The Writer's Corner
The Lessons of Death
The knocking was first not loud
enough to wake Micah. But eventually the Marshal opened his
tired eyes. However a second later jumping out of the chair
behind the desk and grasping the Colt in front of him was just
one thing. He threw a fast glance at his pocket watch: it was
just several minutes after 9 o'clock in the evening. Micah
frowned. Lucas was not supposed to get back from lunch at the
hotel before 10 o'clock. But then who …
The knocking was a smidgeon louder this time.
Micah aimed his Colt at the door.
“Just a humble servant of our Lord. Please open up. I would
like to ask for a favor.”
“Who are you? What do you want?”
Micah took a deep breath and cocked his gun.
“Please open up. I am alone and would like to talk to you for a
“Stay where you are. Don't try anything stupid.”
Cautiously Micah walked over to the door and opened it. Fresh
night air streamed into the office. Micah was surprised. First
he thought a young boy was standing in front of him. But then he
noticed the grey beard in the haggard face of the person that
had knocked against the door. The man was appalling gaunt and
emaciated. His small eyes lay deep in their sockets. A worn-out
cowl made of grey fabric covered his meager frame. A grungy hat
completed his paltry outfit.
Micah looked around. The stranger was obviously alone. There
was no sign of danger on the empty streets of North Fork. Micah
tried to calm himself.
“What do you want, Mister?”
The tiny monk bowed slightly.
“I am Brother Brian, a preacher and unworthy servant of Jesus
Christ. Three days ago I heard that you had Pima-Todd, the
famous Indian fighter and scout in your custody. Is that true?”
“Well, back shooter, rustler and robber would be a more
appropriate description of the man in my cell. But you're right,
he's here. I don't suppose you are a friend of his?”
“Well… in a way I am. You see, many years ago I went west and
tried to do, what the Almighty ordered me to do. I brought his
word to our pagan brothers, the Apaches. Back then they were
still in the hands of Evil. So they captured me and were about
to prepare for me a martyr's death. But God sent Pima-Todd. The
man convinced them to release me. He saved my life.”
“Never occurred to me that that murderer would also have his
good sides. Anyway tomorrow morning he will be sent to Yuma and
most probably to the gallows. Do you want to make him confess
his sins, padre? I am afraid that could take ages.”
The tiny preacher smiled humbly.
“I would be most happy if I could do that. But with your
permission I would like to comfort him and invigorate his faith
in our Lord. Maybe I can repay my dept that way.”
The tiny man bore an odd resemblance with a scarecrow. Micah
however was still highly suspicious.
“Do you carry any guns, padre?”
Again the preacher smiled and pulled an old book out of the
“I never travel without the most powerful weapon in the world.
That is all I need.”
“Well, in that case you won't mind if I search you. No offense
but I can't be careful enough, padre.”
“Of course, Marshal. Anything you say. But I have never touched
a gun in my life and I never would. Sadly the devil finds many
ways to make men use his tools of death.”
“Well, you're right about that, padre.”
After searching the man, Micah holstered his gun and led
Brother Brian to the cell.
“Well, here he is, padre. I hope we will appreciate your
efforts. But I kinda doubt that, I must confess.”
In the cell, a shabby man was snoring. His black hair was long
and tousled. Obviously he hadn't shaved or bathed for quite a
while. His plaid shirt and his buckskin pants were dusty and
sweaty. Pima-Todd had a massive frame, muscular arms, big hands
and long legs. The place where his left ear was supposed to be
was disfigured by a conspicuous scar, covering parts of his
“Hey, Todd, there is someone who wants to see you. You might
even benefit from that.”
When Micah and the preacher entered the prisoner opened his
eyes and was about to say something, but the tiny monk, making
the sign of the cross, was quicker.
“The Lord may protect you. I am Brother Brian. Do you remember
Pima-Todd was suddenly wide awake. He sat up, scratched the
back of his head and grinned, showing his yellow teeth.
“I sure do, Brian, I sure do. How could I forget you? That's
what I call a surprise, yessir. I never would have thought that
you had the cuts to cross my path again. Well, I am pleased,
much pleased indeed.”
Brother Brian took off his squalid hat.
“I hope I can improve your situation, Todd. The good Marshal
here permitted me to pay you a visit and proved himself a true
Christian that way.”
“Mighty obliged for that, yessir. Who would have thought …?”
