Welcome to The Writer's Corner
Written by Morgan
Cassie whipped around and
looked at Mark in the darkness.
“What did you just say?” Cassie asked in disbelief as tears
formed in her eyes.
“... I said… that… I love you, Cassie.”
“Is that what that concentrated look was for? You got your
voice back and didn't tell me??” Cassie cried as the tears
fell down her face.
Mark pulled Cassie close and gave her kiss before replying.
“I… wasn't sure if I had it or not.” Mark paused and thought
for a few seconds before going on. “...Cassie, I love you.
I'm sorry…” Mark paused again, still struggling to put his
thoughts into words. “...Sorry to have put you through
“Mark, this wasn't your fault!” Cassie exclaimed.
“...Could we talk a little quieter, please? My head feels
like a… a... railroad spike was driven through it.”
“Sorry…” Cassie apologetically replied. “How else do you
“Sore. But it sure does feel good to be able to talk to you
“...Do you remember what happened?”
“A little. I… I remember dropping clothes off for you and
heading home. ...I worked on the barn chores for quite a
while... and I heard someone come up behind me... I turned
around just as they were swinging a gun butt at me. The
first blow sent me to the ground. They turned me over and
hit me again… and next thing I remember, I was in a doctor's
office. ...Do you know what all happened?”
“After you didn't show up in town Sunday, I asked Micah to
ride out here. He found your rifle and hat, and a note
inside your parent’s home.”
“Someone wanted your Pa to come looking for you.”
“You'll have to ask your Pa… he hasn't really talked about
“Cassie… has my Pa been up here at all? While I was...
sleeping or something?”
“No, but I think after looking for you and then coming home
to the ranch work, he's just been exhausted.”
“Well I certainly know how tiring the ranch can be.”
“Mark… truthfully… are you going to be alright?”
“Cassie…” Mark paused and did a little math in his head
before going on. “...Almost three years ago I promised there
wouldn't be any secrets between us. I… intend to keep that
“Secret?” Cassie asked.
“Promise.” Mark slightly chuckled. “I meant promise. ...I
intend to keep that promise for a long time. I told you… or
at least tried to tell you at Doc's, that it's going to be
alright. I'm going to be alright. You'll see.”
There was a brief silence before Mark continued.
“Cassie, what happened to you while I was gone?”
Even in the dark, Mark knew his question had brought tears
to his wife's eyes and he gently used his thumb to wipe each
one away as it rolled down her cheek.
“I don't know, Mark,” Cassie finally replied. “I've been
worried about you before… but this was different… I don't
know how to describe it. I almost couldn't go on; the
possibility of Uncle Lucas bringing you home in… in a casket
haunted me. I felt like I almost died on the inside.”
“I accidentally overheard you and Ma talking the other day…
what was she saying about you getting sick?”
“...Between the possibility of losing Ma, and then the
possibility of losing you… and such little sleep… it took a
toll on me.”
“is it still taking a toll?”
“...A little, but Doc says it should go away as everything
gets back to normal.”
“You let me know if it doesn't, and I don't want you over
“By the way you're talking, you'd think I was the one
knocking on death’s door.”
“Please, take it easy..., Cass.”
Husband and wife talked long into the night. Every once in a
while, Mark would struggle to find a word or found it
difficult to communicate what he meant, but most of the time
his sentences were coherent or Cassie would understand what
he was trying to say.
The next morning, Cassie was fixing breakfast when there was
a knock at the door.
“It's open, Rachael,” Cassie called from the stove.
Rachael entered the home and put the eggs and milk on the
“Flapjacks?” Rachael asked with intrigue.
“As soon as I add the eggs and milk. Thanks for bringing
them up. And for goodness sake, you don't have to wait for
an invitation to come in!”
“Good enough to be asking for flapjacks.”
“Well that's good-” Rachael stopped short as she realized
what Cassie had just said. “You mean…?”
“He and I talked for about four hours last night. You want
to take the good news down the hill?”
“Well sure, but I gotta get ta school. Do you mind if I pop
in real quick?”
Cassie watched as Rachael eagerly went to talk to Mark. Her
smile faded, however, as the nauseous feeling in her stomach
intensified. Trying to put it aside, Cassie continued to
work on breakfast. A few minutes later, Rachael headed back
down the hill. A while after she had left, Milly entered the
younger McCain’s home.
“I hear a certain young man is back to ordering his wife
around?” Milly teased.
“Call it what you like,” Mark replied through the open
“Good to hear your voice again, Mark. I can't tell you how
excited Lucas and I were to hear the news,” Milly said as
she walked into the bedroom.
“...Did Pa not come up with you?” Mark asked.
“No, he said he had to meet Oat’s hands at the fence line
and was running late. He'll be up later, I'm sure.”
“How are you doing?” Mark asked, knowing what his Ma must've
“Fine, now that everyone's almost back to where they should
“Almost?” Mark inquired with curiosity.
“We still have to get you back on the range,” Cassie stated
as she brought Mark's breakfast in.
“And I'm sure it won't be long before you're back on your
feet,” Milly assured.
And Milly was right; within a week Mark was back to walking
around and doing things fine on his own. Every once in a
while Cassie would notice a lapse in Mark's attention or he
would forget what he was doing, but overall Mark seemed to
be almost back to his old self.
The night Doc Burrage gave Mark a clean bill of health, the
McCain families invited him to stay for dinner. It was the
first time in several weeks that the families had come
together for dinner at Lucas and Milly’s, and everyone
seemingly had a good time.
Lucas retired early, stating he was tired from a long days
work, but invited everyone to stay as long as they wanted.
Doc didn't stay much longer and bid the family a goodnight.
Milly sent Rachael to bed shortly after due to it being a
school night, but she, Mark, and Cassie stayed up visiting
for quite a while.
After Mark and Cassie headed home for the evening, Milly
straightened the front room a bit before heading to her
bedroom, where she was surprised to find Lucas sitting at
“I thought you went to bed hours ago.”
“You should've joined us.”
“You seemed like you were having a good time,” Lucas replied
with a shrug.
Milly looked down just as Lucas put a picture of him and
Mark face down on the desk.
“Lucas… is everything alright?” Milly asked as she put her
hands on Lucas's shoulders.
Lucas stared blankly at the wall for a long time.
“I'm sorry, Milly,” Lucas said as he shook his head.
“Are you sure?”
Lucas reached back and patted her hand as he looked up at
her with a smile.
“I'm just tired. Why don't we hit the sack?”
Mark and Cassie walked into the barn to see Lucas just
finishing up the morning chores.
“Pa, what are you doing up?” Mark asked.
“Work’s gotta get done,” Lucas replied with a shrug.
“Trying to put Cassie and me out of work?” Mark teased.
“...Guess I kinda forgot since you haven't been able to come
down for a while. Extra eggs and milk are over on the porch,
“Thank you,” Cassie replied before heading back out of the
“What can I do?” Mark asked.
“Go ahead and have breakfast with Cassie, I've got
everything pretty much done here.”
“...Are you sure?”
“Of course. Then I was thinking we could split up for the
day. If you want to take the south pasture, I can check over
by the box canyon.”
“...Alright,” Mark replied, sensing finality in his father's
Mark stood there for a few seconds, feeling like something
“Pa, is everything alright?”
“Why do you ask?” Lucas inquired.
“I don't know, I just feel like something's… wrong.”
