The Writer's Corner
Lucas stopped and squinted into the midday sun. Russell almost
seemed to be playing a game. He wondered for the thousandth time
if he was doing the right thing. He bent down to study the
“Micah, he’s riding south, but he seems to be slowing down.”
“Well, let’s keep going.” Micah also wondered if they were doing
the right thing but he kept quiet. He knew how important this
was to Lucas. He also knew that this entire thing needed to come
to a close so their lives could return to normal. So they
pressed on. A few miles down the road, they saw a man sitting
against a tree. His gun was holstered and a fire burned nearby.
“Micah, look!” Lucas pointed.
“What’s he doing?”
“I don’t know, but that’s not Russell.” Lucas answered. They
approached him cautiously.
“Howdy.” The man said with a smile.
“Hello.” Lucas said. “Mind if I ask what you’re doing?”
“Why I’m not doing anything except resting a spell. I’ll pour
you a cup of coffee if you’ll put down that rifle.”
Lucas lowered the rifle but he didn’t want any coffee.
“Were you in Northfork yesterday?” He asked.
“Matter of fact, I was.” The man answered. “Why do you ask?”
“Do you know Russell Landers?”
The man only smiled and gestured towards Micah. Lucas whirled
around and saw that Russell was standing behind Micah and
holding a gun to his back.
“Drop that rifle, Mr. McCain, or your friend here is a dead
“Don’t do it, Lucas!” Micah said. “Shut up!” Russell said as he
knocked him to the ground.
Suddenly, Lucas knew he’d walked right into a trap. He dropped
his rifle. “Where’s my son?” He asked in a panicked voice.
“He’ll be here shortly.”
Lucas struggled to come out of the darkness. He awoke with a
sense of urgency when he remembered where he was. He lifted his
head and looked around. He’d been tied to a tree and Micah was
also tied several feet away. Micah’s concerned eyes were fixed
on his friend. He knew this could end very badly.
“Lucas…” He began but Russell interrupted him quickly.
“No talking!” He said as he walked over to Lucas. He was
struggling against his restraints, but it was no use. He was
helpless. A sense of desperation he’d rarely felt filled his
heart. He knew that Russell was planning to kill his son before
his very eyes. He shot Russell a look of death.
“You listen to me, Russell. You better kill me right now because
nothing will save you if you harm my son.”
Russell just shook his head. “Apparently you’re missing the
“Look, just get it over with. I know you’re going to kill me.
You don’t really need Mark. I was behind this whole thing. He
didn’t know what he was doing. With me out of the way, he won’t
be any harm to you. You’ll have time to ride out of here without
anyone knowing you’re gone.” Russell just laughed.
“Nice try, but not a chance. Besides, I’m not going to harm your
son…I’m going to kill him…” he said as he lifted the rifle,
“…with this.” “Then I’m going to kill you, if there’s anything
left of you after watching your boy die. The boys here think
that may be enough to do you in, but I’m not taking any
Lucas felt his world collapse around him. A sense of
unimaginable horror left him momentarily speechless. He shook
his head back and forth as he tried to comprehend what was
happening. Helpless, he tried to reason with this madman again.
“Russell…” Lucas was panting, shaking with horror. “He’s just a
boy who got in over his head. You don’t …you don’t have to ….”
Lucas couldn’t finish.
A wicked smile spread across Russell’s face. “Do I hear what I
think I hear? Is the great Lucas McCain about to beg? This I
have to see.” He bent down and put his face mere inches from
Lucas. He spoke quietly. “It won’t make any kind of a
difference. I see your fear, McCain. It’s a look I’ve seen many
times in a man’s last hours on this earth. I saw it on James’
face before I killed him, but not many men can say they’ve seen
it on yours. You see, I don’t just kill a man. That would be
brutal and I am not a brutal man. I find a man’s strongest
weakness…whatever it may be….and I break it… right in front of
him…so that when it’s his turn, he welcomes death as a friend….
he begs for it.” He stood up. “So you see, McCain…I’m really
just giving people what they want.” He stood up and held the
rifle in his arms. “And I’ll soon be doing you the same favor.”
