Welcome to The Writer's Corner
Do you trust me?
Written by Morgan
"Boy-howdy, it's getting nippy out there!" Mark exclaimed as he
came into the house and quickly shut the door. "A few more
minutes out there and I would've just about-" Mark stopped short
as he looked at his Pa, who was sitting at the table with
Margaret's picture in hand.
Lucas put the photo down and looked at his son.
"Froze?" He finished for Mark.
"...Yeah." Mark made his way across the front room and sat down
at the table. "Pa, is everything alright?"
A huge smile spread across Lucas's face as he leaned back in his
"More than alright. Mark, I have a question for you, but I want
to know you'll answer it honestly. I don't want you to try to
spare anyone's feelings."
"...Sure Pa, what is it?"
"This isn't the question, but several years ago, Miss Milly was
something special to you, wasn't she?"
"She was like a mother to me, you know that."
"And in a similar way, she was like your Ma to me. In no way did
she replace her, but she was the only woman I had ever loved
like that, besides your Ma."
"I remember us talking about that shortly before she moved. Pa,
what are you getting at?" Mark inquired; pretty sure he knew the
"Mark, how would you feel about Miss Milly... becoming a part of
"Pa, to tell you the truth… it kinda hurts."
Lucas hadn't been expecting this from Mark, but he understood
some of what Mark could be feeling.
"Mark, you come first in my life and I respect that this could
be too much right now. Do you mind me asking what exactly hurts
"That felt the need to ask me. Of course I would love for you to
Lucas breathed a sigh of relief before joining his son's
"You had me worried. You are sure you're ready for this though?"
"Pa, Ma will always be with us, a part of us, but Miss Milly is
supposed to be a part of us, too. I've known it for six years
and been ready for it for six years. If you don't get up the
nerve to ask her, I might just do it for you!"
"Not a word to her, understand?" Lucas playfully, yet seriously
"Sure thing. I know she was planning on visiting her father
right before she moved back into town, is that part of why you
volunteered to help her move?"
"Not really. It saves me a trip, but I volunteered to be with
her. When you love someone..." Lucas paused a moment before
finishing. "It's like when you volunteer to help Cassie with the
"Yeah, I understand," Mark replied with an increasing smile.
"Speaking of which, how are things going between you two?"
"Cassie's parents said they didn't mind us seeing a bit more of
each other since her grades and stuff are doing better. What
happened last month with the wolf scared her something awful,
but she's starting to get over it. It's strange Pa, every moment
of my life I feel like I couldn't love her any more than I do.
But then I see her, or even think about her again and I feel
like my love for her only grows. Part of me feels like this has
to be wrong, that this isn't supposed to be, 'cause we're too
young. At the same time, everything feels right. It's more than
feeling though... I just know that everything IS right."
"Ready for June to finally get here?"
"Yes and no. Don't get me wrong, I want to make it official and
proceed in our relationship the proper way, but you were right
about needing to take things slowly. I can see the good it's
doing in our relationship and even though her birthday seems so
far away, I feel like I can wait that long because it'll make
everything even more special."
"I'm glad you see it that way. You two are going to make a
wonderful couple one day."
"So are you and Miss Milly. By the way, what time do you have to
be at the train station tomorrow?"
"We leave at eight-thirty, so about ten minutes beforehand."
"Do you think you'll ask her “the question” on the way home or
after you get back?"
"Well, providing her father gives us his blessing, I'm not quite
sure yet. It'll just depend on how everything goes on the trip."
"Are you nervous about getting his blessing?"
"Probably more than when I asked your Ma's father. I had at
least developed a relationship with him, I haven't even met
Milly's father. ...Why all the questions?"
"You never know when you might learn something. Seein' as how I
might be going through the same thing in the near future, I
figured I might as well learn from those who've done it before."
"Believe me, it doesn't get any easier, no matter how much you
prepare. I practiced proposing to your Ma for hours and I still
fumbled over my words."
"But she still accepted."
"That she did."
Mark stood on the platform with the Osborne's as they all waved
goodbye to Lucas and Milly.
As the train pulled out of the station, Mark remembered the last
time his Pa had left North Fork. Mark couldn't believe it had
already been over a year and a half ago that Lucas and Micah
rode away from the ranch to pick up that prisoner. Even though
he tried to push the thoughts away, Mark still worried that
something might happen to his Pa, or even Miss Milly during the
trip... he worried that one or both of them might not come back.
Trying to ignore his fears, Mark waved goodbye as Anna and
Cassie left for school, and Marshal and Mrs. Osborne left for
Mark headed towards the Marshal's office to visit with Micah for
a while before heading back to the ranch. It had been a while
since he'd been able to stop by and talk with Micah, simply
because he'd been busy at the ranches.
"Howdy Micah," Mark called as he walked into the office.
"Well, nice of you to stop by. I was starting to think something
had happened to you again," Micah greeted as he gestured to the
seat across from him. "You want some coffee?" Micah
"Oh, of course. You know me, I just love the stuff!" Mark
"So how have things been going at the ranches? John told me
you've done a right fine job with those horses."
"They were pretty easy to train. The only big problem we keep
having at both the ranches are the fences. These winter storms
we've been having keep doing a bunch of damage."
"Have you come across anymore wolves?"
"Fortunately no, but at the same time it worries me because
there should've been more than just the three wolves in a pack."
"They probably made their way farther into the wilderness. Your
Pa hasn't been in for a while either, he been busy?"
"A certain someone has kept him preoccupied for the last month,"
Mark replied with a mischievous smile.
"He's not the only one that's been preoccupied," Micah quipped.
"Not in the least." Mark's smile started to slowly disappear as
he thought more about his Pa and Miss Milly.
"Mark is something the matter?"
"You know Pa and Miss Milly left this morning, right?"
"Yes. I was excited to hear that she decided to move back to
town. North Fork hasn't ever been quite the same without her.
...But why would there be something wrong with that?"
"I guess it's sort of childish... but the last time Pa left, I
thought he was never coming back. Micah, why am I so worried
over a simple trip?"
"It's not childish at all Mark. You are very protective of the
ones who you care about; you don't want to see them get hurt.
Even though it seems as though nothing could go wrong, due to
your encounters with tragedy you know they very well could.
Everyone gets a little edgy when not everyone is home; just
don't let it control you. They'll be back in a week."
"...Yeah," Mark sighed. "Thanks Micah."
"It's not a problem. You up for a game of checkers?"
"If you can handle me beating you again," Mark jested. "Last
time you threatened to lock me in jail."
"What can I say? All's fair in love and war."
Micah began clearing his desk as Mark retrieved the checkerboard
and pieces from one of the cabinets.
"How long do you think it will be before we're hearing wedding
bells again?" Micah inquired as he and Mark began setting up the
"April is my guess, Pa and Miss Milly-"
"I wasn't talking about them," Micah interrupted with a
"Don't get too far ahead of yourself, we're not even officially
"You might as well be, your aunt practically has your entire
wedding reception planned."
"Well she might want to focus on Pa and Miss Milly's first. It
may be some time before we actually get married."
"You move first," Micah stated as he gestured to the board. "Why
do you say that?"
"Even after Mr. Griswold stopped helping Cassie after school,
she's been doing so good Mr. Griswold has asked her to spend a
little time after school working with some of the first year
students. I was watching her the other day and she works so well
with them, and she loves doing it."
"Are you thinking she might want to become a teacher?"
"I think teaching really drives her. A few months ago, she hated
school... almost as much as I did when I was younger. But now
she really enjoys it, and tutoring the younger students."
"Are you worried that she'll go off to college?" Micah asked as
he double-jumped Mark for a second time.
"Not worried per-say, I want her to do whatever motivates her. I
just know if she does, it'll be hard for the both of us to
separate for that long. But she hasn't even mentioned college to
me yet, so it could end up being nothing."
"You really love her, don't you?"
"Yes sir," Mark replied with a sheepish smile.
"How's your Pa handling it? He didn't see it coming when you
asked him if you could court her."
"He's handling it better than I thought he would," Mark laughed.
"It's a big step, but one I'm ready to take. Pa's had to let go
a lot lately, and this whole relationship with Cassie and me
doesn't make it easier, but I think he's slowly starting to let
himself enjoy this stage instead of clinging to the last one.
Having Miss Milly around helped ease a lot of tension too, I
Mark moved another piece before letting out a soft chuckle.
"What is it?" Micah asked as he jumped Mark.
"I was just thinking about how Pa used to get on me about
daydreaming..." Mark started as he set himself up to be jumped
again. "Now we'll be eating supper or something and we'll both
sit there daydreaming until one of us snaps out of it."
"Are you sure you're not daydreaming now? That's the fifth or
sixth piece you've let me jump," Micah remarked as he took one
of Mark's pieces off the board.
"Positive." Mark jumped three of Micah's pieces in a row. "King
From that point on the tables turned considerably in Mark's
favor. Conversation died down as Micah began taking the game a
bit more seriously. A few minutes later, Mark watched as Micah
stared intensely at the board.
"It's still your turn," Mark stated as he tried to suppress the
smile forcing its way onto his face.
"Shh," Micah ordered.
Mark quietly chuckled as Micah tried to find a way out of the
"Alright, you win," Micah sighed as he moved his last piece in
place to be jumped.
Mark made his final move before he started helping Micah put the
"You need to stop by more often, I'm getting rusty," Micah
"I'll try to; things have just been a bit hectic over the last
"I understand. I saw you and your Pa going into Doc's last week,
what was that all about?"