“You know how feelings can be, Mark. Give it time, your
feelings will catch up with fact. Now I don't know about
you, but I'm hungry, so I'm going to see if your Ma has
breakfast finished yet.”
Mark watched his Pa leave the barn and walk to his house
before Mark shrugged it off and heading back up the hill.
When Mark walked into the house, he found Cassie bent over
the sink, holding her hair back.
“Cassie?” Mark called as he made his way towards his wife.
“It's nothing.” Cassie stated as she stood up straight.
“Nothing?” Mark asked as he began pumping water to clear out
the sink. “You're not doing better, are you?”
“I don't know…” Cassie replied as her eyes dropped to the
Mark stopped and lifted his wife's chin up.
“What's going on, Cass?” Mark asked in concern.
“Just the same headache and nausea I've had since… since
“You seemed a little dizzy this morning, too.”
“Cassie, would you do me a favour and rest today, please?”
“I'll be with your Ma all day, I'll be fine.”
“I need to talk to her. I think it will help me put
everything behind me.”
“I thought you said we had talked about everything we needed
“Between you and me, yes. I'm coming to terms, but Aunt
Milly just puts everything in a way that… I don't know…
“I can understand. Still, just take it easy, please.”
“I'll get breakfast started if you want to clean up.”
“Thank you, Mark.”
Mark was glad to see that Cassie seemed to be doing a little
better before he left for the range that day, but also
dropped by his Ma’s to ask her to make sure Cassie took it
Cassie was able to talk to Milly, and found comfort in her
aunt's counsel. Yet Milly could sense that there was
“What is it, Cassie? Something's eating at you,” Milly
stated in concern.
There was a long pause before Cassie answered.
“...Aunt Milly, I'm sorry.”
“For what?” Milly inquired.
“For shutting you out while Mark was missing. For making
things that much more difficult. I should've realized how
hard that had to be on you, as well.”
“Please don't say it's alright, because it isn't. I
should've looked beyond myself.”
“Cassie, pain and fear are tricky things. I'm just glad
you've seemed to snap out of it… your mother and I were both
worried when you started reacting the way you did with
“... I felt like it was Aiyana all over again… but worse.
Finally, someone had been able to be that close… even closer
to me. Mark broke down the walls I had built and I allowed
myself to feel again. And then it was like he was gone… I
thought that if I shut everyone out and didn't have to talk
about it, it would hurt less…”
“But it ended up hurting more.”
Cassie nodded in response.
“Cassie, we can't go back. We can't change what we've done.
But we can learn from the past and move forward. And now
you've learned that you can talk about your hurts and pains
to family and friends… that you don't have to shut down.
Just live life… moving forward, not forgetting to learn from
“Thank you, Aunt Milly.”
“Now, Mark said you still aren't feeling well?”
“It comes and goes… but I'm sure I'll be fine. We're
catching up on rest and things are finally getting back to
“Is there ever a normal around here?” Milly laughed.
“Well… things are getting as close to a normal as we can
“Why don't we do a little baking… celebrate a little bit?”
“What'd you have in mind?”
“I think I still have some canned apples left, why don't we
bake an apple pie?”
“Mark's going to miss being spoiled when everything dies
down,” Cassie chuckled.
“Why not spoil him while we can? Let's get to it!”
Mark rode up to Lucas and was surprised to see the slightest
look of irritation cross his Pa’s face before it was
replaced by a hesitant smile.
“I thought you were working the south pasture?” Lucas
“I finished up and figured I might as well come out and help
“I'll be done in a while, why don't you head on home?”
“I don't mind,” Mark said as he dismounted and picketed
BlueBoy. “Then we can ride in together.”
“Suit yourself.” Lucas shrugged.
It was a strangely quiet afternoon and ride back to the
homestead. Mark tried starting multiple conversations with
Lucas, but none of them went anywhere.
“Pa, did something happen on your trip?” Mark finally asked.
“The one you took with Ma, to see Cora and Ben?”
“Then what's wrong?”
“Nothing, Mark,” Lucas replied firmly.
As the homestead came into view, Lucas quickened Razor's
pace and headed for the barn.
Everyone could feel tension that evening, but no one knew
why it was there. There was a very strained silence between
father and son… everyone could feel it.
Unlike times before, Mark and Cassie left shortly after
dinner, Lucas hardly saying a word to them.
Over the next few days, this routine continued. Lucas would
beat Cassie and Mark to the morning chores and was usually
already gone on the range before Mark saddled up.
Finally one morning, Mark was able to get up before his Pa
had everything completed. As he approached the barn though,
he could hear raised voices coming from inside.
“You said I could ride with you when the weather got
better,” Rachael stated. “Uncle Lucas, I want to learn how
to work the cattle! I'm tired of spending my Saturdays
“Some other time, Rachael,” Lucas shortly replied. “Right
now's not a good time.”
“When will it be a good time?”
“I don't know!” Lucas yelled.
Rachael nodded and quickly left the barn. Mark caught her
arm before whispering to her.
“Have things been like this for a while?”
“Ever since you two got back. You see how it is at supper.”
“I figured it had something to do with Cass and me.”
“No, he's like that all the time. He hardly talks to Aunt
Milly or me.”
“Thanks,” Mark replied. “Oh, and Rachael?”
“If my Ma says it's alright, you can grab my fishing pole
from the house and hit the pond.”
“I spent my fair share of Saturday's around here, I know
what it's like. You're more than welcome to it.”
Mark watched as Rachael sprinted into the house and gave a
slight chuckle as he headed into the barn.
“What are you doing?” Lucas asked as Mark picked up a
“Trying to fulfill my responsibilities,” Mark replied as he
started mucking the stalls.
“Mark, I think you need to take it easier.”
“Pa, Doc gave me a clean bill of health almost a week ago,
I'm fine,” Mark assured.
“Mark, I don't think you realize what-”
“Pa, what's the matter?” Mark asked for what felt like the
hundredth time that week.
“Nothing! I don't know why you keep asking me that! If you
feel fine, then you feel fine! It's about time you started
pulling your weight anyway!”
Mark stared after Lucas in confusion as his Pa stormed out
of the barn. Mark turned back to his task as he tried to
figure out what in the world was going on with his father.
After finishing the morning chores, Mark headed up the hill
to let Cassie know that he was riding into town.
“What about your breakfast?” Cassie asked.
“Don't worry about it, I'll get something at Lou's. You
could stand to go back to bed for a while.”
“Are you sure?”
“BlueBoy's already saddled. I'll see you when I get home
Mark spent the ride into town trying to come up with
answers, but he just ended up with more questions. He didn't
know if he'd ever felt so far removed from his Pa, and
didn't understand why their relationship was where it was
“Micah?” Mark called as he entered the Marshal's office.
“Sorry, he's not here.” Johnny replied as he came from the
back room. “Taking care of business in Clive.”
“I guess you'll have to do,” Mark teased as he tossed his
hat on the desk.
Johnny could sense something was off, and was concerned
about the look Mark held on his face.
“What's wrong, Mark?”
“What about him?”
“That's just it. It's not him.”
“What do you mean?” Johnny asked as he studied his nephew.
“Ever since I woke up in Belen, Pa’s been… different.”
Mark sighed and thought for a moment before replying.
