The Rifleman
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Fan Fiction

The Margaret Years
 
Chapter 30 - The Rifleman is Born
Written by Michelle Palmer

His gentle caressing slowly awakened her early that morning. The sun was just beginning to cast its first rays of sunshine through their spacious bedroom window. Margaret cuddled down in the bed and gave a satisfied smile as she felt his hands gently caress her shoulder and down her arm. “Mornin’,” Lucas’ groggy voice whispered an inch from her ear. “I was hoping you’d wake up.” Margaret didn’t say a word as she closed her eyes, anticipating the feel of her husband’s lips on her skin. And Lucas McCain didn’t disappoint her that morning. Margaret felt his lips touch the nape of her neck below her ear softer than a butterfly’s touch.
 
Then there was no contact. Margaret started to open her eyes when she feared he had left her, but just when her eyes started to blink open, his lips had returned. This time, he left a trail of soft kisses down her neck until his lips settled on her throat. Lucas groaned before lifting his head up to her face. This time, Margaret did open her eyes as she settled onto her back. She placed a hand on his stubby cheek and smiled into his soft eyes that told her what he had planned for her before breakfast that morning. “I love you, Mrs. McCain,” Lucas said huskily before bringing his mouth down onto hers and capturing her in a passionate kiss that left every inch of her body tingling.
 
Margaret shifted onto her back so she had better access to him. Already, she felt the hem of her gown being lifted. Their kisses turned more passionate, but she grasped his wrists and opened her eyes wide before he could lift her nightgown any higher. “Luke…” Margaret took some ragged breaths. “Luke, I want to so badly but…”
 
Lucas pressed a finger to her lips. “Shh…It’s been three weeks now, my dear wife. I’ve been ready for quite some time. It’s you that has kept the intimacy at bay.”
 
“Only because I worry about you. The doctor said…”
 
“JASON said that I was ague-free and as healthy as a six year old boy. He said I could return to my regular activities.” Lucas kissed her as he rested his body gently on top of hers. “And this is definitely one of my ‘regular’ activities.” She started to argue further, but his wide, boyish grin stopped her. Suddenly, she was overcome with passion and wanted nothing more but to feel all the love her dear husband had to give her.
 
Lucas lost contact only long enough to remove his long johns. Then after pulling the covers off of her, he pulled the gown off over her head and gently caressed her. “I think it’s time we start seriously working on that son we’ve been talking about having, my Love.” His fingers slid down her side, down her thigh, and back up again. Margaret let out a loud gasp before Lucas hurriedly closed his mouth down onto hers and laced his fingers through hers.
 
For the next hour, they relished being husband and wife in each other’s arms.
 
***
Margaret lay still in his arms, enjoying the gentle caress of his fingertips down the side of her body over and over. His other arm was wrapped snuggly around her, and his cheek rested on her shoulder. She hadn’t realized until that very moment just how much she had been missing the intimacy. The length of his body pressed up against the back of hers and she ran a hand up and down his arm. “Luke…” Margaret breathed softly.
 
“Hm?”
 
“Promise me.”
 
“Promise you what, Honey?”
 
“Promise me we’ll always be like this…no…no matter what.” There was silence as Lucas’ fingers paused at her thigh. Then slowly, he slid his hand up and wrapped it around her body as well. He hugged her tighter against the length of his body and pressed a kiss to her cheek. “Luke?”
 
“Margaret, you know I can’t promise that.” Lucas sighed. “Just recently, we proved it’s possible it may not ALWAYS be like this.”
 
“Oh, Luke…” Margaret cried softly.
 
“I’ll promise you today, my Love. I want to promise you tomorrow, but…”
 
Lucas shifted his weight just a bit and turned her on her back. His hand once again began caressing her softly as he stared into her eyes. “I will promise you this…” Lucas kissed her softly and trailed kissed down her cheek. “I promise you that no matter what happens, I’ll always remember these special times along with the special way you take care of me…cooking and cleaning…loving me no matter how badly I behave.”
 
