The Writer's Corner
Shadow of Vengeance…
Written by Judith Schaefer aka Stargazer
The town of Red Wing lay in a valley high in the foothills of
the Mimbres Mountains about thirty miles west of North Fork. It
consisted of a few ramshackle houses, a general store, a saloon
with rooms for rent above it, and a livery stable. Snow-capped
peaks rose to the north and west where the weather could still
turn fierce and wintry at any time.
Lucas and Micah rode into the dingy little hamlet as dusk was
settling in. Only a few of the towns’ folk were out and not one
looked up as the two rode by. Both men were saddle sore and worn
out from days of riding and tracking. They pulled in front of
the Black Bird Saloon and tied their horses to the hitching
rail. Two doors led into the building before them; the one on
the left led to the dimly lit saloon and the other had a sign
over it reading ‘Rooms for Rent’. As Lucas pulled his saddle
bags from his horse, Micah went through the door on the right,
stepped to the counter and called out, “Hello, anyone here?”
A thin, little man with sparse gray hair and round glasses came
through a door behind the counter, “Yes sir, kin I help ya?”
“Need two rooms for the night.”
The little man took two keys from a box and handed them to the
marshal, “Rooms one and three…top o’ the stairs. Name’s Tucker,
if ya need anythin’.” Noticing how dusty the man with the badge
appeared, he pointed down a hallway separating the hotel from
the saloon and offered, “Oh, there’s a bath house out back…jus’
through that door, or ya kin warsh up in yor room, if ya like.”
“Thanks, Mister,” said Micah.
Lucas appeared in the doorway with both their saddle bags and
rifles. “Is there someplace we can stable our horses overnight?”
he asked the clerk in a weary voice.
“Sure, down the hill. Ol’ man Wilkins runs the livery.”
“Any other strangers been here lately?” inquired Micah.
“Uh, no, no…ken’t say that there has been,” answered the clerk.
Micah held the keys up to Lucas who responded, “Micah, why don’t
you get settled in. I’ll take care of the horses.”
The marshal handed Lucas the key to Room Three, then took his
bags and his rifle and turned to slowly climb the stairs, “I’ll
take you up on that, Lucasboy.”
Lucas pocketed his key, and said, “Goodnight, Micah.” He threw
his saddle bags over his shoulder, walked out to where the
horses were standing, and grabbed their reins. Darkness now
filled the street and was interrupted only on occasion by a few
burning lanterns along the broken boardwalk. As Lucas passed
each one, he and the horses cast flickering shadows now and
again as they made their way down the hill to the livery. Lucas
met Mr. Wilkins, who was about to retire for the evening, and
paid him fifty cents to feed and stable the horses overnight.
After slowly making his way back to the hotel with rifle in
hand, Lucas climbed the stairs, and listened at Micah’s door to
find the marshal already snoring in his bed. Lucas entered his
room, hung his saddle bags and hat on the rack, and set his
rifle next to the bed. He removed his coat and peeled off his
worn, leather gloves, and after getting some of the trail dust
off of him, sat on the edge of the bed and pulled off his boots.
The rancher sat there a moment and breathed a sigh of
exhaustion. He dropped his shoulders and head forward as
thoughts of Mark made their way back into Lucas’ mind. He sat
upright and brushed back strands of hair that had fallen across
his face. As he pulled his hand from the back of his head, he
reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a tattered picture
of his son.
Lucas leaned back against the headboard, drug his feet and legs
onto the bed, and stroked a thumb across the four-year-old
picture. ‘How young Mark looks,’ he thought. He remembered the
day the picture was taken when the photographer, Abel Goss, came
to North Fork. He was the same photographer that had taken Lucas
and Margaret’s wedding picture and an old friend of the family.
A faint smile crossed Lucas’ face as he recalled how Mark tried
so hard to prove Abel’s innocence in a murder by doing his own
investigating. He had believed in Abel and was so sure and
determined… A lump formed in Lucas’ throat as he pulled the
picture to his chest and held it over his heart. “I’m sorry,
son…I promised I’d never let this happen to you again…” he
whispered. Lucas closed his eyes and said a silent prayer,
‘Margaret, watch over our boy until I can find him. Please,
God…please let me get to him in time…’
Mark had drifted off to sleep for only a short time when a cough
suddenly woke him again to the darkness. Aggravated by the cold
air, a deep cough plagued him now. He clamped his arm to his
right side to brace against the stabbing pain each cough
delivered to his ribs where Bantry had kicked him. He pulled the
blanket up around his neck and tried to shift in the bunk as
pain shot through his left ankle and leg. After days of being
shackled and chained, any movement was torturous. He wished it
was Pa sleeping in the other bunk and that he was home safe and
warm in his own bed. But, it was that scum, Bantry, who lay
across the cabin from him and, oh, how the boy hated him.