Lucas turned his head away. The excruciating pain evident on his
face. He couldn’t hear this any more. This was his worse
nightmare…one he’d never dared to even dream. Was he really
going to have to watch Mark die? The thought turned his stomach
inside out. This couldn’t be…it was more than he could bear. He
had to do something, but what? His mind frantically sought an
answer, but he could think of nothing…only that he was on the
brink of losing what mattered most. For the first time, Lucas
felt powerless to protect Mark…and if he couldn’t, who could?
His thoughts fell to only one person.
“Margaret…help him. Please help him.”
Mark rode in silence, gripping the rifle Johnny loaned him in
one hand and the reins in the other. The pleasant breakfast he’d
shared with his father that morning seemed like years ago. The
carefree evening they’d spent in town seemed now to be nothing
more than pretense….he had been deceived into thinking that he
was safe, that Lucas had been overreacting. Again, he realized
that Lucas had been right ….Russell was still out there, just
waiting for the opportunity. This realization just added to the
sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. His eyes bore into the
back of Carl and he bit his lip in an effort to fight the urge
to knock him out of the saddle. He said he was leading them
around to the back of where Russell was supposed to be. Mark
knew they needed him. He knew what he was going to have to do to
save his father and he knew it had to be with Carl’s help. He
just prayed for God to give him the opportunity to do it. Carl
began to slow down and gestured with his shackled hands.
“They’ll be at the top of this rise on the other side, under a
stand of trees. He’ll be looking for me and the boy to be coming
from the south.”
Johnny jumped down from his horse. “I’m going up to the crest of
this hill to see if we’ll have them in our sight from this side.
We may need to move down some.”
Mark jumped down, too. Johnny turned. “You stay here.” Johnny
went on ahead. Several minutes later he came down.
“I can see them. He’s got Lucas and Micah tied to some trees.
He’s facing south like Carl said. He’s got 2 other men with him.
We better act fast, before he has time to get suspicious.”
Mark grabbed Johnny by the arm. “Wait a minute. Just how are we
going to do this? As soon as they begin shooting, my Pa and
Micah will be as good as dead.” Johnny looked down at Mark.
“We are not doing anything, Mark. You are staying here. The
others and I will ride down and confront them.” He began to walk
away but Mark followed him.
“And then what? You might get Russell, but you won’t get my Pa
out of there alive and you know it.” Johnny turned and sighed.
“Mark, we’re going to do our best. I don’t see another way.”
Mark let go and stood up as tall as he could. This was the
moment he’d been waiting for. He took a deep breath.
“What is keeping Carl?” Russell asked himself. He didn’t like
waiting. He strained to see if he could catch a glimpse of them
on the trail, but he could see nothing. He turned to look at his
captives. The old man had his head leaned back against the tree
and was staring up at the sky. Lucas’ head hung toward the
ground. He turned back towards the trail and finally saw two
riders approaching. He smiled. It was them. He watched as they
rode up the hill, Carl in front leading Mark’s horse. He had
tied his hands just as he had been instructed. When Lucas heard
horses approaching his head snapped up and he looked with horror
at what he saw. He struggled in vain to break from the ropes
that held him to the tree.
“MARK!” He called out. It was a cry of utter despair. He looked
as Russell moved towards Mark. This couldn’t happen. He couldn’t
let this happen.
“NOOOOOOOOO!” He yelled as Russell reached up to pull Mark from
the saddle. But suddenly, before Russell reached him, Mark had
jumped to the ground and was running towards him, throwing the
rope that had held his hands to the ground. At the same moment,
he heard gunfire coming from behind. Russell hit the ground and
“Pa!” Mark yelled as he slid to the ground and began to untie
his hands. Russell was returning fire with Johnny and the
others. When Mark had Lucas untied Lucas pushed him behind the
“Here, Pa.” Mark said as he handed him a handgun he’d concealed
under his coat.
“Stay here. I’m going for Micah.” Lucas said as he rushed off.
Mark watched anxiously. He saw both of Russell’s men take
bullets and fall. He saw Lucas untie Micah and begin making his
way back to Mark. Russell saw them, too, and fired a shot in
“NO!” Mark yelled. He felt as if he was moving in slow motion as
he stood and yelled.