“Take this morning for instance. I was trying to do my usual
morning chores and he started saying I needed to take it
easy. Then when I asked what was wrong, he practically blew
“Mark, I'm sure he's just worried. I'm sure they all are.”
“This is different, Uncle Johnny. He then started yelling
that if I felt fine, then I could start pulling my weight
around the ranch… which I've been trying to do, but he won't
really let me. He yelled at Rachael this morning over her
riding the range with him; he's been short with everyone,
and is avoiding me like the plague.”
“Mark, you're grown up, but I'm sure Lucas felt like he
should've been here when Hazlitt showed up at the ranch.”
“Hazlitt’s the one?” Mark asked.
“Lucas didn't tell you?”
“No, I can't really get him to have any kind of a
conversation with me.”
Johnny sighed before unlocking a drawer and pulling out a
piece of paper. He let Mark read the poem Hazlitt had left.
Mark cringed as he read it, now understanding more than ever
what his wife had gone through.
“I'm sure your father is just worried,” Johnny assured as he
“...Uncle Johnny, I've seen worried. It doesn't look like
this. Worried looks like him hovering over me like a mother
hen. Worried looks like him making sure we talk about
everything that happened. Worried looks like him keeping us
together as much as possible. This last week, he's purposely
separated us on the range. He has only been speaking to me
if it's necessary. When we were in Belen, he got a hotel
room. Although I heard him come in and check with the
doctor, he seldom came into my room. When I was still on bed
rest at the house, he didn't come up once. Rachael said he's
hardly speaking to her and Ma. Something's wrong.”
“Johnny, come quick!” Sweeney yelled as he entered the
“What's wrong?” Johnny asked as he and Mark stood.
“It's Micah, at Doc's!”
“Micah?” Johnny asked as he and Mark began to follow Sweeney
down the street.
“I thought you said he was over in the next town?” Mark
“The stage found him passed out on the road,” Sweeney
replied. “Completely unresponsive, fever, chills, the whole
“What'd Doc say?” Johnny questioned.
“He said to get you while he examined him.”
The three men entered the office, waiting for Doc to come
out. What only took a few minutes seemed to take an
eternity, but Burrage finally joined them in the waiting
“Well?” Johnny asked.
“Influenza,” the doctor solemnly replied.
“How can you be so sure?” Sweeney asked.
“Because I have two more patients back there with it who
came in this morning,” Burrage informed as he pointed to the
“Doc, this isn't good…” Johnny commented with concern.
“No illness ever is. We may be too late, but I think it'd be
a good idea to spread the word and keep everyone home. Tell
Griswold I said no school for the next week at least, and we
definitely shouldn't hold a church service tomorrow. We
should probably check up on the outlining ranches, too,” Doc
“Mark, Sweeney, could you give me a hand?” Johnny asked.
Both men nodded before Sweeney spoke up, “I can start
spreading the word around town.”
“Good,” Johnny replied. “Mark, can you head north from town
and I'll head south? We should be able to reach most ranches
“Sure, but what do we do if they've come down with it?” Mark
“I'll send you with some medicine,” Doc began, “Have them
start up on medication and tell them to stay away from town
unless it gets really bad and they need my attention. Keep a
list of anyone's been affected so I can make house calls.”
Within a few short moments, Mark and Johnny had rode out of
town to check up on the outlining ranches. By evening, they
both returned with a list of a few homes that had been hit
and left it with Doc.
Johnny sent Mark home and thanked him for his help.
While Mark was unsaddling BlueBoy that night, Lucas came out
to the barn.
“Where have you been all day?” Lucas asked angrily, with
just a hint of concern.
“Influenza hit. Micah and a few other town folk are down;
Johnny and I checked up on the outlining ranches… several
families were affected.”
“Doc won't know for a few days which way it'll go.” Mark
paused before going on, “Did you have supper already?”
“Yes, but Cassie took a plate up the hill for you.”
“She already went up for the night?” Mark asked in surprise.
“She said she was tired, and-”
“Pa, Cassie-” Mark didn't finish his statement and ran out
the barn and up the hill, Lucas close behind.
Mark found Cassie shivering on the bed, still in her day
clothes. He rushed towards her and gently placed his hand on
her head. Mark could feel the heat radiating from her body.
“Pa, the buckboard!”
Lucas ran back down the hill and got the buckboard ready as
Mark grabbed several blankets and covered his wife.
“Mark…” Cassie called through chattering teeth.
Mark knelt next to his wife and put a comforting hand on her
“It’ll be alright, Cass. We'll get you to Doc's and it'll be
alright. Just try to rest.”
Mark ran his fingers through her hair.
“Was that the last one?” Doctor Carr asked as he and Anna
walked down a set of porch steps.
“No, there's one more. Dr. Wyatt asked us to cover it, two
blocks over,” Anna replied.
“Lead the way.”
Doctor and nurse continued to talk as they headed towards
the next home. The doctor knocked on the door and waited for
it to be opened.
“Can I-” the pregnant woman on the other side of the door
stopped short as she saw who stood in front of her.
“Priscilla?” The doctor asked in confusion.
“Jason, what are you doing here??” The woman demanded.
“My job,” the doctor replied, still in shock.
“Well you're certainly not doing it here!” The woman
declared. “I can't believe you are still allowed to
“Your nurse is welcome. You are not, and you better believe
I'll be making a trip down to the hospital! I'll talk to the
authorities at the school as well, to make sure you're not
influencing the minds of the students!”
“...Anna, I'll wait out here,” Jason informed her. “You best
go in alone.”
Anna nodded in confusion as Dr. Carr offered her his medical
bag. She followed the woman inside, a hundred questions
flooding her mind.
“That sorry excuse for a man shouldn't be allowed within two
miles of a hospital!”
“He still has a license to practice medicine, I'm sure
there's some sort of misunderstanding,” Anna assured.
“Misunderstanding?!” The woman declared. “There's no
misunderstanding about a doctor misdiagnosing a case of
Typhoid! He killed my husband!”
Anna stood there in awkward confusion, knowing the woman
couldn't be more than seven months pregnant.
“Six months ago my husband and I were traveling in New York,
when he came down with an illness. We went to the closest
hospital and that sorry excuse of a doctor was there. We
tried telling him it was more, but he and his cohort
dismissed it as a case of indigestion. Indigestion!”
Anna didn't know what to think. Due to her previous
experience with the doctor, she was inclined to believe the
woman… but right now wasn't the time to figure that out.
“Please, ma'am,” Anna finally began, “You need to calm down,
for your child's sake.”
The woman huffed as she laid down on the sofa.
“I suppose you don't believe me,” she replied.
“... I honestly don't know what to think. Please, just let
me do my job.”
“So you can hurry along with the doctor so he can kill the
“Do what you need to do.”
Anna couldn't finish the check-up quick enough. She was
relieved to leave the house… the way the woman's cold eyes
glared at her made her feel extremely uncomfortable. Yet it
was a very difficult walk back to the hospital. Neither
doctor or nurse knew what to say to the other, leaving the
silence to hang in the air.
Once they arrived back, Dr. Carr disappeared into the halls
of the hospital. Anna finished her duties before returning
to the school and collapsing onto her bed.
Even after his initial error, Anna had learned to trust the
doctor and even began to enjoy his company. ...And now this?
She didn't want to believe the woman, but why would she lie?
Anna tried to forget the situation and go to sleep, but it
turned out to be a long night of tossing and turning.