Micah nodded and was about to go back to his desk.
“Well, if there is nothing more a can do I guess I should leave
you two alone.”
Brother Brian's calm voice stopped him in his tracks.
“Well, Marshal… as a matter of fact, there is one more thing
you could do for us …”
Micah turned around and looked straight into the barrel of the
little Bull Dog revolver, Brother Brian had pulled out of his
“Drop your gun belt, hand over the keys for the cell and keep
quiet. That is the only way you can avoid meeting your Maker
While Lucas was still enjoying his steak, Mark had already
eaten up his cake.
“Well, son, since you're already finished, take Micah's lunch
over to his office. Micah will appreciate that. ”
“Yes Pa … say … is it true … what they say about that man in
the cell …?”
Lucas put his fork aside and was thinking for a few seconds.
“Yes, I figure most of those stories are true. As far as I
know, he was raised by Pimas, than he became a scout for the
army since the Pimas are the archenemies of the Apaches. But he
began also a career as professional gambler and after that he
started rustling and … killing people. I heard that he once
stole 20 cows after shooting two farmers in the back while they
were eating lunch at their campfire. Seems to me that he doesn't
care about his reputation as a coward. Well, after killing a
gambler in Arizona, who had turned his back on him, he was sent
to Yuma for a couple of years. When he was free again he came
here together with two friends to rob our bank… well, you know
“Please tell me once again, Pa! The boys at school kept talking
about the shooting all the time.”
Lucas signed. He had told the tale at least a dozen times.
“As you know I was in the shop buying those boots you are
wearing when I heard the shooting in front of the bank. Todd's
friends fired at me, when they tried to get to their horses.
Well, they won't rob any banks ever again. And now you take that
steak and get it over to Micah. He must be starving.”
Mark got up, took the plate and headed to the exit of the
hotel. At the door the turned around.
“Thanks again for the new boots. They fit like a glove, Pa.”
“You’re welcome, son. Hurry and tell Micah I will come over as
soon as I am finished here. I just have to drink a big cup of
coffee. If we want to stand guard all night, we have to be
“How is he, Doc?”
“Not too bad … a mild concussion I guess. He was lucky though.
A blow to the head like that can a kill a man just as easy.
Micah needs a lot of rest now. But he will be fine in two or
Lucas was terrified. He talked very slowly when he bowed over
his hurt friend.
“Micah, can you hear me? How do you feel?”
Micah was stretched out on the bed in Doc Burrage, a thick
poultice over the back of his head.
“What do think, how I am feeling, Lucas Boy? I fell for an
underhanded trick of a phony preacher. And a vicious killer is
free like a bird again.”
The old Marshal was clearly exhausted and tried to hide his
pain that was raging behind his swollen forehead. To the
physical pain came the humiliation to boot. This was clearly a
bitter pill to swallow.
“They stole even my shotgun and some revolvers along with
plenty of ammunition. And the Doc told me that my horse was also
gone. I am too old for that kind of work, I guess. I am so tired
now. Let me sleep, for God's sake …”
Lucas was agitated like never before in his life.
“Where do you think, they are going, Micah?”
“Well, I guess they are heading right for the desert. Todd was
raised there. He knows plenty of hideouts between the rocks.
Even for a large posse it would be hard to follow him.”
“Micah, what's with Mark? Where is my son? Have you seen him
“Yes, I sent him over to bring you something to eat. Nobody has
seen him since! Micah, tell me, what you know! Where can he be?”
“Well, the last thing, I remember … no, I haven't seen him. You
don't suppose they … “
Lucas grabbed his rifle and stormed out of the Doc's house into
Micah sat up, looking even more off-color than before.
“Lucas, you can't follow them in the dark!”
The distraught ranger didn't even look back.
“I have to! My boy got kidnapped by Pima-Todd!”
A few seconds later the Doc and the Marshal could hear a rider
galloping out of town.
Micah tried to walk a few halting steps but then he decided to
go back to bed.
“Don´t even think about, Micah!”
“What do you mean, Doc?”
“If you attempt to follow Lucas in order to help him, you would
fall out of the saddle within half an hour. You would just be a
millstone around his neck. I just don´t know who I should feel
more pity for: for the worried father or … Todd, when Lucas
catches up with him.”