“Get down, Mark!!!” Lucas cried as he and Micah approached the
trees. Mark did as he was told and Lucas began firing shots in
Russell’s direction. With bullets flying from two directions,
Russell didn’t last very long. A rifle shot from Johnny brought
him down. As soon as he fell, Lucas rushed over and grabbed his
rifle, a look of utter loathing across his face. He looked down
and saw Russell lying in the dirt. He was still alive. Lucas had
a strong urge to finish him.
“Lucas!” Johnny yelled as he and the other men rode up. He came
“I’ll take care of him.” He said gently. Lucas slowly dropped
the rifle and turned around. He saw Mark and everything else
faded away. He quickly made his way over and threw his arms
around his son.
“Mark…you’re alright! Oh thank God…” Mark hugged his father back
and for several minutes they just held each other.
“Russell was going to…Oh God.” Lucas’ voice broke as he held
Mark was in shock but as the realization that he and his father
were both all right sank in, tears welled up in his eyes. Mark
put his head on his father’s shoulder.
“Pa…I….I was so afraid.”
“I know, son. So was I. He was going to….” Lucas couldn’t bring
himself to even say it. A shadow crossed over his face. Mark
looked up at his father. He’d never seen him so distressed.
“I’m sorry, Pa. I’m so sorry for all of this.”
Lucas took his son’s chin in his hand and forced him to look him
in the eye.
“Mark…don’t you know how happy I am that you’re alive? A few
minutes ago I thought I was going to watch Russell kill you.”
Lucas’ voice broke. “The things he said…” Mark took his hand.
“Pa…it’s okay. I’m okay.” He squeezed his hand and tried to
sound reassuring. Lucas shook his head.
“You don’t know…I thought…He was….”
“I know what he was planning, Pa. You don’t have to say it. But
it’s over now.” Lucas looked down at his son with red-rimmed
“But how did you know? What happened?”
“It was Grid. After you left, I visited with him for a while.
When I was walking back to the dining room, I heard him call my
name. When I turned around there was Carl, pulling a gun. I was
able to wrestle it away from him in time. He brought us here in
exchange for leniency.” Lucas looked puzzled.
“You mean you coming along was part of the deal?” Mark cast his
“Not exactly.” He looked up into Lucas’ eyes. “I insisted on
Lucas was alarmed. “You mean Johnny allowed you to come with
him? Is he out of his mind?” Lucas was voice was getting louder.
Johnny looked over at them when he heard his name. He looked
away when he saw the look on Lucas’ face. Mark grabbed his
“No, Pa. It was me. I told him I was going, with or without him.
I didn’t leave him a choice. By letting me come with him, he was
actually keeping me safe. Nothing would’ve stopped me from going
“But Mark I told you stay in the hotel. I told you not to leave
there…don’t you see? You could’ve been killed! If you knew what
they were planning, how could you put yourself in danger like
this? What if something had gone wrong?” Lucas didn’t realize he
was shouting. “You must’ve known that I would never have allowed
you to do this. Especially after last summer….”
“Pa, you’ve risked your life many times to save me.”
“That’s different, Mark. You are my son!”
“No, Pa..it’s not different!” Mark was shouting now. “You’ve
taught me to always do the right thing…to fight for justice…to
fight for what’s right. It’s what you’ve always done, how could
you expect anything less from me?”
“Mark, I’m a grown man. You are still a…” Mark interrupted
before he could say it.
“I’m not a child any more, Pa!”
“You’re my child!” Lucas shouted.
Seconds of silence passed as they stood looking into each
other’s defiant faces. Mark felt like nothing he said mattered.
Lucas would never see him as anything but a boy. Feeling utterly
dejected, he whirled around and ran towards Blue Boy.
Lucas turned. “Mark! Wait…” He shouted, but it was too late.
Mark jumped on his horse and rode away as fast as he possibly
Lucas felt a totally new sense of loss watching his son ride
away from him. A deep sense of regret filled his heart. He stood
watching the horizon where Mark had disappeared for some time.
Finally, Micah approached him. Lucas turned to look at his
friend, but before Micah could say anything, Lucas spoke…
“I know, Micah….I know.” He quickly mounted Razor and rode out
after his son.