Morning finally came, and Anna put aside what had happened
the day before to focus on her studies.
When she arrived at the hospital that afternoon, however,
she was surprised to see Doctor Stanley waiting for her.
“Where's Dr. Carr?”
“Something… came up. He won't be able to do house calls this
afternoon. Looks like it's you and me again.”
Anna returned the doctor's polite smile and followed him out
the doors. As they walked, she gave him a brief summary of
changes in different patients; thankful for something to
occupy her mind other than her questions.
The next several days made Anna lean towards believing the
woman's story more and more. No one she asked had seen Dr.
Carr, and she noticed that he no longer was written down for
By the end of the week, word had spread around the hospital
that the doctor had accepted a position elsewhere and was
needed to come at once.
Anna couldn't help but question the truth of the story… it
was mighty convenient.
Mark sat in a chair beside his wife, holding her hand as Doc
Burrage came into the room.
“How long ago she'd fall asleep?” The elderly man inquired.
“Probably ten minutes after you gave her the medication.”
Mark paused before going on, “Doc, how could I have been so
stupid? I knew she hadn't been feeling well. I didn't think
anything of it until Pa said that she went up the hill
saying she was tired.”
“Don't blame yourself, Mark. You had a lot on your mind,
trying to help Johnny out. Besides, we thought her symptoms
were from stress.”
“I just wish I would've considered it sooner.”
“The good news is that we have medicine, and she should be
fine in a few days.”
“Doc, her fever though…”
“It is high, but as long as we keep enough food in her so
her body doesn't wear out, she'll be fine.”
“...Have you seen my Pa?”
“He said he was going back to the ranch and that someone
would be back tomorrow.”
“Figures…” Mark mumbled.
“And what is that supposed to mean?” The doctor inquired
with a raised eyebrow.
“I don't know, Doc. I just don't feel like he cares.”
“Hold it just one minute, Mark McCain. Not too long ago he
risked his neck to bring you back home.”
“I'm sorry, it's not exactly what I meant.”
“I know he has to care… in some way. But he's been so…
distant. He hardly talks to me… hardly looks at me.”
“Mark, a father's love for their child can do strange things
at strange times. Just give it some time.”
“This doesn't feel like love, Doc,” Mark bluntly stated.
“Give it time.”
“How would you know? You're not even-” Mark stopped short as
he read the look on Burrage's face.
“Every man is entitled to his secrets, Mark. Give it time.”
Mark slowly nodded as Doc Burrage left the room.
He sighed as he leaned back in the chair, stretching out his
long legs. As much as Mark fought it, he couldn't help but
fall asleep. He slept for several hours before being woken
by Cassie stirring in the bed.
He lovingly looked down at her and swept a few strands of
hair out of her face. He could hear her mumbling something,
but couldn't quite understand it. Then her mumbles became
louder and louder until she was calling out in her sleep.
“Mark!” She yelled. “Please, please don't!”
Mark put one hand on her shoulder as held his other hand to
her face, speaking softly in attempt to calm her.
“Shh, it's alright, Cassie…”
Doc Burrage was soon in the room and standing across from
“The fever have her talking?” The doctor asked.
“I think so… Doc, is there a sedative or anything you can
“I don't think that would be wise in her condition. If we
give her any more medication there's no telling how long it
will be before she wakes again. I'll bring you more water
and towels, if you wouldn't mind trying to cool her down
Doc picked up the empty bowl beside the bed, left to fill it
up, and grabbed some clean cloths.When he returned, he
handed them to Mark and watched as the husband tended to his
wife. She slowly began to calm, but was still restless.
“Just keep doing what you are, Mark. I'll be back to check
on her in awhile.”
It was a long night and Doc was concerned that Cassie didn't
seem to be responding to the medication at all. In fact, she
seemed to be getting worse. He apprehensively increased the
dosage, not wanting to overdo it. He was even more hesitant
to leave to make house calls, but he didn't really have a
As Doc left the office the next morning, he saw Milly and
Rachael pulling up in the buck board.
“You two should be back at the ranch,” Doc stated.
“We've already been exposed,” Milly replied. “How's Cassie?”
“... We're waiting for the medicine to do something besides
make her sleep. Give it time.”
“How's Mark handling it?” Rachael asked with concern.
“He's worried, but keeping a level head. Either of you or
Lucas experiencing any symptoms?”
“No, and hopefully won't,” Milly answered
“Where is Lucas?” The doctor inquired
“Rachael and I haven't seen him since last night. He may be
giving Johnny a hand.”
“Wouldn't surprise me. Now, I know you've been exposed, but
there's no use in exposing yourself more. Why don't you head
Milly hesitated before turning to Rachael.
“Could you please run that dish back to Lou?”
Rachael jumped down from the buckboard before running down
“Doc, I need some more medicine.”
“Things flaring up again?”
“Hold on one second.”
The doctor went back inside the office and came out with a
“Have you talked to Lucas about it?” He asked as he handed
her the medicine.
“No, things have been… well, he's under a lot of stress. I
don't want to worry him. It'll pass.”
“Just make sure you tell him before he finds out, or I'm
sure he won't be too happy.”
“As long as you don't say anything, he won't find out before
I talk to him about it,” Milly answered.
“Just be careful, and don't overdo it. Don't forget you
still have that handy wheelchair around the house, too.”
“I don't think it'll get that bad,” Milly laughed. “But
thanks for your concern.”
“I'll see you when this whole epidemic is over.”
“Alright. Please tell Mark and Cassie we dropped by.”
“Where have you two been?” Lucas asked as Milly and Rachael
entered the house.
“We rode into town to check up on Mark and Cassie, and to
drop a dish off at Lou’s,” Milly replied.
“How are they?” Lucas inquired.
“Cassie's not doing any better, but Doc says Mark's handling
it fairly well. Where were you this morning?”
“I went for a ride.”
“Is everything alright?” Milly asked.
“Why does everyone keep asking that?!” Lucas snapped.
Milly was shocked by her husband's reaction and slowly
turned to Rachael.
“...Could you please… run up the hill and make sure all the
lamps are out at Mark and Cassie’s?”
Rachael nodded before heading to the back door. Milly waited
for her to get out of ear shot before continuing.
“Because, Lucas McCain, you haven’t been acting like
yourself for the last few weeks. You've shut everyone out
and and are practically destroying your relationship with
“Well, maybe it's best that we don't have one!” Lucas yelled
“Lucas, listen to what you're saying! This isn't you!
Something's eating at you, and I think it's high time that
we talk about it!”
“Milly, leave this one alone.”
“I can't! You're my husband. I can't stand by and watch you
destroy our family!”
Lucas turned around and stormed into the bedroom, Milly
right on his heels.
“What are you doing?” Milly asked as Lucas grabbed a carpet
bag from underneath the bed.
“Going where I can't destroy our family!”
“Lucas, please! This isn't the answer!”
“I need time, Milly!” Lucas replied as he threw a few shirts
into the bag.
“Time from what? Responsibility? Family? People who care
Milly followed Lucas to the kitchen where he threw a few
canned goods into the bag.
“I need time from people I care about!”
“Lucas, you're making absolutely no sense! Calm down and
think about what you're saying!”
“I have thought about it, for weeks!”
Lucas suddenly grabbed Milly and gave her a long kiss. He
slowly let her go and looked deep into her eyes.