"Doc wanted to check my back for infection... and some other
things at some point last week because of all the damage the
wolf did. He told us that everything was looking good though."
"What kind of “other things”?"
"Nothin' that serious. Just byproducts of other injuries."
Micah studied Mark for a moment, sure Mark was trying to avoid
"...Like your seizures?"
Mark sighed as he realized Micah wasn't going to let the matter
go. Mark didn't like talking about his seizures, he was actually
quite embarrassed by them and wished his Pa wouldn't make such a
big deal about them when he had them.
"Yeah..." Mark replied.
"When was the last episode?"
"Last week, right before you saw Pa and me go into Doc's. I
don't know why they make such a big deal about them, 'cause
there's nothing we can do about it 'sides let it run its
"You remember the side effects of your first one, don't you?"
"Of course I do. But I haven't had one that big or serious
since. I know they're just concerned, but like I said, there's
nothing that we can do."
"Well if you need anything, especially while your Pa is gone, be
sure to give me a holler."
"I will, but hopefully things will go smoothly. I better get
going; I still need to stop in to see my aunt before I head
"Alright, be sure to stop by on your way home from the Osborne's
every now and again, John and I miss having ya around the
"Sure thing. Thanks for the game, I'll see you later," Mark
replied as he opened the door.
Milly sat back against her seat after North Fork's train station
disappeared from sight.
"Lucas I still can't believe how much Mark's grown up. I
remember back when he was stuffing gum balls in his mouth,"
"It has been close to five years since you moved away, but I
know what you mean. It was like I blinked and suddenly he was a
man. Milly, I'm glad you decided to move back to North Fork,
things haven't been the same since you left."
"Now that father is living with Molly and Samuel, and I've dealt
with everything, I'm glad I am too. Lucas, I can't tell you how
much I missed you... and how much I've enjoyed this last month."
"I’ve enjoyed having you back home."
Milly gave a quick chuckle as a smile spread across her face.
"What is it?" Lucas asked.
"Home... I never thought I'd think of North Fork as home ever
again. But I intend to for a long time."
Milly and Lucas continued contentedly talking to each other the
entire train ride, not paying any attention to the rest of the
passengers in the car. They would have missed their stop had the
conductor not politely reminded them it was where they needed to
Lucas grabbed his and Milly's trunks before the couple stepped
off the train and began scanning the platform for Milly's
"You're sure they were expecting us?" Lucas inquired after the
train pulled out of the station.
"Yes, I wired Molly and told her we'd be coming for a visit
before I went to Hampton to pack my things... Oh, there they
are!" Milly exclaimed as gestured to her family pulling up in a
"Molly, how wonderful to see you again!" Milly exclaimed as she
embraced her sister, then Molly's husband, Molly's daughter, and
finally her father.
"Lucas, this is my sister Molly, her husband Samuel Walker, and
my father, Josiah Scott." Milly introduced as Lucas shook their
hands. "And this is Sally," Milly finished as she gestured to
her niece, who appeared to be in her early twenties.
"Aunt Milly, I've already met Mr. McCain. But it is a pleasure
to see you again," Sally told Lucas as she extended her hand
which he gently shook.
"When..." Milly started, but then she remembered. "Oh that's
right, forgive me, I completely
forgot. You came to visit that one summer and Mark..." Milly let
out a quiet laugh. "Mark went head over heels for you. Lucas,
what is it with your son and my nieces?"
"I haven't the faintest idea. It is wonderful to see you again
Sally," Lucas replied.
"What do you mean Camilla?" Molly asked as she looked at her
sister in confusion.
"Sally, did you ever tell your mother what happened?" Milly
inquired of her niece.
"Mother, you remember me telling you about that young man who
was quite taken with me, don't you?"
"I believe so," Molly nodded as the group began getting into the
"That young man, Mark, is Lucas's son," Milly began to explain.
"It was really just a typical boyhood crush," Lucas interjected.
"That it was," Milly continued. "But Mark has a bit more than
that when it comes to Cassie."
"Really?" Samuel inquired as he began urging the team forward.
"The two are quite taken with each other," Milly stated.
"Never in a hundred years did I think Cassie would let herself
entertain someone's romantic intentions," Mr. Scott began to
"It's more than that father," Milly replied. "She lets him help
her down from Storm, and that speaks volumes."
Mr. Scott began laughing again before replying.
"Mr. McCain, you've raised quite a man then."
"Thank you sir, but please, call me Lucas. Mr. McCain was my
"Alright then, Lucas. Your son must be something awfully special
if my fiery granddaughter accepts help down from her horse."
"He is," Milly assured. "Sally, how is Micah doing? You haven't
written me about him recently."
"Wonderful, he was able to come for a visit over Christmas break
from the university. It'll be two and a half more years until
he's finished, unfortunately."
"He'll make a wonderful doctor, I'm sure. Just like your father.
Will he be joining your practice, Samuel, or starting one of his
"I think we're all hoping he joins mine, but if he does start
one of his own, he'll have a beautiful wife to help him get
started," Samuel replied as he smiled at Sally.
"Sally, is there something you're not telling me?" Milly asked
"We're not officially announcing it until he's done with this
semester at the university, seeing as how he has such a long
time before he graduates, but Micah proposed at Christmas,"
Sally explained with delight.
"That's wonderful news! I'm sure you two will be very happy,"
Milly told her niece.
"Congratulations," Lucas added.
The rest of the way to the Walker's, Milly and Sally talked of
the engagement, while Lucas struck up a conversation with
Milly's father. Josiah Scott seemed to be a very pleasant man
with a wonderful sense of humor. Yet Lucas could see in him what
he had seen in himself for the longest time. Grief for his wife.
The man held a jolly disposition, but in those tired, old eyes
was love for one that wasn't there.
Once they arrived at the Walker's home, Lucas and Milly were
shown to their respective rooms, where they freshened up for
supper. The two sat down next to each other at the dining table,
Milly's father was at the end of the table to the left of Lucas,
Molly and Sally sat across from the couple, and Samuel sat at
the other end.
As the meal began, Josiah turned to Lucas as he passed him the
basket of rolls.
"So, Lucas, what do you do for a living?"
"My son and I own a cattle ranch outside of North Fork, lived
there for about eight years now."
"How does your wife enjoy life on the homestead?"
Milly dropped her fork and looked at her father.
"I'm sorry Lucas, I never mentioned Margaret... I-" Milly began
before Lucas stopped her.
"It's alright, I suppose the ring doesn't help matters, either.
It's just Mark and I, Mr. Scott. My wife died almost twelve
"I'm sorry for bringing it up, Lucas..."
"It's alright, it's always good to remember."
"So how do you like ranching then?" Samuel inquired.
"It's a lot of hard work, just like everything else, but we love
it. North Fork was our opportunity to start a new life, and
we've been blessed with a great one."
For the rest of the evening, conversation varied from life on
the frontier, to politics, to Sally's wedding plans. No one,
especially Mr. Scott, missed the looks exchanged between Milly
and Lucas throughout the rest of the night.
After retiring to his room for the night, Lucas lied awake on
his bed, toying with his wedding band. Finally, Lucas grabbed
his wallet from the night stand and put the ring inside of it.
He had been able to enjoy nine wonderful years with Margaret,
and she'd always be with him. Now it was time to enjoy what time
he had with Milly.
A few days after Lucas and Milly had left town, the weather gave
the people of North Fork a break from the freezing cold. The sun
finally broke through the clouds and warmed the town beneath it.
On his way home from the Osborne's, Mark decided to take a
detour and take in the view at one of his favorite spots. It
overlooked North Fork and the surrounding ranches, but also was
directly above one of Cassie's favorite spots, and he often saw
her down there. Cassie had tried so hard to figure out how Mark
managed to get up on the ledge, but no matter how many
directions she went, she couldn't figure it out. Mark wanted to
share the spot with her at some point, but he also wanted to
make it really special when he did.
Mark was enjoying the peace and quiet around him when he heard a
horse quickly approaching below him. He looked down to see
Cassie jumping down from Storm. Mark opened his mouth to call
out to her, but then he saw her face and realized something was
wrong- really wrong. Mark watched in confusion as Cassie picked
up a few rocks and flung them towards a tree before sitting on
the ground and putting her face in her hands.
Mark quickly mounted BlueBoy and made his way down to where
Cassie was. As he approached her, Cassie quickly looked up to
see who was there.
"Mark, what are you doing here?" Cassie inquired as she stood
and tried to wipe her tears.
"I was up there doing some thinking when you rode up," Mark
replied as he gestured to the ledge. "Cassie, what's the
"Nothing, why would you think that something's wrong?"
"Because you were throwing rocks at a tree," Mark simply
"Can't a person throw rocks without there being something wrong?
You throw them into the lake all the time," Cassie defended.
"Cassie, come on, what's wrong?"
"Mark I told you-"
"Do you remember what we promised when I came back from Chicago
and you found out the real story behind all my injuries?"
"...Well, yes, but this isn't-"
"Cassie, I don't like seeing you upset and simply want to help.
But like we said, we have to be open and honest with each other
or our relationship won't work. Please talk to me, Cassie."
"...You know I've been helping some of the younger students
after school and such, under Mr. Griswold's instruction." Mark
nodded before Cassie continued. "You also know that I've really
enjoyed it and that it really... I don't know... drives me, I
"You work wonders with them, all though I will say I'm surprised
you haven't run out of patience yet," Mark teased.
"Ha-ha," Cassie sarcastically replied. "Mr. Griswold suggested
to me the other day that I speak with my parents about attending
a teacher's training school for women."
