The Rifleman
Welcome to The Writer's Corner
Fan Fiction

Making Room I
by ~anonymous
Chapter 1

Lucas was taking his time, trying to arrange them as evenly as he could. This was a little more difficult than he’d expected. Three short knocks sounded at the door. It was the signal they were expecting.

“Hurry up, Lucas! They’re coming!” Lou said impatiently.

“Give him a break, sweetheart. This is a little out of his line of work.” Johnny said with a grin.

“I’m doing the best I can, Lou. This isn’t much like mending a fence.” Lucas replied. “Okay hand me the match.” Micah handed Lucas a flaming match and he began lighting the 17 candles as fast as he could. He managed to get the last one lighted just before the flame was at his fingers. He quickly blew it out just as the door opened.

“Surprise!” Everyone in the room shouted. The look on Mark’s face was priceless. Someone began singing “Happy Birthday” and soon everyone had joined in. By the time the song was finished, Mark had regained his composure and was grinning.

“Boy you all sure had me fooled. Here I was thinking Pa and I were having a simple birthday dinner here at the hotel.” He eyed the streamers and the cake. It was chocolate….his favorite.

“Now just make my day and tell me that’s Pa’s recipe.” Mark said as he tried to swipe a finger full of frosting. Lou slapped his hand away and began removing the candles.

“Your father insisted on making the cake himself, Mark” she said.

“I sure did. I’m calling the shots as long as I can.” Lucas said with a grin.

“Well, at the rate Mark is growing up, that might not be for long.” Micah said as he placed an arm around Mark’s shoulders.

Everyone was enjoying the party. Lucas had only invited their closest friends. After the ordeal Mark had been through in the last six months, he didn’t want to overwhelm him. He looked around the room as his son made the rounds. Micah, Lou, Stevan Griswold, Nils, Percy and his father were among the lucky few. As everyone was laughing and talking Lucas began thinking back on the last year of his son’s life. So much had happened. He’d finished school, gotten a scholarship offer to Harvard and had been captured by a group of notorious outlaws. Lucas winced inwardly like he did any time he thought about those few months. He’d looked for Mark for so long and at one time had thought he’d lost his precious son forever. He shuddered at the memory. As he looked around the room again, his thoughts fell to who was missing. Grid had been at Mark’s side throughout the ordeal and although he’d survived, he was still not himself. He had opened his eyes but was still struggling to communicate. Lucas knew that Mark felt somewhat responsible for what happened and he was trying to help him deal with it. It wasn’t easy. He often awoke in the night to find Mark sitting alone in the living room and sometimes he would ride off by himself for hours. This worried Lucas but he understood. For the thousandth time he wished he had been there to protect his son from the horrible realities he had faced. He didn’t know if he’d ever forgive himself. He still had moments of panic when he awoke from a deep sleep or if Mark stayed gone for more than a few hours. Both were still struggling with what had happened. They talked about it often and that helped them both immensely. He was so thankful for his son.

“Oh Margaret,” he thought to himself “you’d be so proud of him.”

*******************************

Mark was quiet on the ride home that night.

“What’s on your mind, son?” Lucas asked.

“Oh nothing. I was just thinking about the party. It sure was nice, Pa. Thanks for doing that.”

“You’re welcome, son. I hope it wasn’t too much for you.”

“No, Pa…I felt like myself tonight. It felt good.”

“Yeah….I know what you mean.” They looked at each other and smiled. It was a smile of understanding.

Later that night, Mark awoke and couldn’t get back to sleep. Lucas found him at the desk trying to read a book. Mark turned when he heard his father enter the room.

“Gee I’m sorry Pa. I really tried not to wake you.”

“That’s okay, son. Do you need anything?”

Mark turned back around. “No, not really. I just couldn’t sleep. You didn’t have to get up, Pa. I’ll be okay.”

“Son if you want to be alone, I’ll understand but if you need to talk, I’m here.” Lucas sat down behind his son.

“I don’t know what I need, Pa. I just can’t stop thinking about ……things. I try. I really do but at night when it’s quiet…..” his voice trailed off. Lucas put his hand on his shoulder.

“Mark, it’s only natural for you to feel this way. God knows I’ve had many sleepless nights but I want you to remember something I said to you once. There’s no looking back. We’ve come too far.”

Mark smiled at this memory. “I know. There’s just so much inside of me. Sometimes it feels like there’s just not enough room for it all.”

“Well….maybe you should make more room.” Lucas said. Mark looked up at him.