Mark just knew his pa would still be searching, and he prayed
day and night that he would come for him soon. He tried to think
of ways to escape, but nothing seemed like it would work. With
his ankle hurting so badly, he couldn’t move very fast. The only
chance to get away was to get Bantry’s horse and keep the outlaw
from following him… and that seemed impossible.
But, if Mark were able get to the horse, Bantry would never
catch up with him on foot. Mark would ride for the base of the
foothills and try to find help. There was no tellin’ how long it
might take before Pa was able to find him…if he could up in
these mountains. Mark had to be patient and wait for the right
time to make his move.
Dawn broke and the two men from North Fork emerged from their
rooms. They found Tucker behind the counter at the bottom of the
stairs who inquired, “Sleep good last night, fellas? Ya looked
mighty tired when ya come in here.”
“Fine, fine,” replied Micah. “Any place to get some breakfast?”
“Only place is over in the saloon…jes don’ ask fer the
porridge,” warned the clerk with a shudder.
Lucas and Micah handed over their room keys and thanked Mr.
Tucker, then carried their gear into the saloon and sat at a
table near the window. Lucas placed his saddle bags in the seat
next to him, sat down and propped his rifle against his leg.
Micah’s hat and gear occupied the other empty chair. A frumpy,
young waitress in a blue gingham apron appeared with coffee and
took their order. Unseen by either man, the waitress peered over
her order book and gazed at Lucas with a puzzled look, then
disappeared to the back room.
The bartender, who had been cleaning and straightening up from
the night before, shot a glance or two at the rancher and the
marshal as they ate in silence. He shuffled by their table,
sweeping with a broom, and offered an observation, “Say…there
was a feller in here a couple times this week. He favored you,”
he said pointing at Lucas. “But, he was bigger ‘n you and had a
mustache…had a powerful thirst fer whiskey, too!”
Lucas dropped his fork into his plate and looked up at the
bartender, speechless. Micah nearly choked on his coffee at the
man’s words, but he cleared his throat and managed to ask, “Did
he have a boy with him?”
“No…no one but him.”
“Ever hear of Earl Bantry?”
“Well, shor, shor,” replied the bartender. “He killt a rancher
name of Richards from these here parts…jus’ fore I moved here.
Heared his brother moved away after that. Say, that who yor
lookin’ fer, I heared he was in jail. He kin of yors…ya sure do
look like him, only…”
“He’s no kin of mine!” growled Lucas.
Micah asked, “Do you know if he’s still around here?”
“No, sir…he did ask ‘bout sellin’ some horses and I tol’ him
mebbe Mr. Wilkins ud take ‘em off his hands.”
Lucas stood up abruptly, said ‘thanks’ and tossed some money on
the table for the food, and then he and Micah grabbed their
belongings and left the bartender standing there holding the
broom and scratching his head. “They’re shor in a big hurry,” he
muttered to himself.
Mark felt weak; his head ached and his chest hurt from coughing.
Days of imprisonment, lack of sleep, and little food or water
were taking its toll on him. The boy sat on the edge of his bunk
and waited for Bantry to come back into the cabin. The outlaw
had gone out a couple times already that day, anxiously pacing
about. Cigar butts and whiskey bottles littered the cabin, and
Bantry was clinging to his last bottle as if it were a baby.
When the outlaw returned to the shack, he uncuffed his prisoner.
He ordered the boy to stoke the fire, and Mark, barely able to
walk, limped slowly across the room to the fireplace. Noting how
Mark was moving, he barked at the boy, “Sit there on da floor by
da fire where I can keep a close watch on ya!” Bantry stormed
around the cabin cursing at Mark, his pa, and every other
rotten, mangy person he could think of. He pulled his handgun
from the holster and waved it into the air as he mumbled and
slugged on his whiskey.
The smoke from the fire irritated Mark’s throat and he began
“Quit dat noise,” Bantry ordered.