Two hours after sunup a young coyote sidled up to the wild
turkey that was looking for insects between the bushes. But the
watchful bird noticed the inexperienced hunter soon enough. It
took refuge up a sere tree, shedding some loose feathers. The
bird watched the coyote vanishing in the desert, looking for
easier prey. But the twig up in the tree exposed the turkey for
a few seconds too long. Micah's shotgun roared. The echo was
cast back from the brown scarps around. The bird dropped like a
stone into the soft sand.
The small group had hidden up on the top of a small mesa, over
and over covered with bushes and rocks. From there the
kidnappers could see any approaching pursuer from far away.
During the meal Todd looked at Mark, who was squatting under a
cactus without eating or saying a word. The events during the
last hours had deeply disturbed the weary boy.
“Well, don´t be so gloomy, kid. No harm done. It was just bad
luck running right into us when we were leaving the prison. You
ought to eat something, boy. We have still a long way to go.”
Mark lifted his head.
“Where are we going, Mister?”
“You can call me Todd, just Todd. Well, I have figured it all
out. We are heading to a Pima village high up in the mountains.
The family of my wife still lives there. We will be safe there.
You'll like it.”
“You´re married … Todd?”
“I sure am. I have two daughters, too. I am really fond of
kids. You don't have to be afraid. As long as nobody tries to
follow us, that is. It's a bitter thing to say but right now, I
am afraid you are our life insurance.”
“You mean hostage, right?”
The scarred man seemed a little sheepish.
“What an ugly word. You don't believe all the stories they keep
telling about Pima-Todd, do you? I am not that bad. Just ask
Brian over there. We shared a cell in Yuma for over four months.
He is the best friend a man can have. He brought to North Fork
two horses to allow us a fast escape. And then he had that
marvelous idea of stealing that stupid Marshal's horse so you
can accompany us, boy.”
Mark looked at the silent preacher who was sucking on a
turkey's bone. In broad daylight, his chin curtain beard and
pallid face made him almost look like a grotesque twin of
Abraham Lincoln. The haggard man, still wearing the worn-out
cowl, didn't pay any attention to Todd or Mark.
“I understand … you're a priest, Mister Brian?”
Brian looked up after throwing the bone away.
“Of course not. I don't believe in God or the holy virgin or
anything like that. My father was a catholic clergyman tough.
But he refused to recognize me as his son. My mother on the
other hand made me go to college in Baltimore and to a
university in Philadelphia. After that I became an actor. I
worked for theaters in Washington and New York.”
Todd clapped his big hands laughing.
“And what a mighty fine actor he is, yessir. I still see that
stupid Marshal's face, when he looked into that lovely Bull Dog
revolver of yours. Priceless! You know, boy, Brian is a highly
educated man. In prison he was in charge of the place where they
keep all the books. And he was talking about that dead foreigner
all the time. No wonder they called him Brainy Brian. He even
tried to teach me reading and writing. But it was no good, was
Brian glared daggers at Todd. Both men had armed themselves in
the office before taking off.
“The … place with the books is called a library and the dead
foreigner as you put it was called Shakespeare, the most
esteemed author of all times. I just don't see why you are so
proud about being illiterate, you fatuous bumpkin.”
Todd tried to give his voice a conciliatory tone.
“Reading just gives you headache. I still can hardly write my
own name. Don't get riled up, Brainy Brian. I do appreciate what
you have done for me. As I said, you´re a mighty fine friend. I
never believed those inane rumors about you anyway …”
Somehow Mark noticed a strange tension between the two men.
There were so different in every way that it was hard to image
that they could be actual friends. On the other hand opposites
are known to attract. Mark couldn't help growing curious despite
his desperate situation.
Todd shrugged simpering.
“I don't even know if it's worth mentioning. Back in Yuma some
inmates tried to organize a jailbreak. But several hours before
the show should have started, the guards arrested the
ringleaders. All the months of planning were for nothing. I
spent three weeks in a dark cell together with three other guys
while Brian was released ahead of time. After he was free again
rumors came up that he had been a rotten fink, ratting on his
comrades in exchange for his freedom.”
Todd starred at Brian waiting for his reaction but the former
actor left that story uncommented.
“Well, as I said, that stories were straight out of the rumor
mill. Nothing but yakking, I'm sure.”
Mark looked at the tiny man who sat on a rock in the shadow of
an old cactus, glancing impassively to the horizon. Under his
garment one of Micah's Colts could be seen.