“What do you mean?”

“Mark, every man deals with things in his own way. Some seem to have no problem deciding what to keep and what to let go of. Others have so many thoughts and feelings that they can’t carry them all, but they don’t want to let them go either. These people find another way. You’re one of those people Mark. You just have to find your way.” Lucas stood up.

“Son, I’m always here when you want to talk but I think this might help.” He said as he placed something on the desk in front of his son. Mark looked down. It was a leather bound book of blank paper. He picked it up carefully. It was beautiful.

“A journal?”

“Yes…in these pages I think you’ll find plenty of room for whatever won’t fit anywhere else. And the best part is, you’ll never run out of room. As long as we can buy more paper, that is.”

Mark looked down at the journal. “You mean…you got this….just for me?” Mark looked at Lucas.

“Of course I did son. It’s your birthday. You didn’t think I wasn’t going to get you a present did you?”

“Well, no…but…this is….” Mark stammered. “It’s beautiful, Pa. I don’t know how to thank you….for everything.” Mark said as tears filled his eyes. Lucas placed his hand on Mark’s head.

“You’re doing just fine, son...just fine. I’ll be in the bedroom if you need me.” Lucas turned to go but Mark stood up quickly and grabbed him in a hug.

“I love you, Pa.” Mark said as he wrapped his arms around his father. Lucas smiled as he did the same. “You’re the best father a son could ever have.”

“Thanks, son. I love you, too. I always will.”


Chapter 2

“Mark!” Lucas’ eyes scanned the countryside for any sign of his son. He had been moving some cattle to the south pasture, but that was hours ago. He called his name again louder.

“I’m coming, Pa!” Mark called as he scrambled up off the ground, put his journal in his saddle bag and mounted his horse. He wasn’t sure Lucas could hear him but he kept calling. After moving the cattle he had meant to go meet Lucas at the fishing pond, but he started writing and got carried away. He rode hard and as he crested the hill he saw Lucas on Razor looking slightly irritated.

“Mark….where have you been?”

“I’m sorry Pa. I was just writing and lost track of time. Don't worry...I finished all my chores first.”

“I understand that, son, but I don't like not knowing where you are.” Lucas said. Mark started to answer that he was 17 years old now, but he bit his tongue. He knew that after all that had happened, Lucas couldn't help but worry. He figured that it would get better with time like most things did. Lucas interrupted his thoughts while they were unsaddling in the barn.

“So....you seem to be enjoying your birthday present.” Lucas said with a smile. “A little too much, maybe.” Mark knew he was teasing. He was glad he wasn't irritated with him any more.

“I'm sorry, Pa. I know I've been a little absent-minded lately but once I start writing sometimes it's hard to stop.”

“And is it helping with.....things?”

Mark looked at his father. “It is, Pa. It really is.”

Lucas clapped Mark on the back. “Well, I'm glad son. What do you say we clean theise fish up and have them for dinner?”

“Sure, Pa.” Mark said with a smile.

“While I'm getting supper you might want to look on the desk. Mr. Griswold dropped off some new reading material for you.”

Mark sat down and began looking over the various books and papers. His former teacher was always thinking of ways to keep Mark's mind busy.

“I don't know how he does it, but he always manages to find something I haven't read yet.” Mark said as he flipped through the pages of a novel. He noticed that there were a few newspapers in the stack. He picked up the Roswell Dispatch and scanned its pages. He began reading a story about a cattle auction in San Miguel. He also saw that there were some rustlers caught in Roswell. Then, something on the last page caught his eye. It was an ad placed by the newspaper itself and it read

Attention: Local stories wanted, no more than 500 words, any topic, publication at discretion of editor.

Mark's heart began to beat quickly. Was it possible? “No...” he thought to himself, “Who cares what a boy my age has to say about anything?” He quickly tossed the paper aside and put his thoughts towards supper.

But that night as he lie awake, the idea crept back into his mind. What could it hurt to give it a try? Didn't Mark Twain write for a newspaper when he wasn't much older than Mark? Besides, the editor didn't have to know his age. If he liked what Mark wrote, did it really matter how old he was? Sometime before dawn, Mark had made up his mind. When he finally drifted off to sleep, it was with a smile on his face.

A few weeks later, Mark came in from a long day of mending fences to find a letter waiting for him on the kitchen table. He grabbed it excitedly when he saw it was from the Roswell Dispatch. He tore into the letter just as Lucas came in carrying a load of firewood.