Mark drew up his knees and buried his face in the crook of his
arm trying to quiet himself. He hoped Bantry would just forget
about him as he raged on; the man seemed to be getting more
insane with each passing moment. But, Bantry caught Mark staring
at him as he rounded the table.
“You scared, boy?” he asked pointing the neck of the whiskey
bottle at Mark’s face.
Mark jerked his head back away from the bottle, “When my pa gets
“Heh, heh, heh…you think he’s gonna save you!? I don’ think so…heh,
heh, heh,” he taunted with a sadistic smile.
Lucas and Micah rushed to the livery stable where they found Mr.
Wilkins oiling a saddle. “Mornin’, young fella. Come to collect
yor horses? Who’s this with ya?”
“Where did you get this saddle and blanket…they belong to my
son!” declared Lucas.
“Why, I bought ‘em off a man who came in here early this week.
Said he needed some cash. Sold me a couple of horses and this
here .22,” explained Wilkins as he pulled Mark’s rifle from
behind a straw bale.
With widened eyes, Lucas took the rifle from the old man and ran
his hand over the stock, then turned to his friend, “Micah…”
“I’m Marshal Torrance from North Fork. You said you bought some
horses…where are they?” asked the marshal of Mr. Wilkins.
“Why, I’ve got ‘em out back in the corral…a black and a sorrel.
Nice horses…sell ‘em to ya if yor in the market…”
Lucas barely heard Mr. Wilkins’ offer as he pushed through the
barn door leading to the corral. Micah and the old man followed.
Lucas stopped just short of the fence to find Razor and Blue Boy
standing there. Razor spied Lucas, walked over to the fence and
poked his nose over the top board seeking a familiar pat to the
head. Lucas grabbed both sides of Razor’s halter, and drawing
the horse’s muzzle close to his face, whispered, “Hi ya, boy…I
sure am glad to see you.”
“Mr. Wilkins, the man who sold you these horses is wanted by the
law…dead or alive! Do you know if he’s still around?” asked
“Funny thing, Marshal…he said if anyone come lookin’ for him, to
tell ‘em he’s, he’s…”
“He’s…what?” demanded Lucas as he impatiently grabbed the old
“Here now,” said Wilkins pulling at his shirt-sleeve.
“I, I’m…sorry,” Lucas apologized releasing his grip. “Please, go
“Well…he said to tell ya…‘If ya want the boy, he’s got him up at
a cabin ‘bout three miles up the trail just northwest of here’.”
An oddly warm mixture of hope and fear spread over Lucas as
tears welled in his eyes. He turned and looked up at the summit
looming 10,000 feet above the town, “Micah, we’ve got to get up
The marshal explained to Wilkins how Lucas’ son had been taken
by Bantry and how they had been searching for days for the boy.
Lucas left the horse he had been riding and asked if the stable
owner would keep it and Blue Boy until he returned. The old man
obliged and bid the two strangers good luck in finding the
rancher’s son; he said he’d be praying for the boy’s safe
return. Saddled and ready to ride, Lucas and Micah left Red Wing
and trekked northwest into the mountains.
It was getting close to mid-day and Mark was still sitting by
the fireplace thankful for the warmth from the burning logs.
Bantry had been raving drunk for some time walking in circles
around the confined space of the cabin. He came to a wobbly stop
and tilted his head way back as he drained the last drop of
whiskey from his bottle. “Empty!” he exploded and hurled the
bottle across the room smashing it against the wall.
Mark sat straight up jolted by the sound of breaking glass.
Bantry holstered his gun, then scrambled around the table,
grabbed Mark by the neck, and pulled him to his feet.
“I’m hungry, boy… (hick)…fix me up some grub…now!” Bantry
Mark glared at the man and clinched his jaw in defiance as he
hobbled over to the supplies. He wanted to throw something at
Bantry…he wanted to hurt him!
