The Writer's Corner
Written by Klara's
In the great hall the noise was
deafening. Men, women and children of all kind were moving
around, carrying suitcases, bags and other pieces of luggage.
Posh ladies in beautiful dresses were flouncing through the
enormous hall, accompanied by their elegant husbands and surly
children. The platforms were crowded with travelers of all ages.
In between dozens of sweat-covered servants and weary bellhops
were hurrying to the trains with their heavy loads. Dogs were
barking, horses were nickering. Whistling rains kept arriving,
others left for an unknown destination.
The modern railway station was huge and in between those masses
a boy in his best suit was standing, fascinated and
flabbergasted by the ear-splitting noises, the smells, the huge
In a heartbeat Mark decided to become one of those men, who kept
that entire magnificent system running: maybe a mechanic, maybe
a clerk, maybe even an engineer. What a life to see all those
wonders of the modern times every day! Mark suddenly knew that
one day he would help people to reach places as far away as New
York or Chicago. The very thought to be part of this progress of
mankind made Mark smile.
Then he noticed a derelict old shack behind the storehouses,
maybe 300 yards away. A black locomotive could be seen through
the open gate. Curiously Mark stepped closer. When he reached
the wooden shack he could see how big the uncanny building
really was. All the citizens of North Fork could hide in it. The
locomotive itself resembled a black dragon out of the fairy
tales, an iron monster, prepared to roll over anything in its
Mark was so impressed by the majestic machine that he was
unaware of the fact that he was all alone now. As crowded and
noisy the main halls were: behind the storehouses not a single
soul could be seen or heard. Not even a mechanic was …
“What have we got here? A little trespasser …”
“Looks that way …”
Mark whipped around. Three young men, almost still boys had
surrounded him. They were wearing torn shirts, filthy pants but
no shoes. Their faces were covered with layers of black dirt.
High cheekbones and narrow eyes revealed that those fellows were
One of the squalid boys approached Mark. He was the only one
wearing a cheap cap that covered his long black hair. The kid
was emaciated but muscular, tall and obviously full of
self-confidence. He seemed to be the leader of the gang. The
other two goons were just smiling, prepared to strike.
Sweeney was still cleaning the glasses when Micah entered the
saloon. The old Marshal tipped his hat politely.
“Howdy. How are you feeling this morning?”
Sweeney nodded slightly. His face was still mighty pale but at
least he was back where he belonged.
“Much better, thanks for asking, Micah. Everything is right as
Micah was smiling happily. The old man felt a great relief in
his soul seeing his friend again. He had grown even fonder of
the barkeeper when Doctor Burrage had been expecting the worst
only a couple of days.
“That´s just fine. You got us all worried for a while, I can
tell you. Doc Burrage was trying desperately to get you up on
your feet again. But he did a fine job as I can see.”
Sweeney filled a glass with whisky and emptied it in a second,
enjoying the taste in his dry throat.
“Why don't you say it? Burrage saved my life. Without him …”
The good-hearted peace officer interrupted his friend, still
“We´ve got you back and that's all that counts. I am mighty glad
about that, we all are. Milly took care of the saloon in the
meantime and Lucas …”
“Speaking of Lucas: he has a visitor today.”
Micah frowned. It took only a single word to make him the most
suspicious man west of Santa Fé.
“A visitor? What are you talking about?”
Sweeney shrugged as he poured himself another drink. His sore
throat was still longing for something that washed away the
bitter taste of the unsavory medicine, Burrage had tormented him
“This morning, a man came into the saloon. He had a beer and
then he asked about Lucas.”
“What was his name?”
“Brown, Richard Brown, a former Major of the Union Army. He said
he was an old friend of Lucas, served in the same unit during
the war. He asked where the ranch was and I described the way.
He was a mighty nice fellow, showing a rare couth as a matter of
fact, not at all like most of my other customers.”
Micah eyes became small. His instinct warned him. Something was
not quite right about that former officer.
“How did Mister Brown look like?”
Sweeney contemplated for a moment. Emptying the second glass
seemed to jock his memory.