“Hey son....I see you found your letter...” Lucas was interrupted by a loud exclamation from Mark.

Lucas looked confused as he turned and saw his son practically jumping up and down with excitement. “Uh, Mark...do you care to tell me what's going on here?”

“They're going to print it, Pa! Can you believe it?”

Lucas was really confused now. “Print what? What are you talking about?”

“My story, Pa!”

“Your story?” Lucas asked with raised eyebrows.

“Yes!” Mark said. “I saw an ad in the paper asking for stories so I sent one in and they're actually going to print it!”

“You sent a story in to the paper?” Lucas asked in a surprised voice.

“Um, yeah...” Mark grew serious. “Pa...I'm sorry I didn't tell you but I didn't want to say anything until I heard back from them. I really never expected to. I figured they wouldn't really be interested, but boy was I wrong!” Mark exclaimed.

Lucas smiled “Well, that makes me proud son. You always said you wanted to be a writer. So....do I have to wait until the next issue of the Dispatch to read this story or does the father of the author get special privileges?”

Mark laughed as he answered “Of course, Pa. Here...I have a copy here in my journal.”

Mark leafed through the pages and when he found the story he handed it to his pa.

“It's a story about the four of us.”

“The four of us?” Lucas asked.

“You, me, Micah and Grid. It's about what happened when we....well, it's about what happened last summer.”

Lucas sat down at the table and began reading. As he read, he was amazed at his son's ability. He had not only told the facts in an interesting manner but he wrote with such depth and feeling. Even if he hadn't been there, this story would've made him feel as if he were.

“Mark, this is amazing. I mean, I knew you were a good writer, but this is....well, amazing.”

“You said that already.” Mark replied with a grin. “So you really like it?”

Lucas looked up at his son. “Mark, I think you have a gift. This story is-”

Amazing?” Mark said with a laugh. Lucas swatted him playfully with the journal.

“So I'm not as good with the words as you. Come on...”

“Where are we going?”

“We're going to town. I'm buying my budding journalist dinner at the hotel.”

Chapter 3

Maxwell Brenner struck a match and lit his cigar. He wasn't used to having to do that himself. He was used to having things his way and that meant not being troubled by small details. However, it seemed that lately all he had time for any more were small details. Ever since he'd been entrusted with this task by his partner, he'd been inundated with lots of small, irritating details. He saw the two men he was waiting for enter the bar. They saw him as well and made their way over to his table.

“Gentlemen....have a seat.” The two men looked at each other and sat down. “Cigar?” The men nodded and accepted his offer.

“I suppose Mr. Avery has told you what we need.”

“He has.”

“And I suppose that he has told you what you will get in return for your....cooperation.”

The men looked at each other again. “He said 500 acres and $5,000 a piece and we expect no less.”

“Fine, gentlemen, fine. If that's what he said then trust me, you can take him at his word. Now, what we need to happen is this...in order for the land grant to go through, we have to have a territorial governor. This means the vote for statehood must not be successful. This may be difficult since more and more citizens are willing to pay higher taxes for the benefits statehood would provide. That's why we came to you. As owners of the territory's largest newspaper you are in a position to influence a great many people.”

“That we are, Mr. Brennan, but some of these people are going to be harder to convince than others.”

“Well, gentlemen, I trust you to find a way. Remember, Mr. Avery and I can be counted upon to keep our part of the deal. You just remember to keep yours. We don't take disappointment well. Not well at all.” With that Maxwell crushed out the remainder of his cigar, stood up and swaggered out of the bar. Russell and James looked at each other.

“What do you think?” James asked after he'd gone. Russell thought for a moment.

“I think we better have a fail-proof plan. I don't want to disappoint those two. I'm kind of fond of living.”

“Take a look at this.” James said as he pulled out the latest copy of the Roswell Dispatch.

“What am I supposed to be looking at?”

“The story on the front page there.”

“So....it's a story about lightning striking the Northfork School. What's the big deal?”

“And this....” James pulled out another issue.

“Hmmm.....a story about the opening of a museum in Northfork.”

“And this...” James placed another paper in front of Russell. James read this one with more interest. He looked up when he began to put the pieces together.

“So these stories are all by this Mark McCain?”

“Yes.”

“And he lives in Northfork...right in the middle of the largest pocket of statehood supporters in the territory?”

“Yes...”

Russell began to smile. “And he's the son of Lucas McCain, one of the most influential and well-known men in New Mexico?”

“Yes. And his father is also the president of the Northfork Cattlemen's Association. This boy can't be more than 18 years old.”

