason meant nothing to Lucas now.

“Okay, okay…we left your boy and the other kid about 50 miles back, near Mesilla.”

“What does that mean? Left him how? When?”

“3 days ago.” Carlo sneered. “He was a stupid boy, following us like that. Then letting that girl go..” He was interrupted by a hard backhand across the mouth from an enraged Lucas.

“Shut up! Did you leave him alive or dead?” No answer. Lucas hit him again.

“Alive or dead?” Lucas shouted.

“What do you think?”

Lucas dropped the rifle and pulled him up by his neck. He slammed him against the tree. An anger like he’d never felt before consumed him.

“What did you do to him, you scum? What did you do?” But Carlo was done talking. He just smiled.

“Why don’t you just ride back toward Mesilla and find out for yourself.”

With that Lucas reached for the rifle again. He desperately wanted to kill this man. Every fiber of his being longed to pull the trigger, but Micah grabbed his arm.

“Get out of my way, Micah.”

“Lucas, you can’t kill him. Not like this. Your life is over if you do.”

“My life is over anyway, Micah. You know that.” Lucas’ voice broke as he spoke these words.

“No Lucas…not while Mark is still out there, even if he’s…..” Micah closed his eyes. “Nothing’s over until we bring him home, no matter what.”

With these words, Lucas lowered the rifle and turned away. He was sick down to his very soul. Mark was dead. He had been fooling himself to ever think otherwise. Lucas fell to his knees and began to cry bitterly. With his own tears falling, Micah put his hand on Lucas’ shoulder.

“I’ve lost him, Micah. Oh God, I’ve lost him!” Lucas cried. “How could I let this happen?”

“Lucas, none of this is your fault.”

“It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters now.” Lucas said between sobs. “Without my son, nothing matters.”

“He’s still out there, Lucas. We just have to find him.”

Lucas knew Micah was right, but he wasn’t sure he had the strength to go on with all hope lost of Mark being alive. Then he remembered something. The words he and Molly had spoken echoed in his mind.

“….He didn’t believe them, Mr. McCain. He told me that he knew you were alive…that he could feel it….Don’t give up……I’ll never give up on my son.”

Lucas knew what he had to do. He got control of himself and stood up.

“Let’s go, Micah. Let’s go get my son.”

Chapter XI

Benjamin picked up his Bible and sat down for the first time in hours. The digging he’d done a few days before had taken it’s toll on his 70 year old body. His head was swimming from lack of sleep and food and the constant grief that ate at his soul. He could’ve found something to eat, he supposed, but what he’d seen in the last few days had taken his appetite. Sleep had eluded him as well. He looked up at the framed picture that sat next to his chair and for the millionth time that day, tears filled his eyes. It was an old tintype of a young man in a uniform. The eyes that looked back at him were innocent and hopeful....the way the eyes of the young should be. This was how wanted to remember his son. Not the way he was when he came back, disillusioned and broken. He sighed. This was by far the most difficult week of his life.

Ben sat up suddenly. What was that? He must’ve dozed off in his chair. He listened again. Was it him? But no, it was someone at the door. Ben stumbled around to find the lamp. It had gotten dark since he first fell asleep. Who in the world would be visiting him way out here at this hour? More strangers, he supposed. As he opened the door, he realized there was a storm brewing. There were two men at his door.

“Can I help you?”

“Sorry to bother you, sir.” The older one said, “But we are on the trail to Mesilla and got caught in this weather. We were wondering if we could take shelter in your barn for the night.”

Ben looked at his visitors. The tall one looked as devastated as he felt.

“Do you usually travel this time of night?” Ben asked.

“Well, no…but we’re on important business. We can handle the dark, but our horses don’t like the storm.”

“Well, you are welcome to stay in the barn. I’d let you in the house, but I’ve got a sick boy in here and he doesn’t need to be disturbed.”

“That’s fine. The barn will be just fine.” Micah and Lucas headed over. Lucas hadn’t said much since they’d left Columbus where they’d left Carlo with Marshal O’Keefe. Now he was just waiting…waiting to know if he had anything to live for. He leaned back against the barn wall and tried to find some reason to believe that Mark was still alive. Was it possible? Lucas had always been strong… had endured things that would kill lesser men, but he’d always known that losing Mark was the one thing he couldn’t survive. He’d once said that Mark was his strength and his weakness. That was never more true than this moment. Lucas’ thoughts were interrupted by Ben. He had brought them some blankets and hot coffee. Micah thanked him. Lucas wanted to say something, but couldn’t find the words.

“Sorry I’m not more hospitable.” Ben offered. “I’ve had a rough week.”

Micah felt bad about bothering the man. “Something going around here? I’m sorry about your son.”

Ben looked up “What do you mean? How do you know about my son?”

“You said you had a sick boy.”