“He came into town riding a grey horse. He was pretty short and
lean, about forty years old, maybe older, with a moustache and
black hair and very well dressed by the way, with really fine
manners. I have never seen him before but I wouldn't mind seeing
him more often from now on.”
Micah turned around and was about to leave the saloon. Sweeney
was stunned. Suddenly he had the inkling that he made some kind
of mistake. But Mister Brown was an old friend of Lucas. At
least that's what he had claimed and …
“Something wrong, Micah?”
The old man, already in the door, turned around.
“Lucas is not even home. He left two days ago with Mark. He had
a mighty bad feeling, leaving his place alone, not to mention a
sick friend, but he had to. It was about some serious family
business as far as I recall, something financial. First he
wanted to leave Mark at home but the boy insisted on coming with
him to the big city. The ranch is deserted right now. The way I
see it your Mister Brown will be pretty disappointed.”
“I am sorry, Micah. I did not know about their absence. I spent
the last two weeks in bed and …”
“Never mind. But I better take a look.”
Mark felt his hair standing up when the young man slowly pulled
a knife with a short blade out of his shirt. Mark stepped back,
trying to avoid an attack. When the gang closed in he smelled
the cheap whisky.
“I … I … didn't mean to disturb you. I just wanted …”
The young leader showed a disdainful smirk, revealing his rotten
teeth, spreading even more the revolting reek of whisky.
“We know very well what you wanted: being a generous white
fellow you came over to give us your fancy suit, your shoes and
all the money you've got. Ain´t that right?”
Three against one: Mark was well aware that you didn't stand a
chance against those drunk bandits. The startled boy still tried
to retreat, maybe scream for help or …
With his knife still in his hand, the leader with the cap on his
head beckoned to his grinning friends.
“Show him what we do to trespassers, boys!”
But before the rest of the ruthless gang could follow his order,
a distinctive sound could be heard: a Winchester being cocked, a
gun like no other in the world. The young gang members turned
around and froze. It was not the just the rifle the towering man
wielded that stunned them. It was the menacing glance in his
eyes. It was obvious that a man with such cold eyes would do
anything to protect his child.
“Over here, Mark!”
And Mark hurried over until he could feel his father's strong
arm around his shoulders.
Sweeney still had a mighty bad feeling. He knew how keen Micah's
instinct was about strangers. But Mister Brown had seemed such a
nice fellow. After drinking another shot of whisky the barkeeper
remembered another feature of that gentleman: he had been
slightly limping. Without any doubt an old wound received on the
field of honor, where he and Lucas had been fighting side by
side, for their just cause, facing death hundreds of time. No
That very moment Milly entered the saloon. The young woman
smiled at the barkeeper.
“Howdy, Sweeney. You are alright again, as far as I can see. Not
nearly as ailing as you were last week.”
Sweeney nodded gratefully.
“Thanks for taking care of my place, Milly. I really appreciate
that, I really do.”
Milly kept smiling. Somehow she seemed more beautiful than ever
“Don´t mention it. It was a pleasure helping you out. But you
got me scared for a couple of days, I can tell you. Don't ever
do that again.”
Sweeney sensed that he had enough whisky. Suddenly he felt
nauseated. He was not used to drinking anymore, especially his
own stuff. But he let not on his bad feeling. Really touched by
her solicitousness he didn't want to worry Milly again. Knowing
how vain women could be Sweeney changed the topic.
“By the way I really like your dress Milly. It sure is
beautiful. Green is my favorite color, you know.”
The young woman with the shinning hair kept smiling at the
barkeeper. That smile was like no other in the world …
“My uncle bought it for me in a fancy store when I came to see
him in Denver last month.”
“It sure is pretty. I wish I had such a generous uncle.“
“To buy you a new dress, too?”
And then both must laugh.
Sheriff Curd Cutter was sneering. Being responsible for law and
order in that county the railway station was also under his
jurisdiction. Cutter was well aware of his power and apparently
enjoying himself. His whole stance revealed how proud he was of
his position as he was sitting behind his desk in his fancy
“McCain was the name?”
