The Rifleman
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Fan Fiction

The Ballad of Andrew Warrig
Written by Klara's Boy

"How much?“

The man at the desk didn´t answer right away. In the dim light of the old kerosene lamp he was still busy with the books and the official papers. The moon sent its weak light into the small room that was only furnished with a small bed, a couple of chairs and that desk. A few framed photographs were hanging on the massive walls. Now the man put the white quill away and smiled.
“$247 this month. Not bad, wouldn´t you say, Ben?”

Ben looked out of the door and gazed up to the stars. Everything was peaceful and not even an owl could be heard around the house. Ben turned around and walked over to the man at the desk.
“Don´t you figure they will find out sooner or later, Abraham? Some day they are bound to notice it.”

The fella at the desk closed the book and took a mouthful out of the half-full bottle next to him.
“Ben, my boy, I am well-connected, I know all folks around here and I can assure you: there has never been an Injun agent who didn´t adapt the paper for his own purposes. It´s customary here. The Apaches get only enough beef to stay alive because a dead redskin doesn´t need any beef at all and that would ruin my business. They can just enough to stay breathing, the rest goes to me and my … business partners in the army and the reservation. There is no need to worry, Ben, my boy.”

Ben didn´t seem convinced. He was a young man in his twenties, tall and slim, blond and simple-hearted. He lit a cigarette to calm his shaky nerves and kept walking through the dark room restlessly. The boy knew very well how corrupt Abraham was but he respected him for his bold and well-organized actions. And the money was quite a temptation. Ben needed money real bad.
“What´s my share, boss?”

Abraham was an elderly man with grey hair and a trimmed moustache, showing a charming grin.
“About $30. It´s enough money to send to your mother in Santa Fe. I am sure the old lady will be grateful. It´s sure hard to live alone in the big city with that bad couth she suffers from.”

Ben didn´t answer. Yes, he was glad that he could support his old mother at home but the way how he achieved that money was just not right. Out there children and women were starving. Those hunger rations were just not enough to keep the Apaches satisfied and … peaceful. No wonder Ben was nervous and spooked. Abraham just smiled contently and got up.
“Ben, stop pacing up and down like that. You´re a good boy and you should not worry that much. As long as I am in charge here, everything is fine and no doggone Apache will ever fill his belly here in the reservation. My old man´s grave is still without flowers because I could never find out where exactly they had slaughtered him. That is my way to make them pay for that murder.”

Ben didn´t answer. He knew that his partner hated the Apaches like nothing else in the world.
“I need some fresh air before I go to bed, boss. Leave some of that whiskey for me.”

The debonair crook nodded. He was tired too. Working for the reservation was a tough job but very rewarding if a man knew how to deal with the stupid authorities. When he was alone he opened another bottle and enjoyed the burning taste of the whiskey. Soon he could afford that little ranch the near Tucson. It was sure a mighty pretty place. Maybe he would even marry once again. He was still a handsome fella and there were still enough young ladies around who appreciate a wealthy ...
Then he heard that noise out there. Somebody was approaching the house.
“Ben …?”
For a moment everything was quiet again. Then the steps came closer. And then there was Ben. Abraham saw his young friend standing there in the door. His cheeks were pallid and his arms were just hanging at his sides, without life. Ben made an attempt to say something as he stumbled over the threshold. For a moment the young man stood there, leaning against the wooden door frame gasping desperately for air before he sank on his knees. His beautiful blue eyes were wide open and gazed at his boss. He lifted one hand and again he made a futile attempt to say a word. When his face hit the floor Abraham could see the two arrows in Ben´s back. The corrupt agent opened his mouth and drew his revolver. He listened. Not a sound could be heard out there in the darkness. He cocked the gun but he knew that shooting out of the entrance was just a waste of bullets. He looked down on Ben´s lifeless body and the blood on his white shirt. It was a nightmare: Abraham was all alone. Out there was no help, only deadly darkness. The crook desperately tried to think and after a moment he ran over to his bed where he kept his loaded shotgun. He grabbed the weapon and hurried over to the door. He had to close it. He had to fight. He would show those murderers who he was. He would teach them pagan redskins what it meant to kill a white man …
Two figures with long black hair entered the room like silent demons staring at him for a moment. Their glances were full of hate. Abraham froze for a fatal moment. For the first time he felt remorse but it was too late. Struck by fear he reacted too slowly. The shotgun dropped to the floor as powerful arms wrestled him mercilessly to the ground. His legs tried to kick the brutal attackers away but to no avail. He could feel the revolting breath of the enemies on his face, saw their black eyes right in front of him. Finally he managed to open his mouth for a desperate scream …

