The Writer's Corner
Written by Klara's Boy
“I gotta say, you did good today, Virgil, real good! I'm sure
proud of you, boy! Real proud!”
The old man took another piece of wood and threw into the fire,
contently smiling. A burst of sparks was flying into the dark. A
cool breeze blew the smoke out of the cave into the nightly
“Thanks, sir! No wonder! I sure had a mighty fine teacher, you
There was a moment of awkward silence between the two men. Only
a hungry coyote on the prowl was howling at the brook somewhere
up in the rocky hills. A lonesome owl answered. The old man
frowned and after a second he grasped the boy's collar and shook
him hard, almost violently.
“That´s utter nonsense and you know it, kid!”
He looked straight into Virgil's dark eyes. Sometimes the old
man was kinda hair-trigger.
“You learned from the best, boy. Always remember that. You
learned from the best … from me!”
The prickly man released the collar and then both of them shared
a hearty ripple of laughter. There was clearly a strange
understanding between them despite their obvious differences.
The voice of the old man with the bearded face sounded deep and
somber and fitted well with his gloomy appearance. Virgil on the
other hand was not older than 16 years, tow-headed and
Still grinning gleefully, Virgil listened to the sounds of the
night, enjoying the refreshing wind after the relentless heat of
the day. Then he rubbed his left wrist, which still showed ugly
“Generally I don't like chains but sometimes they come in handy.
Didn't expect it would be so easy to throttle the guard with it
to get the key and the guns. You figure they found the bodies
yet, Captain Sobel?”
“No way! Nobody will search the ravine. There are too many
bushes down there. It will take quite a while, till the law will
be notified. They figure us still on our way to Yuma! Those
He starred into the fire, his shoulders hunched. Suddenly the
cold seemed to penetrate his torn shirt.
“But I don´t intend to go there again, Virgil! Still can't lie
on my back at night. Never knew a whip can hurt that bad. 3
years … but never again! Not even during the war I felt as
miserable as in Yuma!”
The life of three incautious guards was a price he was more than
willing to pay in order to stay free. Sobel took another billet
of wood to keep the fire going. Then he bowed forward.
“Well, I guess you deserved the prerogative to decide where we
are going now, Virgil!”
The boy was amazed but he was anything but a chucklehead. Maybe
he had been thinking about several options already. Looking at a
cheering crowd through a noose had little appeal to him.
“Begging the Captain's pardon … but I have a suggestion. When I
was five years old, my old man traveled with us through a
backwater town called North Fork, about 20 miles from here. Nice
place. No law around there as far as I know. It should be easy
for us to jump a farmer and provide us with fresh horses, food,
money and maybe some more guns. What do you think, Captain Sobel,
The old man silently contemplated the idea. After a minute he
looked up to the star-carpeted sky.
“20 miles away, you say? Why not? Maybe we should head for that
town right now while the way is still lit up by the full moon.
Then we should reach it at dawn, I guess. Will you find the way
Virgil nodded eagerly. He felt a great deal of pride about the
trust, Sobel placed in him.
“I sure will, Captain Sobel, sir! No problem! Our horses had
their rest. They will do, yessir!”
“That´s my boy. I´m proud of you, son. You will go places. I
sure wish you would have been with me at Fredericksburg when we
were marching up that hill. We would have licked those Rebs for
The former officer reached behind, pulled a dead guard's Colt
out of its holster and checked once more the bullets in each
chamber, while the lonesome coyote was howling again in the
“But first and foremost don't you forget the rule I told you
about, boy. You remember the rule?”
Virgil grabbed his own guns and aimed them simultaneously at a
briar about thirty yards away.
“I sure do, Captain Sobel, sir! The most important rule is
always: No witnesses!”
Sobel pushed his weapon back into the holster and closed his
eyes. He grinned complacently. Obviously he was the best
teacher. The smart boy was almost like a son to him. Sobel
“No witnesses …”
Micah felt his age. I was hard for him to get up in the morning,
especially when he had dreamed about his wife passed away a very
long time ago. He felt the overwhelming urge to get a shot of
whisky. Then she shook his head. The sun was up already
promising a hot day. He got dressed and as he left the office,
he spotted immediately a horse he had never seen before in front
of the saloon. It was always advisable to keep informed about
strangers who rode into town that early, so he went back into
his desk and took his trusty shotgun. He sighed. Better safe
The saloon was empty except for an unknown fellow who was
leaning at the bar looking outside the window. Micah frowned as
he entered. For a moment he studied the man´s face. It seemed
vaguely familiar but Micah was anything but sure. He needed to
learn more about that stranger.