“There’s not much here,” complained Mark, shaking his head in
disgust, as he looked upon the dwindling supply of food. But,
Bantry paid no attention to what the boy was saying. Mark knelt
down with his back to the outlaw, lowered himself to the floor
and drug a cast-iron pot from the pile. He found a few carrots,
an onion, and a couple of potatoes in a sack which he cleaned
and cut into pieces. After throwing the peelings into an empty
bag, he placed the vegetables in the pot and dipped some water
from the bucket to cover them. He rummaged through the sacks and
found the last of the bacon which he cut up and placed over the
mixture with some flour to make a stew. He was fishing in the
bottom of a bag but there wasn’t much else to add, except…except
what was in a small tin. He held the container in his hands,
turning it over and over, and thought for a moment. That’s what
he would do…Mark opened the tin of pepper, dumped the entire
contents into the pot and stirred it all with a spoon. ‘I’ll fix
you, you lousy son-of-a…’ he cursed to himself.
He placed the empty tin into the side pocket of his jacket, then
Mark pushed up and grabbed onto the table to steady himself as
he rose to his feet. He picked up the pot and spoon from the
floor and made his way back over to the fire. After setting the
pot into the fireplace, Mark turned over an empty crate and
placed it between the fire and the stack of supplies near the
door. While the stew simmered, Mark brewed the last of the
coffee grounds one more time.
Bantry sat on his bunk observing as Mark ladled the stew onto a
plate and served it up with a cup of coffee. The boy returned to
the crate and sat down. The smell of the stew turned Mark’s
stomach, and as he wiped away beads of cold sweat popping on his
forehead, he made no indication to Bantry how sick he was
The killer slid from his bunk, placed his gun on the table and
sat in the chair. He took a gulp of the coffee and said, “Shor
A faint smile curled at Mark’s lips; ‘Go on…go on,’ he thought
as he willed Bantry to begin eating. With one eye on the door,
he watched the outlaw and waited.
Lucas pushed Razor to go faster as he and Micah made their way
up the trail leading out of Red Wing. They climbed the rocky
mountain-side into the heavy forest of pine and oak trees. It
didn’t take Lucas long to discover the tracks of Blue Boy and
Razor as they had been led down towards the town by a rider on a
third horse. He circled around on the trail in a break of the
trees and regained sight of the tracks of Bantry’s horse
climbing back up. Micah kept pace with Lucas as the two men
followed the trail of hoof prints leading to a clearing on a
precipice. A clear-blue stream tumbled over craggy rocks, and as
Lucas followed the stream bed with his eyes, he spied smoke
rising above the trees and raised a hand for Micah to stop as he
reined in Razor. The men dismounted, tied up their horses near
the water, and grabbed their rifles and ammunition. They made
their way along the banks of the stream until they had the cabin
in their sights. Lucas motioned for Micah to take cover in the
pines to the side of the clearing as he positioned himself
behind a tree down the hill in front of the shack.
Bantry took another swig of the weak coffee Mark had made and
placed the tin cup on the table. He shot a glance at Mark and
uttered an ambiguous comment, then scooped up a big spoonful of
the stew and shoved it into his mouth. Bantry’s eyes grew wide
and they looked as if they would pop from his head as his face
turned crimson. He grabbed his throat and stood up coughing and
Mark didn’t hesitate. He grabbed the edge of the table, pulled
himself up and shoved the table over at Bantry as he made his
way for the door. The gun went sliding across the floor as
Bantry continued to holler and spit. Mark held his left leg as
he fumbled with the door brace and pushed it out of his way. As
he started to lift the latch, two big hands grabbed at his
collar and belt, picked him up and flung him across the room.
The boy landed with a thud on the floor at the end of his bunk
and yelled out in pain. He tried to scramble to his feet but he
didn’t have the strength. Bantry turned the table over and
finding his gun, picked it up and thrust the barrel in Mark’s
“You!” Bantry screamed still sputtering from the pepper. “You
just made yor last mistake, boy,” he growled. He aimed his gun
at Mark’s head and pulled back the hammer.
Mark knelt in front of Bantry shaken to his core. He closed his
eyes to the horror before him and whispered under his breath,
At that instance, a voice shouted from outside the cabin, “Bantry!”
“Bantry! Earl Bantry…this is Marshal Micah Torrance! Come on out
The outlaw let his finger off the trigger and reached for Mark.
He gripped his hand around the boy’s neck and yanked him to his
feet, then steered him towards the door. Mark winced at the
unbearable pain. “Open it up!” ordered Bantry.
