The Writer's Corner
Chapter 15 - A Stranger in the Storm
Written by Michelle Palmer
There was something strange in the air that night. Margaret
couldn’t put her finger on just what it was about the night she
didn’t like, but she felt shivers travel up and down her spine
as she wiped down the counters and table of their little ranch
house. Lucas was already seated outside on the porch smoking his
cigar, and Margaret joined him as she had many nights before.
“It…sure is quiet tonight,” she mumbled as she folded her arms
across her middle and let out an involuntary shiver. Lucas
slowly blew the smoke from his mouth and turned to look up at
her. “Eerie, actually.”
She sat down. Lucas loosely draped an arm around her shoulders
and looked up at the sky. The stars were shining, but there was
a smell in the air that reminded Lucas of spring rains. “Perhaps
the weather is about to change.” Lucas raised his eyebrows as he
watched Margaret struggle with something. Her eyes scanned the
land. “It IS Devil’s night, Margaret,” Lucas reminded her.
“Don’t call it that! You know I hate it when you call it that!”
Margaret turned to him and folded her arms. “There’s something
else this night is, Lucas McCain, and you didn’t even remember!”
“Oh?” Lucas kissed her cheek. “Has it been two month already?”
Margaret smiled as she turned her face toward his and kissed
him. Then she shivered again. “It’s more than that though,
Luke…I just feel so…eerie.” Lucas scanned the land, but saw
nothing out of the ordinary. Suddenly, a flock of birds squawked
as they flew overhead. A horse neighed in the corral. Some wild
animal made a loud noise as he hurried from the yard.
Margaret shivered again. “It’s just the animals feeling a bit
unsettled, Margaret. They can usually sense the weather changing
is all.” Lucas stood up and pulled her to stand right beside
him. “What do you say about turning in? I’m pretty beat.”
Margaret nodded. “I’ll just go bed down the stock and then I’ll
be in.” Margaret stood on the porch and watched Lucas go into
the barn. He threw his cigar down as he walked toward the barn.
When Lucas left the barn, he was surprised to see Margaret still
standing on the porch. He slowly ascended the steps and placed
his hands on her shoulders. “Honey, are you okay?” Margaret
nodded. “Come on. Let’s go to bed.” Lucas walked inside, but
Margaret continued to stand out on the porch. She turned her
head from side to side to scan every inch of the land. There was
nothing there, but she had a feeling something was there just
lurking…watching…waiting… “Come on, honey.” Margaret turned at
the sound of her husband’s voice and walked inside.
She’s not sure what woke her exactly, but she knew it was
sudden. She had fallen asleep beside her husband without too
much trouble and slept peacefully until now. A sound in the
dark…a change of wind…or maybe a stillness on the earth that
hadn’t been there before…Whatever it was made Margaret suddenly
sit up in bed with a start. She could hear the wind howling
through the empty trees outside her window.
The night before, it was the stillness of things that had
irritated her; but now it was the sound of the whistling wind
that irked her a bit. She suddenly felt like they weren’t alone.
Was it just the weather? Margaret could hear thunder in the
distance. Was the approaching storm making her jumpy, or was it
something more…something dark?
Slowly, Margaret laid back down in the bed and cuddled up closer
to her husband. Whatever it was didn’t seem to be having any
sort of effect on her husband as he snored softly beside her.
Margaret rolled her eyes and shook her head.
But suddenly, she sat straight up in bed. She had heard a noise.
At first, she thought maybe she had been imagining things, but
then she heard it again. The noise was coming from the other
side of the wall! As the wind howled, the moon kept going in and
out. Margaret imagined it was being hidden by clouds the wind
was brining in with it. When the moon did shine, it did nothing
to help Margaret’s already frigid nerves. The only thing it did
do was cast eerie glows across the room. The wind, she knew,
could play tricks on one’s mind, causing one to see things that
weren’t really there.
Suddenly, the wind let out a loud howl. A whistle filled the
room as the wind whipped through a tree and blew the clouds away
from the moon. As the moon returned its light onto the ranch
house, it cast eerie glows across the bedroom. The wind blew a
branch, and the bright moon made the branch look like a gigantic
hand that was reaching out to grab her.
But the wind wasn’t the noise Margaret had heard. There was
another noise…sort of like someone was knocking on her window.
There is was again! Margaret turned in bed. Her eyes grew wide
as she stared toward the window. Suddenly, a shadow reminding
her of the form of a human being shone through, but quickly
disappeared when the moon again disappeared. Margaret shot a
hand to her mouth and let out a gasp.
“Lucas!” Margaret called out in a shaky voice as she shook the
sleeping form beside her gently. “Luke, wake up,” Margaret
“Hm? What?” Lucas mumbled as he turned his head toward her.
But he wasn’t awake. “Luke, there’s someone outside!” Margaret
continued to whisper. She didn’t want to alarm whoever was
outside their window.
“What?” Lucas mumbled louder, still refusing to open his eyes.
Margaret shook him harder. “I said there’s someone outside our
window! I just heard something.”
Lucas groaned as he pressed the covers up around himself and
snuggled down into his pillow. “Honey, it’s just the wind…”
Lucas mumbled as he tried to go back to sleep.
“No Luke!” Margaret gave his shoulder a hard shove. Lucas popped
one of his eyes open and groaned. “I’m telling you, Luke,
there’s somebody out there!” Margaret insisted impatiently.
“Oh Margaret…” Lucas slowly sat up as he yawned. “Are you sure
you aren’t imagining things? The wind can play tricks on you
“Luke, it’s NOT the wind! I’m telling you, there’s somebody out
“Okay, okay…” Lucas groaned as he threw back the covers and
stood up. Then he started toward the window.
“NO!” Margaret leapt forward and grabbed his arm, pulling him
back down onto the bed with such force that he toppled
backwards. “He may see you!”
“Oh Margaret, now calm down.” Lucas held out a hand toward her.
“I’m just going to look out the window.” Lucas again stood as he
shook his head in disbelief. Margaret was on her knees on the
bed as she watched Lucas go towards the window. Lucas looked one
way, then the other. He scanned long and hard, then turned and
shrugged. “There’s nothing there.”
“Luke…” Margaret started again. But she stopped and allowed her
eyes to silently plead with him.
Lucas ran a hand through his hair as he sighed. “You…want me to
go look around outside, don’t you?”
Margaret grasped her hands in front of her. “Please?” She nodded
“Alright.” Lucas chuckled. “As long as it means I can go back to
sleep when I return without any more interruptions!” Lucas
groaned as he went toward the bedroom door.
“Take you rifle!” Margaret called out.
Lucas smiled and shook his head. “I wouldn’t go out there
without it. Just stay here, honey. I’ll be right back.” Margaret
stood from the bed and reached for her robe. She hurried to the
bedroom door and watched as Lucas picked up his rifle and opened
the front door. Margaret shivered when he disappeared out of
She stood in the darkness alone. A strange, fearful feeling
overwhelmed her and she felt a big shiver make its way through
her body. The moon suddenly disappeared as the wind once again
picked up and began blowing harder. It whistled through the
trees, sounding like some wild animal trying to break into the
Suddenly, Margaret heard a loud slap against the bedroom window.
“LUCAS!” Margaret screamed. “LUKE, COME QUICK!”
Lucas hurried back inside. He rushed toward the bedroom. “What
is it?” He paused as he put a hand on her shoulder.
“It’s out there…” Margaret’s voice was just a bit louder than a
whisper as she nudged her head toward the window. “Listen…”
Suddenly, the slap was heard again. Lucas shifted his rifle and
let out a low chuckle. “Honey, it’s just a branch from that tree
you insisted I keep outside the window.”
“No!” Margaret shook her head. “There’s some ONE out there!”
“Honey, I…” Lucas sat his rifle on the bed and mumbled under his
breath as he pulled his jeans and boots on. “Alright, I’ll go
take another look.” Margaret grabbed hold of his hand as he
stood from the bed. Lucas tried to shake it off, but she
wouldn’t let go. He laughed softly. “Well, if you want me to go
look, you’re going to have to let go.” Lucas turned and struck a
match, then lit the lantern. After picking up the lantern, he
again started toward the front door.