“If you don't mind, Mister Brian … but why did you serve time
Brian shook his head. His doleful voice fit very well to his
“I was sentenced for peculation of 1200 dollars at a theater in
New York. But I paid my dues. Yuma showed me what Shakespeare
meant when his Lady Macbeth states: "Nougat's had, all's spent,
where our desire is got without content.”
Todd arched an eyebrow.
“What´s that supposed to mean?”
Brian heaved a sigh.
“Crime doesn´t pay, I guess. You always end up empty handed.
How right he was. Anyway, one afternoon I was bitten by a
rattler on the way to our cell. Todd saved my life by tracking
me to the doctor. That's the only reason why I came to North
Fork to free that insolent deadhead.”
Todd was seemingly unimpressed by that insult. Brian was
obviously not afraid of the infamous killer. If there was a
friendship between them it had to be a very odd one. Brian
pulled out his gun and checked the bullets in the chambers.
While doing so his hands were shaking.
“But one thing is for sure. I will never go back to Yuma. I
never knew that human beings could be so spiteful and vile. I
swore to kill any man who tries to lock me up again.”
He holstered his weapon and stood up, walking around to stretch
his short legs. Mark didn´t want to but for a moment he felt
sorry for the man. He looked like as he had some grave ailment.
“You´re alright, sir? You don't look too good.”
“The grub in the prison made me sick. After a few months I was
prepared to do anything to get out of that hell hole, absolutely
For a moment there was an awkward silence between the two men.
It was broken by Todd, turning to his prisoner.
“Where are my manners? I have not asked you for your name yet,
“It´s …Mark, Mark McCain.”
The disfigured man was startled for a moment.
“You don't say! You don't happen to be the son of that
sodbuster with the rifle who killed Gus and Frank when we hit
the bank, do you? Well, no hard feelings. I didn't like those
brutes anyway. Come to think of it your father did me a favor.
Maybe I can thank him one time.”
“My Pa will follow us with a posse and free me. You can bank on
“You will stay with us as long as I please. You can bank on
Todd got up and walked menacingly towards his hostage. A
strange expression on his uncouth face alerted the boy.
“Mark, I afraid you have something on your mind, something
along the lines of running away. I want you to hold still now so
I don't have to hurt you. Brian, grab him!”
Brian´s surprisingly strong hands kept the screaming boy down
while Todd tried to get a hold on his kicking legs.
Lucas McCain was desponded. He followed the tracks as cautious
as he could but he was well aware of the fact that the jail
breaker would have enough opportunities to lay in wait. His
rifle was always ready to fire. Lucas could only hope that the
killer's first shot would miss. In the meantime the heat became
In the afternoon he reached a small mesa, covered with bushes
and boulders. Lucas decided to ride up there in order to get an
overview over the desert. When Lucas reached the top of the mesa
he immediately noticed something strange lying in the white sand
under the shrubs. He dismounted and seconds later he picked up
two small items. At that point the anguished man started
praying. He had never felt so frantic before.
“I promise I find you, son! I'll find you. That's just as sure
as the turning of the earth.”
Then he put Mark´s brand-new boots into his saddle bags and
mounted up. He left the mesa following the tracks.
The kidnappers were ridding abreast through the bushes. Todd
was leading Mark's horse by its reins.
“You better don't try anything stupid, Mark. Running through
this land barefoot is anything but pleasant. When I was as old
as you, my father forced me to do that to harden me. After a
mile you are willing to curse the day you were born. I hope you
don't take amiss my measure of precaution.”
Mark didn't answer. When his boots were violently pulled from
his feet and thrown away, his hate towards the two men was
sparked. He had loved those boots just because his father has
bought them. The boy looked back hoping to spot his Pa in the
distance following the kidnappers. But as far as his eyes could
reach there was nothing but sands, rocks and desiccated
When they rode over a stark ridge that offered a wonderful
overview over the vast landscape Todd pointed to a huge rock
about 2 miles away that bore a distant resemblance with a human
face with a giant nose.
“See that rock over here? The Apaches call it “Bloody Nose”.