***

“She sure is a beauty, ain´t she, Pa? A true beauty, that´s what she is.”
Mark leaned against the fence and looked over to the green pasture where the young cow was grazing in the warm sunshine. Lucas smiled and put his hand on his son´s shoulder.
“You wanna give her a name, son?”

Mark seemed to contemplate for a moment.
“Yes, that is a good idea. How about … Gail? That would fit. Don´t you think, Pa?”

Lucas looked down on his boy and frowned.
“Gail? Isn´t that the name of the young lady in your class, son?”

Mark nodded eagerly.
“They both have such beautiful eyes, so gentle and calm.”

Lucas grinned. The boy was growing fast and soon he would be even more interested in girls.
“Well, I am sure that girl is gonna proud that she is the namesake for a piece of cattle. But now we better get ready to go to town. You know that we need some grain and food for the horses.”

***

The two men dismounted in front of the hardware-store. One was an elderly gentleman, wearing a grey suit and a bowler head. He looked quite noble and wealthy. The other had the appearance of a professional gunman, wearing a black jacket, a white shirt and a black hat. At his side a colt was holstered. His youthful face was clean shaven and his watchful eyes mustered the busy street in an uneasy and almost nervous way. The old man turned around and faced his companion.
“I have to buy a few things in that nice store. You wait here for me.”

The gunman didn´t answer but his deep grunt could be understood as an agreement. He seemed a little spooky and his right hand rested on the grip of his gun while he kept watching the folks around him. The man in the suit entered the room leaving the edgy fella in black alone with the horses.

Lucas drove his buckboard carefully over to the stable and let Mark get off. When his boots touched the ground the rancher´s glance wandered over to the drugstore and what he saw made him stop in his tracks. He slowly took his Winchester and urged Mark to stay in the stable. The boy didn´t understand but the tone of his father was warning enough and so he didn´t even dare to ask about the reason. Lucas slowly crossed the street. The man in front of the horses had turned his back and so Lucas could approach him without being seen. His glance was full of anger and hate. It was clear that he was ready to use the rifle in his hand anytime.
“If memory serves me correctly I told you stay out of North Fork, Warrig.”

The man turned around and their eyes met. Warrig didn´t seemed surprised at all to see the towering man with the famous rifle again. After a moment he spread his slender arms and smiled.
“Mister McCain, how nice to run into you. I knew that sooner or later we would meet again.”

Lucas´ eyes were cold and his voice revealed that he was not exactly in a cheerful mood.
“The last time we met was in court before they brought you to Yuma. I don´t know what you want here but if you try anything you have to answer to me. And this time you won´t get away so easy.”

The gunfighter kept his right hand away from his revolver to avoid any misunderstanding.
“Mister McCain, you hurt my feelings. I am an honest man now and I work for money same as you. I would have never come here without a good reason, knowing that I would never stand a chance against that fine rifle of yours. I once tried and I ain´t gonna make that stupid mistake ever again.”

Lucas felt like hitting the grinning man in the face right where he stood.
“Yeah, you were never any good with that gun despite your fearsome reputation so your victims got it in the back. I know what kind of a man you are and I don´t figure that Yuma changed you one bit. North Fork is a different town now and we know how to deal with filthy vermin like you.”

Warrig tried to say something but then he heard different voice behind him.
“Mister McCain is absolutely right. Step out of line and you go straight back to Yuma, Andrew.”

The Marshal had approached the two enemies quietly. Warrig turned around and when he saw the face of the old lawman he politely took off his black hat, greeting him like an old friend.
“It´s so good to see you again, Micah. You are still wearing the badge, as I see. Now I understand why North Fork is such peaceful town. It´s really a pleasure seeing you after such a long time.”