But then he paused and turned to look at Margaret. Her eyes held
fear. He held out his arm as he spoke to her in a soothing
voice. “Come on and sit down here at the table. Light the
lantern until I get back.” Margaret nodded and did as he told
her to without saying a word. She knew there was something out
there, and she would be furious if he came back without finding
Margaret had the lantern up the whole way as she drummed her
hands on the table and stared at the door. The seconds seemed to
last an eternity. Finally, she stood and started pacing back and
forth waiting for something…anything…
Finally, she couldn’t stand it any longer. Margaret hurried to
the window and looked outside. She saw Lucas coming back toward
the house, still looking from side to side. She turned as the
door opened and tightened the robe around her. The temperature
was rapidly falling. The wind was growing stronger and colder.
Rumbles of thunder could be heard as the wind pushed the storm
closer and closer to the ranch.
Lucas sat his rifle back in its holder and went to build up the
fire in the fireplace. He didn’t say a word as he worked.
“Well?” Margaret finally asked.
Lucas didn’t answer until he had the fire going strong. Then he
turned and looked at her. “Nothing, Margaret.” Margaret opened
her eyes wide, and Lucas knew she was about to fight him on that
conclusion. He hurried over to the table and blew out the
lantern. “Come on. Let’s get back to bed.” He took her hand and
led her back into the bedroom.
“Is the door locked?” Lucas nodded. Margaret took off her robe,
but continued to stare at the closed door. She knew there was
something out there. It wasn’t her fault that Lucas hadn’t found
it, and nobody could tell her there wasn’t something out there
to find. She suddenly turned her head toward the window and
shivered. She just KNEW someone was watching her! She just knew
“Margaret?” Margaret jumped as she turned and looked at Lucas.
Lucas chuckled as he held the covers up. “Come on back to bed
now.” Margaret hugged herself as she looked back toward the
window. “Come on,” his voice spoke firmly.
Margaret sat down on the bed and allowed Lucas to drop the
covers on her lap, but she didn’t lay down. “Luke?” Lucas lifted
his eyebrows in the darkness and waited for her to speak. “Luke,
something woke me. The moon was shining and I…I saw a shadow.”
“It’s just the darkness, honey. The wind helps play tricks and…”
“NO!” Margaret crossed her arms. “I’m not a little girl who’s
scared of the dark, so stop treating me as such! I saw the
shadow of a person! He was looking right through that window!”
Margaret pointed toward the window. “I swear it, Luke!”
“Alright, alright, honey!” Lucas forced her to lay down beside
him. He pulled the blankets over her and kissed her softly.
“Now, just lay down there and go to sleep.” Margaret’s eyes
still held fear. “I’ll keep watch. I promise.”
Lucas waited a few minutes, calmly smoothing her hair and
speaking softly to her. He was worried because he knew Margaret
didn’t scare easily. When he was sure Margaret was asleep, he
stood from the bed and walked toward the window. The wind had
picked up even more and the moon had completely disappeared. He
could hear soft drops of rain hitting the window. He turned back
and looked at his sleeping wife. “What did you see, Margaret?”
He whispered the words softly as he turned back toward the
window. “Just what is out there that has you so spooked?”
The first thing Margaret noticed when she woke up the next
morning was that she was alone in the bed. Margaret shivered and
pulled the blankets tighter around her, but this time she was
shivering because it was cold. As she stretched long in the bed,
she listened to the rain as it poured outside her window. The
wind was still blowing strong, which caused strange tapping
sounds on her window. Darkness surrounded her as she lay alone
in the bed, and it didn’t look like they’d see any light on that
morning. Suddenly, she didn’t want to be in the room alone.
Margaret jumped from the bed and hurried to the closet for her
heavier robe. After putting on some socks, she slowly walked
over to the window and looked out, but all she saw was darkness
as the rain came down even harder. “Luke?” she called as she
turned from the window. But she got no answer.
Margaret hurried to the bedroom door and opened it. There was no
sign of life in the front room either. Margaret shivered again,
this time from the eerie feeling she felt coming over her. She
turned and looked at the fireplace, but the fire had burned down
to almost nothing. “Luke?” Margaret called a bit louder this
time. There were only so many places he could be in this small
house, and apparently he wasn’t in any of those places.
Margaret shivered again as she slowly walked toward the front
door. Her hand reached out for the doorknob, but then it paused
when she noticed that it was still locked. Margaret’s eyes grew
wide as she stared at the locked door. He couldn’t have gone
outside! “Luke…” she whispered this time.
Suddenly, she felt a hand on her shoulder. Margaret let out a
scream as she brought back her elbow hard against the person’s
gut. She heard the grunt as she and spun around. She froze with
her hands above her head, ready to fight her attacker. Suddenly,
two strong hands grabbed her wrists. “Whoa there, young lady!”
Margaret’s eyes focused on the face in front of her. Slowly, her
hands were released. She pressed a hand against her beating
chest as she laid her head against Lucas’s broad chest and let
out a few short gasps. “Lucas…Luke…” She couldn’t say much more
“I’m sorry.” Lucas tried to keep from laughing. “I went out back
to see if I could see any sign of anything being disturbed.”
Margaret slowed her breathing down. “And?”
“Nothing,” Lucas answered as he shook his head. “There is
absolutely no sign that anyone was here.”
“But Luke, I told you…” Margaret started in an irritated voice.
Lucas held up a hand to hush her. “I believe you, honey. I
believe you.” Lucas shook his head. “Look…” He sat against the
table and folded his arms across his chest. “Today is Halloween.
It’s very possible that you saw some teenagers out mischiefing
last night. Why, I can remember going and looking in windows on
mischief night when I was a kid.”
“THAT late at night?” Margaret shook her head. “It had to be one
o’clock in the morning.”
“I know, honey. But there’s no one out there. I promise.” Lucas
leaned forward and kissed her forehead. “Now, how about fixing
your hard working husband some breakfast?” Margaret turned and
walked toward the kitchen. “Listen, I’m going to go out back for
a minute. I’ll be right back.”
Margaret nodded as she turned back toward the kitchen. Just then
she realized they were out of eggs. “Oh Luke…” But Lucas was
already gone. Margaret sighed as she walked to the front door
and opened it. The rain was pouring, but she really needed some
fresh eggs for breakfast. The chickens had refused to give her
any the night before. Margaret let out a little sigh as she
slipped into her boots, gathered her basket, and wrapped a shawl
around her head to keep from getting soaked.
The grey sky forced a gloomy darkness to stay among them, but it
was light enough for Margaret to look over the land. She paused
when she was half-way to the chicken coop and looked up toward
the hills behind their house. That same feeling of eeriness came
over her. She felt as if they were being watched. “Get a hold of
yourself!” Margaret chided herself. “There’s nothing out there!
You are just letting the fact that it’s Halloween get to you!”
Margaret walked into the chicken coop and greeted the chickens
as she hurried to the roosts. She was happy to find they had
managed to give her a few eggs this morning. “I’m sure you are
hungry. I’ll feed you just as soon as…”
Margaret stopped speaking, and her hand remained frozen on an
egg in the roost after hearing the noise through the rain. What
was that? Margaret’s heart skipped a beat as she looked toward
the barn. Was she allowing her imagination to run away with her
again? But just as she was about to go back to her task, the
noise came again, and this time it was louder. There was
DEFINITELY something…or someone…in the barn! The noise sounded
like a moan. “Luke?” Margaret called out, hoping it was just
Lucas. But she got no response.
Margaret sat down the basket and walked out of the chicken coop.
The moan sounded again. Margaret took a few hesitating steps
toward the barn as her heart again began pounding. “Lucas, is
that you?” She stopped when she realized the barn door was open.
It flapped around in the strong wind, and the rain beat against
it like it was beating against her. “Lucas, are you in the
She got no response. Cautiously, Margaret pressed a hand against
the handle and pulled slightly. The door flew open. Margaret
took another step into the barn and scanned it. Another moan
sounded. This time, there was no doubt it was a human moan. Just
then, Margaret’s eyes focused on something on the floor of the
barn. Margaret’s hands flew to her mouth. Her instincts kicked
in as she hurried inside.
“LUCAS!” Margaret screamed as she fell down beside the crumpled
mass. “Lucas, come quick!” Lucas still didn’t appear. Margaret
saw the blood coming from the man’s back. She pressed a hand
against his back and lifted it. He was indeed bleeding badly!
Margaret turned the man over to get a look at his face. He was a
stranger, and Margaret couldn’t help but to be just a bit
relieved about this. But suddenly, she wondered who he was and
if he had a family. “God…help us!” Margaret prayed as she laid
the man’s head in her lap.