“New in town?”
“Just rode in a couple of minutes. Looking for somebody but he
ain't here … not yet anyway.”
The stranger was a lean man in his late twenties. He was
clean-shaven and well-dressed: under a brown hat well groomed
auburn hair could be seen. The man wore a black jacket, white
shirt and trousers a working man would have never chosen. On the
left side of his belly a beautiful Colt 45 with a shiny ivory
grip was holstered. Standing motionless at the bar and never
taking his eyes off the people on the street outside, he
reminded Micah of a spider in her nest lurking for the next fly.
“Who are you looking for? Maybe I know the name, Mister. We can
“None of your business, Marshal.”
“It´s my town. That makes it my business. Who are you?”
“You´re right, Marshal. It's your town. But it's still not your
concern. I will do what I came for. After that you'll never see
me again. I give you my word, Mister Torrance.”
For a moment Micah was baffled. He arched an eyebrow and stepped
“How do you know my name? We have met before, Mister?”
“In September 1878 in El Paso. You tried to stop me when the
Sanchez brothers called me out on the street. I'm kinda
disappointed, Marshal. I would have thought you would never
forget a face.”
“Buchanan? Tom Buchanan? It can't be! Is it really you?”
“That´s correct. We meet again. May I invite you for a drink?
It’s been a long time!”
Micah needed a few seconds to regain his self-confidence.
Suddenly he felt very hot … and lonely.
“I remember now. The six Sanchez brothers were a mean bunch …
but … what are you doing here?”
“Well, Marshal. I guess I might as well tell you, since I have
nothing against you. I understand that you are a decent man and
a proper peace officer. Sorry about your arm by the way. But I
digress. After El Paso I went up north to Tennessee since I had
received message from my beloved father that he was suffering
from consumption. I came just in time to promise him to care for
my little brother.”
“Seems like quite a story. But why don't we sit down, Tom?”
“I stay right where I am, Marshal. Don't try to order me around!
No offence …”
Buchanan took a sip form his whisky while still starring out of
“Well, my brother was never any good. No matter how hard I beat
him each time he went out of line, he made nothing but trouble.
Unfortunately I also taught him how to use a gun. I paid dearly
for that mistake. About five months ago he got himself killed in
a shootout. That's why I am here today.”
He took a deep breath before he continued. The haunting memory
seemed to torture him severely.
“It´s true. Tim was wild, often reckless. Maybe it was my fault.
I had been far too meek on him I gotta admit. He let no
opportunity pass to get into a scrape with the law. Dad however
had insisted that I should replace him … and mother who had
succumbed to cancer during the war. And I always keep my
promises. Our family had always been close. Very close indeed.”
Micah felt a strange feeling rising inside of him. Was it
“But nobody had the right to shoot Timmy. Last week I heard that
I might find his murderer around these parts. Now I am waiting
for the man. He will walk right into my lap. I'll be ready for
Micah's fingers moved closer to the trigger of his double
“If you intend to gun down a man in cold blood, I have to take
you in. As I said, Tom: this is my town.”
“And as I said before I have nothing against you otherwise you
would be already dead by now.”
“You are lucky that there are no charges against you, Buchanan.
I would not hesitate to …”
The stranger’s voice was disquieting calm when he interrupted
“I consider myself a fair man, Torrance. Therefore it will be a
fair fight. You can count on that. It's more than the killer
gave Timmy. I have killed eleven men so far. It will be a dozen
pretty soon. But neither you nor your lovely shotgun will stop
me. Nobody will. Do you understand? Nobody.”
“I will if I have to. I am responsible for law and order in
these parts, no matter what!”
Looking down on Micah Buchanan allowed himself a ghost of smile,
a dismissive smirk.
“Remember the Sanchez brothers? My Colt was empty before the
first of them fell to the ground.”