"What'd they say?"
"They are really encouraging me to pursue teaching... and I
admit that I love teaching..."
"Cassie that's wonderful, what's with the rock throwing?"
"Mark, I love teaching, but I love you more than teaching. Mr.
Griswold said most programs only last a year, but it's not like
I'd be in New Mexico, either. If I went to school, I'd be
leaving you, for almost a whole year. And Mark... I don't know
what to do. I want to teach, but I want to stay here... with
"Cassie, I want you to do whatever makes you happy. I know
teaching makes you happy and is something you've become very
passionate about. You know I love you, but because I do I'm
willing to separate from you for a little while so you can
pursue what drives you. Please don't let me stand between you
and your dreams, I'd rather be there helping you achieve them."
"But Mark, a whole year...? Are you sure you're alright with-"
"Cassie, I want you to do what you are called to do. If that's
becoming a teacher, then you should go. What you said last fall
is true; absence does make the heart grow fonder."
"Mark... thank you."
"I know it might sound ridiculous, but for being okay with me
leaving. I want to teach so badly, but if you didn't want me to
leave I couldn't bear to go. Thank you for understanding."
"I get it, it was the same way with my Pa and I when I was
thinking about going to college myself." Mark and Cassie sat
down by a tree as Mark continued talking. "So how far away is
"The specific one that Mr. Griswold suggested is in
Pennsylvania. There are a handful of others scattered around the
states and surrounding territories, but he said that one is the
"...So after college, what do you see yourself doing?"
"Well hopefully coming back here and either teaching at a nearby
town, or if I'm lucky, teaching in North Fork. Mr. Griswold said
that he thinks North Fork is getting big enough for two schools,
especially since more families are encouraging their children to
do more than eight grades."
Cassie gave Mark a confused look for a second, but then
understood what he was hinting at.
"Not that I can think of," Cassie teased. "...Besides curling up
in front of a warm fire with a special someone. What about you?
Where do you see yourself three years from now?"
"As long as I'm with you, I don't care."
The night before Lucas and Milly were to leave for Hampton,
everyone was seated around the
Walker's dining room table, eating one final meal together.
When a knock was heard at the door, Mrs. Walker stood to answer
it and soon returned to the dining room with a man by her side,
who was nervously playing with his hat.
"Evening Jay," Doctor Walker began. "Is it time?"
"Yessir, I hate to interrupt your supper, but that baby ain't
waitin' and Corah's been in labor most of the evening."
"That's quite alright, you head home to your Mrs. and Molly and
I will be there shortly."
"Thank you Doc, please hurry!"
Mrs. Walker walked the man back outside as Samuel stood.
"I hate to leave during our last evening, but like he said, that
baby isn't going to wait."
"It's quite alright," Milly assured.
The doctor and his wife soon left, and the four who remained at
the house quietly finished their supper. After the meal, Lucas
began to help clear the table, but Milly told him that was
"I don't mind," Lucas insisted.
"Sally and I can manage just fine, thank you. Why don't you and
father go enjoy your pipes out on the porch?"
"Milly, are you sure?" Lucas asked.
Lucas and Josiah made their way outside and did what Milly had
suggested, enjoyed smoking their pipes.
"Lucas, I noticed the second day you were here that you didn't
have your ring on anymore. I sincerely do apologize for bringing
"What did I tell you about calling me that? It makes me feel as
old as I am."
"Sorry, Josiah, you really need not make an apology. Like I said
the other night, it's always good to remember. However, you did
help me realize it was time to let go of one last thing... the
idea of Margaret as my wife. She was a wonderful wife to me and
mother to my son, but I know she's gone now. I enjoyed the
wonderful nine years I had with her, but I believe now is the
time to let myself enjoy time with another woman."
"Hmm, I wonder who that could be?" Mr. Scott jested.
"Mr. Scott- Josiah, you've heard everything Milly and I have
gone through together, I hope you've seen how much I love your
daughter. Sir, I would like your permission to marry Milly."
"Of course you can marry her, what do you think I am, blind?"
Josiah laughed. "It's as clear as day that you two were meant
for each other. I know my daughter thinks the world of you, I
wish you two the best."
"Thank you," Lucas replied, feeling like the happiest man alive.
"Lucas, you'll be a wonderful husband to her, and I'm gonna be
right proud to have you as my son-in-law."
Monday afternoon, Mark was working in the corral with one of the
horses when Cassie and Anna arrived home from school. Mark
helped them down from their horses and went inside the barn to
help the girls put the tackle away.
"Mark, you'll never guess what Mr. Griswold told Anna today!"
Cassie excitedly exclaimed.
"It's nothing," Anna stated as she shrugged and grabbed a brush.
"Nothing?" Cassie asked. "Anna Osborne, you're too modest. Mark,
Mr. Griswold said she could graduate next year. At sixteen! Oh
the freedom you'll have!"
"There's not that much difference between going to school here
or at a college. I wouldn't call it “freedom”," Anna told her
"Nursing is something you WANT to do though. You're so lucky to
be finishing so soon!" Cassie went on.
"Mark, will you knock some sense into my sister please?" Anna
"She does have a point, Anna, it's great that you're finishing
so early. But Cassie, I wouldn't call it “luck.” I'd call it
pure determination on your sister's part."
"Thank you," Anna remarked.
"You act as though it's no big deal, wait until Ma and Pa find-"
"No!" Anna suddenly exclaimed.
Mark was a little shocked, that was the loudest he'd ever heard
"What do you mean, “no”?" Cassie asked in confusion.
"Think about it, Cassie. You're graduating and leaving for
college this year. Ned is already gone. How do you think Ma and
Pa are going to react when I announce I'm leaving much sooner
that any of us would have expected?"
"Anna, I'm sure they're going to be proud of you. It takes
parents a while to adjust to things, but they will be happy for
you and support you," Mark assured her.
"But... I don't want to leave that early. Mr. Griswold is
already setting up all these things for me and I'm not ready
yet. I don't want to leave home at sixteen... well, seventeen,
by fall. Either way, it’s too young..." Anna explained as she
looked between her sister and Mark.
"Anna, you've got a year and a half. Leaving can seem
intimidating, but it's a good step to take. But there's also
nothing that says you have to leave right away. You can stick
around for a year or two, I'm sure Doc would be happy to teach
you some things," Mark replied.
"Anna, no one is pressuring you to do anything," Cassie
interjected. "Do what you know is what you're called to do."
"Something my Pa told me when I was thinking about leaving was
that I shouldn't let anyone influence my decision. It's your
life Anna, do what you're supposed to," Mark continued.
Anna nodded and smiled, appreciative of the support Mark and
Cassie always gave her.
"You know, Mark, you've become like a big brother to me. When
are ya ever gonna get around to courtin' Cassie so eventually
you can officially be my brother?" Anna teased.
"Anna!" Cassie exclaimed.
Mark just laughed as Anna smiled and left the barn.
"Mark, I am sorry, she's never so..."
"Mischievous like us?" Mark laughed. "It's fine, she knows how
we feel. The whole town does."
"...So?" Cassie sheepishly asked.
"When are you going to get around to courting me?" Cassie
Mark turned to fully face Cassie as a smile swept across his
"That's for me to know, and you to find out."
"Oh you!" Cassie exclaimed as she playfully slapped Mark.
Mark finished with the horses as Cassie helped her mother
inside. Since they were all picking up Lucas and Milly later
that evening, the Osbornes had invited Mark to stay for supper.
"Mark, how much longer do you think until those horses will be
ready for market?" Marshal Osborne inquired as he passed the
bowl of potatoes to his wife.
"They should be ready this spring, but if you want to wait a few
months longer, there's a big convention in northern New Mexico
every year at the end of June. There will be horse buyers and
traders from all over up there. Should be able to get a good
price for them."
"That's what I was hoping for. I can't thank you enough for
training them and working around here," The Marshal replied.
"Thank you for the opportunity."
"I hate to say this, but I don't think we'll really need a hand
around here after we sell those horses, I'm not lookin' to buy
"I figured as much, it'd be a waste of your money and my time if
I stuck around after we got rid of them," Mark commented.
"Do you know what you'll do when you're done here, then?" Mrs.
"Summertime is always busy with the cattle and everything, so
I'll be helping Pa with that. But I'm considering getting a few
horses myself, to breed. Pa and I have talked about it and he
says as long as he doesn't have to do anything with them, he
thinks it's a good idea," Mark answered.
"I thought your Pa liked horses?" Cassie inquired.
"Oh he does, he's just been bucked off one too many to want to
raise and train 'em," Mark smirked.
"Sounds like Ned," Cassie laughed.
"Speaking of Ned, have you heard from him recently?" Mark asked
"He's doing wonderful," Mrs. Osborne began. "We got a letter
from him last week, and as soon as he graduates and is accepted
on the bar, he wants to move here to start a firm."
"You didn't tell me that!" Anna suddenly exclaimed with
"You must've been gone when we got the letter then; I'll get it
for you later." Catherine promised.
Cassie leaned over and discreetly whispered to her sister, "See,
everything's going to be fine."
The Osbornes and Mark looked at each other in confusion as they
watched the conductor get off the train. The platform was almost
deserted, except for the railway employees that milled about.
The small group approached the conductor, who held several
papers in his hands.
"Excuse me sir," Marshal Osborne began. "Was there a Lucas
McCain and Milly Scott on this train today?"
"Depends. Who's asking?" The conductor inquired.
"U.S. Marshal John Osborne," The marshal simply replied as he
showed his badge.