About eight years ago, a wagon train pitched camp there, right
under the rock, seeking shelter. They were five families heading
for California. In the morning, the Apaches attacked. Three days
later I lead a cavalry patrol there. I ain´t gonna forget the
look on the face of that callow lieutenant when he saw the
remnants of those who had not been lucky enough to get instantly
killed. That shavetail was later sent back to the east due to
his … mental problems. It was an awful mess, I can tell you. The
reek of those rotting bodies was enough to change a man for the
rest of his life. When we buried the dead I even noticed a
badger feasting on a woman's flesh. It still makes me shiver.
Can you image, Brian? A stinking badger eating a human being?”
Brian was unimpressed. The actor seemed glum and thirsty.
“How long until we set up camp for tonight, Todd?”
“Two more miles then we reach a creek, nobody knows. It’s a
fine place to spend the night, my friend. So there is no need to
“Sounds good to me.”
“Does your stomach still bother you, Brian? Is that the reason
why you're so chippy?”
“That´s not your concern. I just intended to repay my debt
yesterday. Maybe it was the last decent thing I could in this
miserable life, using my artistic talent to make a difference.
But now your stories just hack me off.”
After a pause, the sick actor continued.
“Doctors are not longer able to help me. Nobody knows how long
I can go on. Sometimes at night the pain is maddening. I am not
afraid of death anymore but your blather just keeps on needling
Todd nodded appreciatively.
“Maybe you should really turn your heart and soul to our Lord.
Maybe that will comfort you. It's of course only a humble
Instead of an answer Brian's hand took the old bible out he had
shown Micah. He locked disdainfully at the cover before throwing
the book into a ravine.
Mark was stunned but Todd just shrugged.
“I understand you. I really do. If there was anything I could
do for you I would do it. You know that, my friend. But in any
case those boys back there in the dark cell in Yuma were worse
off. One died in there and another one went insane. I can still
hear the unintelligible words he was screaming all night long.”
Brian was evidently on the edge.
“Is there any way I can make you shut your big mouth, Todd?”
“Well, maybe there is …”
When Lucas McCain looked up he saw two vultures circling over
the dunes. He felt a terrible twinge of fear in his heart. The
lonely rider careered towards the point where the birds had
apparently spotted a dead body. When he was close enough he
dismounted and took cover behind a bush. Carefully he sneaked
closer, prepared for everything. When he heard the squawking of
the greedy birds he jumped up. A second later he lowered his
rifle. The shriveled carcass of a bobcat died of exhaustion was
rotting between the dunes.
In the late afternoon they came to a narrow chine. At the
bottom some lush bushes and green trees indicated the existence
of water. A choppy breeze kept the temperature bearable. Between
the rocks they soon discovered the creek Todd had spoken about.
The three travelers dismounted in the shadow of a huge mesquite
tree. Mark was still very reticent. Todd put his muscular arms
around the boy's shoulders.
“Are you still longing for your Pa? I am sorry but perhaps you
should stay with me permanently, Mark. You can live with me and
my family. I am a pretty good father, you know.”
The homesick boy jerked himself free, almost crying.
“You are not fit to hold a candle to my Pa.”
Todd seemed disappointed when he attempted to placate his young
“Don´t be so bitter. I can teach you some valuable lessons
about life. Here is my first one: you have to differentiate
between things you need and things that are expendable. If you
find something no longer useful, you better get rid of it.”
He turned around and pulled Micah's shotgun out of the
scabbard. He checked the cartridges inside and smiled contently.
“Take that shotgun for example. It's highly … let's say …
expedient. So I better keep it.”
Brian sniggered quizzically.
"The Foole doth thinke he is wise, but the wiseman knowes
himselfe to be a Foole.”
For a moment Todd seemed to turn fretful but then he smirked.
“That´s from that dead foreigner again, ain´t it? So I guess
you mean I am a fool and you're not. Is that right? Aren't you …
a little brash?”
“In any case you don't strike me as somebody who could teach
anything that counts, Todd. You can't even add one plus one, you
“Well, let's see about that. Here is my second lesson, boy.
Always keep smart people around you. They can come in handy.
Take Brian for example. Such a sage fellow always comes up with
pretty useful ideas. That can help you a lot, yessir.”
Mark frowned. He didn't like the uncanny direction the
“There is always a drawback about such resourceful folks
however. You never know what they are really thinking. Their
mind always works and you can't tell what you might be up
against. Maybe one day they even come up with dangerous ideas,
with something you just can’t predict. And the next thing you
know … they turn on you for some selfish reason that might serve
their own purpose. I am sure that the spineless stool pigeon who
revealed our plan of the jailbreak was such a smart fellow with
a restless mind.”