Lucas was standing on the highest rung of the ladder replacing
some shingles of the barn that were damaged during the last
thunderstorm. In a few hours Mark would return from school. So
Lucas had time enough to prepare lunch. The morning air was
crisp and …
“Better come down, Mister.”
Lucas turned around and froze. Two men, guns in hand, were
standing in front of the ladder. The older one had already taken
Lucas rifle, which had been leaning against the wall of the
barn. Lucas was totally taken by surprise.
“Who are you?”
“Come on down! Now!”
Lucas had to obey. Deep inside his mind he started praying. The
two men sure looked dangerous.
The older fellow with the grey beard smiled charmingly as he
answered Lucas´s question.
“Well, allow me to introduce myself: I am Captain William Sobel
of the 69th Pennsylvania and that's my aide Virgil. The Almighty
took my own son away from me a long time ago but he sent Virgil
to me instead. He is a mighty fine boy. Ain't that right,
The young outlaw grinned, still holding his both guns he took
from the dead guards.
“I try to be, sir!”
Lucas was livid.
“What are you doing here, Mister? How dare you …”
Lucas attempted to step forward but the former officer fired a
quick shot into the ground right in front of Lucas´ feet. Lucas
tried to calm himself. Playing for time, he looked straight into
Sobel´s cold eyes.
“What do you want from me, Captain?”
“We are looking for money, food and fresh horses. We had a hard
ride last night. And of course I have to thank you for that
fancy rifle of yours. Never seen anything like it! But now you
have to excuse me. I will search the house for any valuable
things. Virgil will take care of you in the meantime. Nothing
personal, you understand. We are just trying to stay away from
the rope. Virgil!”
Lucas knew that he didn't stand a chance against two armed
killers who had nothing to lose. While Sobel was walking into
the house Virgil cocked one of his revolvers.
“I hope you find something to bite, sir! I am so hungry I could
eat a steer all alone, sir!”
Sobel didn´t even turn around when he was stepping calmly over
“Just remember the rule, Virgil! Always mind the rule …”
“I sure do, sir!”
Lucas swallowed. Was that really the end? So sudden? So cruel?
“You see, the Captain taught me an important lesson a long time
“Never leave a witness behind. Alive that is. The Captain is a
very experienced man, you know!”
He cocked his other gun and aimed it at Lucas chest. Lucas face
was a sweat-covered mask of despair and horror.
The shot was terribly loud. An invisible giant fist hit Virgil
right between the shoulders. For half a second he seemed to fly
with his arms spread. The young man was already dead when his
body dropped hard into the dirt and the echo of the report of a
rifle far away could be heard.
Lucas jumped back and ran as fast as he could for cover behind
the barn. He almost tripped over his blow which happened to be
standing in his way. Never before, he had felt such horror.
Lucas kept on praying! He needed a weapon! Anything! Then he
remembered Virgil's guns. He needed the Colts to defend himself.
He had to stay alive. He had to fight … for Mark. He headed back
to the body of the young killer but it was too late. When Lucas
set out to leave his cover behind the building he saw Captain
Sobel rushing out of the house.
In an instance the outlaw spotted Virgil’s lifeless body.
Sobel's eyes were wide with terror and surprise. Then he noticed
Lucas trying to get a hold on Virgil's guns. Sobel fired
instantly a shot against the desperate rancher. The bullet
grazed Lucas´ forehead, leaving a bloody scratch. Lucas fell
screaming to the ground, holding his head as he rolled around
helplessly. Lucas tried his best to stay conscious. Sobel fired
once more but this time he missed. The bullet only stirred up
some dirt just inches away from Lucas´ kicking legs.
“What have you done to my boy!? What have you done?! Virgil!
But before he could pull the trigger again, Sobel received a
massive hit in the belly. Dropping his smoking gun, the former
officer fell to the ground. After a moment of gathering his
strength he somehow managed to get up once more. The bandit
stumbled over the steps of the porch. He pressed his left hand
against the terrible wound below his rips when he continued
running. A few more steps and … he collapsed. But he was still
alive, attempted to crawl, gasping and screaming. After some
ghastly seconds more it was finally over: his left shoulder
blade seemed to explode when the bullet hit it.