The thought that this could have been the man watching her
crossed her mind, but Margaret had a feeling this man was an
innocent victim of someone else out there. She suddenly felt
very fearful. She HAD heard something last night! Was this man
trying to wake them so he could find refuge from whoever was
chasing him? Were the men who caused this man’s hurt still out
there? Were they watching her right now?
“Margaret!” Lucas hurried into the barn. “What the…” Lucas froze
when he saw the wounded man’s head laying in Margaret’s lap.
Slowly, he kneeled down beside her. “Who is he?” His tone
quickly changed from shock to concern.
“I don’t know, but he’s hurt Luke.” Margaret lifted her head as
her eyes filled with tears. “We’ve got to help him! He’s dying.”
“Margaret…” Lucas hesitated. He had no idea what this man’s
story was. He feared that bringing this wounded man into the
house could cause her trouble. “Honey, this man is shot. We
Margaret read his thoughts and shook her head. “It doesn’t
matter, Luke! He’s a man and he’s hurt. He needs our help.” The
couple locked eyes. Margaret again shook her head. “It doesn’t
matter if this man is good or bad. He’s a human being, Lucas.”
“Margaret…” Lucas worried that bringing this man into their
house could put her in grave danger. But when he saw the
pleading in her eyes, he handed her his rifle and lifted the man
over his shoulders. Margaret led the way into the house and
quickly threw things from the cot still set up in the extra
bedroom. Lucas threw the man down on the cot and the man let out
a grunt. “Go lock the doors, Margaret,” Lucas ordered as he
started unbuttoning the man’s shirt. “And put on some hot
Margaret hurried to obey. She built up the fire in the stove and
filled her biggest kettle with hot water. The rain continued
pouring. Margaret threw wood into the fireplace as she shivered.
The flames danced and the room grew brighter. Margaret hurried
back into the bedroom. She saw Lucas examining the wound in the
man’s back. “How bad is it?”
“It’s bad,” Lucas answered. He lifted his head up to look into
Margaret’s eyes. “It’s really bad, I’m afraid.” Lucas sighed.
“He was shot three times. He’s still carrying a bullet.”
“Can you…” Margaret swallowed hard. “Can you get it out?”
Lucas stood and hurried to the window. He thought as he put a
hand to his mouth. “We need Jason.”
“Luke…how?” The weather was so bad, it would be difficult to get
into town right now. Not only that, but the men who shot him
were more than likely still out there somewhere. Margaret knew
Lucas would never leave her alone under such circumstances.
There were too many unanswered questions.
“I’m afraid we can’t.” Lucas turned from the window. “Whoever
did this…is still out there. I can’t leave you alone.”
“Hal’s just across the street,” Margaret suggested hopefully.
“No…I can’t even leave you alone that long.” Lucas walked back
toward the cot. “Is the water ready?”
“I’ll see.” Margaret hurried from the room. As she lifted the
hot pot from the stove, she heard a loud groan from the bedroom.
“What’s your name?” Lucas asked as he bent next to the man’s
ear. The man tried to speak, but he was too weak. “Tell me your
name.” But the man merely shook his head.
Margaret quickly sat the pot down on a nearby table and hurried
back for the medicine box. She also got a knife and sat it on
the fire to sterilize it. She and Lucas both knew getting the
bullet out would be the man’s only hope. “Luke…” Margaret
hurried back into the room and bent down next to him. “I’m
preparing things for you to remove the bullet.”
Lucas’ eyes grew wide as he looked up at Margaret. “Honey, I
“You have to, Luke! He’ll die very soon if you DON’T!” Margaret
Lucas looked back down at the man. “But I could kill him if I
try…where the bullet’s at can…”
Margaret took his hands. “No, Luke. You must have faith. God’s
right here with you. Believe, Luke.”
Lucas nodded. “Alright. Get all the lanterns in here so I can
have as much light as possible.” Lucas started rolling up his
sleeves. “I’ve only done this once during the war. I’ll do my
The man let out another groan as he swallowed hard. He licked
his lips and motioned for Lucas to bend down next to his mouth.
“What about the saddle?” Lucas questioned.
The man lowered a shaky hand to his pants and tapped the pocket.
Lucas stuffed his hand in the man’s pocket and took out a piece
of paper. It had a woman’s name on it with an address. Lucas
looked up at the man. “For her…for…” Suddenly, his eyes grew
wide. “No…no!” He waved his hands around. “Parker…Parker…” Then
his eyes closed.
Lucas bent his head down to the man’s chest. “Luke?”
“He’s asleep…just asleep.” Lucas turned and looked at Margaret.
“It’s better this way. He won’t feel it.”
Margaret ran into the other room and got the knife and alcohol.
Then she sat down beside her husband and lifted the lantern up
so he could begin the process. As Lucas worked, beads of sweat
broke out onto his face. “You okay?” Margaret lifted a hand and
wiped sweat from his face. “I’m praying for you, Luke.”
“It’s not too deep.” Lucas grunted as he worked. “Just keep
Margaret silently spoke to God, asking Him to guide Lucas’
hands. Finally, Lucas held up the bullet. Margaret closed her
eyes in relief and sat down the lantern. “He’s bleeding awfully
“I know.” Lucas started wrapping the bandage around the
stranger. “He’s going to bleed to death if we don’t do
something…I need to get Jason out here somehow or he’ll die for
Margaret stood and hurried to the window. The cold rain was
still pouring. She chewed on her lip, trying to decide how to
broach the subject of his leaving her to go for the doctor. She
knew he wouldn’t want to do it, but this stranger needed help.
Slowly, Margaret turned around. “Luke…I want you to go for
Margaret held up her hand. “You go on across the street and tell
Hal I’m here.” Lucas shook his head slowly. “Luke, I’ll have the
shotgun. The doors will be locked…I won’t let anyone in here…”
Margaret clinched his upper arms. “You’ve GOT to go, Luke!”
Lucas remembered back to the recent range war he and Margaret
had gone through. He knew Margaret was no ordinary woman. She
could take care of herself, and he knew she would never forgive
him if he refused to go and that man died. Lucas had a feeling
the man would die anyhow, but he didn’t have the heart to tell
Margaret that. He wondered if he was saving an outlaw, but even
that required too much time and thinking. Finally, Lucas nodded
his head. “Alright, honey. You stay here. I’ll go for Jason.”
Lucas hurried into the front room and took the shotgun from the
hooks. He put two shells in it and handed it to her. “You keep
this beside you at all times. If trouble comes…”
“I know how to use it, Luke…and I will if I have to.”
Lucas laid a hand on her cheek and looked into her eyes. “I
think you would at that.” He kissed her. “You might warm up some
of that chili from last night. We’ll be mighty hungry when we
Margaret nodded, but said nothing when she saw the hesitation in
his eyes. Margaret lifted his rifle from the table and handed it
to him. Then she reached up and grabbed his hat. She placed it
on his head and kissed his cheek. “You should get going.” She
took the shotgun from him and held it tight. She didn’t dare
tell him just how cold the steel felt in her hands. She didn’t
dare tell him just how much it hurt to hold the thing.
Lucas gave her a slight nod then turned and hurried out the
door. Margaret locked the door behind him then leaned against
the door. “God…help him…” Margaret prayed quickly, then hurried
into the kitchen to pour a cup of coffee.
Ten minutes passed. The man in the bedroom continued to moan in
his sleep while Margaret nervously paced back and forth and
drank her coffee. One hand held the cold steel barrel of the
shotgun. Margaret went to look out the window. She gazed through
the pouring rain but saw no sign of Hal.
She turned from the window and walked toward the fire. As she
stoked it, she bit her lip, wondering where Hal could be. She
knew Lucas had asked him to come over right away, and she knew
Lucas wouldn’t have left if Hal hadn’t been able to do so.
Slowly, she walked toward the door of the extra bedroom and
looked in on their guest. He was still sleeping. Margaret took a
sip of her coffee as she continued to hold the shotgun,
wondering what the problem was.
Then she heard it. A sharp, loud knock sounded on the door.
Margaret didn’t hesitate to hurry forward, happy that Hal had
finally arrived. Now she would feel safe again. Slowly, she sat
down the shotgun and peered out the window. Her breath caught in
her throat when she caught sight of three strange men standing
on the porch. They all had gun belts strapped on, which was
nothing too odd out in this country, but she had a bad feeling
about them. When she didn’t answer their first knock right away,
they knocked again, only this time it came a louder.
Margaret hesitated, hoping they would go away when she didn’t
answer. But then a strange fear rushed over her. If she didn’t
answer, perhaps they would just barge in. No, she’d rather try
to get rid of them peacefully if she could.