The gunfighter offered his hand to Micah and after a moment of hesitation the old man shook it.
“Well, it´s good to see that you are a free man again as long as you behave yourself here. How are your parents? Is your father still in charge of that vast ranch in Texas? He is one good man.”

Suddenly the grin on Warrig´s youthful face disappeared. For a moment he lowered his head.
“I have no parents anymore at least that´s what they told me in the letter I received in Yuma.”

Micah was stunned and exchanged a swift glance with Lucas who was still standing there.
“I am sorry to hear that, Andrew, I really am. That is mighty tough. But I figure a wealthy rancher doesn´t like the idea that his youngest son is an outlaw and convicted killer serving his time. After a lifetime of hard and honest work a father is kinda short on understanding I guess …”

Andrew Warrig shook his head and again he managed to show a weak smile.
“That´s why I work now for …”

“Anything wrong, Mister Warrig?”
Lucas and Micah saw the elderly man leaving the shop carrying a little package under his arm.
Warrig straightened himself and pointed at the Lucas and Micah.
“Everything is just fine, just saying hello to a bunch of old friends of mine. That fine gentleman with the rifle here is Lucas McCain and here is Mister Law and Order himself, the honorable Marshal.”

The gentleman in the grey suit shook hands with the both of them.
“The name is Greenstone, Samuel-Nathan Greenstone. I am from Chicago and work for the university there. Right now I am on a private mission so to speak and Mister Warrig here is so nice and serves as my advisor and bodyguard. It´s still a rough country and I intend to go West from here so it´s good to have somebody with me who knows how to handle a gun. I am afraid I could never fire a single shot without killing myself so I am very glad to have him with.”

Again Lucas and Micah looked at each other. The uneasy rancher scratched his head.
“Well, Mister Greenstone, if you don´t mind I would like to give a piece of advice: go straight back to your university and … be pickier when it comes to choosing your company next time.”

Greenstone took a pair of brown leather gloves out of the breast pocket and while he put them on he gave Lucas a piece of his mind without even looking at him.
“You know, Mister McCain, I once met a gentleman who wanted to tell my business so I had to make it perfectly clear that nobody has to tell me what to do. He later became President of the United States but I still don´t like it if tells me what to do. So if I frankly tell a man who is now in charge of that whole beautiful country to keep his nose out of my business why should I put up with an insolent sodbuster who cannot even write his own name as I suppose.”

Andrew Warrig butted in, giving Lucas a hateful look. His voice was now somber and dry.
“Mister Greenstone goes wherever he pleases and I go with him. I am hired to keep an eye on him as long as he stays here and I make sure that nothing happens to him, Mister McCain. Anything else?”

Greenstone put a hand on the right shoulder on the gunfighters shoulder to back him up.
“That is correct. Mister Warrig here has my full trust. He told me all about his life and I am glad that I can help a young man becoming honest again after his hard stay in prison. As soon as my mission is over I will be happy to give him his $1000 so he can start a new life as a decent member of society.”

Lucas shook his head. It was obvious that he didn´t like that man from the East at all.
“The last fella who trusted Andrew Warrig was a farmer called Lee Scott. If you want to meet Mister Scott and ask him about his opinion about your new friend you can do it right here in North Fork.”

Greenstone raised an eyebrow. His boastful voice was thin and soft, full of self-confidence.
“Well, it would be a real pleasure to meet that Mister Scott. Where can I find him?”

Lucas turned and pointed to the end of the street.
“Our graveyard is right over there. You will find Scott under a mighty nice wooden cross. Maybe you would like to say a prayer for him and his widow. Good day, Mister Greenstone.”

Lucas turned around and headed over the stable where he could see the worried face of his son. After a moment Micah followed him leaving Greenstone and Warrig all alone in the street.

***

Although it was high noon the deep heart of the canyon was almost dark. The chaotic rock formations covered the bottom of the gorge in cool shadow. A young coyote was on the hunt between the boulders. Suddenly the animal lifted its head and looked around. Its keen nose tested the gentle breeze. Everything was quiet. Then the coyote continued sneaking down the narrow path in order to find food. It was hungry and …
A deadly arrow pierced its neck and dropped it instantly into the soft sand. A minute later a dusty hand grabbed its pushy tail and carried the animal back to the camp where the other Apaches were waiting sitting around a tiny fire under a giant mesquite tree.