Mark lifted the latch of the door and pulled it back turning his
head from the blinding sunlight. He struggled to stay upright
and not put too much pressure on his throbbing ankle as Bantry
shoved him through the open door. Bantry held his weapon to
Mark’s head and wrapped one arm around his neck as he pushed him
forward crouching behind the boy for protective cover. Mark
blinked at the bright light and took a moment to focus. The sky
was clear and the sun streamed down through the canopy of pines
and newly-leafed trees. Shadow and light dappled the clearing
Lucas and Micah stood hidden at the edge of the clearing thirty
yards from the shack; Lucas faced directly at the door and Micah
stood just off to the left. A fleeting moment of joy filled
Lucas’ heart at the sight of his son, but it quickly faded…he
wasn’t sure how he was going to get Mark away from this madman?
He called out to his boy to let him know he was there,
“Pa!” Mark shouted in alarm. “Pa…he’s gonna kill…!”
Bantry clamped a hand over Mark’s mouth and pushed his gun to
the back of his head. “McCain…McCain, is that you? If ya want
yer boy to live, you’ll show yerself!”
“Ya keep yer mouth shut, ya hear me, boy?” Bantry angrily
whispered to his captive. As Mark nodded in agreement, Bantry
removed his hand from the boy’s mouth and wrapped his arm back
around Mark’s shoulders.
Micah yelled a warning to the outlaw, “Bantry, let the boy go or
we’ll drop you where you stand!”
“Marshal, if you and McCain don’ drop yor rifles, I’m gonna kill
dis rotten kid of his!” Bantry retorted.
“Okay, Bantry…okay…you win,” Lucas called back as he tossed out
his rifle and stepped from behind a tree.
“You, too, Marshal!” yelled Bantry.
Micah complied and threw his shotgun in front of the tree that
Lucas stepped into the light and began to approach the outlaw
who was holding Mark in front of him. “Are you alright, son?”
“I’m alright, Pa…but, please…please don’t come any closer..,”
Mark pleaded; he couldn’t watch Bantry gun down his Pa.
“Bantry, you won’t get away…you know that, don’t you?” Lucas
kept talking as he inched closer up the hill and across the
clearing towards the cabin. “You can kill us, but you’ll never
be free! You’ll always be haunted by the faces of your dead
brothers…you won’t get a moment’s peace…”
“Shut up, sodbuster! Whadda you know? Yor a dead man!” asserted
Bantry as he kept Mark in his grasp.
As Lucas kept the killer distracted, Micah, still holding his
hand gun, hid from view in the pines encircling the clearing and
slowly made his way to the side of the cabin.
“Listen, Bantry…your brothers are calling your name,” Lucas
taunted as Bantry became more agitated and nervous, his eyes
darting back and forth searching the outskirts of the clearing.
Lucas kept at Bantry, “You shot K.C. in cold blood…he’ll haunt
you for the rest of your life!” As he continued his verbal
assault, Lucas locked eyes with Mark and tried to convey to his
son what he needed him to do.
Mark struggled against Bantry’s hold and shook his head ‘no’ at
his pa pleading with his eyes for Lucas to stay back. But Pa
came closer and when he was just ten feet in front of them, Mark
realized he needed to do something to help him. He broke free of
Bantry’s grasp, dropped and rolled out of the way. Lucas lunged
at the outlaw, knocking him to the ground, as the handgun fell
out of Bantry’s reach.
The men exchanged blows, with Lucas landing a left hook to
Bantry’s chin. The punch barely fazed him, and Bantry wrapped
his powerful arms around Lucas’ mid-section and began to
squeeze. Lucas kicked and broke loose, then turned and tackled
the outlaw. They struggled and fought in the dirt, both managing
to regain their footing. The killer swung around and clocked
Lucas in the temple bringing the rancher to his knees. Bantry
then kicked Lucas in the chest with his boot and pounced on top
of him. He wrapped his hands around Lucas’ neck and began to
choke the life from him.
Mark watched in terror at the scene unfolding before him. Then,
without even thinking, he reached for the hand gun on the
ground, struggled to an upright position and planted his feet.
He pulled the hammer back on the weapon and shot at the outlaw.
“Leave my pa be!” he shouted.
A bullet shot past Bantry’s head just grazing his ear. Bantry
yelped and with one hand still around Lucas’ neck, turned toward
the boy clutching the side of his head. “You! You…I’ll kill
Driven by all the hate and anguish and fear boiling inside him,
Mark stood with trembling hands on the gun. He narrowed his dark
eyes and through gritted teeth proclaimed, “No, Bantry! I’m
gonna kill you!”