Russell's eyes took on an evil gleam. “Well....I'd say this is what they call providence, James. What do you think about us hiring a fresh faced journalist for the Albuquerque Morning Times? One that's young and eager to please?”

“We have to be careful, Russell. You know his father's reputation.”

“Yes.” Russell said as he finished his cigar. “But you know what they say. The pen is mightier than the sword.” He smiled. “I suppose it could also be mightier than a Winchester, don't you think?”

Russell began to chuckle. He was feeling better already.

*******************

Lucas wiped his brow as he finished stacking wood. The air was cold and he knew that the first snow was just around the corner. As he was straightening up, he heard horses approaching and he looked up to see two strangers riding toward the ranch. They were well-dressed and didn't look dangerous but Lucas didn't take any chances. He picked up his rifle and waited for the men to dismount.

“Hello...are you Lucas McCain?”

“That's me. How can I help you gentlemen?”

“We're actually looking for Mark McCain. Is he here?”

“No. He's in town visiting a friend. What’s your business with my son?” Lucas wasn't sure why, but he was not getting a good feeling about these visitors.

“Well, sir, my name is Russell Landers and this is James Watkins. We own the Albuquerque Morning Times. We'd like to speak with your son regarding his journalistic abilities. I think we may have quite an opportunity for him.”

Lucas didn't know quite what to think. “Well, I can tell him you stopped by. Are you staying in town?”

“We are in rooms 7 and 9 at the Mallory House. We'll be there through the day after tomorrow. Please tell him to come by. We came a long way to speak with him. Actually,” Russell said as he mounted his horse, “Why don't you ask him to meet us at the hotel for lunch tomorrow, say at noon?”

Lucas squinted his eyes as he looked up at the men. “I'll tell him. Mind if I join you?”

Russell and James looked at each other. “Well, of course you're welcome but our proposition is for your son. His writings are that of a mature young man. I think this will be a decision he will have to make for himself.”

“Gentlemen, my son is only 17 years old. We'll both be there.” It was obvious to the men that this wasn't open for debate.

“Of course. We look forward to your company.” Russell said. When they were a safe distance from the ranch, James spoke...

“Well that couldn't have gone worse. He's 17 years old and his old man won't give us a minute alone with him. That sure does throw a wrench in the plan.”

“What difference does it make?” Russell asked.

“He's a minor, Russ! Even if we get him to sign the contract, it won't be binding. Not with him being underage. Besides, his father isn't a fool. He's going to see right through this.”

“James, my good friend. Lucas McCain is a rancher, not a lawyer. All we need is for Mark to sign that contract. Let me worry about the rest.”

Chapter 4

“But Pa! Why not?”

“I've told you a hundred times, Mark. I don't trust those men.”

“But why? They own a newspaper. It's not like they're criminals or something!” Mark was getting irritated. Didn't Pa realize that this was his big chance?

“Mark, we don't know anything about them! You're only a 17 year old boy. Granted, you're a talented writer who's had three articles published in the Roswell paper but do you think that would warrant a visit from the owners of the territory's largest newspaper? Don't you think it's strange that these two men would come all the way from Albuquerque to meet with you? ”

“No I don't!” Mark said angrily. “I think you're just afraid!”

Lucas whirled around. He was getting irritated, too. “Afraid of what?”

“Afraid of me growing up! Being on my own! Afraid to admit that I'm a man capable of making my own decisions!”

Mark stormed into the bedroom, almost slamming the door behind him but he caught himself. Grown men didn't throw temper tantrums. Lucas was shocked. He and Mark didn't disagree very often and when they did, it wasn't like this. Something inside him told him to be very careful, not to react out of emotion. He had to think this through. He sat down at the table. He thought back to when he was a young man, about his own father. He remembered a similar conversation between a young man wanting to be a soldier and a father who was afraid. Lucas sighed, knowing there was some truth in what Mark had said. He was afraid for his son...but it was only because he loved him....because he wanted to keep him safe. He knew letting go was going to be hard, but he knew he had to do it.

Mark sat on his bed with his journal, but even writing wasn't coming easy right now. He hated for things to be like this. Hated fighting with his Pa. Hated being angry. He knew that Lucas only wanted what was best for him but sometimes he treated him like a child. His thoughts went back to last summer. A single tear fell down his cheek as he remembered all they'd been through. Of course his Pa was afraid for him. He had to fix this. Things couldn't go on like this between them. He stood up and walked into the kitchen. He saw Lucas at the table with his head down. Was he praying? He didn't know for sure.