"Let me look for you, just one second, sir." The man began
looking through his papers. "No sir, they weren't. In fact, I
remember now waiting an extra three minutes, but they never
showed up. They had taken this train from Hampton to Lordsburg,
and we stayed overnight in the town. Never saw 'em after that,
we had to keep the train on schedule."
"Alright, thank you. Have a goodnight," John replied before the
conductor walked away. "I'm sure they probably just decided to
take the stage or stay an extra day or something," The
marshal assured. "We'll send a telegram to Lordsburg and see if
we can't get a hold of them."
Mark said he would send it so the Marshal could get his family
home before taking his shift at the Marshal's office. After he
sent the telegram, Mark went to the hotel, praying for a reply.
Soon. The marshal and his family didn't seem phased by Lucas and
Milly's absence, but Mark was more than alarmed by it.
"Mark, what are ye doin' here? Didn't yer Pa just get back?" Lou
asked as she came up to the table Mark sat at.
"He was supposed to. Miss Milly and Pa weren't on the train,"
Mark replied in a defeated tone.
"Well I'm sure they just decided to stay a few extra days," Lou
"That's what Marshal Osborne said."
"Then what's the matter?"
"It's not like Pa to do something like that without sending
word. I sent a telegram to the town they were last in; I'm
waiting for a reply."
"I'm sure everything is alright. Do ye want something while ye
"No thanks, Aunt Lou. I'm fine."
"Well, I'll be. I think that's the first time I've heard ye call
me that the three months I've been married."
"If you don't-"
"I like hearin' it, Mark. If ye need anything, just holler."
Lou left to wait on her other customers, but kept a watchful eye
Mark. He looked so lost, so defeated. She hated seeing him like
that... the life seemed to be missing from his eyes. Lou was
standing in front of the front desk when she suddenly felt arms
wrapping around her.
"Good evening, darling," Johnny sweetly stated as he gave Lou a
"Johnny, I'm worried about our nephew," Lou commented as she
turned to face her husband.
"Why?" Johnny asked as she gave Lou another kiss.
"Johnny, you're just lucky there are not customers around. But
to answer your question, just look at him," Lou stated as she
gestured into the restaurant. "He's been in there for almost two
hours, waiting for a reply to his telegram. Milly and Lucas
weren't on the train."
"Lucas probably changed plans 'cause he proposed or something."
"Proposed?" Lou asked in surprise.
"He was thinking about proposing to Milly before they got back."
"Talk ta Mark, please Johnny," Lou begged.
"Alright, but don't forget we have plans for tonight."
"I remember," Lou smiled. "We'll leave as soon as you talk to
Johnny made his way into the restaurant and sat down across from
"How ya doin', kid?"
"Aunt Lou sent you in here to talk to me didn't she?" Mark
"You know her well. Ya know I probably need to get a new
nickname for ya. “Kid” doesn't quite seem to fit any more."
"I don't care Uncle Johnny, coming from you."
"Speaking of your Pa, Lou said he didn't come in on the train.
She's also worried about you."
"I know. She's worried 'cause I'm worried, and she knows what I
used to do when I get worried."
"Mark, relax, your Pa probably is proposing to Milly right now."
"He could be, but Uncle Johnny, I just have this feeling that
something is wrong. I can't-"
"Mark, here's your reply!" Amos the telegrapher, called as he
entered the restaurant and handed Mark the paper.
"Thanks," Mark replied before Amos left.
“U.S. MARSHAL JOHN OSBORNE
NORTH FORK, NEW MEXICO
Sorry about the delay
Will be home by Sunday
Please get things from the train
LORDSBURG, NEW MEXICO”
Mark handed his uncle the telegram after he finished reading it.
"See, I told you, everything's fine," Johnny told Mark.
"Yeah, I guess."
Johnny started to leave, but stopped himself.
"Mark, are you alright?" Johnny asked, concerned.
"Yeah," Mark sighed as he started to get up. "I better get
going. Thanks, Uncle Johnny."
"If you need anything, we're here for you."
Mark left the hotel and first went to talk to Marshal Osborne,
then volunteered to get Milly's things over to the Osborne's
home. After Mark helped Cassie, Anna, and Mrs. Osborne get
Milly's belongings into the room that she would stay in, Mark
bade them goodnight and left for his own ranch.
Mark kept reminding himself of what the telegram said, but he
still had a very uneasy feeling about the whole situation. As
soon as Mark lied down in bed, he realized it was going to be a
'No,' Mark thought to himself. 'It's going to be a long week.'
Micah was making yet another pot of coffee when he heard the
door to the office open and close behind him. He turned around
to see Mark plopping down in one of the chairs in front of his
"Mark, what is John doing to you over there? You look like you
haven't slept in a week!" Micah marveled as he sat down.
"I haven't really," Mark honestly replied with a shrug.
"Look, I know everyone thinks I'm worrying over nothing. This is
Pa and Miss Milly we're talking about though! Why am I the only
one that thinks something is amiss?"
"Because you're the only one who won't believe the telegram."
"I sent the telegram in Marshal Osborne's name. There's no
reason someone couldn't send one in Pa's name."
"Mark, the likelihood-"
"I don't care about likelihood. I care about my Pa and Miss
Milly. Pa and I have beaten the odds in good ways and bad ways,
what if we're beating the odds again?"
"Is a troublesome word, I know. It can also be very helpful."
"It can help put things in perspective. All I'm asking people to
do is have a little perspective. But do they listen? No. Am I
the only one who remembers what happened last time he went out
"Mark, that whole thing was a ruse, remember? He didn't actually
"Not to me, Micah. To me, that was a very real death! Pa knows
that. Pa would've sent word before the train arrived, but it
took a telegram from us to get a communication from them!"
"He probably just forgot with everything on his mind, Mark,
you're not thinking rationally."
"It seems I'm the only one in this town thinking rationally!"
Mark yelled as he stood to leave.
"Mark McCain, where do you think you're going?"
"To find my Pa and Miss Milly!"
"Mark, sit down and listen," Micah calmly ordered.
Mark eventually conceded and sat down.
"Your Pa said they'll be back by Sunday. It's only Friday
morning. At least wait until Sunday. There'd be no use in you
gallivanting across the territory while your Pa is on his way
back here. Mark, I know you're scared-"
"I'm not..." Mark stopped as he saw the look Micah was giving
him. "Okay, so I am scared..."
"Get your fear under control. If they're not back by Sunday,
we'll start looking."
Mark let out a long sigh before replying.
"Now aren't you supposed to be at the Osborne's?"
"No, Marshal Osborne was already giving me next week off, but
after he saw me this morning he told me to take an extra two
days. I told him I was fine, but-"
"You're not, and he knows it. Get home and get some rest Mark,
you're gonna make yourself sick."
"Go," Micah ordered as he gestured to the door.
Mark gave in and started for the office door.
"Micah, I'm sorry I yelled at you. I had no right-"
"It's over Mark, let's move on."
"Mark," Micah started as he stood and walked towards him. "I
hope you understand that I love you and your Pa like family."
"Because you are family," Mark replied as he gave Micah a hug.
"Now I better see you rested up Sunday for church, or I might
just lock you up."
"Considering how many times you've threatened-"
"Shall I get the key?"
"I'm going. See you Sunday, Micah."
That evening, Cassie was sitting in the front room of her home
with Anna, both absorbed in a book. Hearing a knock at the door,
Cassie rose to answer it and was surprised to see who was on the
other side of the door.
"Mark, what are you doing here? Pa told me he gave you the rest
of this weekend off...?"
"Cassie, will you come outside for a minute, please?"
"Wouldn't you rather come..." Cassie stopped as she saw the look
in Mark's eye. "...Let me get my coat."
Cassie and Mark walked to the barn together, Cassie extremely
confused about what was going on.
"Mark, what's the matter?"
"Nothing... and everything. I came to say goodbye."
"Goodbye?" Cassie asked in shock. "Why? Where are you going?"
"Cassie, I know everyone else in this town thinks I'm crazy, but
I'm going to look for Pa and Miss Milly."
"But my Pa and Marshal Torrance said-"
"Cassie, forget everything your Pa and Micah have said. Just for
one minute. Think about this whole situation, doesn't it seem a
little odd to you?"
"Why would it seem odd?"
"Think about it. First off, it's not like my Pa or your aunt to
not send word if they're going to be delayed somewhere. It took
a telegram from us to supposedly get word from them. Secondly,
what would they do in Lordsburg for a week? I've been there
before and there's nothing there. Finally, even if they did find
something to do, I know my Pa didn't bring enough money with him
to pay for a week of hotels and meals."
"Maybe my aunt let him borrow-"
"Cassie, I want you to be completely honest with yourself. Do
you truly believe that tomorrow my Pa and Miss Milly are going
to be standing on the platform at the train station? Do you
really believe that there's not the slightest chance that
something isn't the way it should be? Can you honestly tell me
that you think they're both safe?"
Cassie stared at Mark for a long moment. She wanted to tell Mark
yes, she wanted to say that she knew they'd be home the next
day, but deep down she'd always had doubts... and deep down, she
knew what her answer needed to be.
"...No," Cassie started. "Mark, I can't."
"Then you understand why I have to go."
"But by yourself? Why can't you wait for my Pa or Marshal
"Because they won't do anything until Sunday, and even then,
Cassie, they're lawmen."
"What does that have to do with anything?"
"They have to follow the rules, play by the book, and do things
according to procedure. As long as I'm not deputized, I don't
have to, and if I wait for them they'll either deputize me or
try to make me stay home. Cassie, I can't sit around any longer
when I know something is wrong."