Brian grew even more vexatious. It was clear that he felt
nothing but scorn for the man he had rescued.
“I got my fill of that kind of talk. I should have let you rot
in that cell in North Fork. That was the last time I stick my
neck out for you, Todd. I thought I could ease my conscience by
getting you out of prison but tomorrow we split up. I will go
straight to Mexico and I hope I'll never see you again. Sooner
or later you gonna end up on the gallows anyway. This is exactly
what you deserve.”
“So you are trying to say … we are no friends anymore? How can
you do that to me, Brian?”
His condescending tone infuriated the little man even more.
“I get on my horse and we split right here and now.”
“That saddens me. I really like you, Brian. In a way you have
always been a role model to me. But don't let me stop you. I
don't want to ride with someone, who doesn't wanna ride with me.
But before you leave you might wanna help yourself with some
water. It can be a long time before you find another opportunity
“I might have figured that out myself, thank you.”
Muttering some hardly understandable words Brian walked over to
the creek to fill his canteens.
Todd turned to Mark again. The boy sensed something in the
“In some cases you have to … combine these two lessons. One
lesson and another lesson … that equals two lessons, wouldn't
you agree, Brian?”
Before Mark could say a word or scream a warning, Todd aimed
Micah's shotgun at Brian's back. Without any hesitation the
sneering killer pulled both triggers at once. Brian didn't even
hear his own death scream.
While reloading the murderous weapon, Todd looked at the
actor's shattered body that made the water run red.
“Well, I can't read and write but how to you like my adding,
The Gila monster was looking for little birds and their nests
in the midst of the blossoming cacti when it sensed the horse's
hooves. Surprisingly fast the poisonous lizard crawled under a
rock for cover.
Lucas had to face it: since he had obviously lost the track
many miles back the situation had become hopeless. He was all
alone in a barren landscape that offered neither shadow nor
water. Three of his five canteens were already empty. The
exhaustion was beginning to take its toll. His senses were not
as acute as usual. Salty sweat was blinding his eyes. So he
noticed the four rifles pointed at him only when it was already
“But you didn't have to kill him. He turned his back on you.
You didn´t give him a chance at all.”
Todd pointed at the left side of his disfigured face where the
white scar could be seen only too well.
“I was once in a fight people might call fair when I was 16
years old. Here you see the result. I almost bled to death that
night. I am still alive because of the fact that I take no
chances. Here is my next lesson for you: never take chances,
Mark! Others may prefer risks and open conflicts … but pretty
soon they end up in a wooden box. There is nothing more
despicable as stupid men. And being fair and square by giving
the enemy an even chance is the worst form of stupidity. So you
better bluff wherever and whenever you can. I may not be able to
write my own name but I am much smarter than that well-educated
fool over there. He is dead, I am alive. That makes all the
difference! That is the most important lesson, boy! Never let
somebody talk you into taking chances. Then you might grow old.
At least I aim to see my grand children.”
He took up the dead man's hat turning it gently in his giant
“I hope he will be happy with that dead foreigner he kept
talking about. Besides … I never liked that snooty-nosed
Mark was still deranged.
“There are not many people you like, right?”
“Well, maybe you, Mark. I like the idea that we might become
friends soon …”
Mark looked at Brian's body, torn by steel buckshot.
“I hope I will never be anything like you, Todd!”
“As I said … I could be a good teacher. How about another
lesson for you, boy? No matter how useless a man might be …
there is always the opportunity to learn something new. His idea
with the little revolver in the hat … that was mighty slick,
Mark's eyes examined the rocky hills for any sign of danger.
“Where are we going now?”
“We mount up and follow the creek upstream. After one more mile
we reach a place the Apaches called “Deep Water.” Well, it's
nothing more than a nice pond within a pretty grove but it's a
good place for spending the night.”
Mark grew apprehensive about hidden perils that could be hiding
alongside the creek.
“Apaches? Are they still around in these parts?”
“While living with the Pimas I learned one thing pretty good…
how to kill Apaches. But there is nothing to worry about as long
as I am with you. I don't think there are any Apaches left
“The white man knows the big rock over there?”
Lucas looked in the direction the warrior pointed to.