Margaret smiled. “And I you, Luke.” She giggled as his hand paused at a ticklish spot on the side of her rib cage. Lucas chuckled as he wiggled his fingers even more. Soon, the bedroom was overcome with the sound of laughter as husband and wife enjoyed each other.
 
“Luke…” Margaret whispered at she stared into his eyes.
 
“Yes, My Love?”
 
“There’s chores to do.” Lucas groaned, laying his head down on her chest. Margaret giggled as she lifted his face up. “Now you are the one that said Jason declared you fit to return to all your normal activities.”
 
“I was leaning more toward the…fun one’s,” Lucas said as his hand once again found one of her sensitive areas.
 
“Now Lucas McCain, you STOP that!” Margaret declared as she gave him a hard shove and sat up on the side of the bed with her back toward him. She reached for her robe and stood. She turned back to him only after her sash was securely fastened. “I’ve got breakfast to fix!” Lucas groaned again. Margaret walked toward the dresser and grabbed a fresh pair of long johns. She threw them to him from where he still laid in bed – butt stuck up in the air. “Get dressed, Mister!” Lucas groaned again. Margaret threw him a fresh pair of jeans and his orange shirt. “You’ve been lazing around too long! It’s time you start being a rancher again!”
 
Only after Margaret left the room did he attempt to get up. “Yes, My Love,” Lucas mumbled as he put his leg in one of the holes of his long johns. “I’ll even remember this…but I hope I’ll never have to live with only the memories…”
 
***
 
“Oh, Good Lord Almighty!” Abe shouted as he sputtered his coffee and sat straight up in his chair. Abe had been reading the Oklahoma City News a boy in town had given him the day before. He’d been so busy, this was the first chance he’d had to read it.
 
Julie turned from the stove and brushed hair out of her face as she sat a large platter of pancakes on the table. “What is it?”
 
Abe clutched the newspaper tighter in his hand and stood up. He mumbled words quietly under his breath, and from his tone, Julie was sure she didn’t want to know what those words were. “Abraham?” Julie questioned again as she walked toward him.
 
“Papa, I need fifty cents for…” Julie held up a hand to silence Laura as she hurried out of her bedroom. Abe had already called her and the boys twice. Abe folded the paper and started toward the door.
 
“Abe, I’ve got breakfast!” Julie declared as she shifted Scarlet on her hip.
 
“Later,” Abe mumbled as he opened the door.
 
“What about my fifty cents, Papa?” Laura asked.
 
Abe paused and turned to look at his little sister. “What for?”
 
“School dues,” Laura declared. “You gave Charlie his yesterday, but you forgot to…” Laura stopped, knowing he hadn’t forgotten. He only had fifty cents yesterday.
 
Abe sighed. “Later.” Then he hurried out the door.
 
“Mama…” Laura turned. “What’s wrong with Papa Abe?”
 
Julie sighed. “I don’t know, but I’m sure we’ll find out in time if it’s anything major. Now eat your breakfast.” Julie turned toward the bedrooms. “Boys, get in here and eat your breakfast!”
 
“Mama, the teacher said I MUST have my dues today!”
 
“Well, you’ll just have to wait for Abe, sweetie.” Julie turned from her then to go see to the boys.
 
***
Something similar was happening down the path at Peter’s house. Peter’s words of surprise were much more colorful, and Tiffany put her fists on her hips and ordered, “Not in front of the children!” Peter stood slowly and walked toward the door. “I’ve got breakfast!” Tiffany declared.
 
“Later,” Peter mumbled as he opened the door. He was surprised when he came face to face with his oldest brother.
 
“Did you see it?” Abe questioned angrily as he shook the paper he still held in his hand.
 
“Just now,” Peter nodded.
 
“Blasted!” Abe roared as he stomped into the house. “Blasted! Just wait until I get my hands on that stupid fool!”
 
“Abraham and Peter McCain!” Tiffany turned and looked at her children. “Ruthie, take your brother and go to your room.”
 