"Mark, I understand, and I'm worried about your Pa and Aunt
Milly too, but you can't go off by yourself!"
"Cassie, I came out here because I couldn't leave without saying
goodbye. Please don't make this harder than it is and try to
"Cassie, do you trust me?"
Mark's question caught Cassie by surprise, but after a moment
"... Of course I do."
"Then please trust me and my judgement now. This is what I've
got to do, and I have to do it alone. You can't tell anyone that
I've left, they'll figure it soon enough when I'm not at church
Cassie turned her back towards Mark, leaving him a bit confused.
He put his hand on her shoulder and gently turned her back
"Mark please, don't do this alone..." Cassie began as a tear
fell down her face. "You could get hurt... or sick... or lost!
No one would know where to find you. What if-" Cassie almost
couldn't suggest it. "What if you get yourself killed? Mark
please!" Cassie cried.
Mark was trying hard to stay strong. He didn't want to leave
Cassie, and he could see that this was tearing her apart. He
almost wished he hadn't come to say goodbye... but he knew that
would've just made it harder for both of them had he not. Mark
loved Cassie, his Pa, and Miss Milly. Cassie was safe though,
his Pa and Milly weren't.
"I'm sorry Cassie, but I have to go, and I have to go alone. No
one will listen to me and I can't waste anymore time." Mark
reached his hand out and lifted Cassie's chin up. "You don't
need to waste any tears, I'll be back before you know it. You
have a beautiful smile Cassie; promise me it'll be waiting for
me when I get back."
Cassie slowly nodded as she leaned forward and embraced Mark.
"Please be careful..." Cassie whispered.
"I will be," Mark replied as Cassie pulled back from him. "I
love you Cass."
"I love you too. Come home soon... with your Pa and Aunt
"I will. Goodb-"
"See you later, Mark."
"See ya later, Cassie."
Sunday afternoon, Cassie was sitting in her bedroom, staring out
her window. Like Mark had said, Micah and her Pa hadn't started
the process of looking for Mr. McCain or her aunt until that
morning. By the time the last train came in the previous night,
it was too late to do anything. And that's exactly what it
was... a process. Suddenly, Cassie's mother entered her bedroom.
"Cassie, come to the front room please," Mrs. Osborne stated.
"Is something wrong?"
"Just come to the front room."
Cassie did as she was instructed and upon entering the front
room, saw her mother taking a seat next to her father. Anna sat
in the rocking chair across from Micah, and they all held a
worried expression on their face.
"Cassie," Marshal Osborne began. "Anna said Mark came by the
ranch Friday night?"
"...Yes sir, he did," Cassie replied.
"What did he need, exactly?" Her father inquired.
Cassie looked nervously between the other people in the room.
She didn't know what to say. She couldn't lie to her parents,
but she couldn't tell them anything until they already knew Mark
"...Just to talk. Why? ...Did something happen?"
"We don't know, Mark has vanished," Micah began. "Cassie, did
Mark say he had to do something out of town?"
"He... had some business to take care of," Cassie replied.
"Where?" John asked.
"He didn't say, exactly."
"Cassie, we know Mark took off to look for his Pa and Miss
Milly, if you know anything about where he went you need to tell
us, for his own good. We've already wired the closest towns, but
no word yet," Marshal Osborne explained.
"Pa, I'm telling you the truth, he didn't tell me where he was
going," Cassie paused slightly before continuing. "Why do you
need to know though?"
"Why?" John asked in surprise. "Because, Cassie, it's dangerous.
He shouldn't be out there, looking by himself when we don't know
what's going on."
"What are you going to do when you find him?"
"Tell him to either stay with us or go home," Micah simply
"So you don't trust Mark," Cassie stated.
"Cassie, what on earth are you talking about? Of course we trust
Mark," John stated.
"No, you don't, at least you aren't acting like it. And until
Friday night, I wasn't either. Mark's a full grown man who can
take care of himself. Yes I'm concerned about him, but he knows
what he's doing. If we had trusted him, we would've taken him by
his word when he told us that something was wrong. But did we
believe him? No, we just ignored his calls for help and told him
that he shouldn't worry so much. And because we didn't believe
him, or put enough trust in him, he's out there alone, doing
what you two should have been doing a week ago," Cassie firmly
stated as she looked between the marshals.
"Cassie Osborne, you check your tongue!" Mrs. Osborne exclaimed.
"Ma, I don't want to argue with you, but it's true. We didn't
have enough faith in him. We didn't believe him, and now Aunt
Camilla and Mr. McCain could be in even more trouble! If Mark
wanted you two to follow him, he would've told you where he was
going. Obviously he doesn't want you knowing; in fact he told me
so. My only question is whether or not you will trust Mark
enough to leave him alone and let him work alone. Our lack of
belief in him got us to this point; I hope your lack of trust in
him doesn't get us worse off."
"Cassie-" Catherine began.
"She's right," John began. "Maybe it's because we simply didn't
want to believe that something could be wrong, but we didn't
believe Mark and now he's off alone. The boy's smart though, and
if he says he needs to work alone, so be it. There's not really
much we can do anyway."
"So you're not going to look for Mr. McCain and Aunt Camilla?"
Anna asked with alarm.
"We will..." Micah began to answer.
"But we won't spend time trying to stop Mark," John finished.
"Cassie's right, he is a full grown man. He can make his own
decisions and has proven himself trustworthy. ...I just hope he
doesn't get himself into trouble."
Mark was having a difficult time keeping his composure as he
rode towards Lordsburg. In the silence, all he could do was
think about the hundred different situations his Pa and Miss
Milly could be in. The possibility of one situation continually
plagued him. The possibility that they could be dead.
Mark constantly kicked himself for not getting up the nerve to
leave town sooner. He had known something was wrong, but he let
the small hope that the telegram wasn't a lie cloud his
Mark also couldn't help but feel guilty that he had put Cassie
through so much worry... he kept remembering the way she cried
as he held her in the barn, the way she had asked him not to
leave. It reminded him of when he had begged his Pa not to go to
Wyoming so many years ago... his heart had ached for his Pa to
return for two long months, the way it now ached to see his Pa
alive again. The unmistakable feeling of loss was tearing Mark's
heart to pieces, he couldn't stand to go through burying his Pa
again; he was praying so hard that he wouldn't have to.
It was a cold, long ride to Lordsburg. Mark only stopped for an
hour or two here and there over the day and a half it took to
get there. He pushed himself as much as he could, Lordsburg was
the last place anyone had seen his Pa or Miss Milly, and that
was where he was going to start his search. Mark knew that was
undoubtedly also where Micah and Marshal Osborne would start,
but he knew he had a head start on them and could get
established in town... and then make himself “disappear” for the
time the marshals were in town.
Being a Sunday afternoon, there wasn't much activity in
Lordsburg and things were fairly quiet. Mark made his way to the
"I'd like a room please, as far back as possible," Mark told the
female clerk who stood behind the front desk.
"Of course, please sign the register."
Mark did as the woman asked and turned it back around for her to
"I'll put you in room twenty-three, Mr. Clark," the lady stated
as she handed Mark the key to his room. "The restaurant will
start serving supper in about two hours, or there's a cafe down
the street. If you need anything, feel free to ask."
"I was wondering if you've seen a tall, blond haired man around
town with a brunette woman. She comes up about to his
"Not that I've seen... friends of yours?"
"Not exactly," Mark replied. "Thanks for the room."
The woman watched Mark make his way up the stairs before leaving
the front desk and hurrying to the back of the hotel.
Unbeknownst to her, Mark was watching her, too. After she
disappeared, Mark went back down to the desk and turned the
register around. He flipped the pages until he saw both Lucas
and Milly's names.
As Mark made his way to his room, the clerk quickly entered a
"This better be important, Phoebe," a man stated as he looked up
from his desk.
"Someone's in town looking for that McCain fella and the woman."
"We figured as much, except I wasn't expecting people from their
town until tomorrow at the earliest."
"I don't think that he's looking for them out of concern."
"How do you mean?"
"I asked him if they were friends of his, and he just told me
“not exactly” as a strange grin came over his face."
"Who is he?"
"Signed the register as Daniel Clark. Do you think he's
"Maybe, maybe not. Thanks Phoebe."
"Joe, what are you going to do?"
"Find out his connection to McCain and go from there. We may be
able to use him."
Mark spent the rest of the day making small conversation with
the various storekeepers and business owners. He was shocked to
find so many establishments open on a Sunday; nevertheless, he
wanted to know the ins and outs of the town, and become familiar
with the layout of it. Mark also made sure to ask plenty of
questions about the Rifleman. He wanted to make sure he got the
attention of whoever was behind his Pa and Miss Milly's
Mark found out that there was a shooting contest scheduled for
that day. He couldn't think of a better way to get attention
then by winning the shooting contest.
The first few rounds were slow and drawn out, mostly just
eliminating the weak shooters. Eventually, the rounds became of
more interest to the bystanders as the targets were moved
farther away and made more difficult to shoot.
In the final round, only Mark and one other man stood. Sixty
paces out were five cans for each of them to hit with only five
shots. The other man went first, carefully aiming at and hitting
each can until the last one, which he missed. Mark stepped into
place and carefully took aim, then
quickly fired all five shots right in a row. The judge of the
contest declared Mark the winner and presented him with the
prize. One hundred dollars.