Lucas nodded. He and Mark were sitting in front of the small
desk, which was decorated with the small photograph of a young
woman with three children. Mark's eyes were wandering around:
the office was small and stuffy with a gloomy atmosphere. A
cheap painting over Cutter's head showed Jesus on the cross
mourned by his followers. Although still pale, Mark was curious
about that place. Lucas, still holding his rifle, on the other
hand had only eyes for the smiling man behind the desk.
“That is right, from North Fork in New Mexico, Mister Cutter.”
The lawman was a bald man in his thirties, wearing a blue tunic
with a shiny badge on it.
“Long way from home, ain´t you? What brought you and your boy
here, Mister McCain?”
Lucas remained motionless. His sinewy fingers were near the
trigger of the Winchester. It was obviously that he wanted to
leave as soon as possible.
“A couple of days ago we received a letter from a lawyer called
Howard. A relative of my late wife had died and we have
allegedly some money coming from the heritage. That's why we
came here by stagecoach and we intend to continue our trip by
train. I already bought the tickets.”
The sheriff nodded. Although Lucas was grateful for Cutter's
help, he didn't like the boastful man behind the desk. His way
of talking showed that he from the east, a representative of the
modern times just as an engineer driving one of the steaming
monsters out there. Cutter pressed his fingertips together.
“And you did me a great favor, Mister McCain. That's always the
problem with such a great railway station: it attracts scum from
far away. But you gave me the opportunity to set an example at
last. Those three bandits will face their judge very soon. They
will never bother you again, son.”
Mark smiled politely but he was still kinda timid and shy. The
sheer brutality of the three young men had shocked him. Lucas
was still very serious, too. Father and son were wearing their
best suits to meet that lawyer in the big city. Lucas had
considering leaving his rifle at home but now he was glad to
feel the cold steel of the gun in his palm. He gazed into the
Cutter's green eyes.
“What exactly is gonna happen now, Mister Cutter?”
Suddenly the conceited lawman turned serious. His charming smile
vanished and his voice became somber and deep, almost like that
of a preacher. He lowered his hands.
“As you can figure, Mister McCain, I will press charges against
them with all due vigor. It's not the first time those three
brothers cause trouble. Their mother lives in a poor
neighborhood a couple of miles away and I have already sent two
of my best men to summon her. She will be here any minutes now.
Frankly, it's a hell-hole here for any decent Christian.
Damnable pagans all around, I can tell you.”
Lucas was about to say something when the door was opened.
Accompanied by two strapping deputies an elderly woman entered.
Her emaciated body was covered in filthy rags. A threadbare
shawl covered her weak shoulders and her head. Her weathered
face showed that she was not white but a member of some tribe of
Indians. Without paying any attention to Lucas and Mark she
approached the desk and without hesitation she looked into the
green eyes of the lawman behind it.
“Where are my sons, chief?”
Again Cutter showed his boastful smile, displaying his contempt
for the whole family.
“First of all; I am no chief but a lawman, appointed by the
lawful authorities to represent that very law, you insolent
pagan. Secondly, they are in one of my cells, where they belong.
The court will assemble in an hour and justice will be served
very swiftly, one way or another.”
The woman seemed not even surprised by the vituperation, rather
desperate. Her voice trembled and she was obviously fighting
back her tears.
“Why? Why this time?!”
The bald lawman lifted his right hand, pointing over to the
Rifleman and his son, displaying utter aplomb.
“You might want to ask Mister McCain here. You can be glad that
your sons are still alive. A man like him can be mighty
trigger-happy, especially when filthy pagans try to jump his
Now the woman turned around. Her eyes were dark and gloomy,
showing her desperation and shame. She looked at Mark's pale
face and remained silent for a second. Then she faced Lucas and
his cold glance left no doubt that the lawman had spoken the
truth. She covered her mouth with a part of her dirty shawl. But
her voice was strangely clear when she uttered one sentence.
“I am sorry.”
Without another word she hurried out of the office. Lucas
frowned. He seemed to think for a moment before he got up.
“I would like to have a word with that woman, if you don't mind,
“Not at all, Mister McCain.”
“Much obliged. Stay here, Mark. I will be right back.”
With his rifle in hand, the rancher followed the distraught
mother. Before he left the office Cutter's taunting voice
stopped him in his tracks.