***

Micah looked at the two men when they left town. Then he went back into the stable.
“That was some reunion, Lucas-Boy. I would have never thought that Andrew would ever come back one day. He still respects you and that rifle of yours. Too bad that he turned out that way.”

Lucas didn´t answer. He was busy loading the sacks on the buckboard. Since it was a hot day his face soon was covered with sweat. Mark gave him a hand despite the considerable weight of the sacks.
Micah waited a few seconds but still there was no reaction. So he continued talking pensively.
“I knew the old man Warrig real well. We used to be close friends. I was there when he got married. I was there when he bought his first cattle. And he made it over the years. In the county where he lives there is a saying “wealthy as a Warrig”. Pity that he never had as much skills as a father.”

Mark frowned. The boy felt uneasy in the midst of all that tension.
“Why? I mean, my Pa is also busy and he has always time for me. Why is that Mister Warrig not like my Pa? Isn´t a son more worth than a big ranch, Micah?”

Lucas looked up and his voice was not charming but full of impatience.
“Mark, stop talking and hurry up. We don´t have all day. There is plenty of work back home waiting.”

Mark was clearly upset. He was not used to that harsh tone in his father´s voice.
“Yes, Pa …”

Lucas met Micah´s disapproving glance before he took of his hat and swept the sweat away.
“I am sorry, Mark. It´s not your fault, you know that. Warrig is not your concern. But we really have to hurry so you can see Gail again. I am sure she is waiting for you already.”

Micah headed over to his office. On his way his troubled mind brought up blurry images that had been gone for years: flying arrows, grey gunsmoke and the shrill war cries of attacking injuns.

***

Greenstone dismounted and admired the grandeur of the endless desert. The sandy hills and the sky-high mountains clearly impressed the man from the East. He rubbed his hands while he looked around. Although he was already sweat-covered he enjoyed the trip. Warrig was still on horseback, resting his slim arms on the saddle horn while his wary glance assessed the rough landscape.
“This here would be a pretty nice place to make camp, boss.”

The huge rock to their right side offered good protection from the excruciating heat. Greenstone nodded and pointed to a lonely dry wash about 100 yards away.
“I concur. You take care of everything, cooking coffee and all that. In the meantime I will take a look over there. Such a terrain is always a good place to start looking. I will be back in about an hour.”

Warrig looked around. He was not sure what to say. He had no idea what his customer was looking for in the first place but he didn´t care as long as he would get his money at the end to start over again. He thought of that sodbuster back in North Fork and for a moment his palm touched his gun.
“Suits me. But please stay careful. Such a city slicker like you can get into trouble real easy out here.”

Greenstone started walking through the soft sand and after a few steps he could hear it: the blood-curdling rattle right next to his left leg, somewhere between the dried bushes. He jumped aside in horror. He knew very well that one bite could … a well-aimed shot silenced the rattling instantly. The snake rolled over the sand and vanished in the brown grass. Greenstone gazed up and saw Warrig holding his smoking gun in his right hand. The wealthy man sighed in relief while the black-clad gunfighter smiled and slowly holstered the colt 45 again.
“Told you, boss. Rattlesnakes could get nasty when disturbed. You better watch out.”
Greenstone, still shaky took off his bowler hat and nodded, looking down on the shattered reptile.
“That was a magnificent shot. You are definitely worth your money already, Mister Warrig.”

Warrig grinned and replaced the empty shell. He was much better with a gun than that ugly sodbuster in North Fork figured and he felt the strong urge to prove it to him one day.

***

When Lucas rode into to town Micah was just about the leave the Marshal´s office. Lucas dismounted swiftly and walked over to his old friend.
“Morning, Micah.”
“What brings you to town, Lucas-Boy?”

It was clear however that the work on his ranch had taken a toll on the tall man.
“I need some more nails. The storm last night loosened up some boards on the barn. Mark is already busy with the damaged fence. Are Warrig and that crazy city slicker already back?”