That evening, Mark hesitantly made his way into the saloon. He
hadn't ever spent much time inside one, but he knew that if he
wanted information about his Pa, that was the place to go. Mark
joined a table playing poker and watched the comings and goings
of those in the saloon. He was very aware of a man sitting at
the bar, who was keeping a close eye on him.
Mark had just won his first hand when another man, tall and
gruff, entered the saloon. Mark didn't pay much mind to him at
first, but as he started dealing the next hand, Mark saw the
rifle the man carried. Without a doubt Mark knew it was his
Pa's, which meant Mark had been right all along. Something was
The man made his way over to the bar and sat down as Mark
finished dealing and men began to place their bets.
"What's he been up to?" The man with Lucas's rifle inquired.
"Just sitting there playing poker. He's playing 'em though. He
knows how to play... good, but he's purposely lost the first
four rounds. Just won the last one."
"I like it."
"What'd you mean, Hawz?"
"He may be just the man we're needing. You can tell a lot about
a man by the way he plays. Why don't you go relieve Lee out at
the ranch, I'll be out there shortly."
"Whatever you say, Joe."
The man who had been watching Mark finished his drink and walked
out of the saloon. As soon as a spot opened up, Joe joined the
table and sat through a long night of poker. When the last man
left, leaving just Mark and Joe, Mark decided it was time to
start up some conversation.
"That's a nice looking rifle you've got there. Where'd you get
it?" Mark inquired.
"I think you know."
"It's quite a man who can get McCain's rifle. You kill him for
"Not yet. You've been asking questions about McCain all over
town. What's your business with him?"
"I've got a score to settle with him."
"So do half the outlaws in this territory. Why are you wasting
time trying to find him?"
"It's not wasting time if I get my hands on him. I'd like to see
him suffer, make him pay for what he did to my family."
"What'd he do?"
"First off he killed my father - right in front of the entire
family. My mother had no way to support us and took in all the
extra laundry and sewing she could, but it wasn't enough.
Growing up, I found out what starvin' was, and regretted every
time I had used the word when I was little. My Ma got sick and
died, leaving us to fend for ourselves. No family to speak of,
and between my sisters and I, we could barely scrape enough
money together to get by. Then the town council stepped in and
separated us, sent us all off to different homes for orphans.
Never saw my sister Elizabeth again; she was adopted by some
crazy mad man that beat her to death. Same thing would've
happened to Loretta, but she ran away from the couple that
adopted her and eventually found me. She was so sick by then, it
was too late. The doctors said there was no hope. On her
deathbed she made me promise to make McCain suffer the way he
made our family suffer. To get at him any way I could. I intend
to keep that promise."
"Maybe I can help you keep it then."
"Yeah? How?" Mark asked as he sat up a little straighter.
"I can't let you get your hands on McCain himself, naw, there's
too high of a price on his head, lucky for me not everyone
believed that story about him dying. But if you want to make him
suffer, I can let you take his woman. He'd do just about
anything to save her, and if you take her and he don't know what
you do to her, he'll suffer the way I figure you want him to."
"What's the catch? What do you want out of it?"
"You know criminal business well. I need a little job done,
nothing that difficult. All you have to do is sit on a hill for
a few hours, fire a few shots, and you're done."
"Fire a few shots at whom?"
"One of the candidates for governor."
"How do you know I'll actually do it? I could double cross you
and turn you in. I'm sure you have quite a price on your head,
"Because like me, you're a victim. A victim of McCain who's
gonna see him pay. And if you
miss, it's not my fault if you get caught in the crossfire."
"I like you," Mark stated. "I think I'm going to enjoy working
with you. Just how do I know for sure that you've got McCain and
"Meet me behind the hotel tomorrow night at nine-thirty. I'll
let you see them. In fact, as a gesture of good will, I'll have
my man take the lady to your hotel room as soon as we leave
Tuesday morning to stake out the path the stage coach will be
on. Your target should be in range about twelve-fifteen Tuesday
afternoon. You can stick around or high tail it out of town
afterwards with the woman. Though I suggest the latter."
"Why can't you shoot the man yourself? Why do you need me?"
"Because you out-shot my best gun, and I want to make sure this
man is dead. He's pushing for statehood, and we can't have that
in New Mexico."
"Fair enough. I'll be behind the hotel tomorrow night."
After the two men finished a little more detailed planning, Mark
left the saloon and made his way to his room at the hotel. As he
was getting ready for bed though, he realized some of his things
were out of place and that someone had gone through his drawers.
Nothing was missing, but someone had definitely been there. This
didn't really surprise Mark. After all, he was dealing with
criminals, but it made it difficult to fall asleep.
As Mark lied in bed, his thoughts went back and forth between
his Pa and Miss Milly, and Cassie. He longed to be able to have
all three of them in his arms again, and couldn't wait for this
whole mess to be done and over with.
Mark had started to make his way down the hotel stairs Monday
afternoon when he saw Marshal Osborne and Micah enter the hotel
and make their way to the front desk. Mark crouched and listened
as the same clerk who had helped him gave them rooms three and
four. They asked to look through the register, and at first she
told them it was strictly confidential. Then they showed her
their badges and she reluctantly agreed.
Mark watched as they looked first for his own entry, which of
course they didn't find, and then for Lucas and Milly's... which
Mark was surprised to hear that they didn't find either. Mark
figured that someone must have switched the registers in
anticipation for someone coming to look for Lucas and Milly. The
marshals began to head for the stairs, so Mark quickly made his
way back to his room and after he heard doors closing, checked
out of the hotel and rode out of town.
After settling in their rooms, Micah and John met in the lobby
and then proceeded to the
"Can I help you?" The sheriff inquired as two men entered his
"I'm U.S. Marshal Osborne, and this is Marshal Micah Torrance,"
John began as they showed him their badges. "We're looking for
two people, a man and a woman, who came through here about a
"A lot of men and women come through here every day, I don't
know if I can be of much help to you," the sheriff replied.
"You would've remembered this man," Micah started. "Lucas
McCain, known as “The Rifleman.” About six foot five, blond
hair, and carries that famous rifle with him."
"Oh sure, he came through last Sunday. Had a pretty little
brunette with him."
"That would be them," Osborne confirmed.
"What would the law want with him?"
"This is more personal than official, honestly. They were
supposed to arrive in North Fork, our hometown, a week ago. We
didn't find them registered at the hotel, and they didn't board
their train," Micah replied.
"I thought for sure I saw them board that train. Maybe they got
off at a different spot?" The sheriff suggested.
"We received a telegram from them, originating from here last
"Do you think maybe someone sent it to throw you off the track
and waste time here? Maybe they're farther down the line."
"The conductor said they never boarded," Osborne reminded.
"Is there a possibility the conductor was in on it?" Micah
asked. "You and I have met every train that's come in to North
Fork for a year and a half, and that conductor was new, wasn't
"You're right. Thank you for your help, Sheriff," Osborne stated
as he and Micah turned to leave. "By the way, have you had any
strangers in town about six foot one, brown hair, about
"Not that I can... well, there was one, he came into town
yesterday afternoon. Won the shooting contest too, with just a
Spencer Repeater. But I think our livery man said he rode out
afternoon. I'm glad though, he seemed sort of sketchy."
"If he shows up again, leave him alone and cooperate with him."
"I'm not sure. But believe me, you can trust him."
The sheriff was a bit confused, but let the matter go.
"I wish the best of luck to you," the sheriff said as he saw the
The marshals did a little more checking around town, but
couldn't find anything. They decided that they would check out
the next morning and head farther down the line.
Mark rode to the next town, where he sent a telegram and spent
the rest of the afternoon, nervously awaiting a reply. He knew
it would take some time to track down a U.S. Marshal, but it
seemed to be taking too long. Finally, the response came.
RODGERS, NEW MEXICO
Nearby and will meet as requested
U.S. MARSHAL DAWSON ANKER
CROWNTON, NEW MEXICO”
Mark started to put the telegram in his pocket, but then stopped
himself. That wasn't being careful. Mark tore the telegram to
shreds and dropped it in the telegraph office's pot bellied
stove. He knew he couldn't take any chances.
Mark had supper at the town's cafe before making his way back to
Lordsburg. By the time he got there, it was almost nine-thirty
and Mark made his way to the back of the hotel. He waited
patiently with his gun at the ready, and the man Mark was going
to be working with finally stepped around the corner.
"For a while, I thought you chickened out. Where'd you go all
day?" The man asked.
"Some lawmen showed up that know me... and we're not on the
friendliest terms. I figured it best to skip town for a while."
"Let's get going, I don't have all night," Hawz stated.
As they rode, Mark made it clear to Joe that he didn't want
McCain or the lady to see him.
"Why not?" Joe inquired. "Don't you want him to know who's
"I've been studying McCain for years. Nothing gets to him more
than not having answers. The fewer answers he has, the happier
As they came over a hill, Mark could see a ranch house and barn
below them. He knew exactly where they were.
"This where you're keeping them?"
"Yeah, it used to be a haven for outlaws. They used to call it-"
"Skull ranch," Mark finished.
"Been here before?"
"Had the privilege of being a guest here for a few hours when I
was a kid. Got myself into a heap of trouble."
"You escape then?"
"Sure did, they didn't keep prisoners very long and I'm here to
tell about it."
"We've done a little renovating. I'm sure you'll like it. We
added a place to hold prisoners; the barn wasn't quite working
"Didn't work too well for Holt Coyle, either."
After dismounting, Hawz and Mark made their way inside the main
house. Mark hadn't actually been inside the house before, only
the barn, but he remembered that night well. Coyle had kidnapped
Mark to make Lucas kill the sheriff in Lordsburg for him. In the
end, the sheriff made it fine of course, but Coyle didn't.