“Apaches call it “Bloody Nose”. We killed many white men there.
Soon you will join them.”
Lucas, exhausted and thirsty, looked up to the low outcrop
where four Apaches had taken their positions aiming their rifles
at him. Their leader was a white-haired man, wearing a dusty
military jacket, a white loincloth together with brown pants and
knee-high footgear. He was armed with a dated Winchester Model
1866 and a holstered Remington Model 1875. His wrinkled face and
his dark eyes expressed only one feeling: hate towards the white
invaders who were trying to steal his tribe´s land. The other
warriors were much younger, well armed and able-bodied.
Lucas knew that he stood little chance in an open fight. But he
was well aware of the fact that showing any insecurity could be
his undoing. So he took charge of the situation.
“Yes, you can kill me. But I can fight. Watch this.”
He spun around and fired three shots at a blooming cactus about
50 feet away with lightning speed. Three blossoms exploded
sending torn white petals into the air. While the shots were
still resounding from the cliff he turned to the impressed
“Yes, you can kill me. But before I go to my ancestors I will
take at least two of you with me. Great will the grief in the
hearts of your women and your children will cry many tears.
Besides … you Apaches are not my enemy. A white man is my enemy.
He took my son away from me. I follow him and I will kill him.”
The old Apache seemed to marinate over the odds. He felt his
companions becoming impatient.
“You are a warrior like us. I am the one they call Yacca. I am
one of the Mimbreno-people. When I was young I fought alongside
with our great leader Mangas Coloradas. We were free then. We
killed many white men. Maybe we all die today. Maybe only some
will die today. We will see.”
One of the younger warriors chambered at bullet of his
Winchester 73 but his father gently pushed the barrel of the
“My sons may not kill this man now. Not before he speaks. The
white man may speak now. Who is the man you are looking for?”
Lucas looked the old man straight into his dark eyes.
“He is known as Pima-Todd.”
The old Apache exchanged glances with his sons who immediately
lowered their rifles.
Mark was exhausted, when he dismounted. His watery eyes hurt.
Todd looked around prepared to react to any sign of danger. But
he and his prisoner were alone. The wet sludge at the shore of
the pond showed a great number of tracks of animals indicating
that the lagoon was crucial for the survival of many species.
“You go over there in the shadow, Mark. I'll take care of the
horses. It will soon be dark.”
Mark limped over to a rock and almost collapsed. He had no eyes
for the strange beauty of the “Deep Water” surrounded by lush
green bushes and high trees. The little oasis was like a tiny
island in a sea of burning sand and rocks.
Mark was disturbed when he examined his feet. His socks were
torn, his balls and toes blood stained. Quickly he removed a
long thorn from a heel. While Todd was watering the horses Todd
turned his back on the distraught boy. So Mark used the
opportunity to forget his pride and cried.
Suddenly a huge shadow blotted out the sinking sun. Mark looked
up and saw the towering figure of a man, holding a rifle. Mark's
boots seemingly dropped from the sky landing right in front of
his hurt feet.
“Put these on, son!”
Mark jumped up.
Todd turned around … and froze. Lucas McCain was standing right
in front of him, only 20 feet away, pointing his cocked rifle at
the killer. After some endless seconds Todd put his hands up.
“How did you find us? Nobody knows …”
“I had a little help.”
“Are you going to kill me?”
“I leave that to hangman … unless you harmed my boy. In that
case I will bury you right here.”
The killer looked like a straightforward man who was deeply
“What are you thinking, Mister McCain? Mark and I got along
splendidly. Ain´t that right, Mark?”
“Pa, don´t you believe him! He killed the other man, who got
him out of his prison. He shot him in the back! It was
Todd shook his head disapprovingly.
“Mark, how can you say such a thing? That saddens me. I really
like you, Mark. You father might get a wrong impression about
Lucas stepped closer.
“Get rid of your guns, Todd. I won't tell you twice.”
Todd's left hand went down to the buckle of his gun belt and
opened it carefully. Then he grinned.
“You would not shoot an unarmed fellow, Mister McCain. Being
fair and square, that's what I admire about a guy like you.”
Lucas starred hatefully at the man who had caused such trouble
“Save your talking for the jury when you stand trial!”
The killer politely took off his hat and held it in front of
his right hand.
“At your service … sodbuster.”