“I love you.”
Then, he suddenly turned and walked out the back door.
“Where are you going?” Milly asked as she followed Lucas to
the barn, tears starting to form in her eyes.
“I don't know. But I promise I'll be back,” Lucas replied as
he mounted an already saddled Razor.
“I don't know.”
“Lucas, please!” Milly cried as she watched her husband ride
out of the barn. “Lucas!”
Milly stared after him in defeat as Lucas rode farther and
farther away. Soon, he was just a dot in the distance… and
then he was gone.
Milly stood there crying for the longest time. Why did she
say so much? Why didn't she approach him differently? What-
“Aunt Milly…?” Rachael hesitantly called as she came up
beside her aunt.
“Yes?” Milly asked as she wiped away the tears.
“Where's Uncle Lucas?”
“...He had to take care of something. He has to settle some
business with someone.”
“You mean with God?”
“...I suppose it's no secret to you.”
“I can't imagine this being the way he normally handles
“Rachael, this is the complete opposite of the man I've
loved for eight years. I don't know what in the world is
happening to him.”
“Do you think he'll be alright?”
“I… I hope so.”
There was a long silence before Rachael turned towards her
“Aunt Milly… would you mind teaching me how to quilt?”
“I don't believe for a second that you want to quilt,” Milly
“...You can't blame me for trying.”
“Come on, playing a card game will keep my mind just as
preoccupied. We don't have to torture you with quilting.”
“Actually… I really wouldn't mind… that much.”
“Alright, but just remember- you asked me,” Milly replied
with a smile. “Let's head back inside.”
Rachael tried to keep her aunt's mind off of things that
afternoon, but she had little success. Even though Milly
tried to smile, the worry and concern she held for her
husband was evident.
The next evening, Milly was in the front room when she heard
a horse ride up to the house. Milly looked through the
window and saw Johnny coming up the porch steps. He hardly
had knocked on the door before she opened it.
“Evening Milly,” Johnny greeted as she let him inside.
“No… he's not. Is something the matter?” Milly replied,
confused as to why Johnny would ride out to the ranch so
“Well, with Micah down I'm sorta short handed in town; I was
hoping he could help me out.”
“Sorry, he left yesterday afternoon and I don't know when
he's getting back.”
“Left?” Johnny asked curiously. “Where'd he go?”
“Out of town… on business.”
“Milly, what's going on?”
“He's my brother-in-law, I have a right to know.”
“...Lucas needed to do some… soul-searching.”
“Then Mark wasn't over reacting…” Johnny sighed.
“Mark talked to you?” Milly asked.
“Yeah, and I thought he might just be taking things wrong.
If things weren't so chaotic in town, I'd go give Lucas a
piece of my mind!”
“... I don't think that's what he's needing right now. Don't
worry, he said he'd be back.”
“Well I hope he gets back soon. The town's falling apart at
the seams. More and more townsfolk are getting sick, and
everyone's going stir crazy. The last three days have felt
like a week… and Lou came down with it this afternoon.”
“Is there anything we can do to help?” Milly asked with
“Stay here and don't get sick,” Johnny sighed.
“Have you heard anything about Cassie or Micah?”
“Micah's fever broke this afternoon. Cassie's keeps spiking.
She wakes up here and there… but she's absolutely miserable
“Please, have someone let us know if things change. And if
there's anything I can do to help, let me know.”
“... Actually, there is something. Could you keep Maddy for
me? Catherine has her now, but I'd feel better if she wasn't
“I'd be happy to watch her for you.”
“I'll bring her by first thing tomorrow morning. Thanks,
“No thanks necessary. You make sure you get a good night's
rest; we don't need you coming down with it, too.”
“I'll try. See you in the morning?”
“See you then.”
Johnny looked out the office window and saw a stranger
riding up to the hitching post. The man dismounted and made
his way inside.
“Marshal?” The man called.
“Deputy Gibbs,” Johnny introduced himself. “How can I help
“Well I'm sort of passing through, but was wondering if you
could help me find someone.”
“You may want to come back at another time,” Johnny
informed. “This town’s been hit by influenza, and it’s been
spreading like wildfire.”
“So has every other town I've been to the last week. If I'm
going to get it, I'm going to get it.”
“Suit yourself,” Johnny shrugged. “Would you like some
“I'd be much obliged.”
Johnny poured the man a cup and offered him a seat.
“Now who's the person you're looking for?”
“A man by the name of McCain, Lucas McCain, if I'm not
Johnny eyed the man carefully, knowing too many men came
looking for his brother-in-law with bad intentions.
“Name sounds familiar. What's your business with him?”
“Familiar?” The man asked in confusion. “Considering what
that man had to go through to live here, I didn't think he'd
ever pack up and leave.”
“How do you know him?”
“He saved my life once, nearly ten years ago.”
“Sorry, but I had to be sure you weren't here gunning for
“I understand, with a man of his reputation. He does still
live in here, then?”
“Yes, but he's not here now. He left a few days ago.”
“What about his son… Mark?”
“Like I said, influenza has hit the town. He's at the
doctor's office caring for his wife.”
The man let out a long whistle.
“Little Mark's married?” The man laughed. “Last time I saw
him, he hardly came up to Lucas's waist!”
“Well he's not so little any more. He shot up like a weed.”
“... I am sorry to hear about his wife… maybe it would be
best if I came back another time.”
“If you'd like, I'm about to make my way out to their ranch
now to drop my daughter off to stay with Lucas’s wife.
You're welcome to follow me out there.”
“Thank you, I'd sure appreciate it.”
“I'll be back in ten minutes.”
Johnny left to pick up Maddy, as well as saddle his horse.
His daughter sat in the saddle in front of him while Johnny
and the man rode out to the McCain ranch.
Milly and Rachael were outside hanging laundry when the two
men rode up.
“Morning, Johnny,” Milly called. “Who's this with you?”
“Milly, I'd like you to meet-” Johnny stopped short and
turned to the man, realizing he didn’t know his name.
“An old friend of your husband's,” the stranger finished for
“...Well it's nice to meet you.”
“I won't trouble you long, ma'am,” the man stated as he
dismounted, followed by Johnny. “In short, your husband
saved my life once… in multiple ways.”
“Saved your life?” Milly asked in surprise.
“It's a rather long story. But, I would like to ask you to
give this to him.”
The man pulled an envelope from his pocket with Lucas’s name
“What is it?” Milly asked.
“A… note of my gratitude. I wish I could give it to him
personally, but I must be on my way and this is ten years
overdue as it is. Perhaps I'll be able to come back sometime
when he's around.”
“Well would you like a meal before you go? Maybe a little
time to rest?” Milly invited.
“Thank you, but I really have to be going.” The man tipped
his hat to the women. “Thank you for your help, Deputy.”
And with that, the man mounted up and rode off.
The three stood there, a bit confused at what had just
“Johnny, do you know what that was all about?” Milly
“Not a clue.”
Milly shook her head and sighed before putting the envelope
in her pocket.
“Well, can I take her off your hands, or are you going to
hold her all day?” Rachael quipped before Johnny handed his
daughter to her.
“Thank you both for watching her.”
“It's no trouble,” Milly assured. “You didn't happen by the
doctor's office, did you?”
“Of course I did. Micah's doing better, and Lou is still
running a fever, but keeping liquids down.”
“...What about Cassie?” Milly asked.