"Alright Clark," Joe started. "If you don't want them to see
you, there's a hole you can see into their cell with. Follow
Mark followed the man to the back of the house. There was a room
with bars in front of the door, and Mark supposed that's where
they were keeping his Pa and Ms. Milly. Joe took Mark into the
room beside that one and pointed to a small opening in the top
corner of the wall. Mark looked through it and breathed a sigh
of relief as he saw his Pa holding Milly in his arms. It looked
like someone had used Lucas for a punching bag and Milly had a
bruise on her cheek, but at least they were alive.
Mark had a difficult time keeping up his tough front, he wanted
to call out to them and to be able to touch them; he wanted to
ask them if they were alright, he wanted to tell them that
everything would be... but he didn't know if it actually was
going to be or not. He had quite a part to play over the next
"One more thing," Mark added as he stepped out of the room with
Joe. "Keep your men away from the lady. I don't want to see a
single scratch on her."
"Why are you so concerned? It's just a lady, who McCain cares
"I'm killing someone for her; I like my reward in good
condition, just like anyone else."
"Whatever you say. You just better be at the edge of town
"And she better be in my hotel room once we leave."
"I'll have one of my men tie her up in there us soon as you ride
out. What do you plan on doing with her, anyway?"
"That's really none of your business, now is it?" Mark retorted.
"See you tomorrow morning, Clark."
Mark left the ranch, trying to keep his temper at bay. He wanted
to turn his horse around and storm into the house, but he knew
it would be suicide. Mark reminded himself that he simply had to
wait a few more hours, then he could be with his Pa and Miss
When Mark got back to Lordsburg, he checked back into the hotel
and made his way to his room. Once the clock read two-forty, he
pulled his boots on, grabbed his hat and rifle, and quietly left
the hotel. Mark carefully snuck his way into the sheriff's
office through a back window and made his way to the front
"Mark McCain, this better be good," a voice declared in the
A lamp was lit and Mark saw Micah, John, Marshal Anker, and the
town's sheriff sitting around the desk. Micah of course, was
"Micah! Marshal Osborne! What are you doing here?" Mark asked in
"I found out they were in town, told them to make it look like
they left, and then make their way back here," Anker stated.
"Marshal Anker, I knew they were in town. That's why I left!"
"Mark, why don't you want our help?" Micah inquired.
"I did," Mark bitterly stated. "I asked for it for five days,
and you wouldn't listen to me!"
"Mark we told you that we would look, if the telegram didn't
prove true," John defended.
"For five long days, I told you it wasn't. I know my Pa, and I
know when he's in trouble. But neither one of you would listen
to me! We wasted FIVE DAYS! I asked for your help, but you
wouldn't give it to me, and you expect me to think you'll listen
to me now!?"
"Mark, we had to wait-" John started.
"You can all figure this out later," Anker interrupted. "Right
now, you are all here and will work together. Mark, your
telegram said this was a matter of national security. What did
you get yourself into?"
"I'm supposed to assassinate L. Bradford Prince tomorrow, he's
passing through near here on the stage."
All the men suddenly sat up straight and looked at Mark sternly.
"McCain, you're talking-" Anker began.
"I'm not actually going to. Because he's not going to be on that
stage. You all are."
"Mark, why don't you do some explaining?" Micah suggested.
"Here's the deal. A man named Joe Hawz is keeping my Pa and
Milly Scott, a family friend, prisoners out at the old skull
ranch. I convinced Hawz to let me have Miss Milly if I did a job
for him. No, he does not know who I am, and I intend to keep it
that way. He wants to see Prince dead, because he doesn't want
him to become governor. I'm supposed to meet him and his men
outside of town later this morning and wait for the stage coach.
His men are supposed to stop the coach and give me a clear shot
at him. Here's my plan. You all ride out and meet the coach and
get him off of it. You continue on, riding the stage coach. When
his men surround the stage coach, I'll have a gun on Hawz and
you can take care of the rest of his men. At that point, we
can arrest them and bring them all into town, and then get Miss
Milly and my Pa back."
"Mark, that's not going to work," John stated. "You shouldn't be
here; your Pa would skin us alive if he knew you were here."
"This is why I left town when you arrived!” Mark yelled as he
threw his arms up. “Why do I even bother-"
"Why couldn't it work?" Anker asked.
"Because..." Osborne couldn't think of an answer.
"I have rank over all of you and I say we go through with it,
that's final. We're going with Mark's plan, no arguments about
it. Mark, where is the stage coming from?" Anker asked.
The men spent the rest of the morning planning before the
marshals and sheriff left to meet the stage. A few hours later,
Mark left to meet Hawz.
"You nervous, Clark?" Joe asked as he and Mark sat on top of a
"It's not every day I assassinate someone, but not really. I'll
be long gone before anyone figures out who was behind this."
"Good, 'cause here the stage comes."
Mark looked up to see the stage rounding a corner in the canyon
below. Anker was in the driver's seat, meaning everything so far
was going according to plan.
Mark saw Hawz's men come out of their hiding spots and surround
"Get ready," Joe stated, but suddenly men rushed out of the
coach and a gun fight ensued. Hawz began firing into the canyon
below as he ordered Mark to do the same, but suddenly his gun
was knocked out of his hand into the canyon below. "What in the-
Clark, what are you doing?!"
Mark cocked his rifle and trained it on Hawz.
"You and I are going to wait up here until that gun fight is
done. But if it's not over soon, you might just get a bullet
through your chest, so I suggest you tell your men to stand
Hawz hesitated and Mark shoved his rifle into his chest.
"You have about five seconds to stop it."
Begrudgingly, Hawz called down below as loud as he could. Over
the gun fire, his voice was difficult to hear, but his men
slowly started to obey their orders. The three marshals and
sheriff arrested the six men below and met Mark on top of the
"Clark, why would you work with the government? What happened to
your story about McCain killing your father?"
"That's exactly what it was Hawz, a story. You picked the wrong
family to mess with. You mess with one McCain; you mess with
both of the McCain's," Mark told the man as Micah handcuffed
"McCain? You mean... the Rifleman has a son?"
"You're looking at him," Anker said from behind Hawz. "Let's get
a move on."
"Miss Milly should be in room thirteen at the hotel, make sure
you get her out of there as soon as you get into town," Mark
stated as he mounted up.
"What do you mean?" Micah asked. "Aren't you coming with us?"
"I've still got to get my Pa, and believe me; it's going to take
all four of you to get those criminals to town," Mark replied.
"Mark you're not going alone," John told Mark.
"Marshal Osborne, I have the greatest respect for you, but if
you didn't want me doing things by myself, you should've
listened to me Monday. And Tuesday. And every day I said we
needed to start looking for my Pa and Miss Milly. None of you
can go with me, and you can't make me stay with you." Mark moved
Blue Boy past Marshal Osborne and addressed the sheriff and
Marshal Anker. "Thank you both for your help, and for coming so
quickly, Marshal Anker.
"I meant what I said this summer. Anytime you need something,
let me know," Anker replied.
Mark turned to look at Micah. For the first time in his life,
Mark found himself disappointed with Micah. Micah had always
been there for Mark. This time, he hadn't been there.
Micah saw the hurt in the boy's eyes.
"Mark..." Micah started.
Mark just shook his head and took off on Blue Boy, racing
towards the Skull Ranch, towards his Pa.
"Lucas, what are we going to do?" Milly cried as she sat down on
Lucas walked over to Milly and put a reassuring hand on her
"Whatever we do, we can't give up. People are bound to be
looking for us by now, they'll figure it out."
"But Lucas-" Milly stopped as the door suddenly flew open and
three men came in.
"Alright, time to go," One of the men ordered.
"Go where?" Lucas asked as he protectively stood in front of
"Not you. The boss has other plans for you; the boss is giving
her to someone for doing a job for him. Somebody who's got it in
Lucas felt Milly grab his arm tightly as the men started to come
closer. Lucas started to try to fend the men off, but soon two
of them held him back as the third one grabbed Milly and drug
her from the room.
"Milly!" Lucas yelled as he tried to get free from the men.
Lucas could her Milly screaming for help as the man dragged her
down the hallway. Lucas continued fighting until one of the men
used the butt of his gun to knock him unconscious.
Milly continued fighting and screaming until finally the man had
listened to enough and pinned her to the wall.
"You shut up or I'll see to it that “The Rifleman” doesn't live
to see another day!"
Milly slowly nodded and the man roughly took her arm and led
Milly outside. They rode double on a horse and before too long
Milly saw a town come into view.
"Now you remember what I told you," the man began. "You stay
real quiet like and don't cause any trouble, and we'll spare
that sod buster's life."
Milly simply nodded once again and as they entered town, and
didn't give any indication that something was wrong. The man led
her to the hotel and soon Milly found herself bound and
gagged in a room, alone, frightened, and terribly worried about
Milly sat for hours hoping, praying, begging God that Lucas was
going to be alright. She had only just gotten him back- she
couldn't lose him again.
After what felt like an eternity, Milly heard someone unlocking
the door to the room from the other side. Milly wondered what
awaited her and tried to keep her composure as a man came
walking through the door and headed towards her. At first, Milly
tried backing away, until the man called out to her and she
recognized who it was.
"Camilla, are you alright?" John asked as he ran towards his
sister-in-law and began untying her gag.
Micah was close behind and began untying Milly's hands as she
breathed a huge sigh of relief.