The man smiled. He hadn't lost his touch in all those years. His
right hand was caressing the massive barrel of his Sharps 74. He
never had been a loving man but he sure was found of that rifle.
He picked up the three empty 50-caliber shells. Then he pulled a
yellowed photo out of the breast pocket of his shirt. It showed
a bearded sergeant in the distinctive uniform of a Union sniper,
carrying proudly an older Sharps-model. At the lower margin of
the picture a few letters read: “2nd United States Volunteer
Sharpshooter Regiment, Virginia, 1864”.
“You taught me good, Dad, really good. Thanks, Dad. You were a
mighty fine teacher.”
He man smiled again before he put the photo back into his
Then he got up and pushed his Sharps gently into the scabbard
that was hanging at his horse’s side. He mounted up and left
silently the ridge while the man whose life he had just saved
was fighting to get up on his feet.
Mark had have a successful day at school. The teacher had openly
admired his knowledge about fractions. Now Mark was heading
home. He was hungry and a little tired. But when he arrived at
the ranch he suddenly knew that something was wrong. Terribly
wrong! Two bodies were lying between the barn and the house.
Mark dismounted and looked around. There was blood all over the
place. Even at the porch and …
“Pa …?! Where are you!? What happened …?”
Lucas stepped slowly out of the house. His forehead and his
temples were covered with a white dressing. His movements were
not as agile as usual but he could talk. He even managed to
“It´s alright. I am alright! Don't worry, Mark!”
Mark had never been so stunned.
“Pa, what happened …?”
“I am not quite sure yet but I can tell you that: I've been more
than lucky today, son.”
Without any further word Mark rushed to his dad and hugged him.
His dad was safe and sound and that was the main thing, no
matter what had happened that morning.
Even Lucas saw no sense in holding back his tears while he was
holding his sobbing boy.
“God heard my prayers, Mark …”
After putting the killers´ bodies on the wagon father and son
headed for North Fork to see the Marshal.
After his talk with Buchanan in the saloon Micah had felt very
exhausted. Without having any lunch he had walked back to his
office for a nap. When he woke up after several hours he noticed
that a deputy had placed some sheets of paper on his desk
without disturbing his sleep. When flicking through those
documents Micah noticed a new wanted poster. Micah frowned when
he took a look at the two faces on it.
“That´s just great. Just great! First Buchanan and now …”
At that moment Lucas and Mark arrived in front of his office.
When Micah was looking at the two bodies on their wagon he knew
that he could spare the work of nailing the poster at the board
of his office.
“And you didn't see anything, Lucas Boy? Are you sure? No hints
of any kind?”
Lucas shook his head once more.
“I told you everything I know, Micah.”
Micah was obviously far from satisfied but he sure was glad that
his friend was still alive.
“Well, you better see Doc Burrage. I take care of things here.
Sobel and his… aide rode together, so they will be buried
together. I'll see to it that the undertaker will be notified.”
Micah accompanied Lucas and Mark on their way over to the Doc's
Micah smiled on his way back to his office. He felt better now.
He remembered why he liked the job of a Marshal after all. There
were always surprises: good ones and …
“Don´t turn around, Torrance. Drop that lovely shotgun of yours
and stay out of my way. I told you: I have nothing against you.
So don't make me shoot you. If you don't interfere, you will
live to see the light of another day.”
Micah froze when he heard the familiar voice right behind him.
Micah knew that he had to act. He raised his shotgun while he
was spinning around. But a second before he could pull the
trigger, Buchanan had drawn with lightning speed. A bullet
grazed Micah's right shoulder. His shotgun flew right out of his
hand and landed in the dust of the street.
“While you’re at it … would you be so kind to get rid of your
revolver as well, Marshal?”
As if he had all the time in the world Buchanan watched Lucas
hurrying out of the Barrage's house. He wasn't even impressed by
the fact that Lucas was wielding his rifle.
“I told you, Torrance: nobody will stop me. I'll now do what I
Then he holstered his Colt 45 and stepped out on the street to
face Lucas McCain.
“Who are you, Mister? Have you shot at our Marshal?”