“Pa?” Lucas looked up. Mark walked over to and sat down next to him.

“I'm sorry I got angry. I didn't mean what I said.”

Lucas' eyes softened. “No son, you were right about some things.”

“It's okay, you don't-”

“No, let me finish.” Lucas interrupted. “I am afraid for you, Mark. I'm afraid for you because I know what's waiting out there for you. I know that you'll have both good and bad experiences and as your father, I want to protect you from the bad ones.” Lucas swallowed hard. “But I also know that I can't always do that.”

“I understand Pa. Sometimes I just....want to find out for myself.”

Lucas looked at his son. “I understand that, too.”

“You mean...I can sign the contract?” Mark asked hopefully.

Lucas sighed. Could he really do this? “Mark, I still don't trust those men, but I'm going to leave this up to you.”

“Really?” Mark's eyes lit up. This was even harder than Lucas expected.

“Yes....really.” Mark stood up but Lucas stopped him. “You just promise me one thing. If at any time something doesn't seem right, you come to me. Okay?”

“Okay, Pa. I promise.”

Lucas laid awake a long time that night. He just couldn't shake the feeling he had about those men. He prayed he was doing the right thing. He certainly couldn't think of any reason these men would have for hurting Mark. Surely he was just being an overprotective parent. “Yes, that had to be it.” Lucas thought as he finally fell asleep. “That had to be it.”

Micah was making his rounds when he bumped into Mark...literally, who was walking while reading a newspaper.

“Oh! Sorry Micah...I guess I wasn't looking where I was going.”

“That’s all-“ Micah began but Mark interrupted.

“Take a look at this, Micah.” He said as he handed him the paper he had been reading.

“Hmm....yes, I see that Albuquerque is having a bit of a drought.”

“Not that! Down here at the bottom…”

Micah grinned. “I know, boy, I know. Your father showed it to me first thing this morning.”

“He did?” Mark said happily. “Well…what do you think?”

“I think someone is on their way to being a top-notch reporter.”

“Thanks, Micah.” Mark said with a smile.

“Everything going okay so far?” Micah asked. Mark knew that Lucas had told Micah his concerns. He pretty much told Micah everything.

“Yep. Everything is great. They send me assignments and I write them up. I get paid $5.00 for every hundred words.”

“That's good, boy. Real good. Just keep up the good work.”

“Thanks, Micah. I will.”

Chapter 5

James walked into the printing room. He saw Russell bent over a desk.

“Is it finished?” James asked.

“Almost.”

“Well, we need to get it over to Northfork as soon as we can if this is going to make next week’s issue.”

“I know…I know. There..” Russell said as he hurriedly finished writing. “It’s done.”

James picked up the paper and began reading. A smile crossed his lips as he read.

“This is perfect, but you know we have to fully expect him to refuse to put his name on this.”

“That’s why we’re taking his contract with us….so we can show him exactly what he agreed to when he signed it.”

“He’ll still refuse.” James answered. “He’ll refuse and his father will get involved. He might even get a lawyer.”

“Just let me worry about that.” Russell said as he grabbed his hat. “Come on.”

It took them two days to get to Northfork. They went directly to the McCain ranch when they got into town.

“Let’s get this over with.” James said.

Mark smiled when he saw the men at his door but he quickly became concerned. What were they doing here again? He asked them in. His father was in town picking up supplies. Mark wished he was home. Something about these men was making him uncomfortable.

“So what’s going on? Is something wrong with my work?” Mark asked.

“No, no, not at all. In fact, your articles have been very well received. We were out this way anyway and thought we’d stop by to get your signature. Much faster than the mail.” Russell lied. Mark looked confused.

“My signature? On what?”

“Your next story for the paper.” Russell answered coldly.

“But I haven’t written a next story yet. You haven’t given me a new assignment.”

The men glanced at each other. “Well, Mr. McCain, you could say that this is it. However, it’s already been written. We just need your signature.” James explained.

Mark felt his heart beat faster. He knew something wasn’t right. “Already written? You mean someone else wrote my next story?”

“Precisely. Often certain topics need to be addressed but as the owners of the paper, we need to have maintain objectivity. When this happens, we go ahead and write the story but assign it to a reporter. This time, that reporter is you.”

“Okay…well, I’d like to read it.”

“Well, that’s not really necessary.” Russell said hastily.