“The same, I'm afraid. Don't worry, Doc will figure it out.”
“Well, again, let us know if you need anything,” Milly
“I see how it is,” Johnny replied.
“See how what is?” Milly asked in confusion.
“You offer a complete stranger a meal and place to stay, but
send your own deputy off empty handed,” Johnny teased.
“Well that's because you're family and never wait for an
invitation. I expect you to take what you want before it's
“See you two later!” Johnny said before kissing the top of
Maddy's head and saddling up.
“Have a good day!”
Mark was sitting at his wife's bedside talking with her when
a look he couldn't identity crossed her face.
Cassie held her hand to her back as she tried to sit up a
“Cassie, what is it?” Mark asked worriedly.
“I… I don't know. Mark… I'm feeling more nauseous…”
Mark quickly grabbed a bowl and held it for his wife. A few
moments later, Cassie let out a loud cry as she clutched her
“Mark… get Doc!” Cassie yelled before another pain hit her.
Mark ran out of the room to find the doctor, desperate to
get Cassie some help. He could hear another yell coming from
his wife's room as he ran out of the office. He looked up
and down the street, trying to figure out where to go. Doc
was making house calls again; he could be anywhere!
Mark ran into the marshal's office yelling for Johnny.
“Mark, what's going on?” The deputy asked as he looked of
from the desk.
“It's Cassie, she needs Doc! Where's Doc?!”
“Mark, calm down, it'll be alright. I just saw him over at
Without saying another word, Mark hightailed it out of the
office and ran for the doctor. He pounded on the Lane's
door, wishing someone would hurry up and answer.
Doc was the one who came out, and was surprised to see Mark
standing in front of him.
“Mark, what are-”
“It's, Cassie! Please, Doc! She said she was getting really
nauseous and then something happened in her stomach... she
was crying out it pain.”
The Doctor quickly gathered his supplies and the two ran to
the clinic. When they entered the room, Cassie was screaming
in pain and there was blood on sheets.
Mark rushed to his wife's side and took her hand, brushing
her hair off her forehead.
“Doc??” Mark asked over his shoulder.
Burrage didn't say anything, he simply set to examining
“Doc, what's wrong??” Mark demanded through Cassie’s cries.
“Cassie, are you experiencing back pain?” The doctor
“Back pain? Doc-” Mark's statement was interrupted by
another of Cassie's screams as she nodded. “Doc, do
“Mark, get out of here!” Doc ordered as he pointed out the
“I'm not leaving-”
“Mark, I'm trying to help your wife. Get out of here and go
to the waiting room!”
Mark angrily grabbed his hat and rifle and went to the
waiting room. He paced back and forth as he played with his
hat for several minutes before Johnny entered the room.
“Mark, what's going on?” Johnny asked as he heard a scream
coming from the hallway. “That sounded like Cassie…”
“It is. Doc ordered me out there. When we came back there
was blood on the sheets and she was holding onto her stomach
for dear life…”
“Did Doc say anything?”
“Yeah, he asked her if her back hurt,” Mark replied bitterly
as he collapsed into a chair.
“I'm sure he has a very good reason. You trust Doc, Mark.
Let him do his job.”
“... How's Aunt Lou?” Mark asked, wincing as he heard
“She's improving. Boy, when I told her that your Pa left
town, she was just about ready to get up and go after him to
give him a piece of her mind!” Johnny chuckled at first, but
the smile faded as he saw the look on Mark's face. “...
Didn't you know?”
“Like I told you, Pa and I haven't exactly been having the
greatest communication lately. When did he leave??”
“Two days ago. Your Ma said he left to do some
“Uncle Johnny, what did I do? Why is he mad at me?”
“Mark, I don't think he's mad at you. Sometimes a man needs
time to clear his head.”
“Well I don't think when your son is about to lose his wife
is the best time to go do it!”
“You want him here?”
“Of course I do! I've missed having my Pa around since I
woke up in Belen. He just wasn't the same.”
“Mark, I think you need to reevaluate a little.”
“Are you saying I'm the one at fault here??”
“No, Mark,” Johnny said as he sat down and put a hand on his
nephew's shoulder. “I'm saying you're hurting, and need to
make sure you don't get bitter about it. Your Pa has a lot
of demons to fight, and every once in a while he's not going
to be here to help you with yours. That's reality. But you
have me, and I'm willing to be here and help you, if you
want it. But don't get so angry at your father that you shut
everyone else out.”
“I'm sorry, Uncle Johnny.” Mark paused before going on.
“It's just not like Pa to run away. I'm worried about him,
but…” Mark glanced to the door; Cassie's screams still
coming from behind it. “Right now, Cassie could be… dying or
who knows what. Right now I need him, and he's not here.”
“I know this is hard Mark, especially when you don't know
what drove him away. But for the time being, try focusing on
getting Cassie better. Then we'll worry about your Pa.”
Mark nodded as Johnny gave him a good slap on the back. They
nervously waited, Cassie's cries becoming louder and more
intense. Finally, they stopped.
Johnny and Mark stood as the doctor entered the office, the
look on his face was grave.
“Mark, first off, Cassie is going to be fine. I've given her
some medicine to make her sleep for a while.”
“What was that?” Mark asked with worry.
“Cassie did have influenza… but there was another thing that
I didn't recognize. Her influenza masked it… and her body
didn't know how to react to the illness or medication
because of all the changes that were going on.”
“Doc, what are you saying?” Mark asked, trying to get
Burrage to just come out with it.
“Mark, Cassie was pregnant.”
Mark let himself fall into a chair as the words hit him.
“...Was?” Mark finally asked, doubting the doctor had
misused the word.
“I'm… I'm afraid so.”
“Did she know?” Johnny asked.
“Not until a few minutes ago.”
“How did… she seem to… handle it?” Mark slowly inquired.
“She acknowledged what I said, but did not react. She fell
asleep fairly quickly.”
“Doc, can I go back there now?” Mark asked, his eyes
pleading with the doctor.
The two men watched as the rancher slowly got up and walked
out of the room.
“Doc, how far along do you think she was?”
“Two and a half, three months maybe.”
“Do you know why she lost the baby?”
“There are several possibilities. Cassie's healthy, she
should've carried to term. Part of it could be the stress of
the last month… and I'm afraid some of the medication I gave
her to treat the influenza… might have caused it.”
Johnny could see the shame in the doctor's eyes.
“You can't blame yourself, Doc. You didn't know.”
“I wish we would've known… I could have treated her
“We all wish things could be different in life, but a lot of
the times there's nothing we can do.”
“You should've seen Mark's face when I ordered him out of
her room. He was infuriated. I wish he could've stayed… but
he was causing too much tension.”
“They'll understand, Doc.”
“I hope so.”
That evening, Doc was relieved to find that Cassie's fever
“How long until she wakes?” Mark asked as Doc headed for the
“I'm not sure, but hopefully in the next few hours or so.
“Get me if anything changes.”
As Doc left the room, Mark began a silent prayer, thanking
God for the broken fever. He continued to sit with his wife,
waiting to see her open eyes again.
Mark was reading aloud from a Bible when he was interrupted
by a very welcome voice.
“... I'm never going to get tired of hearing your voice.”
Mark looked up from the pages to see Cassie staring back at
him with a weak smile on her face.
“Cassie…” was all Mark could manage to say as he put a hand
to her face and ran his thumb across her cheek.