Margaret’s hand reached for the shotgun. She lifted it toward
the door, then she forced her shaky voice to speak. “Who…who is
“Just needing a place to stay until this rain let’s up,” a man’s
Margaret tried to think fast on a reason they couldn’t stay.
There weren’t too many folks around here who would leave three
strangers outside on a day like this. Margaret knew she couldn’t
let them know her husband wasn’t there. Finally, she answered
them. “I’m sorry…you can’t stay here. Th…there’s sickness!”
Margaret paused, waiting for the man to respond. Distant thunder
sounded, indicating the rain wouldn’t be ending anytime soon.
Finally, the man spoke. “What sort of sickness?”
Margaret tried to think fast. “Sm…small pox!” Margaret answered.
“You best stay away.”
She could hear mumbling on the other side of the door. Finally,
the man spoke again. “Now ma’am, we know your cause for
hesitation. We saw your husband ride off in a hurry, and we’d
like to talk to you about that.”
“I can’t let you in!” Margaret declared. “My husband…he gave me
strict orders…He…he just went down the road a bit.”
Margaret wondered why Hal hadn’t come. She knew Lucas wouldn’t
allow her to stay here by herself for so long knowing that
danger could be close by. She began fretting. “You in there
“N…no,” Margaret answered then. “I have a friend in here.”
“Oh. Let me talk to him.”
Margaret chewed on her lip. Finally, she decided on a different
approach. “Now look…I have a shot gun in here, so you just ride
on out of here!”
“I see…” She heard the men mumbling again. “You don’t by any
chance have a man with a bullet in him in there, do you?”
“Don’t know what you’re talking about!” Margaret answered as
bravely as she could.
“Yeah…I kinda thought you did…” She waited, hearing more
mumbling. “Alright, we’ll go for now…” There was another pause.
“I’m afraid your neighbor won’t be able to visit you this
morning. He has a headache.”
Margaret let out a gasp, but stayed silent. After no more words
were spoken, she looked out the window again. She watched the
three men turn and mount their horses. Then she saw them leave
the yard. She let out a big sigh of relief, but had a feeling
they wouldn’t stay gone. What did he mean by Hal having a bad
headache? Had they done something to him? Margaret turned from
the door when she heard the man moaning. She hurried into the
bedroom to see the man thrashing around in the bed from side to
side. She sat down the shotgun beside the bed and grabbed a hold
of his arms. “Lie still,” she whispered.
“The saddlebag…” The man swallowed. “The saddlebag…”
Margaret shook her head, indicating she had no idea what he was
talking about. “Just lay still,” she whispered again. “My
husband’s gone for the doctor.”
The man suddenly calmed and looked up into her eyes. “He…left
you here…here…” He groaned. His eyes filled with fear, and it
was a look that made Margaret’s heart beat even faster. The man
coughed and groaned some more. Margaret hurried from the room
and got the bottle of whisky Lucas kept for such occasions. She
helped him take a drink, and soon the man was asleep.
The silence was disrupted by a large clap of thunder. She ran to
the window and scanned the back yard, but there was nothing
there. Suddenly, she heard a crash. Margaret ran into the front
room but nothing was there. She looked out the window into the
front yard. Her eyes scanned over the land, but again she could
Meanwhile, Hal was laying over there, possibly hurt! She had to
find some way…
Suddenly, she began to wonder if sending those men away was the
best idea. If she had allowed them inside, they would have found
the injured man, yet out there they were probably waiting to
bushwhack her husband. They surely knew something was going on!
Lucas shivered as he rode into town early that morning. The cold
rain wasn’t going to let up, but it certainly wasn’t keeping the
people away either. The boardwalks were full of men and women
who were just beginning their errands for the day. Lucas made
his way to the medical clinic at the end of the street.
Dismounting, he tied his horse to the hitching post and hurried
inside. Jason was just opening his office. “Luke?” Jason paused
in his task with question in his eyes.
“Jason, we’ve got a wounded man at our place. He’s been shot.”
“Shot?” Emily stepped up to stand beside her husband. “What
“I’ve no idea.”
“You left Margaret alone?”
“No. I sent Hal over. He was headed across the road when I rode
out. I don’t like it, Doc. He was shot four times.”
“Best go get the Marshal.” Jason turned to give Emily strict
orders about staying inside while Lucas hurried to the Marshal’s
“I don’t care about that! I…” Marshal Williams stopped speaking
abruptly to his deputy when Lucas hurried into the office. Lucas
quickly told him what was going on. Marshal Williams hurried to
strap on his gun. “Deputy, I want you to stay here and man the
office while I’m gone.”
Deputy Black crossed his arms and stepped forward. “I think I
should go with you.” His voice was cold and controlled as he
Marshal Williams paused in strapping on his gun belt. “I’m the
Marshal and I gave you an order.”
“I…think you should remember what we talked about earlier,
Marshal!” Detective Black grumbled.
Marshal Williams gave him a short nod. “I…will.” Then he hurried
from the office.
Lucas watched him work his jaw as he mounted his horse.
“Something wrong, Matthew?”
The Marshal paused with his foot in the stirrup and turned back
to look toward his office. “No…” But his voice deceived him.
Margaret poured herself another cup of coffee. As she sipped it,
she listened as another clap of thunder shook the house. Then
suddenly, she heard noises on the roof. It sounded like
footsteps! Then her head spun toward the back of the house where
a tapping sound could be heard. She shivered as she slowly
walked toward the window. Nothing was there!
Again, her eyes scanned the back yard. She could see nothing
there. As she scanned the front yard, Margaret grew anxious. The
footsteps could still be heard on the roof. Someone was up
there, but she didn’t know who…or why…
Then they were gone. Margaret ran to the window to see a dark
shadow disappear behind the barn.
She heard the man moaning in the bedroom. Margaret hurried in
and laid a hand on the man’s forehead. He had a fever and was
beginning to shake. “What’s your name?” Margaret asked gently.
“Pete…” The man wanted to say more but his teeth began
“Pete, what happened? Why were you shot?” Margaret pulled the
covers back to check his wound. She cringed when she saw all the
blood oozing out. She quickly ran for a basin of water. It was
the last water they had! Margaret bit her lip, wondering what
she could do. Hal may be out there hurt somewhere. Or worse, Ann
could be in trouble!
“The…the…saddle…” The man mumbled again. “The money…my wife…”
The man groaned even louder as Margaret began cleaning his
wound. She knew he would die soon if Jason didn’t get here.
Margaret wrapped him in some new bandages then stood from the
As she walked into the front room, she heard another noise and
hurried to the window, but nothing was there. Margaret began to
worry even more. She narrowed her eyes to look across the road,
but she could see nothing.
Suddenly, the back door was kicked open. Margaret let out a cry
and reached for the shotgun. She quickly hid behind Lucas’
leather chair as the man hurried into the room. From behind the
chair, she could see the man. He had a beard and was holding up
a rifle. The man walked into the bedroom where Pete was. “No!
No! Oh PLEASE…” Pete begged for his life, but to no avail.
Margaret jumped when she heard the gunshot.
Then there was silence.
Margaret put a hand to her mouth to keep any noise from
escaping. Tears filled her eyes. Pete was dead. She knew that
much. She watched from behind the chair as the man walked out of
the bedroom. Suddenly, two more men were there. “You found him?”
“He’s dead,” the shooter answered as he discharged the empty
shell from his gun and loaded a new bullet into it.
“Did you get the money, Harold?”
Harold shook his head. “I didn’t see it anywhere’s. Could be
that lady has it.”
“Harold, that’s Ten Thousand dollars!”
“I know how much it is!” Harold gruffed. “And I aim to get every
cent of it back!”
“Where’s the lady?” One of the men looked around as if she would
“I don’t know…Simmons, go check the barn!”
Margaret held tight to the barrel of the shotgun and watched as
the men went into her kitchen. “Ah, she’s got some chili cookin’.
She can’t be far. No woman would leave her house with dinner
“She would if she knew there were three bad guys hanging
“Nah…” Harold picked up the pan and made his way to the table.
“Women are scared! They ain’t good for nothin’ ‘cept having
babies and cooking…and some of ‘em can’t even do that right!”
She couldn’t see them from the table, but heard Harold blowing
on the chili then take a bite. “But now this woman…she sure can
Margaret didn’t know what to do. She knew they wouldn’t hesitate
to kill her. She had to get out somehow. Suddenly, the front
door opened. Margaret huddled lower, not wanting the man to see
her. “She ain’t out there, Harold.”