“Pa! Watch out! His hat …!
Four rapidly fired rifle-shots told Todd his last lesson: never
draw a hidden gun on Lucas McCain.
“My heart is glad that you found your son.”
Yacca pensively looked at Lucas who still was kneeling down,
hugging his sobbing boy.
“Thanks for your guidance. Without you I never would have found
my way here. I am forever in your debt, Yacca.”
Mark gazed at the smiling face of the old Apache.
“The Indian helped you, Pa?”
“He certainly did. Yacca is the best tracker you can image.
Otherwise I never would have seen you again, Mark.”
The wise Mimbreno glanced hatefully down on Todd's body.
“Today I have three sons. I had five sons. Long ago this man
lying there sold bad whiskey to our people. Many people became
sick and weak. My oldest sons told that man to go away and to
leave us alone. He killed them both. He shot my sons in the
back. Now I have only three sons.”
Then he turned to Lucas.
“I know how it is to lose a son. So raise your son good. He
will become a brave warrior.”
Mark had calmed himself in the meantime. His Pa came to rescue
him. That was all that counted.
“Where are you going now, Mister Yacca?”
The warrior shrugged wearily. He seemed to be at a loss. Not
only about his own destiny.
“In the north there are still places with water and grass no
white man knows. We will go there. Maybe we can live there in
peace. I don't know how long until the bluecoats will come there
Lucas nodded compassionately.
“My heart wishes you luck, Yacca.”
The two fathers shook hands.
Mark was brooding over his homework, when he heard horses
approaching the ranch. Glad about the distraction he opened the
door and starred at the picturesque sight.
“Soldiers are coming, Pa.”
Lucas had already heard the noise. Together with his son he
stepped out of the house.
Three dozen cavalrymen were heading for Lucas´ home. The former
lieutenant admired their well-fed horses and their unstained
uniforms. The commanding officer, a strapping major with a trim
moustache, lifted his right arm. The highly disciplined riders
behind him stopped their horses at once. For a moment Lucas felt
a great deal of pride about the fact that he too had once
belonged to such a good-looking unit of fighting men.
The officer dismounted and approached the porch accompanied by
a much younger captain.
“Good evening. I am looking for a ranger named Lucas McCain.”
“You found him, Major.”
“My compliments, Mister McCain. I am Major Harold, 4th Cavalry.
This is Captain Woodrow, my second in command.”
“That is my son Mark. What can we do for you, Major?”
“We are entrusted with an important assignment: reconnaissance
in the desert for three columns of cavalry which will follow us
within two days. The marshal at North Fork told me today that
you crossed that area last week pursuing a fugitive criminal. Is
that correct, Mister McCain?”
“That is correct, Major Harold.”
“Did you notice any hostile activities?”
“You mean Apaches on the warpath?”
“You are getting my point, Mister McCain.”
“Well, I was lucky. I didn't run into any raiding party, if
that's what you mean, but when I caught up with the killer he
was pretty scared. He told me about 15 or 20 warriors without
women or children, heading straight south, probably to the
“Where is the man? Do you think it would be possible to ask him
“I am afraid you come too late. He resisted me and drew a
hidden gun. But I was faster.”
“That´s too bad.”
“I have no reason to believe that he lied to me about the
Apaches he had sighted.”
“Anything else we should know about our enemy, Mister McCain?
“Only that: you better be careful. The Apaches are fierce
fighters, I hear.”
“Thank you for the advice but this campaign will not last
longer than two or three weeks. After that the Southwest will be
“Of course it will.”
After the soldiers had left heading straight into the desert,
Mark was remarkably contemplative.
“What is it, Mark?”
“Well, you told the officer that the Apaches are going south to
the border. But Yacca told you quite the opposite. Isn't that …
you know … telling a …?”
Lucas felt rather sheepish.
“Well, Mark, sometimes it is necessary to … adapt your answers
to a specific situation. Not that you should to that but … once
in a while there can be a … particular occasion …”
“… when fathers have to stick together. Is that what you mean,
Lucas nodded proudly, putting his loving arms around his boy's
“You´re right, son. Fathers gotta help each other. Now finish
“Right away, Pa.”
Lucas lit up a cigar and looked at the marvelous sunset
thinking about the other father.
“Thank you for saving my boy, Yacca …”
These stories are based on the TV series
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
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around The McCain Ranch