Micah shrugged. His voice revealed his deep worries about the fate of the two strangers.
“Not that I know of. Nobody has seen them so far. I wonder what that fine Mister Greenstone was looking for in our territory in the first place. I hope nothing has happened to them out there.”

Suddenly both men heard the sound of hooves at the end of the street and turned their heads: a patrol of cavalry entered North Fork, led by a young lieutenant. Lucas and Micah exchanged glances. It didn´t happen often that the military made its presence known in town. And then they saw something else. There was also a civilian with the soldiers, an exhausted fella who had troubles staying on his horse. Lucas and Micah hurried over. Yes, it was Greenstone. The once proud man was now only a miserable figure, exhausted and sweaty. His grey suit was dirty and his bowler hat was missing. As soon as the patrol stopped Lucas helped the half-conscious man off his dust-covered animal. The officer also dismounted and turned to the representative of the law.
“Morning, I am Lieutenant Collins of the Fifth. Is this man a citizen of your town, Marshal?”

Micah looked at the pale face of the feeble man who sank into Lucas´ arms.
“No, but we know him. His name is Greenstone from Chicago. He wanted to go in the desert to look for something a couple of days ago. I have no idea what that was but there was another man with him, a young fella called Andrew Warrig. Did you see him, lieutenant? Is he still out there?”

The strapping officer shook his head.
“I can´t say. We have the order to warn all civilians out here. A band of hostile Apaches broke out after killing two agents who were in charge of their food supply a couple of days ago. That man here ran into them at least that´s what he we could understand from his words when we found him about 12 miles from here. He was alone and without a horse and water. One more hour and he would have died out there. So we brought him here. You take care of him. We have to ride on.”

While the soldiers left town Micah and Lucas carried Greenstone over to Doc Burrage´s place.

***

The young Apache climbed the steep rock and made sure that the lush bushes covered him. He was not older than 17 years but his face showed already wrinkles around his dark eyes. One could count his rips: hunger and deprivation had already taken their tolls on him. But starvation made him only even more dangerous. His father had once ridden with Cochise back in the proud days. Now the land was not longer theirs and the plight was great. He studied the landscape carefully before gliding back into the cool shadow of the cliff. He ran back to the others to report to his leader.
***

Lucas drove his heels mercilessly into his horse´s flanks. The mere thought that Mark was all alone at the ranch while a band of hostile Apaches was on the loose made him sweat. Then his home came into sight. Everything seemed normal and now he could even see his son out there in front of the house. Lucas swung out of the saddle and a second later Mark could feel the firm hug of his father.
“Are you alright, son? Is everything alright?”

Mark could not have been more surprised.
“Yes, sure, Pa. I was busy with the damaged fence as you told me and I brought Gail here. She seemed bored on the pasture so she kept me company while I was working.”

The boy pointed to the young cow standing right next to the house looking curiously at the two humans. Lucas turned around and smiled full of relief. Yes, everything was alright.
“Mark, I want you to go to town spend a couple of nights at the hotel. You … have been working so hard lately and I decided that you need a little relaxation. I stay here and keep an eye on the ranch.”

Mark was at a loss. Something was clearly troubling his father.
“If you say so, Pa! But why …”

Lucas got up and eyed the environment but there was still no sign of any threat.
“Don´t ask any questions now. Get your horse. You can eat all the apple pie you want in the hotel and maybe Gail will join you after school. The girl I mean. I am sure she kinda likes you.”

Mark was sold. He hurried over to the barn to saddle his horse while Lucas entered the house. He had to get the boy back to safety until the danger was over. He had to think now and calm himself. All he needed was some fresh shirts for the boy and a pair of pants and maybe …
“Pa …!”

Something in the tone of his son out there alarmed him. He lifted his head and looked out of the window. Nothing! Then he grabbed his rifle and left the house. Mark was standing in front of the barn, motionless and terribly pale. His mouth was open and he seemed terrified.
“Pa …”

Lucas saw them instantly: five Apaches on horseback armed with rifles and bows and arrows.

***

“So what happened out there? I gotta know, Mister.”