“Any sign of the money?”
Margaret pressed her head against the back of the chair and said
a quick prayer for God to give her opportunity. Then she turned
her head toward the door. It was standing open and she was right
beside it. She heard the other man walk across the room and sit
down. “Dig in. Chili’s real good!”
Margaret knew that the opportunity was now or never. She
couldn’t exactly tell what the men’s positions were at the
table, but from the sounds of their voices, they had their backs
turned toward the front door. She prayed that was true as she
crawled toward the door. She peaked her head around and saw that
they were all engrossed in eating. Then she hurried out the
Margaret hurried into the pouring rain and ran from the yard as
fast as she could. When she got to the road, she stopped to look
down toward Enid, but saw nobody coming. Margaret hurried across
the road into the Dodd yard. There she was able to see Hal’s
still form lying on the ground. He was still out cold…at least,
she hoped he wasn’t…
“Hal!” Margaret cried as she hurried to his side. The thunder
boomed again. The rain was getting colder and the wind had
picked up a bit. Margaret shivered as she turned Hal over. She
hadn’t even been able to grab a coat in her escape.
Margaret saw the blood trickling down Hal’s forehead and heard
his low moans. “Hal!” She turned and looked toward the house.
She had to get to Ann! “I’ll be back, Hal! I’ll be back!”
Margaret stood and hurried toward the house. “Ann! Ann!” She
hurried inside, but saw no sign of Ann. Margaret continued
calling her name as she ran through the dark house. Lightening
lit up the foyer as she ran up the stairs. Finally, in the
bedroom she saw Ann tied and gagged to a chair. “Ann!” Margaret
ran to the chair and tried to undo the ropes, but they were tied
too tight. “I’ll go get a knife!”
But at the top of the stairs, Margaret heard a noise as if
somebody was there. “Harold said to check on the woman!”
Margaret looked around for a hiding place and hurried back into
the bedroom and under the bed. She listened as the men walked
into the room. “Howdy there, ma’am. Good and tight, are ya?”
“I told ya she was okay!” The other man shouted.
“That durn woman has to be somewhere! Women don’t just leave
good food cooking on the stove.”
“Well, let’s go see what this woman has in her kitchen!”
Margaret listened as the men left the room and went down the
stairs. She crawled from under the bed and hurried over to Ann.
“Listen to me,” Margaret whispered as she kept an ear open for
the men’s return. “We’re all in great danger! The man we found
in the bar is dead…one of these men…Harold, I think…killed him.
They’re sticking around for some money he had…ten thousand
dollars…” Margaret put a hand on her friend’s. She could see the
fear in Ann’s eyes. “Hal’s alive out in the yard, but he’s
hurt…hurt bad…” Margaret lifted the shotgun up and looked at it.
“I have to go warn the men…”
Ann shook her head. Her eyes begged Margaret not to go out
there. “I must, Ann! The rain’s getting colder. It’ll start
freezing soon, and I’ve GOT to get Hal to shelter! I’ll try to
drag him to the barn. But I MUST warn the men!” Margaret’s eyes
filled with tears. “Oh honey, I hate leaving you tied up like
this but…we’re safer this way! I can’t let on that I’m here.”
She heard a noise from the stairs. “I’ll get help as soon as I
can!” Quickly, she hurried back under the bed.
“Still good and tight,” she heard the man grumble. “Well…we best
get back across the road…Harold wants us there to help when the
farmer brings back the Marshal.”
“I think I should stay here, just in case…” Margaret had hoped
she could get Ann out of there too, but her hopes had been
crushed. “You tell Harold I’m keeping an eye on the woman. Think
I’ll go back down and check the kitchen again.”
Margaret soon heard the two make their way down the stairs
again. She hurried from under the bed and out into the hall.
From the top of the stairs, she saw the one man walk out the
front door. The other man turned from the stairs and made his
way toward the kitchen. Margaret hurried back into Ann’s bedroom
and bent down in front of the chair. With tears in her eyes, she
pressed her hands on top of Ann’s. Ann shed a few tears as well.
Margaret could see the fear in her eyes. “I’ll be back for
you…just as soon as I can,” Margaret whispered. “I promise. You
just pray.” Margaret stood, and without another look hurried out
Margaret made her way down the stairs, but heard the man
grumbling as he left the kitchen. Margaret hurried into the
living room and crouched down behind a sofa. The man came into
the living room and sat down. She listened as he let out a big
sigh and put his feet up on a table. She cautiously peaked
around the end of the sofa and was happy to see that the man had
leaned his head back and closed his eyes. Quietly, she crawled
out of the living room. Without a sound, she carefully opened
the front door and slipped out unnoticed.
Hal wasn’t where she had left him! Margaret’s eyes scanned the
yard and she let out a gasp when she saw his crumpled body at
the side of the house. He must have woke up and tried to crawl
to the house when those men showed up. “Oh God, help me!”
Margaret cried as she hurried up to Hal. “Hal!”
Margaret turned him over. Apparently the men had roughed him up
a bit more. He was out cold again. Margaret turned him onto his
back and put her arms under his shoulders. He was as big as
Lucas and it was hard work for her to drag him to the barn.
Margaret shivered as she tugged and pulled closer and closer to
the barn. She prayed for God to keep blinders on the outlaws
until she had Hal to safety. She prayed she would be able to
warn Lucas and Jason before they returned to the ranch.
The rain had gone. In its place was cold, icy sleet and it
poured, bouncing off of her and Hal as Margaret continued to
pull him toward the barn. She grunted and pulled, but finally
got him inside. She dragged him to the back, then ran to a
nearby chest and found a blanket. She threw it over him, tucking
it under him to keep him as warm as possible.
“It’s getting colder, and I’m sorry…” Margaret mumbled quietly
as she continued wrapping the blanket around him. “I wish I
could stay and help you and Ann, but I have to go to the road
and watch for the men.” At some point, Hal had become
half-conscience. He couldn’t speak, but merely shook his head
for her not to leave. “I must! He’s my husband and I must warn
him. If I don’t…” Margaret sighed and closed her eyes. “…they’ll
kill him.” Margaret hurried from the barn without another word
and went for the shotgun she had left at the side of the house.
Then she started to the road.
She stopped and let out a quiet gasp when she saw the outline of
a person through the sleet. Margaret let out a cry when she
realized it was one of the men watching for her husband as well.
She would have to find some other way to go warn them! Margaret
hurried back into the yard and raced across the range as fast as
she could. She ran for some time. The sleet poured down. She
shivered, she was so cold; but she HAD to get to Lucas before he
returned! Margaret ran until she felt she was about to collapse.
She was soaked to the skin and shivering cold. The housedress
she had on gave her little warmth from the freezing perception.
When Margaret felt she was far enough from the houses, she
turned and ran out onto the road. She wasn’t sure how far up she
had gone, but when she turned to look back towards the ranches,
she couldn’t even see them. She held tight to her shot gun and
The sleet was still pouring. Margaret was shaking, she was so
cold, but she ran some more. Then, she heard the sound of horses
approaching. “Luke!” Margaret let out a cry as the horses came
Lucas was hurrying toward his ranch with Dr. Jason Livingston
and Marshal Matthew Williams when they saw the form of a person
running towards them. “Now who would be out in this…” Lucas
stopped talking when he realized it was Margaret. “Margaret!”
All three horses stopped. Lucas jumped down and hurried to her.
Margaret suddenly felt weak and started to fall to her knees,
but Lucas caught her and swooped her up into his arms.
“Margaret, what are you doing out…”
“Luke…Luke…” Margaret shook her head as she tried to calm her
breathing. “Three men…” Margaret pressed her head against his
wet coat. She shivered, her teeth chattering so hard she could
“She’s freezing! We must get her to shelter!” Lucas declared.
“We’ll get her home and…”
“NO!” Margaret lifted her head from his chest. “Three
men…They’re at the house…” Margaret swallowed hard. “Two of them
are at our house, and one at the Dodd house…Ann’s…tied up and
Hal…I got him to the barn, but when they find him missing…”
“Hal?” Lucas’s eyes held a deep regret. “I should have stayed
until he made it safely across!”
“No!” Margaret shook her head. “Luke…they killed the wounded man
and…hurt Hal something awful! He’s barely alive…Ann’s tied up
and…and…Oh Luke…” Margaret burst into tears.