Mark was surprised. “I want to see it.” He said once more, a little more firmly this time.

James handed the story to Mark. You could have heard a pin drop in the silence that followed. Suddenly, Mark stood up and gasped.

“I would never write this! This goes against everything…everything I believe. I support statehood and so does my father!”

Russell was growing weary of the entire exchange. His voice grew gruff. “Look kid, you signed a contract with us and if you take the time to read it very carefully, you’ll see that there’s a clause saying we have the right to assign your name to any story we choose, whether or not it’s your original work.”

“No…no, I never agreed to that!” Mark said as the panic began to build in his chest.

Russell pulled out the contract. “Is this or is this not your signature?”

“Well…yes, but..” Mark stammered.

“But nothing. This is a legally binding contract. You are required by law to allow us to print this article as your work. You have no choice in the matter.”

Mark was horrified. He was at a loss for words. How could he have been so stupid? Russell stood up.

“Come on, James. We don’t even need his signature. We can print it without it. They turned to go. Mark blocked the door.

“No…no! You can’t do this! There’s a lawyer in Northfork. I’ll talk to him. This can’t be right!”

“Move out of our way.”

Mark didn’t move.

“I said get out of our way!” Russell said as he roughly shoved Mark aside.

The men left and all Mark could do was watch. This was a nightmare. All this time, they were using him…but why? Mark began to pace around the living room. Why would they want him to write such a story? He began to realize that it had something to do with who he was, who his father was and whatever the men’s agenda was. Obviously they were against statehood and Mark doubted their motivation was strictly political. It all began to make sense. His Pa had been right. These men had been up to no good right from the start and he was too blind to see it. Mark finally sat down in his father’s chair, feeling utterly defeated. He covered his face with his hands and tried to think of how to break this to his father. He heard the door open. Mark took a deep breath behind his hands in preparation for what he had to tell his father. He looked up to see a man who was not his father coming towards him. He stood up….then all was darkness.

James and Russell headed out of town quickly. They made it to the hotel in Roswell. As soon as they were alone, James asked the obvious question.

“What are we going to do now?” Russell just sat down and lit a cigar. He didn’t answer.

“How can you be so calm, Russell? Our plan is falling apart.” James said in a disgusted voice. “You heard him. He’ll get a lawyer. He’s not going to let us do this!”

“Yes he will. He just needs some persuasion.”

“What kind of persuasion?” James asked.

“James, I’m not a fool. I knew the kid wouldn’t sign that paper. I had a back-up plan in place and I am certain it is being carried out as we speak.”

James was beginning to understand. “You mean after we left…”

“After we left, the two men I hired paid the kid a visit. We’re going to meet them in the morning at an abandoned house outside of town. We’ll deal with him then.”

James thought about this for a few moments. “But even if we force him to sign the paper, he’ll still go see that lawyer when he gets back home.”

Russell turned and gave James a quizzical look. “Who said anything about him going back home?”

Suddenly James realized what Russell meant. “Are you telling me you’re planning to kill that boy?” He asked incredulously. Russell turned back towards the window. “Have you lost your mind? Do you know what his father will do to us?”

“His father will never know. That’s why I planned on visiting the boy when his father was in town. That’s why I had the men take him right after we left. His father has no idea Mark didn’t write this story. He also has no idea where his son is. He went out riding and never came home. Accidents happen all the time. His father will read the story when it’s published and confront us. We’ll show him the story with his son’s signature, which we will procure in the morning. He may not be happy about it but legally, he won’t have a leg to stand on.”

“You have this all figured out, don’t you?” James asked angrily.

Russell turned and faced James. “Do you want that land and money?” He spewed. “Or do you want to disappoint Avery and Brenner? We knew when we agreed to this that it was dangerous. We knew people would get hurt. Don’t tell me you would rather it be you lying in a ravine somewhere than that kid?”

James was silent. He never thought he’d go this far, but Russell was right. He knew that.

“Okay, Russell. Just as long as I’m not involved in the killing.”

Russell was relieved. “Whatever you say, James.”

Mark struggled to wake up. There was something over his eyes but he could tell he was on a horse. His head was slumped forward against the horse’s neck. It smelled like Blue Boy. His head hurt and he tried to rub it, but he couldn’t move his hands, they were somehow tied around the horse’s neck. Where was he? At first he thought it was a dream but the pain he felt was too real. He tried to remember. The last thing he remembered was the men coming to the house and that awful story. Whatever happened after that was a blur. He was sure that wherever he was…it wasn’t good. He allowed himself to fall in and out of consciousness as the horse continued on for what seemed like hours. It was freezing and halfway through the trip he began to feel snowflakes falling on his neck. When the journey finally ended, a man roughly untied his hands and pulled him off Blue Boy. He was still blindfolded.