Micah knew that Burrage had done his best to bring the exhausted man back on his feet but it was obvious that Greenstone was still far from his full recovery. His feet were sore and his face was sun-burned. Greenstone was sitting on the small bed and after another drink of cool water he could speak at last although his feeble voice was nothing but a whisper.
“I was … looking for signs near a cliff but I got careless. It was already late and so decided to go back. When I returned to our camp I saw them. I had never seen an Apache but there they were. I was so scared! I could not think clearly. I started running until … I was lost. I hid behind a rock and stayed there all night. I could not sleep. I was so afraid. In the morning I started walking and … then evening came and … the thirst was so terrible. I could not find my way. I dropped and fainted I guess. When I woke up I saw the soldiers and … that is all I know. I am sorry. I was so stupid to come here …”

Micah shook his head and sighed. Yes, going out there all alone was more than stupid.
“Do you have any idea where Warrig is?”

***

“Get behind me, son and stay calm. They are just waiting for a sign of fear.”
Very cautiously Lucas stepped in front of his beloved son, with his rifle in his right hand. He was determined to defend his child until his last breath. His finger touched the trigger. He had seen men tied to wagon wheels, men who had been mutilated and burned alive. But they would not get him, not without a fight. He knew he could get at least three of them before they could shoot him.
The five Apaches remained motionless on their horses. Their leader was an elderly man with grey hair and a haggard face with high cheekbones. His emaciated figure was covered with a black vest. His glance was intense and threatening. He was armed with a rifle and a colt. Suddenly the chief raised his right arm and hollered an order. After a moment a sixth Apache appeared on his horse dragging a captive man behind him. Lucas knew instantly who that prisoner was. Andrew Warrig was still wearing his white shirt but his black vest now belonged to the leader of the Apaches. The former gunfighter collapsed and remained lying in the dust without moving a limp. The leader of the Apaches pointed at the body at the ground and then at the young cow grazing peacefully in the bright sunshine. Lucas understood. He slowly walked over to Gail and grabbed one of her horns. Very carefully he led the animal over to the Indians. The chief nodded and gave another order. One of the trespassers, a young fella, dismounted swiftly and with a rope in his hands he approached Lucas. The rancher looked into the brave´s dark eyes. He saw starvation, hate and desperation in them while the peaked Apache wrapped the rope around the animal’s neck. The Apache pulled the young cow over to his comrades and mounted up. A last order made the Apaches turn their dusty horses and ride off, taking Gail with them and leaving a hapless man behind on the ground. They headed south, to the Mexican border. The young Apache was the last one who vanished behind the grassy hills.

Mark was stunned. He could not understand what just had happened. Lucas lowered his rifle and put his arm around his boys shoulder. They were all alone again as if the Apaches had never been there.
“It´s alright, Mark. They are just hungry, just so terribly hungry. They could have killed us but …”

Mark didn´t listen. He ran over to Warrig who was still lying there next to the barn. Lucas hesitated for a moment before he followed his son. The farmer kneeled at the side to his enemy he just had saved. Warrig was still breathing but he was more dead than alive. His once well-shaved face was burned by the sun. He opened his eyes and his trembling lips formed words, hardly understandable syllables. Lucas had to get closer to grasp what the man attempted to say.
“I tried to … find the boss … I tried to … but they got me … before … I didn´t let him down … you gotta believe me … I tried my best … but ... they were so fast and dragged me … and … I did all I could …”

The gunman fainted and his head sunk to the side. Lucas sighed as he felt Warrig´s weak pulse.
“Get the buckboard ready, Mark, we gotta get him to Doc Burrage right away.”

***

“So how he is, Lucas-Boy?”
The tired rancher shut silently the door of Burrage´s place behind him and stepped out into the darkness. Dark clouds covered the moon and the street was empty. It was almost midnight. Micah was tired but he had refused to go to bed, still anxious to learn more about the state of the patients.
Lucas closed his burning eyes for a second. It had been a real tough day.
“They both are asleep now. They need a lot of rest until they can even think of getting up again. Before he fell asleep however, Warrig told me again and again that he had tried to keep his boss safe out there. I still can´t believe that! He can cheat anybody but not me. One day I will make him pay for betraying Greenstone´s trust. I am sure he had left him to save his own dirty hide.”