Jason hurried forward and took the shotgun she still had
clutched in her hand. The Marshal came to stand beside the other
two men. “Here, take her,” Lucas ordered Jason. Jason held
Margaret while Lucas took off his coat and wrapped it tightly
around her. “What do we do now?” Lucas’ voice held sorrow and
worry. Having Margaret here complicated things, to say the
“We’ll have to take her with us,” Marshal Williams declared.
“What other choice do we have, Luke?” Jason shook his head. “I
need to get to Hal…see how bad off he really is. God only knows
if that man’s already discovered Hal in the barn. We don’t know
who’s where or what’s what…”
Lucas ripped his hat off his head. “Damn it!” He slapped his hat
on his leg. “I hate her being here, and you know that!”
Margaret lifted her head from Jason’s shoulder. “Luke, we have
to help Ann and Hal!”
“Alright. I’ll put you behind me on the horse, but you will do
exactly as I say, do you understand me?” Margaret nodded.
“Margaret, the best way to keep me safe is to do exactly as I
say…no matter what!”
“I understand, Luke.” Lucas mounted his horse, then Jason sat
Margaret behind Lucas and helped her put the coat on. The coat
did little good since she was already soaked through and
through. Margaret could feel herself getting sick, but she
wasn’t about to tell Lucas anything about that. She wrapped her
arms around his waist. “The man at Ann’s was in the living room
when I snuck out, Luke. There was another man…Simmons, I think
they called him…at the entrance to our ranch. We have to go
through the range to keep from being seen.”
“Alright.” Lucas patted her hand. “Hold on tight, Margaret.”
Margaret stifled a cough as she pressed her head against Lucas’
back and held tighter to him. Lucas dug his heels into Bullet’s
flank and took off, the other two men following close behind,
across the Dodd range.
They stopped a ways from the house. Marshal Williams looked up
at the sky. “Still pretty dark,” he mumbled. “This sleet should
be turning into snow soon.”
“Yeah.” Lucas dismounted and tied the horse to the tree.
“Margaret, you stay in the saddle, you hear?” His voice softened
as he looked up into her eyes. “Honey, no matter what…stay
here!” He turned, paused, then turned back around. “Uh…if things
get bad…you ride out and get help.”
Margaret nodded. “Be careful, Luke.”
Lucas, Jason, and Marshal Williams started toward the house.
“Ann’s still in the house. We’ve got to get to her,” Lucas
declared. They made their way to the back door. Marshal Williams
looked in the window and saw nothing. He tried the door and it
opened without any difficulty. He turned and motioned for Lucas
and Jason to cover him while he went inside.
All three men were now in the kitchen. Lucas twirled his rifle,
readying it to shoot at the first sign of trouble. Marshal
Williams silently made his way to the door and opened it a
crack. He nodded and cocked his pistol, indicating one of the
men were in there. Silently, he counted to three, then all three
men barged into the room. “REACH!” Marshal Williams ordered. The
man dropped the glass he was holding and froze.
“Turn around real slow and you’ll find out,” Marshal Williams
ordered. “You make any sudden moves, and you won’t live to see
who shot you.” Slowly, the man turned around as he lifted his
hands up over his head.
Lucas hurried forward and took the guns from the man’s holster.
“Alright, sit down!” Lucas ordered. He held his rifle on the man
as he slowly lowered himself into a chair. “Start talking!”
“What do you want to know?” The man growled the question as he
glared at Lucas and the marshal.
“Hold on…” Marshal Williams turned and told Jason to go get some
rope. “I’m going to tie up my first prisoner.”
“Anybody else in here?” Lucas asked as he shoved the rifle in
the man’s face. The man laughed. Lucas screwed up his face and
pressed the barrel of his rifle into the man’s cheek. “I asked
you a question!”
“If you’re talking about anyone on MY side, they’re across the
street,” the man answered. Lucas moved the rifle just a bit
away. The man looked Lucas up and down. “I’m guessing you’re the
farmer who lives across the street.”
“Is there a difference?”
“I think so.” Lucas gave a slight nod. “Now, mind telling me
what your friends are doing in my house?”
“Oh, I’ll give you a reason alright.” The man smiled.
“Ten…thousand…dollars.” Lucas raised an eyebrow. “Is that reason
“Where’d the money come from?”
The man chuckled. “You wouldn’t believe me even if I…” He
stopped when he felt the cold metal of the rifle in his nose.
Suddenly, the back door opened. Jason hurried in with the rope.
The Marshal grabbed the rope as Jason grabbed the man’s hands
and pulled them tight behind him. The man flinched from the
pain. Marshal Williams paused in tying the man’s hands to pull
out his pistol and hold it against the man’s temple. “You have
two guns trained on you, and if the good doctor doesn’t bring
that woman down the stairs in one piece, we’ll pull both
triggers.” He cocked his gun for good measure. “Now…is it safe
for him to go up there?”
“I done told you those men are across the street!” Marshal
Williams motioned for Jason to go to Ann. “Gambling.”
“Gambling?” Lucas questioned.
“That’s where the ten thousand dollars came from. We gambled for
a long time. My friend, Harold…He is…what you might call an
obsessive gambler. He owns a ranch near Topeka and was down here
on business. He got a bit risky on his gambling and bet a lot of
money. He thought he had a winning hand. Turns out…”
“So the other man won fair and square?”
“It appeared that way,” the man nodded. “But Harold seems to
think Pete cheated.”
The man laughed. But he lost his smile when Lucas again pressed
the rifle barrel in his nose. “Alright, alright…There’s no
Just then, Jason appeared in the door with Ann. Her face was
tear streaked and her hair a mess. She had rope burns where she
had tried to wriggle free. The moment she saw Lucas, she hurried
forward and hugged him. “Luke…Oh Luke…Hal? Where is he?”
Lucas hugged her. “I was told he’s in the barn.” He looked at
Jason who stood behind Ann. “You should get out there now.”
“What about those men?” Ann asked.
Lucas searched her face to make sure she was okay. “They’re
across the street. Margaret’s out back on a horse.” Lucas turned
and looked at Marshal Williams. “Marshal, I think the safest
place is here…” Lucas paused.
“Right now, Luke, there is no safe place,” Marshal Williams
agreed with his silent statement – that still, the women would
be safer upstairs.
Jason kept a protective arm around Ann. “I think upstairs is
safer for them then outside in the sleet, Luke.” Jason looked
down at Ann. “I’m worried about Margaret. She’s been out there
in this stuff without a coat for a long time. We need to get her
Lucas nodded and walked to the back door where Margaret was
intently watching. He motioned for her to come inside. Margaret
slid from the horse and slowly made her way inside. Margaret
hurried past Lucas and ran to Ann. She could feel Ann’s shaking
as she hugged her. “Is it safe to get Hal?”
Lucas nodded. “We’re going to try to get him now, Margaret. You
get on upstairs and put on something warmer. Then I want you in
bed under the covers. Jason will be up to check on you in a
while.” Lucas looked toward Ann. “Ann, I think you should lay
down as well.”
“No!” Ann hurried forward. “I must see Hal!”
“Ann, I…” Lucas stopped when he saw Jason raise a hand.
Ann hurried after Jason. Margaret looked at the man who was now
tied snuggly in the chair. “What are you going to do with him?”
“Leave him here until we get the other two men,” Lucas answered
as he took her arm. “Now, you get on upstairs.”
“What are you going to do now?” Margaret asked anxiously as
Lucas led her toward the stairs.
“I don’t know. But you let us worry about that.” Lucas turned
her face toward him and studied it intently. “You need to get
out of those wet clothes and get under the covers, honey. I’m
sure Jason will give you something warm once he gets back.”
Lucas kissed her cheek. “Go on now.”
“Luke…” Margaret laid a hand on his cheek. “Be careful.” Lucas
nodded. He turned and looked out the window that was right by
the stairs, then quickly, he ordered Margaret to do as he had
Once Margaret was up the stairs, Lucas called out to the
marshal. Marshal Williams came into the living room. Lucas
pointed out the front window. Marshal Williams sighed when he
saw one of the men standing at the entrance of the McCain Ranch.
The sleet had turned into snow and the sky had lightened a bit.
“You think he knows we’re here?”
“I don’t know,” Marshal Williams mumbled. “You can’t see the
barn from there, can you?” Lucas shook his head. “Well…you stand
guard there. I’ll try to get out to the barn and help Jason get
Hal in here before they figure out we ARE here.”
The man laughed from the kitchen where the door was propped
“They’ll never leave without their money!” the man declared with
a laugh. “You won’t get them out of there alive.”