Bantry laughed at the boy and let go of his grip on Lucas. “Why
you sniveling, little…”
Mark aimed the gun at Bantry’s heart and again drew back the
hammer as Bantry lunged from his crouching position…
From the side of the cabin a shot crossed the clearing and hit
Bantry in the leg. He stumbled back, wailed and cursed as Micah
fired a second shot hitting the outlaw right between the eyes.
Bantry fell dead face first in the dirt at Mark’s feet.
Micah emerged from the shadow of the cabin; he ran over and
rolled Bantry on his side to check for a pulse. Satisfied the
man was dead, he rushed to help his friend as Lucas regained
Lucas clutched his throat and strained to ask, “Where’s my son?”
Lucas and Micah both turned to look at Mark who still pointed
the hand gun straight out at Bantry.
Micah stood up and slowly approached Mark, “It’s okay boy…give
me the gun.” But, Mark gripped the gun tighter and continued to
stare down at the dead outlaw.
The marshal stepped in front of Mark, held out his hand and
gently said, “Mark, it’s over…you can let go.”
Lucas rose up and called out to his boy, “Mark…I’m okay, son…you
can put down the gun now.” Hearing the sound of his pa’s voice,
Mark eased the stranglehold on the weapon and it slid from his
hands into Micah’s palm. The marshal sighed in relief. The boy
dropped his arms to his sides and stood in rigid silence as he
raised his eyes to gaze blankly at the horizon.
Lucas stood up and took a few steps toward his son who he barely
recognized. Mark’s face was swollen, bruised and bloodied, and
he had lost so much weight his clothes hung from his body. As he
drew closer, the rancher looked into his son’s lifeless eyes and
with tears forming in his own, whispered, “Mark?”
Mark slowly turned his face towards his pa and stood looking at
him for a moment. Lucas reached out for his boy’s shoulders and
pulled his son close, then Mark leaned into his pa, buried his
face into Lucas’ chest and crumbled in his pa’s arms. Micah
reached out a hand to steady Lucas who caught the boy as he
began to fall. He dropped to his knees, clutching Mark to his
chest, “Son…son. I’m here, Mark. I’ve got you!”
Lucas knelt on the ground holding his trembling son for some
time. As Mark tried to speak, a deep, violent coughing spell
overtook him. Between coughs, he cried out in pain. Lucas laid
the boy back against him as Micah said, “He’s in a bad way,
Lucas. We should take him into the cabin.”
Mark struggled to yell in protest, “No, no! I…I won’t…I won’t go
back in there.”
“Mark, we have to get you warm,” Lucas explained.
“No, Pa…please…please…I can’t,” Mark cried as his coughing
“Micah, can you go in and see if there’s something we can cover
him up with? Then we can build a fire out here,” Lucas
“Sure, sure,” said Micah as he turned and entered the darkened
Micah strained to see his way around the shack as the fire was
nearly burned out. He pulled the blankets from the bunks, and as
he passed the one where Mark had been kept, he bent down and
pulled on the chain and shackle attached to the floor. He wiped
at his eyes with the sleeve of his coat and stood back up. He
noticed the countless empty whiskey bottles and how the table
was overturned. He saw what was left of the stew in the pot, and
checked through the remaining supplies. Finding nothing else
useful, he walked back out the door to where Lucas held Mark.
Lucas looked up at his friend, “Did you find anything?”
Micah shook his head in disbelief at what he had seen, “I’ll
tell you later, Lucas. Right now, we need to take care of Mark.
Here, I found a couple of blankets.”
Lucas wrapped his hands around Mark’s shoulders, “We have to
move you, Mark. Can you stand, son?”
Mark reached down at his swollen and painful left ankle, “I…I
don’t think I can, Pa…my ankle…it hurts…”
Lucas picked his son up off the ground and motioned to Micah to
move down the hill towards where they had left the horses. Micah
took the canteen and bed roll from Lucas’ horse, then laid it
down in a clearing and set about building a fire for the three
Lucas placed his son on the bedding and wrapped the blankets
around him, “We’ll get you warmed up in a bit, son.” He took his
canteen from Razor, popped it open, and held it out to Mark.
“Can you eat anything? Are you hungry?”
Mark shook his head as he took the canteen, “No…my head hurts,
Pa…and my stomach…” Mark took two big gulps of water and began
to cough again. He wrapped his arm around his stomach and side
as he coughed, trying to hand Lucas back the canteen.