Mark sat staring out across the river. Why did he come here? He
wasn’t quite sure. He knew that Lucas would find him here. Is
that what he wanted? Or did he come here because something
inside him still wanted to be the boy that Lucas thought him to
be? His mind was whirling. He had disobeyed his father, but why
couldn’t Lucas understand? Was he ever going to realize that
Mark was only becoming the man that Lucas had taught him to be?
In a way, he understood how his father felt, but the way Lucas
had shouted at him made him feel so, well…. small.
Lucas followed Mark’s trail, but purposely held back while he
thought of what he should say to him. His son had always meant
everything to him. He was what kept him going…the reason he
didn’t give up years ago. He’d do anything to protect him…but he
knew the day was rapidly approaching when he couldn’t any more.
Had that day already come? Was he just too stubborn to see it?
He thought back to what had transpired that afternoon. He’d been
beyond terrified when he thought Mark was about to be killed.
The thought still made him shudder. When he saw him alive and
well, he was so relieved he could hardly stand. Then to hear
that he’d put himself in danger…it was more than he could take.
But there was this nagging thought in his mind….wasn’t it also
Lucas’ fault? Wasn’t he the one who’d been tricked into trailing
after Russell to begin with? There was another thing, too. Fear,
love, relief and anger weren’t the only emotions he was feeling.
In the middle of his heart there was the distinct and
unmistakable feeling of pride. His son had saved his life. Not
Johnny, not the others….Mark. Mark had the most to lose out
there, but it didn’t matter. He’d put Lucas and Micah before
himself. Suddenly an image crossed his mind….a man, yelling,
threatening to kill him. Mark in the doorway…tossing the rifle
to him. What was it he’d said when the old man questioned Mark’s
disobedience? He’d disobeyed out of love. Tears welled up in
Lucas’ eyes as he realized today was no different. If there was
a good reason for disobeying your father, love would be it. In
his mind he saw the image of Mark’s downcast eyes…his slumped
shoulders as he ran away. He choked back the tears and kicked
Razor. It was time.
Mark was staring out over the water, his back against a tree
when he heard Lucas ride up and walk over to him quietly. He
stood there a moment in silence.
“Mind if I sit down?”
Mark shrugged. Lucas sat down next to his son.
“Mark, before either of us says anything else I want to tell you
that I’m sorry. There was no reason for me to yell at you like I
did….no excuse for it at all. I hope you’ll find it in your
heart to forgive me and try to understand.”
Mark still stared straight ahead. There were tears in his voice
when he said “I always understand you, Pa…and I’ll always
The words cut Lucas to the heart. It was a moment before he
could speak. “I know that, son. I also know that you understand
how much I love you…how much you mean to me. You’ve never had to
wonder how far I’d go or what I’d do to keep you safe. I think,
though, that maybe sometimes I’ve neglected something else.”
Lucas took Mark by the chin and gently turned his face towards
his own. Mark’s brown eyes were filled with tears. Lucas
“Mark, I not only love you…I’m more proud of you than words can
express. I appreciate what you did today…and everything you’ve
done for me in the past. Having you for a son is a gift that I
could never deserve. I don’t just love you because you are my
son. I love you for who you are….for what’s in your heart. You
always put others first. You always put me first…and I just want
to say thank you.”
Mark stared at his father. He blinked and the tears fell from
his eyes and down his cheeks. It was more than Lucas could take.
He took his son into his arms.
“Pa…I did what I thought was right.” He said between sobs. “I’m
sorry I disobeyed but I did it….”
Lucas interrupted him. “…out of love.”
Mark pulled back from the embrace and looked surprised.
Lucas brushed his own tears away. “I know why you did it then
and I know why you did it today. I also know something else.”
“My boy isn’t a boy any longer.”
Mark smiled knowingly.
“I mean it Mark. It’s true and I need to remember it. Look, I
won’t lie to you. I’ll always be your father and I’ll always
want to protect you, no matter if you’re 17 or 70. But from now
on, I will treat you like the man you are.”
Mark nodded again and then spoke. “I appreciate that, Pa. I
still have a lot to learn and I still need my teacher. He’s the
best man I know, remember?”
Lucas put his arm around his son’s shoulders. “I remember…and I
still need my son.” Lucas smiled.
“He’s the best man I know, too.”
Room I - Again!
This is a story based on the TV
series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
around The McCain Ranch