“That’s alright with me,” Lucas declared suddenly.
“Well, they have to come out sometime,” Marshal Williams
declared. “They can’t just stay in there forever.”
Lucas turned and looked at the Marshal. “They’ll just be the two
of us, Marshal. Jason will have his hands full with Hal.”
“I know,” Marshal Williams nodded. “But right now, there’s
nothing we can do.” Marshal Williams turned toward the kitchen.
“I’ll go help Jason get Hal in here.”
Abraham McCain took off his hat as he stepped into the clinic.
“Jason! Emily!” Abe grumbled as he shook the hat against his
thigh. “Rain then sleet and now snow, boy but Charlie picked a
fine day to get sick!”
Emily hurried from the back of the clinic. Her face held worry.
Abe stepped forward when he saw the concern in her eyes. “Emily?
Honey, what’s wrong?” He grasped her shoulders.
“Abe…Luke…He came in here and said they had a wounded man at
their house. That was early this morning…He took Jason and the
marshal with him and…and…they haven’t come back yet.”
“Did he say who the man was?”
Emily shook her head. “Only that he was shot. Abe, I’m worried!”
“Alright, you listen to me, Emily…I’m hitching up your buggy. I
want you to ride it as fast as you can back to the farm and get
our brothers. Tell them to get to Luke’s place as fast as they
can. We don’t know what’s happening there, so tell them to be
careful. Then you and the women stay put…” Abe put his hat on
and started out the door. “Oh, and Charlie’s sick. You best
bring some medicines that could help him. Julie thinks it’s his
Soon, Abe had the buggy hitched up. He helped Emily into the
buggy then set the horses in motion. After mounting his horse,
Abe rode as fast as he could toward the McCain Ranch. Deputy
Black watched from the doorway of his office, wondering what was
Lucas turned from the front window when he heard the back door
open. Marshal Williams and Jason grunted as they half-dragged
Hal through the kitchen. “Marshal, watch the window. I’ll help
Jason get him upstairs,” Lucas stated. Ann was crying as she
Margaret hurried from the bedroom, now wearing a fresh gown and
looking warmer. “I’ve turned his bed down,” Margaret announced
as she preceded the men into the master bedroom. They laid Hal
on the bed. Lucas motioned for Margaret to come out with him so
Ann and Jason could get Hal undressed and comfortable.
“I thought I told you to get in bed,” Lucas reminded her gently
as he led her across the hall and toward the bed. He lifted his
eyebrows as she obediently got under the covers and stifled a
cough. “I want you to stay in this bed and don’t move until I
tell you to do so.”
“LUKE” Marshal Williams’ voice sounded from the bottom of the
stairs. “Luke, get down here!”
Both bedroom doors upstairs opened at the same moment. Lucas
readied his rifle as he turned and looked at Jason. Jason
unholstered his pistol and moved to the top of the stairs. “Hal
needs you,” Lucas pointed out.
“Not as badly as you do, Luke.” Jason lifted his six-shooter up
in the air as they started down the stairs. “Ann’s getting him
cleaned up. Only time will heal him.”
“What is it, Marshal?” Lucas and Jason moved to the window and
watched as the two men stood at the road talking. “I’ve never
seen either of them before.”
“Maybe they’re getting ready to leave,” Jason murmured. They
watched the two men talk. One of the men was motioning angrily
toward the road. The other man threw his hands up and turned
back toward the house. Suddenly, the man still standing at the
road turned and hollered at the other man. He came hurrying back
as they both stared down the road. The three watched in horror
as the two men lifted their guns and cocked it at some unseen
Then one man fired.
At the sound of the gunshot across the street, both Margaret and
Ann came to the top of the stairs. “What is it?” Ann screamed.
The men all stared at each other in horror. “What happened?”
“They just shot a rider,” Lucas answered. He turned back to the
other two men. “We’ve got to get out there and find out who that
Laughter erupted from the kitchen. Marshal Williams angrily
turned and hurried into the kitchen. He grabbed the man by the
back of his neck and squeezed. “What’s your name?” The man
continued to laugh. “What’s your name?” Marshal Williams lifted
the gun above the man’s head as if he were about to pistol whip
“It’s Billy Jo,” he answered.
“Well, BILLY JO…” Marshal Williams’ voice was cut off by a
tapping at the back door. He continued to hold the man by the
neck. “Jason…” Jason appeared in the doorway. “See who’s at the
back door. Be careful.”
Jason kept his gun ready for action as he went to the window and
peaked out. “It’s the deputy!” Jason hurried to let him in.
Deputy Black hurried inside. Marshal Williams didn’t act too
happy to see him. “What the hell are you doing here, black?” His
question took the men in the room aback. “I thought I told you…”
“I know what you told me!” Deputy Black shouted back. “But I
just heard Abe McCain’s on his way here. His brothers are just
“Abe?” Lucas hurried into the room. “When?”
“I heard tell he rode into town to get Dr. Livingston. When Dr.
Livingston wasn’t there, Mrs. Livingston told McCain just what
the problem was and he decided to check things out…just like a
McCain!” Deputy Black shook his head. “I wasn’t sure what the
situation was, so I decided to come the back way when I saw
those two men at the road. I figured I’d check here at the Dodd
“DEAR GOD!” Lucas cried. Slowly, he moved his head toward the
front door. “OH DEAR GOD!!!” Lucas bolted toward the front door,
but Jason and Marshal Williams both bolted for him. They each
locked an arm under his shoulder and held him back. “That’s my
brother out there! YOU LET ME GO!”
“Now, hold it!” Marshal Williams shouted. “HOLD IT!”
Margaret rushed down the stairs when she heard her husband
shouting. Her eyes grew wide at the sight of Lucas. “What
“They shot my brother!” Lucas fought against the men.
“We don’t know that!” Marshal Williams retorted calmly, still
keeping a firm hold on Lucas. “We don’t know anything yet!”
Lucas was fuming. He continued to fight. “You let me go! I can
take one of those men out from right here!”
“NO YOU CAN’T! We can’t go into a situation blind like that!”
“LET ME GO, I SAID!!!”
“Now Luke, either you calm down or I’ll give you something to
MAKE you calm down!” Jason shouted then. Lucas continued to
struggle. “Margaret, go get my bag.”
Margaret turned to go back up the stairs, but her husband’s
voice stopped her. “No.” He stopped fighting. “I’ll stay calm.”
Jason held out his hand for the rifle and Lucas calmly released
it. They let him go.
“Sit down, McCain.” Deputy Black motioned toward the table. “I
have a question for you.” Jason hurried out to stand watch at
the front window while Margaret moved to make some hot coffee
for the men. Deputy Black pulled out a piece of paper from his
pocket and handed it to the Marshal. “Got a telegram this
morning about three men chasing a forth man. They were last seen
headed this way. According to the telegram, the man they’re
chasing won $10,000 in a poker game. One of the bad men…a Harold
Parker…He’s a big land owner in Kansas…Well, not as big anymore.
He bet a big chunk of his estate against the game, he was so
Margaret turned from the stove. “That’s the same men. They
killed the man they were chasing.” Deputy Black turned and
looked at Margaret. “Shot him after they broke into our house
across the street.”
“I hope you’re mistaken…” Deputy Black slowly stood. “The man
they’re chasing has a wife and five small children.”
“He told me as much,” Margaret stated sadly. “But the way he
talked…they had no money. How was he able to bet that much money
“He didn’t,” Deputy Black answered with a shake of his head.
“According to the information I was wired, the man only had
enough money to make one more bet. This…Parker…was so drunk that
he bet everything. There were a lot of witnesses who watched the
game.” Deputy Black nodded. “They went to the bank and had this
man draw up a bank draft in the amount of $10,000. It was a
piece of paper – not a sack of money. And if the man’s dead,
that money belongs to this man’s family now.”
“Alright…” Lucas stood as Margaret poured coffee into the cups.
“Let’s get moving.”
“Luke…Marshal…You might want to see this!” Jason called from the
front room. The men ran into the room and to the window. They
saw that a man was being dragged into the yard. He looked to be
having a lot of trouble walking. One of the outlaws shoved him
“Do you know who it is?”
Jason turned as he nodded his head. “It’s Abe.”
There was no choice. They were going to have to storm the two
men who were across the street, at least make them aware of
their presence. A tapping sounded on the back door again. Deputy
Black motioned for Margaret to get away then went to see who it
was. “It’s Peter and Jeremiah McCain and Scott Gibbs!” Deputy
Black opened the door to allow them in.