“Mark… Doc said I was pregnant… the baby…?”
Mark shook his head no as a tear fell down his own cheek.
Cassie rested her head back against the pillow as more tears
fell. Mark climbed into the bed beside his wife and held
her, letting himself cry with her.
“Mark, I'm sorry…”
Mark lovingly looked at Cassie and gave her a kiss.
“This isn't your fault, Cassie.”
“Mark… I lost your baby.”
“You carried our baby. Sickness took our baby away. We can
thank the Lord it didn't take you away, too.”
“Cassie, there's nothing you could've done. Please don't go
blaming yourself… this isn't a load you need to carry.”
Cassie rested her head on Mark's chest, tears still falling.
She felt so much shame, so much grief. She hadn't even known
she was pregnant… but she had lost a life. There wouldn't be
a baby in her arms a few months down the road.
Some time had passed before Cassie managed to talk again.
“...How are things between you and your Pa?”
“...Maybe we should discuss this another time.”
“Mark?” Cassie asked, knowing something had happened.
“...He left home a few days ago. No one's seen him.”
“He promised Ma he'd be back, but didn't say when.”
“Does anyone know where he went?”
“No… but I have an idea.”
“Maybe you should-”
“Cassie, not now. I can't leave you now.” Mark replied, not
only feeling his own grief, but fearing what might happen to
Cassie if she left her only at the time.
“But your Pa-”
“Made his decision. Let's get you feeling better, first. We
need to… deal with our grief, first.” Mark paused before
going on. “Do you want me to get your Ma?”
“Mark… I don't know if I could face her, or your parents to
tell the truth. How could I tell them I lost their
grandchild? Besides, I don't think it would be a good time
to tell your parents…”
“What do you mean?”
“Mark… I'm pretty sure your Ma’s expecting. I wouldn't want
to… dampen their joy or worry her with the possibility.
She's wanted a baby for so long...”
“You think my Ma’s pregnant? How can you tell?”
“I've always been able to tell when someone's pregnant… I
guess everyone else except me. If I would've paid attention,
if I would've-”
“Cassie, please don't go there.” Mark said as he fought his
own tears. “This isn't your fault, and you can't blame
yourself. But if you want to wait, I'll make sure Doc and
Uncle Johnny don't say anything to anyone.”
“Your uncle knows?” Cassie asked, ashamed.
Mark picked her chin up and looked deep into her eyes.
“Cassie, I love you whether you can give me children or not.
Our family loves you whether you can have children or not.
Uncle Johnny cares a lot about us, and wouldn't even tell
Lou if we asked him not to.”
“...Mark, I want to go home...”
“Soon, Cass. Soon.”
Two days later, Mark and Cassie were borrowing Lou and
Johnny's buggy to return home. Milly was relieved to have
the two back home, and helped them get settled up the hill.
That evening, Mark was working on the barn chores when Milly
came out to talk with him.
“Mark, about your Pa…”
“...What about him?”
“I know you're angry. I know you've been rightly trying to
take care of your wife. But she's home now… and I think it's
time you and your Pa settle some things.”
“Even if I did find him, he wouldn't talk to me.”
“Mark, he's hurting just as much as you are right now.”
“He abandoned his family, he'll come back when he's ready to
face things again. He always comes back. He… has to come
“Mark, I know he wants to come back, but I think it might
just take someone going out there to bring him back.”
“What makes you say that?”
“He left his rifle.”
Mark stopped what he was doing and turned around to face his
“Left his rifle, right inside the door.”
Mark walked past his Ma and began running to the home in
which he had once lived. Mark swung the door open and stared
blankly at his father's Winchester.
“Pa, what happened?” Mark whispered.
“Mark?” Milly called as she came up beside him.
“...I'm going after him.” Mark stated as he picked up the
rifle and walked back to the barn where he began saddling
Milly followed Mark without saying a word.
“Ma, please take good care of Cass for me.”
“I'll take care her, don't worry.”
“Thank you. You take it easy, too.”
Mark finished getting ready before walking up the hill to
explain to his wife.
“...I wasn't going to go, I don't want to leave you,
Cassie... but he left his rifle behind. Something is
“Mark, I understand. Your Pa belongs here, with the family.
I can make it through a few days without you.”
“I'll be back, soon.” Mark assured. “And Cassie, don't
forget that what happened isn't your fault.”
Mark gave his wife a kiss before whispering, “I love you,”
and leaving his home.
Mark rode for several days, hoping he was headed in the
right direction. He spent a lot of time praying for the
right words to say to his Pa. Each night as Mark made camp,
he spent time wondering what he should have done or said to
keep this from happening. He wondered if there was anything
he could've done. He had never seen his Pa like this, and
was extremely concerned and confused by the fact that Lucas
had left his rifle. Mark seriously wondered if there was
someone wrong with his Pa’s mental state.
Finally, on the fourth day, Mark came upon a campsite that
looked like someone was still using it. Mark had dismounted
to look at some tracks when he heard a horse neigh from a
short distance. He looked around and breathed a slight sigh
of relief when he saw Razor picketed several yards off.
Mark made his way to the horse and patted his neck before
unsaddling BlueBoy and letting the two friends reunite. He
knew his Pa would be back before too long and waited around
camp for him to return.
It wasn't too long before Mark heard someone walking up
behind him. He stood and turned around, coming face to face
There was shock written all over Lucas's face, intertwined
with anger. But as Mark looked into his Pa’s eyes, he could
only see fear.
“What are you doing here!?” Lucas demanded.
“Well, you forgot your rifle.” Mark replied, picking the
“You know I didn't forget it.” Lucas spat back.
“... What'd you expect to do if you ran into trouble? Or ran
out of food?”
“I can manage. Now I suggest you get back on your horse and
get out of here.”
“And waste a four day ride?”
“Mark, you get back on BlueBoy and ride out of here!” Lucas
yelled as he pointed towards the horses.
“... I can't.”
“That's an order, Son.”
“I'm sorry, but that's an order I can't follow.”
“Excuse me?” Lucas asked, not believing what he had just
Mark hesitated before replying. It hurt to even think about
what he was about to say.
“I'm sorry, but I only follow orders from my father… and the
man I'm talking to right now isn't the Lucas McCain that
“Nothing you're going to say is going to make me change my
mind. I'm afraid you're stuck with me until we clear this
“There's nothing to clear up.”
“You don't believe that for one second! There's something
eating at you, and we need to get it settled! I don't know
what you're trying to avoid. You have a family that loves
you and wants you back home; a town full of friends who care
“I'm trying to avoid that hurting you!” Lucas yelled as he
gestured to the rifle.
Suddenly, it all began to fall into place. Mark understood
his Pa’s flawed thinking.
“Pa, your rifle hasn't ever hurt me!”
“Mark, that rifle symbolizes who I am. It gave me the
ridiculous reputation that's gotten us into… I don't want to
know how many scrapes! Because of that rifle and the
reputation it gave me, you were kidnapped by Indians at ten
“What are you talking about?”
“They picked you, because I was one who was “known to be a
brave man.” I was asked to ride shotgun with the stage when
Milly was here the first time because of my ability with the
rifle, and as a consequence, you and her could've gotten
killed! Need I go on? Because I have plenty of examples to-”
“Pa, you can't blame the rifle!”
“You know what, Mark? You're right. I can only blame myself!