“Walk!” Someone said. He felt something against his back. It felt like a gun. He walked slowly and finally someone grabbed his arm and led him into a building of some sort. His hands were tied behind his back and he was shoved into a corner. Someone started a fire somewhere and he could feel its warmth. As his mind became less cloudy, he began to remember the men coming through the door. One of them had something raised in his hand. He gathered he’d been knocked out. He could hear his captors speaking but couldn’t really make out what they were saying. Finally someone took off the blindfold. Mark blinked in the firelight as he looked at the two strangers.

“Who are you? Why am I here?”

“All you need to know is that you’re staying here tonight and having a short meeting in the morning.”

“Meeting with who?”

But no one answered. A canteen was put at his mouth and he drank. The men began to settle in for the night. Mark began to wonder if he could possibly escape but he was so woozy he could hardly sit up and besides, he had no idea where they were. The clouds were covering the stars and the snow was covering their tracks. He doubted even his Pa could follow them. He leaned his head back and thought about his Pa. They had already been through so much. He knew that his father would be worried sick. He’d be out looking all night fruitlessly in the snow. What if he didn’t make it out of this? Lucas would be terrified of losing Mark again…probably wouldn’t survive it if he did. Mark was overcome with sadness and tears filled his eyes as he thought about the pain his Pa was feeling. He prayed that he would make it through this for his father’s sake. “Please God…let Pa be alright. Please…”

Chapter 6

Lucas walked back into the hotel to check the time again. He just couldn’t figure it. Mark was supposed to meet him for supper at 6:00 and it was 6:45. It really wasn’t like him to be late for supper. He looked up at the snowflakes that had been falling for the last hour. He sighed and walked over to Micah’s office.

“Hey…I’m going to ride to the ranch and see what’s keeping Mark.” Lucas tried to hide the worry in his voice but Micah knew better.

“Mind if I come along?” Micah asked.

Lucas looked carefully for any sign of Mark as they rode towards the ranch. The snow had started to come down heavily and it covered the ground. He prayed that he’d find Mark writing in his journal, oblivious to the late hour but something inside him said this wasn’t the case. He had a feeling his son was in danger, but he didn’t know how. When they rode up to the house, Lucas dismounted hastily and ran in the house. It was empty. He looked in the bedroom. Nothing. He ran back outside and to the barn. When he saw that Blue Boy was gone, a surge of fear gripped him.

“Micah!” Lucas said as he ran back outside. “Mark’s horse is gone but his coat and hat are still inside. Something is very wrong here.”

Micah looked down at the ground. “The snow has already covered our tracks. I don’t see how we’re going to get a good lead of where he went.”

Lucas looked at the ground frantically. “Micah…what am I going to do? I know Mark’s in trouble but I don’t know where. I’ve got to find him. He can’t be out in this. He doesn’t even have his coat…” Lucas voice broke.

“Just calm down, Lucas. We’ll find him. Let’s ride back to town and see if anyone has seen him today. Maybe he’s there. Maybe we just missed him somehow.”

“Micah, how could we have missed him?”

“I don’t know but it’s possible. Come on.”

They started to ride out but Lucas said “Wait…” He ran back inside and grabbed Mark’s hat and coat. When they arrived in town, they went around asking everyone they saw, but no one had seen Mark all day. They finally went back to Micah’s office to regroup. Lucas paced back and forth with one hand over his eyes. He leaned against Micah’s desk and banged his fist on its surface.

“I can’t just sit here and do nothing! I’ve got to get out there and find him!”

“Lucas it’s snowing something crazy out there. You have no idea where to even start looking. You can’t just ride aimlessly through the countryside.”

“Yes I can. That’s exactly what I’m going to do.” Lucas said as he grabbed his coat and started out the door.

“Lucas…” Micah began but his friend interrupted him.

“Micah, nothing you say can change my mind. My boy is in danger. I can feel it and I’m not sitting here all night when I could be out there looking.”

Micah knew he couldn’t stop him. “I’ll get a few men together…if I can.”

“Hurry, Micah. I’m not waiting much longer.”