“One more thing, Mister McCain: there is something you ought to
know. Some folks around here might say I am somewhat arbitrary
at times. That might be true but I am also incorruptible and
strict, so help me God, especially when it comes to deal with
those damnable pagans. I intend to live up to my reputation. As
long as I'm in charge, I'm beholden to my superiors and to the
law-abiding citizens of this county but first and foremost I'm
beholden to our Lord! Just remember that.”
Two days ago it had heavily rained for about three hours. The
soil was still muddy so the tracks were easy to follow. Micah
spurred his horse, keeping an eye on the wet ground. After a
couple of minutes he could see the ranch in the sunshine.
Everything was peaceful and quiet. But when he shadowed his eyes
with his right hand, Micah noticed a movement next to the barn.
“Seems to me Mister Brown has already arrived.”
Micah turned his horse around and entered the little grove that
lead almost right to the ranch. Using the trees as cover he
approached the place. A small bird flew up and disappeared
between the bushes. Then the prudent lawman found the mare: a
beautiful grey horse tied to a mighty timber. Mister Brown was
apparently a careful man, hiding his precious animal from
curious glances that way. Micah dismounted and pulled his
double-barreled shotgun out of the scabbard. He sure was glad to
feel the weight of the deathly gun between his palms. He made
his way through the tense underbrush, avoiding any noise that
could give him away. Then Micah stopped, waited, listened,
looked around before he continued walking towards the house.
When the aging peace officer left his cover and stepped out into
the open, his thumb cocked the powerful weapon.
In front of the door of Cutter's office the air was stuffy and
hot. Only one of the deputies, armed with a Sharp rifle and a
pair of side arms was enjoying a hot cup of coffee at the end of
the long hallway. Besides that it was strangely quiet. Just a
silent sobbing could be heard.
Lucas stepped carefully closer to the distraught woman. The
rancher felt sorry for her. She looked much older than she
actually was: destitution and hunger aged her before the time.
What was left of her former beauty was covered by layers of
grime. Her sharp nose looked too big for her haggard face and
her hands were covered with scars and wrinkles. But her dark
eyes were full of life, of determination, even showing …
Lucas looked down on her. The crying woman seemed even smaller
standing next to the towering man. His voice was supposed to
calm her down, perhaps even comfort her.
Suddenly the woman turned her head and looked up to Lucas´ face.
The dark skin over her sharp cheekbones was slightly trembling.
And her eyes, those dark eyes …
“I hate you!”
Lucas stepped back, feeling suddenly very uncomfortable, looking
into those eyes … just like those of a wounded cougar, so feral
“I beg your pardon?”
“It´s all your fault, my sons turned out that way. I am Wild
Goose, niece of Chief Black Kettle. I was there. Twenty years
ago I was there, seeing it all. And you still keep on killing
“Where were you?”
“It was winter! It was so cold! We were asleep at night in our
camp at the Washita, a peaceful village at the river until the
soldiers came. They killed! They came in and killed, made our
blood run into the snow! I saw Black Kettle´s body under the
hooves of their horses. I saw it! And now we are here, still at
the mercy of the white man. You poisoned my sons, my whole
tribe, our whole world with your bad magic. The evil magic of
the white men kills us with all those guns and booze and black
chariots, blowing out hot clouds.”
“Please, my son and I are surely not responsible for any …”
“It started with the red snow at the Washita. It ends in the
cell of the white chief in there! Where should we go from here?
We live in the reservation. Hunger and booze poison us there.
My man was Grey Fox, a good hunter. He is already with his
ancestors. Soon we will be all gone, because you still keep
killing us, white man!”
Wild Goose turned around and hurried down the hallway, passing
the strapping deputy, still drinking his coffee. Lucas did not
try to hold her back. It was no use. After an endless minute
Lucas lowered his head and nodded silently, knowing how right
the desperate mother was.
The beautiful woman was singing a little tune, she knew from her
childhood. Milly was still wearing her green dress, Sweeney
liked so much. When she walked over to Hamilton's bank to
withdraw some money she passed the Marshal's office. It was
empty. That was strange: soon the stagecoach would arrive and
Micah had the habit to keep an eye on the strangers coming to
town, even more so, now that Lucas was not here to back him up.