“Oh…that’s not my son.” Ben looked down. “That’s a boy I am caring for that I found out past my back pasture. I buried a boy a week ago. He was..” Ben paused when he saw the tall stranger suddenly stand up.

“What did you say?” Ben had not heard the other man speak until now. He had a wild look in his eye.

“I said I’m taking care of a boy I found a few days ago. This is wild country. I’ve come across a lot of bad things, but this one was…”

“I need to see him!” Lucas choked out.

Ben was confused. “Why would you want to see him? Are you a doctor?”

“No, I…” Lucas didn’t have time to explain.

“Wait! What are you doing?” But Lucas was already running through the door to the house. Ben and Micah weren’t far behind. Lucas ran into the bedroom and stopped suddenly when he saw a dark-haired young man lying in the bed. Could it really be?

“Mark!” Lucas cried as he walked over and looked down….. into the face of Gridley Maul, Jr. He stopped suddenly and remembered the old man’s words…

“That’s a boy I am caring for that I found out past my back pasture….I buried a boy a week ago.”

Lucas’ heart seized as the meaning of what he was seeing gripped him. The room began to spin. He covered his face with his hands and fell to his knees. God help me…Mark! Mark… my son…my little boy!” This was more pain than he could bear. Ben and Micah were frozen by the devastation of the scene that was unfolding. The quiet room was filled with the sound of Lucas’ heart breaking sobs. No one even heard the door open or the footsteps across the kitchen floor. All of a sudden, a loud thudding sound filled the room. Lucas stopped and looked up. It wasn’t the loud noise that gave him pause, it was something much more quiet. He was hearing things. Yes, he must be hearing things. But then he heard it again….the most precious sound he’d ever heard.

“Pa?”

Lucas whirled around and there, standing before him with a pile of firewood at his feet, was Mark. Lucas froze, afraid that if he moved this apparition would disappear.

“Pa…is it….is it really you?”

Mark’s voice was rife with emotion. The sound of his son’s words mobilized Lucas and in one swift motion he had crossed the room, grabbed Mark in his arms and buried his face in his shoulder. It was really him….not some figment of his imagination. Father and son clung to each other, both sobbing. Lucas pulled back to look at his son’s face. He gently placed his hands on his bruised cheeks and brushed away his sons tears with his thumb. “Mark…I thought…I thought I’d lost you forever.” His voice cracked and he just pulled Mark into his arms again. He didn’t think he’d ever let go.

“Pa…I’m so sorry.” His father’s arms felt so good. Mark felt safe for the first time in weeks.

“No, son. Don’t be sorry.” Lucas held him tighter. “Just be alright. That’s all I want…just be alright.”

Mark swayed a bit and Lucas realized he needed to sit down. He led him over to a couch. Mark winced as he sat down.

“What did they do to you son? Are you hurt?”

“I’ll be okay, Pa. They…they kept us around for a while but we helped a young girl escape and…

“Yes, I met Molly.” Mark’s eyes widened.

“You did? Is she alright?”

Lucas nodded. “She will be.” Mark looked relieved.

“Well, after the men saw us helping her onto one of their horses, they got very angry. They..” Mark stopped and looked at the floor.

“It’s okay, son. You don’t have to..” Lucas took Mark’s hand in his and squeezed it.

“No, I want to.” He took a deep breath. “They shot us both over a ravine. The bullet hit me in the shoulder. The last thing I remember is falling. The next thing I knew I woke up here in Mr. Clayton’s house. Grid took a bullet to chest and hit his head on a rock. He’s…well, he’s still out.” Mark glanced towards the bedroom where his friend was fighting for his life.

Lucas looked up at Ben. How could ever thank this man for what he’d done? “Mr. Clayton, I…” Words were failing him.

Ben’s eyes filled with tears. “You don’t have to to say anything. I’m just….” He turned before they could see his tears. “Excuse me.” He walked out on the porch. Micah walked over to Mark and gave him a hug.

“You know I’m mighty glad to see you, too, boy.”

Mark smiled. “Thanks, Micah. I’m glad you’re alright, too.”

Mark leaned his head back on the couch and closed his eyes. Lucas reached out to touch a nasty bump on Mark’s head. For several moments he just looked at his son who had drifted off to sleep. In the lamplight, he looked like the little boy he no longer was, in spite of all the bruises. Lucas was overcome with tenderness and he felt the tears coming again. He knew Mark needed rest, but also he knew he wasn’t leaving his side. He gently pulled his hand away, but Mark’s hand grabbed his tightly and wouldn’t let go. Lucas brushed the hair back from his son’s forehead.

“You need sleep, son.” He whispered. Mark’s eyes were still closed but he nodded. He still didn’t move. Lucas understood. He didn’t want to be far away from him either.

“Come on, son. I’ll put you to bed.” Lucas helped Mark up and led him to the empty cot in the bedroom. He gently helped him into his nightclothes and helped him lay down. As Lucas pulled the covers up over his son, a sob caught in his throat as he remembered how many times he had done this before and how thankful he was he was getting to do it now. Micah brought a chair in.