Micah shook his head and invited his friend to walk with him down the empty street.
“There is something you don´t know, Lucas-Boy. Many years ago when I was out hunting with his father the Comanches jumped us. The pinned us down in a dry riverbed and we kept shooting at them until we were down to a handful of bullets. I still can hear their shrill war cries. They kept shooting arrows for hours. We knew that we were goners. In the morning one of Andrew´s older brothers came by with a couple of cowboys driving a herd of cattle to Austin. Well, the Comanches saw the dust of the herd and maybe they figured that a whole army was approaching. I don´t know why but they ran and we were saved. When we returned to the ranch Missus Warrig had given birth in the meantime. I will never forget the expression in her blue eyes when she showed us the baby for the first time. It was their youngest son. ”
Lucas stopped and looked down on Micah while a cool breeze refreshed his forehead.

***

When the stagecoach arrived Greenstone and Warrig were ready to leave. Micah, Mark and Lucas were there and it was time to say farewell. Micah smiled and shook the young man´s hand.
“You are still sure you want to go to Chicago and work there? Somehow I still can´t picture you behind a desk somewhere in the East, Andrew, reading all day and talking about fancy stuff.”

Warrig showed his teeth while he grinned. After a week in Burrage´s care he had recovered amazingly fast after the terrible incident in the desert. He was still kinda weak but that was not the only change about him. He was not carrying a gun anymore.
“Well, to be honest: neither can I, Micah. But as Samuel-Nathan here told me: the East can also be a tough place. So maybe I like it after all. A tame life is nothing for me as you know.”

Greenstone smiled. He had also changed. His boastful attitude was gone and he knew more about life now, things no book could tell him. Again he put a hand on his friend´s shoulder.
“Well, as my former colleague Horace Greeley once stated: “Go East, young man.” I will show you what you have to know in Chicago and soon you will be my right-hand man. There is plenty to do at a university and some of my students have mighty beautiful sisters, I can tell you, Andrew.”

Then Warrig and Lucas shook hands. After a moment both men managed to smile.
“Thanks for saving my life, Mister McCain. Now we will never find out who is faster I reckon.”

Lucas intensified the pressure on his former enemies´ hand, a subtle threat.
“Be glad about that. I would have hated to shoot you after all … Andrew.”

Warrig pulled his arm back and picked up his black traveling bag.
“Well, as I told you: I never make a mistake twice … Lucas.”

Now Mark could not hold back any longer.
“Mister Greenstone, why did you come to North Fork in the first place? You have never told us.”

The wealthy man smiled and opened his small suitcase. He swiftly took a thick book out and handed it over to his young friend. Mark looked at the black cover and was clearly surprised. Greenstone opened the door of the stagecoach but before he got in he looked back.
“That´s my present for you, son. Read it and you will understand. Over 14 years ago I worked up in Montana for my colleague Edward Drinker Cope, looking for bones. Montana was the place to go to find dinosaurs back then and we were highly successful. I had decided to come here to the desert and try my luck here. But I found something else: not dead bones but life thanks to you folks.”

Mark opened the book and started reading, forgetting even to thank Greenstone. He was still standing there when the stagecoach had already left North Fork heading east.

***

“Did you know that some of those creatures were over 10 meters long, Pa? Can you imagine that?”

For the last two days he had heard nothing but amazing facts about those mysterious creatures that once had roamed America. Lucas remembered the newspaper articles 14 years ago about the “bone wars” up there in Montana: two fierce competitors, Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope had hired hundreds of men to unearth bones of unknown beasts, trying desperately to make better discoveries than the other one. But he would have never thought that some fool from the East would turn up here one day to look for bones near North Fork. That crazy idea still made him shook his head. He drove the buckboard to the school´s entrance and let Mark get off. The boy took his books and froze when he saw the charming little lady standing there, obviously waiting for him.
“Howdy, Mark …”

The blond girl´s angelic smile made it tough to find the right words.
“How … Howdy Gail, there is something I would like to tell you … Gail …”

Lucas could not help grinning when he saw the girl´s surprised face when she learned that she had eyes that reminded Mark of those of a cow. The boy had still a lot to learn about women.

The End

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

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