“Your Marshal is fine. I have nothing against him as I have
repeatedly told him. It´s you I am after. Your name is Lucas
McCain, ain't that right?”
Lucas, rifle in hand, hesitated before nodding.
While holding his bleeding shoulder Micah cried out a warning.
“Look out, Lucas Boy. He is the fastest gun I ever saw! He means
to kill you!”
Always keeping his eyes on the mysterious stranger Lucas stepped
slowly forward, ready to fire.
Buchanan simpered boastfully.
“I saved your life today, Mister McCain. I was the one who
killed those men that were harassing you at your ranch. I am
quite a marksman you gotta admit. But you don't have to thank
me. Saving the neck of such a wretched sodbuster such as you is
nothing I am proud of. A man should be proud of his enemies. I
consider shooting those criminals as mere target practice,
“You shot them? How …”
“My father served as one of Berdan's sharpshooters during the
war. He taught me good. Not only to handle a rifle but also a
handgun. I promised him on his deathbed to take care of my
little brother Tim. I always keep my promises. That's what I
keep telling Mister Torrance.”
Lucas grew impatient.
“What is this all about, Mister?”
“I rode in today but I got tired of waiting for you in the
saloon all morning so I went looking for your ranch. I found it
just in time and took care of things. When I came back the nice
bartender at the saloon confirmed that the ranch was yours. All
I had to do was waiting for you here in town, sodbuster.”
“Why are you here, Mister …?”
“The name's Buchanan, Tom Buchanan. You killed Timmy a couple of
months ago. I saved your life so I can kill you myself,
“I killed your brother, you say? Where …”
“You shot him when he was robbing a stagecoach on the road to
Lucas eyes became small.
“I remember. I happened to be riding up the road when I heard
the shooting. When I told your brother to drop his gun he
attempted to take a passenger, a young lady hostage. So I killed
your brother in order to save the woman. Have you considered
“I don't care, sodbuster. Have you anything more to say?”
“The Marshal has never been able to figure out the identity of
the outlaw since there were no clues. Now the mystery is solved
at last. Get out of town, Buchanan. You rescued me today. I have
no intention to shoot you.”
Buchanan showed his dismissive grin.
“Don´t overplay your hand, sodbuster. There is no way your rifle
can be as fast as my Colt.”
A short burst of gunfire was the answer.
Buchanan was deeply satisfied. He knew he had only fired once
but he was pretty sure he had hit his target. For a moment he
felt a great deal of joy and relief. He had fulfilled his
promise. He thought of the faces of his brother and his beloved
Dad and … he was pleased. In fact he had never been so happy in
his life. He closed his eyes.
But then something strange happened to him. His knees seemed to
lose their strength to keep up his body. When he was struggling
to stay on his feet he noticed that he had already dropped his
beautiful Colt 45. His right hand was instead pressing against
his chest. Buchanan felt something warm running over his
fingers. He wheezed heavily since breathing became very painful.
A split second later he knew that he had been wrong about that
rifle, dead wrong. But there was no more time left to think
about that fatal mistake. His pale face hit the dirt of the
That evening two wounded men and a musing boy were sitting
together and had a luscious dinner at the hotel. Mark was
looking at the sling on the Marshal's arm.
“How´s your shoulder, Micah?”
“Well, I had much worse, Mark. How is your head, Lucas Boy?”
“It´s still there and I'm glad for that. Why are you so
Mark had been very silent indeed throughout the evening. There
was something he was mulling over.
“Well … I was thinking … Mister Buchanan didn't care about the
fact that his younger brother had been an outlaw. He still
wanted to take revenge for his death. Why? How could he love a
His father, still wearing the fresh bandage, Doc Burrage had
wrapped around the upper part of his head, pondered for a
“Well … Mark … there is often also something good in bad men.
Even such a ruthless killer like Sobel loved his stepson. They
are all human beings with a soul. Sometimes even such evil men
need somebody they can take care of.”
“You see, Mark, having a family you can rely on is such an
important thing for all men that even such outlaws crave
somebody they can love. You can rely on your father and that's
the most important thing in the world. Many men would envy you
for that. You're are lucky having such a father. ”
“Well … Micah … I am lucky having such a son.”
These stories are based on the TV series
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around The McCain Ranch