Trouble was never far away and …
And then she remembered that she hadn't seen the old man all
morning. Milly took a closer look. Micah's horse was gone, too.
Where was the old man?
Lucas felt pretty drowsy. The seemingly never-ending movements
of the train made him wish to be back home again, in his own
bed. Turning hungry, he would have given his eyeteeth for a
delish piece of apple pie, made by the gifted hands of Milly. He
thought of Sweeney: the remembered how terribly cadaverous the
sleeping barkeeper had looked before they had left North Fork.
Silently Lucas had prayed for his sick friend. And he hoped that
the ranch would be safe in the meantime. Micah had promised to
keep an eye on their property during their absence by dropping
by once in a while but the old man had other jobs to do. Lucas
already regretted the strenuous endeavor. He felt guilty and
irresponsible for leaving all behind for so long.
On the other hand: the mysterious letter in his breast pocket
read something about an heritage, without naming a specific sum,
bequeathed by a certain Mister John Lancaster, a distant cousin
of his late wife, a man, Lucas knew almost nothing about.
Whatever the amount was: Lucas could not afford to dispense with
any money. Being a rancher was tough and sometimes he was
seriously worried about Mark's future. They needed as much money
they could get their hand on. At least the letter stated that
any expenses for the journey would be replaced by that lawyer in
the big city. Lucas was not able to make heads or tails of that
inscrutable heritage, not yet anyway.
Lucas grew even more worried, when he thought about the roof of
his house. A rainstorm had damaged it severely. Getting the
battered house fixed would take at least 30 dollars or more.
Sometimes he thought about giving it all up, forgetting the
back-breaking work just for barely scratching a living, leaving
North Fork once and for all and move somewhere else. Mark could
get a better upbringing in a big city, would get better prepared
for life, earning more money, perhaps fulfilling his newest
dream of becoming the respected boss of a railway company one
Mark was still looking out of the dirty window, fascinated by
the fetching landscape flying by. Lucas smiled. The boy was all
that counted. Without him his life was meaningless. Yes, he
would have killed those Indians in a heartbeat, despite their
youth. He was prepared to take on anybody who tried to harm
Mark. How easy it was to get into trouble. While Lucas had been
busy buying the tickets the boy had wandered off, admiring the
miracles of the railway station and when Lucas had turned around
Mark had been gone, vanished somewhere in the crowd. Lucas
thanked The Good Lord that he had arrived just in time to save
the boy. How did Cutter put it? Damnable pagans?
And then he heard again the trembling voice of Wild Goose, saw
her black eyes full of hate for anything the white man stood for
As Cutter had announced the trial had been held the same day,
only three hours after the incident at the shack. It had indeed
been swift justice and Cutter had used the opportunity to live
up to his strict reputation. Lucas remembered the indifferent
face of the judge when he passed the sentence over the three
brothers after a trial that had lasted just ten minutes: one
year in prison for armed robbery. Lucas and Mark had left
immediately after the verdict to catch their train. One year can
be a long time. And after that?
After hours of traveling, Mark slowly got tired gazing out of
the window. The train seemed getting slower, annoyingly slow as
a banker agreeing to a cash loan. The rolling hills, the
forests, the endless mountains started to bore the boy. He
looked at his father. Lucas had closed his eyes and seemed to
snooze, the rifle right by his side. Mark remembered the moment
at the shack when he heard that one distinctive sound.
Then a grass-covered ridge appeared on the horizon, leading
parallel to the tracks. Hundreds of dark rocks covered the green
rise. But then Mark noticed that some of those rocks were slowly
moving over the scarp. It took Mark some seconds to recognize
the giant animals in the distance. He starred out of the window,
fascinated by the sheer size of the herd on the grassy knoll.
“Enjoy the view. Those might be the last buffalos you will ever
Lucas was awake and had noticed Mark's interest. The mighty
animals wandered browsing over the green ridge, while their
calves were chasing with each other playfully in the bright
“The last …”
Lucas nodded wistfully, looking at the herd. His voices revealed
how much his memory hurt him.
“Yes, Mark. I remember the time, when you could not even see the
grass, because there were millions of buffalos on the plains.
