The Writer's Corner
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
“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
“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
“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
“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.
“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
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.”
“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
“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
“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
“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
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
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.”
“And I suppose that he has told you what you will get in return
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?”
“And he lives in Northfork...right in the middle of the largest
pocket of statehood supporters in the territory?”
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
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
“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
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
“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.”
“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
“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
“I'm sorry I got angry. I didn't mean what I said.”
Lucas' eyes softened. “No son, you were right about some
“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
“I understand Pa. Sometimes I just....want to find out for
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
“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
“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
“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.”
James walked into the printing room. He saw Russell bent over a
“Is it finished?” James asked.
“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
“So what’s going on? Is something wrong with my work?” Mark
“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
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
“I would never write this! This goes against
everything…everything I believe. I support statehood and so does
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
“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
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
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
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…”
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
“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
“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
“Micah!” Lucas said as he ran back outside. “Mark’s horse is
gone but his coat and hat are still inside. Something is very
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
“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
“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.
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
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
“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.
This is a story based on the TV
series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
around The McCain Ranch