“I think you’ll need this.”

Lucas smiled. “Thanks Micah…for everything.”

Micah just smiled back. No words were needed. Lucas sat down in the chair where he would watch his son sleep all night. When Mark would wake up, Lucas would take his hand and he’d fall back to sleep. At one point when Lucas was sure Mark was deep in slumber he kissed his forehead and whispered “I love you so much, son.” Moments later he was sure he heard Mark say quietly “I love you, too, Pa.” After many nights without sleep, Lucas was exhausted, but he never closed his eyes that night. No, this was one sleepless night he would count as a blessing….the blessing of a father from his Father in Heaven. “Thank you, God, for my son.” It was a prayer he would repeat throughout the night.

Chapter XII

Lucas was packing a wagon to take Mark and Grid home….home to Northfork where hopefully Doc Burrage could help Grid. He’d made progress but was still not talking. Lucas was afraid his injury was permanent but he hid this fear from Mark. He’d been through enough. As he packed, he saw that Ben was standing several feet away looking down at a fresh mound of dirt. Lucas knew all too well that it would stay that way for a long time. He walked over and stood next to him.

“Losing my son is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, Luke. I’m sorry I confused you when I said I’d buried another boy. I guess I’m about the only one who would consider my 45 year old son a boy.”

“No need to apologize, Ben. I’m the one who’s sorry. So sorry that all this happened.”

“Davie had never been right…not since the war. He’d come back broken and in a lot of pain, but I loved him anyway. I guess I should’ve known he was going to do what he did someday, but that doesn’t make it any easier. I wish I could’ve given him something to live for. I wish I could’ve taken his pain for him.” Ben wiped his eyes on his sleeve.

“I know, Ben. I feel the same way.” But he knew he didn’t feel exactly the same way because he still had his son with him and Ben’s was gone…gone by his own hand.

“I think maybe Davie was the reason I found the boys. Did I tell you that?” Lucas shook his head.

“I was out riding the day after I buried him. We used to hunt together over in that ravine when he was a boy. I felt close to him there. That’s when I found them. I like to think that my son led me there…trying to help those boys the way he wasn’t. Or that’s what I tell myself anyway.”

“Ben, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised. I think God uses people for His purpose in mysterious ways sometimes.” He put his hand on Ben’s shoulder. He would be remembering Ben Clayton in his prayers for a long time.

Lucas and Mark had plenty of time to talk between Mesilla and Northfork. Both felt responsible for what had happened and both decided to just be thankful that God had brought them back together. Lucas made sure Mark understood that he was wrong to have come after him. Mark smiled.

“So then it was wrong for you to come after me.”

“No, I didn’t say that.”

“Course you didn’t” Mark kept smiling.

“I know what you’re thinking, but that’s different. I’m your father. I’m supposed to protect you.”

“That’s right, you’re my father and I’m my father’s son. I would do the same thing over again if I had to.”

Lucas looked sharply at Mark. “Haven’t you learned anything?”

“Sure I have.” Mark took out the letter from Denver College that Lucas had given him a few days ago.

“I’ve learned that I don’t have to leave the territory to get an education.” He tore the letter in half. “…and I’ve learned that I don’t want to.”

“Are you sure about that, son? Because if you want to…”

“Yes, Pa, I’m sure. I’m sure that nothing is more important to me than my family and my friends. I’m sure that whatever my future holds, it’s not more than a short horse ride away from our ranch…not some stuffy college.”

Lucas looked sideways at Mark. He could see that what he said came from deep inside him and that he had not made his decision out of obligation but out of the true desires of his heart.

“You know I want you to do whatever makes you happy.” Lucas had to be sure of Mark’s decision.

“Yes, Pa, I know that. Gee, I’m starting to think you want me to go away. Maybe I should reconsider.” Mark started putting the pieces of the letter back together. Lucas just laughed.

“I think you know better than that after what we’ve been through in the last few months.”

“Yeah…how did you you say it that time when the pony had anthrax? We make a good team.”

Lucas smiled. “That’s right. We do. Now what do you say we stop for the night? I sure have missed your cooking. I’m really looking forward to that stew you’re making tonight.”

“Really?” Mark was surprised.

“Yeah…I haven’t had a sleepless night in, oh…about a week. I’m due.”

“Very funny, Pa.”

“I thought so.” Lucas clapped Mark on the back and started to make camp.

It was to be an evening like so many others, full of laughter and coffee and talking late into the night, yet precious because it was like the others….because this had not been lost amidst the pain and grief that had followed them over the last few months. Because this had survived, like they had, it had come full circle…the way life had way of doing.



Be sure & read the prequel — A New Day written by Deanne Bertram

This is a story based on the TV series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!

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