From time immemorial they have lived here. Not even the Indians
could count them. Now they are all vanished, slaughtered by the
white man for their hides and tongues. Soon they will be gone
Again Lucas remembered the frail woman's hateful words: you keep
Mark kept starring out of the window long after the buffalos had
vanished out of his sight.
Milly sat down on her bed. She could not grasp it. Now she was
alone at last and very grateful for it. Her eyes were burning,
her hands trembling in spasmodic movements. A throbbing headache
in her temples almost dazed her. She swore never to wear that
green dress again but she had no strength to change, not now.
Her soul had hit rock bottom.
When other people were around, she always tried to remain strong
and steadfast, a true lady. But in her small room she had no
reason to hold back her tears anymore. Suddenly she felt the
urge to speak out that one name, so dear to her.
“Lucas, please come home …”
The beauty of the huge office made Mark utterly speechless. All
pieces of furniture of the law firm were made out of dark wood,
the walls decorated with beautiful paintings depicting noble
gentlemen Mark had never heard of. Only President Lincoln
smiling down on them was familiar to the boy. A red carpet with
an exotic pattern covered the floor and the high windows
provided a magnificent view over the entire neighborhood. Even
Lucas seemed impressed by the distinguished atmosphere of the
lavish room. Father and son were greeted by a portly man with a
white beard, wearing a fancy suit and a precious pocket watch.
“Mister McCain, I am pleased to meet you and your son. I am
lawyer Paul Howard. Please take a seat.”
After shaking hands Lucas and Mark sat down in front of the
heavy desk made out of oak wood. Mark was full of awe for the
city: the long streets, the giant houses, the countless stores,
the hundreds of people showed that that was truly a different
world. After getting off the train, the two travelers had faced
some difficulties finding the address of Mister Howard's office.
But all inconveniences were forgotten now.
Mister Howard was a friendly old man and the boy was instantly
fond of his warm smile. Lucas on the other hand was terribly
tired after the long trip but tried his best not to let on any
insecurity. He reluctantly had left his rifle outside with one
of the busy paralegals.
Mister Howard himself was the personification of a noble
gentleman: calm, polite, with a deep voice. His serene dignity
set him apart from any other man, Mark had ever met before.
“You are fine young man, Mark. I have a granddaughter just about
your age. Her name is Lillian. She is my little sunshine. You
would like her.”
Mark smiled but could not say a word. He still was far too
impressed by the dignity of the vicinity. His father however was
still pretty suspicious when he started the conversation.
“Thank you for your letter, Mister Howard. I must say: it was
quite surprised when it arrived. To be perfectly honest: I
don't know too much about the relatives of my late wife, let
alone that they would leave us some money, as you wrote. Your
writing was too succinct, for my taste, I must say.”
Howard smiled again, showing his white teeth.
“I can assure you: everything is correct. The late Mister
Lancaster was a close friend of mine and I deeply regret his
death. He owned a factory right here in town. In his last will
he bequeathed most of his fortune to his four children and their
grandchildren. I took care of all the formalities. That was the
least I could do for a friend. But before we come to your share,
I am lawyerly ordered to replace any expenses caused by your
long journey: to get here and to return home to North Fork.”
He took a large envelope out of one drawer and handed it over to
Lucas. The rancher took a look in it and nodded. Suddenly his
mouth turned dry.
“It´s even too much, I must say. We chose the cheapest tickets
to come here, Mister Howard. I can show you …”
But before Lucas could produce the tickets the honorable proctor
shook his head.
“I appreciate your candor but as long as all your expenses are
covered, it is alright, Mister McCain.”
His humble decorum stunned father and son. Lucas hesitated for a
moment but then he put the envelope into his pocket. He was to
weary to negotiate things he didn't understand anyway. Howard
opened another envelope and unfolded a document.
“I hereby will now read the testament of Mister John Lancaster.”
While carefully listening Mark didn't grasp any of the legal
terms Howard was reading out loud but that fascinated him even
At the end Howard named the sum, Lucas should receive. The
rancher was flabbergasted.
“We are speaking about 300 dollars? Are you sure, sir?”