“Here, son, let me get that,” said Lucas as he knelt again
beside his boy. He took Mark’s chin in his hand and turned the
boy’s face from side to side. He frowned at the bruises and
Mark’s swollen cheek, then pulled a bandanna from his pocket and
wetted it with water from the canteen. Lucas held Mark’s head in
one hand as he wiped the dried blood from the corner of his
son’s mouth. He felt the bump and dried blood on the back of his
boy’s head and asked, “What did he do to you?”
Mark coughed and groaned, “My side hurts, Pa…Bantry kicked me.
My ribs…I think they’re broken.” Though he was covered with
blankets and the fire was beginning to warm, Mark was trembling
“We’ll get those looked at,” Lucas said as he felt of Mark’s
forehead. “You’ve got a fever, Mark. How long have you had this
“I…I don’t know…”
Lucas tucked the blankets tighter around his son and walked over
to where Micah stood observing the father and son. “Micah, he’s
taken a bad beating and he’s sick…we need to get him a doctor.”
“I know, Lucasboy, but we don’t know there’s a doc in Red Wing.
At least if we can get Mark there tonight and get him bandaged
up, we can head out for North Fork tomorrow.”
“And, what about Bantry?” asked Lucas.
“I’ll cover the body with my bedroll, and if you can help me get
it strapped to his horse, we can leave him in Red Wing for
burial. I’ll have to wire the US Marshal and let them know what
happened.” Micah pulled Lucas’ arm and led him further away from
Mark so he couldn’t hear their conversation. “Lucas, there’s
something else. There’s a shackle in the cabin…probably the one
Bantry was wearing when he escaped. I think he used it to chain
Mark up so he couldn’t get away.”
Lucas looked over at his boy and rubbed his chin with his hand,
“Mark said his ankle hurt…” He didn’t finish his remark and
moved quickly back to his son’s side.
“Mark, I need to look at your leg, son” he said as he pulled the
cover away from Mark’s left leg. Mark winced at the movement,
and as Lucas began to pull off his boot, Mark grabbed at his leg
and cried out, “No!”
“I know that hurts, but I have to check it.” Lucas held Mark’s
knee and pulled as gently as possible on the boot, but it
wouldn’t come off. He tugged harder as his son cried out again
and then passed out from the pain. The boot was off, and Lucas
wrinkled his brow and cringed at the sight of watery blood
oozing through the sock. The skin around Mark’s ankle was
swollen, red and yellow, and the foul odor of infection caused
Lucas to turn away for a moment as he peeled the sock back and
called Micah over.
“Micah, his ankle…it’s infected. Help me get this cleaned and
bandaged, will you?”
Thankful that Mark was unconscious, they cleaned the wound and
took a bandanna Micah had in his saddle bag and wrapped it
around Mark’s ankle. As the boy slept, the two men worked to get
Bantry’s body loaded on his horse. They gathered their rifles
and the outlaw’s holster and gun which Micah placed in his own
saddle bag. Then Micah watched after Mark as Lucas made his way
to the shack carrying his rifle; he wanted to see for himself
what Mark had endured.
He walked around the cabin seething in anger and imagining the
ordeal Mark had suffered, and when he came upon the shackle, he
kicked at it and shot at it with his rifle. He composed himself
and then gathered a few belongings Bantry had stolen from them,
bundling them in one of the sacks. He turned to look around the
cabin once more. He clinched a fist in anger and was about to
drive it into the door, when he slowed his motion and thought,
‘Bantry, you’ll never hurt me or my boy again.’ He stepped out
into the sun and pulled the door of the shack closed.
When Lucas returned to the campfire, Micah was pacing, “The boy
called out for you a couple of times, Lucas. He’s still
feverish, and that cough is deep…we’ve got to get him off this
mountain before sundown.”
“I know, Micah…help me get him on my horse. I’ll have to ride
Lucas and Micah put out the fire, broke camp and loaded up their
horses. Micah helped Lucas get Mark up on Razor, then he mounted
his horse and pulled Bantry’s horse behind him. The men set out
for Red Wing as the sun dipped lower in the sky.
Shadow of Vengeance Part III
These stories are based on the TV series
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
The Writer's Corner
Table of Contents
around The McCain Ranch