**********************

Mark awoke to the sound of horses arriving outside. He’d finally fallen asleep with his head leaning back against the wall sometime around sun up. When he opened his eyes, he saw the two men who had brought him here eating breakfast. The door opened and he saw Russell and James enter the house. He knew those two were involved in this. James looked at him. He looked as if he hadn’t slept much either. Russell was his usual cool self.

“Well, young McCain…I hope you’ve had some time to come to your senses.” Russell stated.

“I’m not changing my mind, Russell and you’re making a big mistake by keeping me here.”

Russell smiled. “I suppose you are referring to your father. Well, I doubt even an invincible man like him could find you way out here. Not with the weather we had last night, so don’t count on him saving your hide.”

He nodded at the two men and they grabbed Mark and sat him in one of the chairs at the table. He was dizzy and almost fell to the floor but James caught him and sat him back up. Russell placed the paper in front of Mark along with a pen.

“Now are we going to do this the easy way or the hard way?”

“I’m not signing that thing. It’s garbage. Anyone who knows me can read that and tell you that it’s all a lie.”

“Well lucky for us, you are not nearly as well known as your father is. Sign it.”

Russell placed the pen in his hand. “Sign it!”

Mark let the pen fall to the table. He looked up at Russell.

“No.”

Russell grabbed the back of Mark’s head by his hair and pulled it back roughly.

“You’re a stubborn little whelp aren’t you? Well let me tell you, you either sign this or I’ll put a bullet through your head and then I’ll go put one through your father’s head, too.” He placed his gun at Mark’s temple and cocked it.

“Now I’m going to tell you one more time. Sign it or you’ll be signing a death warrant for you and your father.”

Mark knew he had lost. He had no way out. Feeling like a traitor, he picked up the pen and shakily signed his name. Russell picked up the paper and put it in an envelope, which he handed over to James.

“Well I’m glad to see you have some sense.” He said. He nodded at the two men. They came over and began to tie Mark’s hands again.

Russell turned to the men. “Take him to the canyon just before dark. Remember…an accident.” They nodded. The meaning of these words hit Mark like a ton of bricks.

“No….no…I did what you wanted. You said…”

“Russell interrupted him. “I said we wouldn’t shoot you if you signed it and we’re not. It has to look like an accident. You were out riding and something spooked your horse. He threw you and you fell into a canyon. It’s a pity but it’s just one of those things.” He smiled. “Did you really think we were going to just let you go?”

“You mean, you were going to kill me anyway? But why?”

“If we let you go, you’d get a lawyer and you’d win. You’re only 17, remember? This way, we print the story and no one...not even your father…will ever know these aren’t your words.”

Mark gasped. “You mean…he’ll think that I…”

“Precisely. We can show him your signature, remember?” Russell turned to leave. “Thanks, boy. If this has the effect we are hoping for, you just made us very rich men.”

Mark began to struggle against his restraints. “He’ll never believe it! He’ll know what you did! You won’t get away with this!” He yelled.

“Gag him. We can’t have all this noise.” Russell said on his way out the door.

*********************

The wind was icy cold, but Lucas didn’t even notice as he rode quietly back to the ranch. He, Micah and Nils had ridden most of the night but found no sign of Mark. He was headed back home to regroup and look for any sign he might have missed before. When they arrived, he looked through the house, but it was the same as he had left it. He hung Mark’s coat and hat on the wall next to his, but he didn’t turn back around. Micah put his hand on his shoulder.

“Don’t give up yet, Lucasboy.”

He shrugged Micah’s arm away and turned around, a look of anguish on his face. He didn’t answer, but just walked into the bedroom and shut the door. He knew Micah meant well, but he needed to be alone. He leaned back against the door and looked around the room. He saw Mark’s neatly made bed. He saw his desk against the wall. He crossed the room and looked down at the books and papers that covered its surface. Mark’s journal was on top. He picked it up gently and sat on the bed. As he held it in his hands, he could see Mark bent over it at the kitchen table, writing furiously, his hair falling in his eyes. He had such depth of feeling…such a capacity for hurt. He had done a lot of growing up, but he was still just a boy. Tears spilled over onto his cheeks as he thought about him out there alone, freezing and only God knew what else had happened to him. His hands gripped the journal harder as slid down onto the floor and put his head against the cool leather. He’d thought he’d lost him once before and he’d swore to himself it would never happen again. Yet here he was…filled with fear that his son was badly hurt….or worse. He felt helpless. He’d already looked everywhere he could think of for Mark. What else could he do?

So he did the only thing he could do at times like this. He got down on his knees and prayed.

Making Room II

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

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