Howard's smoky voice left no room for any doubt as he lowered
“I certainly am. That is the amount, Mister Lancaster left to
the husband of his late cousin. My personal impression is that
he was sorry that had never any contact to your part of the
family. But now it is all documented and certified, I can
assure you as attorney at law. There are also no other
obligations or conditions of any kind for you, Mister McCain.
The money is yours, if you accept it. All cut and dried as my
granddaughter would put it. Quite a windfall, isn't it?”
Lucas exchanged a swift glance with his son, who was of course
grinning like a kid on Christmas Eve. Lucas was still careful,
no matter how obliging that lawyer was. The considerable amount
made him even more suspicious and churlish. He felt the urge to
drive his point home.
“A windfall? I hope you don't mind, Mister Howard … but how
could Mister Lancaster chalk up such wealth? What exactly was
his business? Tell me otherwise I will not touch a single cent
of that money.”
When the stagecoach arrived in North Fork, Micah, Sweeney, Doc
Burrage and Milly were waiting in front of the Marshal's office.
The door of the stagecoach swung open and the two weary
travelers were delighted to feel the soft ground under their
feet. Lucas and Mark were exhausted from the long journey back
home and so it was a real pleasure to see familiar faces again.
Lucas was glad to stretch his long legs again after all those
hours in that uncomfortable seat. There was no place like home.
“Howdy, folks! Sweeney, glad to see you! You are alright again.
Micah, how …”
Lucas noticed the serious glance in his best friend's eyes. The
old Marshal only half-smiled, when he shook the rancher's hand
to welcome him back home.
“Good to see you, Lucas boy. We have to talk, if you are not too
“What the matter, Micah?”
“Does the name Cliff Morgan mean anything to you?”
The mere fact that Lucas lifted his rifle offhandedly was answer
enough to the old lawman.
“When I arrived at your place, I was just in time to stop him.
Morgan was about to set your ranch ablaze. He had already the
match and the straw ready. When I ordered him to put his hands
up he drew his gun but I was faster. I reckon he underestimated
me. I fired both barrels.”
All were gathered in Micah's office, listening to the aging
lawman. Mark was pale like a slice of cheese, when Micah told
the story. Lucas himself was apparently horrified but remained
calm, as he cast back his mind.
“Before the war Cliff Morgan used to be a slave trader in Texas,
if memory serves me correctly. After that he started a second
career as the worst bootlegger the world has ever seen. The
bullet I put in him when he tried to get away after killing two
federal agents ended that career too. Morgan was still limping
Micah nodded calmly.
“He sure was, Lucas boy. He had first come to the saloon, using
a false name, claiming to be an old friend of yours. Sweeney had
no idea that you were not at home. So he described the way to
Lucas looked at Sweeney. The barkeeper was full of grief and
“I am sorry, Lucas. It was all my fault. If it weren't for
Micah, you would be homeless now. I simply cannot understand
what hate can do to a man. Please forgive me.”
“It´s alright, Sweeney. You could not know that he was my mortal
enemy. Morgan was supposed to hang but then his judge pardoned
him to jail, as far as I know.”
Micah showed Lucas a couple of documents.
“The way I see it his judge had been as gullible as our good
Sweeney here, falling for Morgan's refined manners. That
debonair gentleman obviously was able to charm the birds out of
the trees and he was smart as a whip to boot. That did not save
him from spending ten years in prison though. I found these
telling papers in his saddle bag revealing his true identity.
There was enough of his face left to identify him by comparing
him with an old wanting poster to be absolutely sure. Well, I am
glad that I could end Morgan's third career as an arsonist. We
already buried him.”
Lucas took a look at the papers before he asked a last question.
“But how did he know about my whereabouts?”
Now Milly spoke for the first time. Her voice was also full of
sadness. She now was wearing a dark dress, which seemed fitting
to her mood.
“That is my fault, I am afraid. I didn’t ´t mean to …”
Mark was stunned. Suddenly he felt so sorry for the beautiful
woman so he got up and put his hand on her shoulder to comfort
her. Milly tried her best to fight back her tears.