"I can't tell you how wonderful it is to see your faces!" Milly
exclaimed as the gag came off. "Lucas, we need to help Lucas!
"Milly, it's alright, Mark went to get him."
"Mark? Why is Mark here? And you let him go alone? That place is
crawling with Hawz's men!" Milly exclaimed.
"It's alright; we already arrested all of them," John explained.
"Milly, are you alright? That bruise doesn't look to good,"
"Yes I'm fine; Lucas is the one who's going to need looking
"Do you think you're feeling up to heading downstairs? We could
get you something to eat before we go to the sheriff's office to
fill out reports," John explained.
"That's if you're feeling up to it," Micah added.
Milly slowly nodded as she started to stand.
"I think so. I'll feel even better when Lucas and Mark are both
After waking up, Lucas paced the room, trying to figure out how
to escape. He had to get Milly back; he couldn't live with
himself if something happened to her, especially if it was his
fault. Lucas thought for what felt like hours. He couldn't come
up with anything. There was no window
in the room, and there was no way he could break down the door.
Lucas eventually heard keys jangling on the other side of the
door, and still not sure what he was doing, positioned himself
out of sight from the doorway. When the man walked through the
doorway, Lucas didn't waste any time. He tackled the man from
behind, causing the man to hit his head on the bed frame. Lucas
turned the man onto his back. Before Lucas could register who
was in the room with him, he sent a punch to the man's face,
which he barely dodged.
"That hurt," The man remarked, confusing Lucas. "Try to rescue
somebody, and this is the thanks I get."
Lucas froze and actually took a moment to see who he had
attacked and quickly got up.
"Mark!" Lucas exclaimed as he helped his son up. Lucas took his
son's face in his hands and looked his son over. "Mark... I
didn't know it was you, I'm so sorry son!"
"It's alright Pa. I'll be sure to announce myself next time,"
Lucas put his hands on Mark's shoulders and looked into his
"Are you alright?"
"I'll admit, you have a lot of force," Mark replied as he gently
touched his forehead.
"Pa, it's fine. It was an accident."
"What on earth are you doing here?" Lucas suddenly asked. "You
need to get out of here, now!"
"We already arrested Hawz and his men, and Miss Milly is safe in
"The sheriff of Lordsburg, Micah, Marshal Osborne, and Marshal
"What was Marshal Anker doing out here?"
"I wired for help once I came up with a plan. Why don't we get
to town? I can tell you what happened on the way in."
Lucas and Mark rode double on Blue Boy back to town. By the time
Mark was done explaining everything, Lucas was ready to chew his
son out for going off by himself, for infiltrating a gang
and working with a criminal, but something stopped him. He
suddenly realized that as hard as it was to admit it, his boy
had done the only thing he possibly could've done to get Milly
and himself out of that situation. That he couldn't really tell
Mark what he should've done differently, because he would not
have done any differently himself.
"Mark..." Lucas started.
"Pa, please, I know you don't like the idea of me going off by
"Thank you," Lucas simply stated.
"What?" Mark asked in surprise.
"Thanks for saving my skin, son; it took a lot of courage to go
alone. And Mark, I can't tell you how sorry I am for hurting
you. You know I'd do anything to keep you from harm... and then
I go and attack you. Mark-"
"Pa, it was an honest, simple mistake. How were you supposed to
know I'd come waltzing through the door? After all, I'm supposed
to be back home. One thing's for sure though, I don't think
we'll forget this day for a long time."
Lucas didn't respond and Mark knew what was going through his
Pa's head. Lucas was beating himself up for lunging at his son,
for hurting him, for putting him in danger. It was a guilt Mark
knew would take his Pa a long time to get over, but Mark didn't
want to see his Pa like this. Mark stopped Blue Boy right before
they entered town. He turned around in the saddle and looked at
"Pa, don't do this to yourself. I can't watch you beat yourself
up over a little mishap that isn't your fault."
"Mark, I almost hit you!"
"You were trying to get out of there and find Miss Milly,
"Yes, but that has nothing..."
"Pa, after a week in there and then having someone take Miss
Milly away like they did, I don't blame you for not thinking
clearly. And the thing with Miss Milly is kinda my fault too,
like I told ya. So if you're going to blame someone, blame me or
let it be. It's honestly quite ironic, don't you agree?" Mark
asked with a smirk.
Lucas looked into his son's understanding, loving eyes.
"Ironic would be the word, I suppose..." Lucas replied.
Mark faced forward again and rode Blue Boy the rest of the way
into town. When they arrived at the sheriff's office, Milly came
running out and Mark watched as she reunited with his Pa. After
they had finished their long embrace, Milly turned towards Mark
and gave him a hug as well.
"Mark, I'm so glad you're alright! Micah told me what you did
and had to go through, I'm- Mark, what happened to your head?!"
"Oh you know me; I can't stay out of trouble!" Mark laughingly
"You two go inside and I'll see if I can't get something cold
for you to put on it."
Mark did as Milly said, but Lucas with went her. Mark supposed
it would be a long time before she went anywhere unaccompanied.
The sheriff of Lordsburg, Micah, John, Marshal Anker, Lucas,
Milly, and Mark spent the rest of the afternoon in the sheriff's
office all giving their account of what happened.
Over supper at the hotel, Lucas noticed that Mark was unusually
quiet, and if he wasn't mistaken, a bit cold towards Micah and
John. This confused Lucas, but he didn't mention anything to
Mark as they were getting ready for bed that night. There was,
however, a knock at the door which Mark answered.
"Yes?" Mark asked as he cracked the door and saw John standing
on the other side.
"Mark, can I talk to you for a minute please?"
Mark hesitated; he definitely did not feel like talking to
Marshal Osborne, or leaving his Pa, but Lucas spoke up for him.
"Of course you can, see you later, Mark."
"Get some rest Pa," Mark stated before he grabbed his rifle and
left the room.
John and Mark walked out of the hotel and began walking down the
"Mark, I have an apology to make to you," John admitted. "For
the last year and a half, I've had the privilege of knowing and
working with you. From the first day I met you, I saw that you
carried yourself differently than most people your age. I saw
that you were a man and up until last week, had always treated
you like one. Mark, I failed you, your Pa, and Camilla by not
having an open mind and listening to what you told me. I
should've known that you knew what you were talking about; I
should've trusted you and taken you by your word instead of
around for five days. I think I let my pride get in the way. I
didn't want to be wrong, and I thought I could judge the
situation better than you, but I couldn't. I pulled rank and
told Micah we weren't doing anything until the last train came
in Saturday, because I had convinced myself they would be on it.
That's why Micah kept telling you he wasn't going to do
anything, because I pretty much ordered him not to. But they
weren't on the train. Thankfully you were smart enough to not
listen to me, and found Lucas and Milly before it was too late.
Mark, I truly am sorry and hope that one day you'll forgive me."
"It's John, Mark."
"I admit I got angry. I was mad. I was bitter. And honestly, am
still fighting the bitterness. But like I told you the first
week we met, I'm not going to let bitterness destroy the
foundation my Pa has laid for me. I appreciate you telling me
that... and I know that no one's perfect. You know I have my
flaws. I do forgive you. But sir, I'm not the only one that was
"I know, Mark. I'll talk to the rest of them tomorrow. Thank you
Cassie was up in the hay loft, absorbed in a book without
realizing that someone was standing in front of her.
"Told you I'd be back before you knew it."
Cassie tossed the book aside and stood up to hug Mark.
"When did you get back?! Why didn't you wire? Your Pa and Aunt
Camilla... did you find them?" Cassie asked as she stepped back
"Just a few minutes ago, we tried, but apparently it didn't go
through, and yes, I found them." Mark replied as he smiled at
"Are they alright- Mark what happened to your head?!"
"I just hit it on a wood post, it's fine. Pa's a little beat up
and your aunt has a shiner, but they'll be okay."
Mark watched as tears started falling down Cassie's cheeks.
"Hey, what's the matter? Everything's going to be alright." Mark
assured as he put his hands on Cassie's arms.
"Mark... I'm so glad everyone's home," Cassie cried as she sank
into Mark's arms.
"And that's why you're crying?" Mark inquired.
Cassie simply nodded, and Mark understood. He gently ran his
hand across her back as she released her long pent up tears.
They stood in the hayloft for quite some time, and would've been
there even longer had Lucas and Milly not come in the barn. The
adults were unaware of their presence, and Cassie and Mark kept
it that way. They could here Lucas and Milly talking below.
"What is it Lucas?" Milly asked as Lucas sat her down on a hay
"Milly I was planning on doing this on the train home, but some
outlaws sorta ruined my plans. I can't wait any longer though.
Milly Scott, I love you like I've never loved anyone else
before. I know you haven't been back for long, but I think deep
down you and I both know this has been six years in coming."
Lucas got down on one knee and took Milly's hand in his own.
"Will you make me the happiest man alive, and become my wife?"
"Oh Lucas..." Milly whispered. "Yes, of course I will!" Milly
exclaimed as she stood and hugged Lucas.
Lucas looked into Milly's beautiful eyes and soon the two found
themselves in a passionate kiss.
"Do you really think we should be watching this?" Cassie
"Too late, we already are," Mark replied.
Lucas and Milly both jumped as they heard cheering from the
hayloft above them, and then gave a slight chuckle before
looking up to see who was there.
Lucas and Milly both started to chide their relatives at the
"Took you two long enough!" Mark hollered.
Lucas and Milly looked each other before quietly laughing and
kissing once again, ignoring the whoops and hollers from above
This is a story based on the TV
series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
around The McCain Ranch