Because of me, you were almost murdered three weeks ago!
Because of me, outlaws come looking for trouble! Because of
“Because of you, I'm alive! I remember when Charlie was
killed, and all I wanted to do was blame your rifle. But you
reminded me that without that rifle, I wouldn't have been
born. Without you, Pa, I wouldn't be alive! Rachael would
probably have been killed by her father by now, Lou would
still be at the Jackman's, and Micah would be a good for
nothing drunk- if not dead! Without you, Ma would have
married Harry Chase and be absolutely miserable! Pa, you
can't blame yourself for what happened to me growing up or
even three weeks ago. All you ever did was protect me and
the laws of the land, and you did a pretty good job of doing
both at the same time!”
“Mark, you don't understand!”
“I understand a lot more than you think. You're afraid of
not being able to protect your family. You're afraid of
putting us in danger. But what you don't understand is that
it's not your responsibility to keep us out of danger.”
“Fear is the result of assuming responsibility God never
intended for you to have! Right now, you're assuming the
responsibility of deciding when it's time for us to go or
not. That's not your job. Just like your rifle is your tool,
God uses you as a tool to protect, but you can't make
decisions for him. He knows when the best time is to bring
us home, not you, and you've got to trust that. Or have you
lost all faith?”
“Mark, this isn't a matter of faith.”
“Then what is it?”
Father and son looked deep into each other's eyes, waiting
for the other person to back down.
Finally, Lucas turned around and started walking away.
“Where are you going?” Mark called after him.
Mark was fairly confident he had gotten through to his Pa,
and let Lucas go. However, it was an extremely long two
hours as he waited for his Pa to come back. He wasn't sure
what exactly to expect.
Mark was stoking the fire once again when he heard his Pa
coming back from his walk. He decided not to say anything,
and simply kept pushing the logs around as he waited for
Lucas to say something.
Lucas sighed deeply as he sat beside his son. He took off
his hat and briefly toyed with it before putting down beside
him. He thought about what to say for a long time, and
finally came to the conclusion that there were only a few
words he really needed to say.
“Son, I'm sorry. I love you and our family more than
anything else in the whole world... and I was wrong to
Mark looked up at his Pa, almost feeling like he was ten
years old again without a care in the world.
“I love you, Pa.”
“I'm asking you to-”
“Forgiveness is a given, Pa.”
“...Mark, thank you for riding out here.”
“All part of the job description.”
“As partner, or son?”
“Both. Although I do have to admit, I had a partially
selfish motive for coming out here.” Mark teased. “There was
no way I was going to let you leave me to deal with Trouble
over calving season by myself!”
“Why don't we hit the sack? We've got a long ride ahead of
us-” Lucas stopped short as he realized something. “Mark,
“She's back at home, recovering. Her fever finally broke
about a week ago.”
“Mark, I'm sorry I left when I did… I should've been there
“Uncle Johnny explained that you have your own demons to
fight, and won't be there all the time to help me fight
mine. But I'm thankful that I am surrounded by family and
friends who can help when burdens become too big for just
the two of us.”
“And I'll make sure I go to them instead of coming out here
next time.” Lucas promised.
“Let’s get some shut-eye.”
“I love you.”
The days spent traveling back to the McCain ranch gave
father and son time to repair some of the damage that had
been done over the last few weeks. Mark was thankful to have
his Pa back, and enjoyed every moment of the ride home.
Milly was the first to see Lucas and Mark ride in the yard
and hurried out of the house and towards her husband.
Lucas dismounted and took his wife in his arms as he
whispered into her ear.
“I'm sorry… I'm so sorry.”
Milly looked up into Lucas's face and gave him an
“You're here, that's what's important.”
Knowing his parents would need a few moments, Mark took
Razor's reigns and led both horses to the barn where he
unsaddled and bedded them down. As he was doing so, Cassie
walked into the barn.
“Cassie, you should be back in the house.”
“I'm fine, Mark.” Cassie replied before wrapping her arms
around him and giving him a kiss. “How did things go?”
“He's back to his old self.” Mark said with a grateful
smile. “...Cassie, how have you been?”
There was a long pause before Cassie replied.
“... I don't know. It hurts…”
Mark wrapped his arms around his wife again as a tear slid
down her cheek. After a while, they separated and Cassie
helped Mark with the horses before they headed into Lucas
and Milly’s home.
That evening, Lucas apologized to the whole family for
leaving and promised it wouldn't happen again.
Everyone put the situation behind them and moved forward in
their conversation, Rachael speaking up first.
“Aunt Milly, the envelope?”
“Envelope?” Lucas and Mark asked in confusion.
“Oh, yes.” Milly replied as she stood to retrieve it from a
drawer. “Lucas, we had a visitor while you were away. A well
dressed… peculiar man. He said you had saved his life, gave
me this envelope, and said he had to be on his way.”
“Said that I saved his life?” Lucas asked in confusion.
“He said in more ways than one.” Rachael added.
Lucas took the envelope and opened it. He pulled out a stack
of bills as Everyone stared at the money in shock. He handed
it to Rachael to count as he took out and read a note.
You not only saved my life in the shootout, but also saved
me from the life I would've lived with my uncle. I'm forever
indebted to you and will never forget the lessons you taught
me in the short time we knew each other. I wouldn't dishonor
what you did for me by trying to put an amount on it, so all
I can offer is a most sincere thank you.
The money enclosed is your prize money, I never could let
myself spend it.
-The wet nosed, two bit punk who still can't whip you.”
“What did that mean?” Cassie asked.
Mark and Lucas began to tell of their first day in North
Fork. When they were done, Lucas turned to Rachael.
“Five hundred dollars?” He inquired.
“Well Pa, what are you going to do with it?” Mark asked.
“I'm not rightly sure. We'll have to see.”
Milly almost made a suggestion, but decided to wait until
she and Lucas could talk privately.
It was late when Mark and Cassie finally headed up the hill,
and it didn't take long for the rest of the family to turn
As Milly sat braiding her hair, Lucas could tell something
was on her mind.
“What is it?” Lucas asked curiously.
“Well, I was just thinking. With all that money, maybe it
wouldn't be a bad idea to add onto the house again.”
“Why? We've got plenty of room.”
“Well, Rachael's going to be here for several years still,
and I think we'll want our bedroom to ourselves after a
“Why wouldn't we have it to ourselves?” Lucas asked in
“Because, I think it's about time we let another member of
the family… move in.”
“Milly… I respect your father, but I thought he was living
with your sister?”
“He is. That's not who I'm talking about.” Milly said as she
smiled and took Lucas’s hand.
“Your second child, Lucas.”
“My… what?” Lucas asked as he stared blankly at his wife.
“I'm pregnant, Lucas.” Milly replied with a smile.
“You're pregnant?” Lucas echoed. “You're pregnant… oh,
Lucas gave Milly a long kiss before putting a hand to her
stomach and looking back up at her eyes.
“When are you due?”
“Beginning of August. I know that's bad timing with the
“I don't care, Milly! You're pregnant and that's wonderful!
Milly, I can't tell you how much I love you. You've been a
wonderful mother to our son, and I know you'll be an amazing
mother to this baby.”
“Let's just hope this one takes to school a lot better than
Mark did.” Milly laughed.
“You better start praying now.”
This is a story based on the TV
series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
around The McCain Ranch