“When I spent three days in Denver to pay my uncle a visit he
accompanied me to shop to buy me a new dress. That shop was run
by Cliff Morgan, my uncle's best friend. Cliff was such a nice
man, so humble and charming. When I bought the green dress he
asked me where I came from. I told Cliff about North Fork and
about my friends and then … I mentioned your name, Lucas. He
kept asking … and I kept talking … telling him about your rifle
and that you used to be a soldier during the war … and … the
next thing I know is seeing Cliff's body over that grey horse
when Micah came back from your ranch … and now … now …”
“Now you gotta need some rest again, Milly. All things
considered, we all were lucky. Nobody got hurt and that's what
really counts, as far as I am concerned.”
Burrage was as serene as ever as he butted in. The seasoned
doctor was however obviously still a little worried about the
state the young woman was in. Milly on the other hand felt
suddenly a great deal of anger about the old man's calm remark.
“You are right, doc. There was sure nothing you could do for my
uncle's best friend anymore when Micah brought him in. Should I
send the letter to Denver or will you?”
Lucas remained silent for a moment. Being exhausted from the
toilsome journey he could not wait to get back to his beloved
ranch. And he was still desperately hankering for one or two
luscious pieces of apple pie.
“It´s alright, Milly, it was not your fault although I must
recommend you not to cotton up with someone too fast. Calm down
now. I think our good doctor is right as always: we all can use
some rest now. Mark, be so kind and bring Milly home.”
The boy offered Milly his arm and slowly left the office with
her. Sweeney, still very silent, also returned to the saloon,
avoiding to look into anyone's eyes.
For a moment, Micah and Lucas were alone. The heavy-lidded
rancher got up and took his rifle. When he shook his old
friend's hand, no words were necessary between the two men.
“It sure looks pretty solid. Now it will take much more than a
rainstorm to cause any damage to it, Pa.”
The boy was right and Lucas looked contently up the new roof.
Mark shook his head in disbelief.
“I never would have thought that one could become rich just by
“Mister Lancaster did not become rich just by that but his
wealth was based on the money he earned as buffalo hunter, Mark.
You heard what Mister Howard said: Lancaster had slaughtered far
more of those animals than William Cody back in his days. He
used the money he earned by selling the hides and tongues to
found his fortune and now we have a new roof.”
Mark grew contemplative. He remembered the distraught woman in
Cutter´s office all too well.
“Do you think that the Indians in the reservation will use their
share of the money as wisely?”
Lucas shrugged. Each time he thought of Wild Goose and her sons
he also remembered Sweeney's words about hate. But then he also
felt hope for the future.
“Well, son, Mister Howard promised to see to it and he is an
honest man with a lot of connections. But I figure 150 dollars
should be enough to hire at least a good teacher for the kids in
the reservation. Maybe he can even get the three boys out of
jail before the year is passed but I don´t know about that.”
Mark remembered the swift trial and Cutter's grinning face when
the three boys were lead away in chains. Sometimes true justice
was hard to understand, one way or the other, thinking of the
sanctimonious lawman's holier-than-thou grin. There were many
more things Mark was still too young to catch on to.
“I am sure glad that Millie's uncle answered her letter that
fast. Funny, don't you think, Pa?”
“What do you mean, son?”
“Well, he wrote that he never would have thought that a
courteous gentleman like Mister Morgan could be capable of doing
any wrong. I reckon that he was pretty shocked about his best
friend's true face. But that letter seemed to help Milly to live
it down. Anyway she was wearing the beautiful green dress again
the last time I saw her.”
But then Mark turned a bit impish. He looked up to the rancher's
face, giving him an arch look.
“She really looks awfully nice in it, wouldn't you say, Pa?”
The towering man put his big hand on his musing son's shoulder
and tried to find the right words.
“Most people have more than one face, Mark. Just think about our
good Mister Lancaster and what his fortune was based on.
Sometimes it's hard to say what the true face of a man really
is. And I agree with you about the dress, son: I must say it is
Mark nodded before he went back into the house.
“We better get dinner ready, Pa, especially the apple pie.
Micah, Milly, Doc Burrage and Sweeney are gonna be here in two
hours. This time food is on the roof … I mean on the house.”
Lucas smiled gleefully before he followed his son to prepare the
These stories are based on the TV series
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around The McCain Ranch