“We heard a gunshot and decided to come the back way,” Peter
announced as they stepped into the kitchen. He looked from Lucas
to Margaret. “You two okay?”
Margaret nodded as her eyes filled with tears. “Oh, but Abe’s
not!” Margaret put her face in her hands and started sobbing.
“Margaret…” Lucas motioned for Jason to once again take his
place at the front window and hurried over to Margaret. “I want
you to go upstairs and stay there. You’ll be out of danger
“What does she mean Abe’s not?” Peter asked suddenly.
Marshal Williams turned to look at the three men who had just
arrived. “I think he’s shot. We saw them escorting Abe into the
yard just before you rode up, but Abe wasn’t walking too well.”
“What’s going on?”
“We don’t have time to explain, Scott,” Marshal Williams quickly
answered. “This man…” he motioned toward the man still tied in
the chair. “…He’s the third man. We have two at the McCain
house. I’m thinking they think Abe is Lucas…We have no idea what
the situation is over there.”
“We can easily take that man at the road,” Jeremiah declared,
coming in from the front room. “From the edge of the yard…He’d
never know what…”
“And that…Parker dude…wouldn’t hesitate to take Abe!” Lucas
shouted suddenly. “They killed the man they were after.”
“We have to do something!” Peter shouted. “Abe’s life is in
Suddenly, another shot rang out. In the quiet afternoon, it
echoed through the land. All the men rushed to the front room
while Ann and Margaret hurried to the stairs. “It came from
across the street,” Jason announced. “And it came from the barn
where they led Abe.”
“Alright…” Marshal Williams put his hat on. “Peter, Jeremiah…I
want you to make a long circle and get around the back of the
McCain house. Stay out of sight in the trees. Scott…Luke…I want
you to go around the other way. You come up behind the house
from the other direction.” Marshal looked at the Deputy. “We’ll
give them ten minutes to get into place, then we’ll make our way
out the front door. We’ll let him know we’re here.”
“What about me?” Jason asked.
The Marshal and Deputy looked at each other. “You stay here and
guard the prisoner and…” Marshal Williams looked up at the top
of the stairs. “Do what you can for the women. I think we’ll be
needing your services once this is over.”
“Luke!” Margaret breathed.
“Matt!” Lucas warned.
Margaret watched the men leave the house. Her eyes focused on
Jason as he stood at the foot of the stairs. “How’s Hal?”
“He’s still out cold,” Margaret answered in a shaky voice. She
was quiet for a moment. “Jason…”
Jason shook his head. “You just stay up there. Don’t come down.
It’ll all be over soon.”
Margaret turned and walked back into the room where Ann nursed
her husband. Ann had tears in her eyes as she continued wiping
his face. “I wish he’d wake up,” Ann mumbled. “I need him.”
Margaret said nothing as she rested a hand on Ann’s shoulder.
Her mind was on another man who was out in the gently falling
snow. Finally, she swallowed. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall
Ann joined in with her as she rested her hand on top of
Margaret’s. Together they asked God for comfort.
Gunfire suddenly erupted as the men waited among the trees in
the backyard. Lucas looked toward the house before announcing
that he would try to get to the house and find out what was
going on. Scott grabbed his arm. “Marshal told us to wait.”
“Those gunshots tell me that the marshal and deputy both may be
dead. I have to get up there…to see what’s going on.” Lucas
turned to Scott. “Just cover me.”
Peter and Jeremiah watched as Lucas ran toward the house. “He’s
a fool!” Peter grumbled. “Doesn’t like to take orders!”
But Lucas made it. He slowly raised his head to a window and
looked in. He could see Abe on the floor. He wasn’t moving as a
man stood over him. “I got ‘em!” Simmons declared as he hurried
toward Harold Parker. “I got the deputy.” Lucas saw the deputy
slowly make his way into the room. Blood trickled from a
superficial wound on his head.
“Well?” Parker asked. “Where’s the marshal?”
“Dead,” Simmons answered. He laughed. “I got him good!” Lucas
leaned his head against the window. The Marshal had been a good
friend of theirs for years. He’d grown up with Abe. He was a
childhood friend, and now he was dead.
“How’s the farmer?” Simmons asked then.
“Barely breathing,” Parker answered. “Durn fool…Trying to rush
me like that…”
“What are we going to do now?”
Parker walked toward the window and shook his head. “I don’t
know,” he answered with a sigh. “I just…don’t know.”
“We should move out!”
Parker turned from the window. “Not without my money!”
“We can’t stay here forever!” Simmons rushed up to Parker.
“We’ve won! That man ain’t gonna use that bank draft. Your
“That bank draft is somewhere…That woman has it!”
“That woman…Where is that woman?”
“Probably in town now,” Parker answered. “I don’t know how she
got away without us knowing.” Parker wiped his forehead with his
gun hand. “Well…no reason for us to stay here. I reckon we cen
make our way across the street and check on Billy Jo.”
“Uh…Parker…” Simmons slowly walked up to him. “Boss, there’s
something you should know about that situation.”
“Yeah…uh…Thet deputy and marshal…they just come from across the
street. There’s a man standing in the window guarding. I…think
Billy Jo’s done captured.”
“Durn fool!” Parker shook his head as he slammed his gun against
the wall. “Then we’re taking it back. I…” Suddenly, he turned
and looked toward the window. Lucas gasped, realizing he’d been
spotted. “Well now…what have we here?” Parker lifted his gun and
pointed it right at Lucas. “Alright…” Parker cocked his gun.
But Lucas ran around the side of the house before Parker could
make his move. Lucas hurried toward the front of the house when
gunfire erupted. Shots whizzed past his head. Finally, Lucas
fell to his knees. “Alright, drop it!” Parker shouted. Lucas
hesitated until he heard the cock of a gun. He dropped his
rifle. “Stand up…slow…”
“Alright, you have four guns trained on you, mister.” Lucas had
never been so happy to hear Peter’s voice before. “Luke, you’re
a fool!” Peter declared as Parker continued to hold his gun on
Slowly, Lucas turned around. He kept his hands raised as he
stood up. “You have four guns trained on you, Parker. You better
just give it up.”
“As soon as whoever has that bank draft hands it over,” Parker
answered. “All I want is my money.” Parker shook his gun at
Lucas as his face began to break out into a sweat. “I’ll kill
“That’s alright,” Jeremiah answered for them. “You don’t have a
chance, mister. Because as soon as you kill him…” Jeremiah put
the gun to the back of Parker’s head. “We’ll kill you.” Parker
hesitated. “And you know you don’t want to die.”
“You’re just a rancher…” Lucas said. “You’re not a gunfighter.
If you weren’t a coward, you wouldn’t have shot that man in the
back or when he was wounded…you wouldn’t have shot my brother or
“Simmons did that!” Parker declared. “Simmons killed your
Marshal and brother…not me!”
“Simmons is in our custody,” Scott declared from behind him.
“And so is the other man. You will all hang for what you’ve done
“I want my $10,000! I’ll leave as soon as you give me the bank
“We don’t have it!” Lucas shouted. “You don’t seem to understand
that we don’t have it.” Lucas took a step toward Parker. “Go
ahead…pull that trigger…kill me!” Lucas leaned forward. “I have
a secret for you…I’M the FARMER who owns this ranch! You forced
your way into MY house and that woman who’s missing is MY wife.
She’s the best wife a man could have…snuck out the house when
you were there…went around the back way and warned me you were
here…” Lucas grabbed him by the front of his shirt. “That
Marshal you killed is a good friend of mine…grew up together…”
Lucas put his hands around the man’s throat and started choking
him. “And that was my brother you may have killed.” Lucas’ face
turned to pure hatred. “I’ll send you to hell…right…now…”
“Luke!” Jeremiah shouted. “Luke, LET GO!”
Peter hurried around and grabbed Lucas. Scott grabbed his other
arm. “LET GO!” Peter shouted. “We’ll watch him hang! LET GO!”
Finally, Lucas came back to his senses and let go. Parker
crumpled at his feet. Lucas turned from him and hurried back
into the house. He rushed up to Abe and turned him over. There
was a bad gunshot wound in his chest. Abe’s face was covered in
sweat, and his breathing was heavy. Tears filled Lucas’ eyes.
“Go get Jason!” Lucas shouted. “Hurry!”
Scott and the deputy ran to the front yard where Marshal
Williams had been shot. Scott bent down and listened to his
Slowly, Scott lifted his head and looked straight at the deputy.
The Margaret Years — The Truth
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