“Oh Mama…” Ruthie started. Tiffany lifted her head and pressed her lips tightly together. “Yes Mama.” She grabbed Willie’s hand and helped him toddle toward the bedroom. “Anytime there’s somethin’ good, we hafta go!”
 
Tiffany turned back to the brothers. “Now, what is the meaning of this uproar?”
 
“Some fool…He went and did it. I mean, he really did it!!!” Abe cursed again, then apologized when he was able to come to his senses.
 
Jeremiah barged into the house then. “Hey Peter, did you…” His voice died when he saw his other two brothers.
 
“I warned him this would happen! I warned him!” Peter shouted so loud it shook the rafters.
 
Tiffany put a hand on her hip. “Don’t you three have anything better to do then read the newspaper? And how does it just so happen that all three of you had a chance to read your own newspaper this morning?”
 
She was ignored as the brothers continued growling over the article in the newspaper. “As soon as we eat, we best take a ride out to Lucas’ ranch and get to the bottom of this!”
 
“Yeah,” Abe growled. “And if he don’t have a way out of this mess, I’ll flatten him!”
 
“Willie! Blasted!” Suddenly, Ruthie’s voice erupted from the bedroom.
 
Tiffany turned from the door, her eyes wide. “Abe…”
 
Peter sighed. “I’ll go talk to her.”
 
“Good. And you let her know the next time I hear the word from anyone’s mouth I’ll wash their mouth out with soap!”
 
***
Lucas stepped from the barn and whistled as he carried the bucket of fresh milk toward the house. He saw a shadow from the corner of his eye, and turned to investigate. Nothing was there that he could see. He turned to walk toward his house again when he heard the sound.
 
He froze dead in his tracks.
 
He’d recognize that sound anywhere. It was the sound of a gun being cocked. “Alright, McCain…turn around.” The voice was a growl and unfamiliar.
 
Lucas, still clutching the bucket of milk slowly turned around. He came face-to-face with a man holding a gun right towards his chest. Lucas squeezed the rifle he held in his other hand. “Who are you?” He asked the red-headed man with a tick beard. “Do I know you?”
 
“Nope,” the man answered. “But I shore do know you! Yes sir…I wanted to see just who this “Rifleman” was!”
 
Lucas scrunched his eyebrows together and gave the man a confused look. “The Rifleman?” He shook his head, totally bewildered.
 
The man gave Lucas an evil laugh, then reached for the paper from his back pocket. “This…” the man flung the article toward Lucas. “THIS is what I’m talking about you…” He allowed the rest of his words to die.
 
Lucas slowly opened the paper. His eyes grew wide at the title of the article. “The Rifleman is Born.”
 
Lucas sucked in his breath as he studied the top of the paper. “Oklahoma City…” Lucas lifted his head. “This was printed two weeks ago!”
 
“And I got here as FAST as I could!”
 
“Why?” Lucas cocked his head to one side. “What you wantin’?”
 
“Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Harold T. Fiske.” Lucas’ eyes grew wide at the name. “That’s right! About a year and a half ago, you were in Texas on a cattle drive. You knew my brother…Hezekiah T. Fiske.”
 
“Yes. I knew your brother.”
 
“You KILLED my brother.”
 
“How do you know that?”
 
“His friend was there and saw the whole thing. He said you were a fast draw.” Fiske’s eyes moved toward the rifle Lucas held in his hand. “Of course, you didn’t have that ugly looking rifle then…but that’s mentioned in that there article as well.”
 
“Lucas…” Margaret’s voice was heard from behind him. “Lucas, what?” she suddenly sounded alarmed.
 
“Margaret, get back inside and close the door,” Lucas growled.
 
“Luke…” Margaret’s eyes grew wide when she saw Fiske pointing a gun at him.
 
“DO AS I SAY!!!”
 
Margaret closed the door to the house. Lucas turned back to Fiske. “Alright, I killed your brother. He was trying to rustle some of the heard we were working on driving through for our boss. I caught him and gave him a chance to be peaceful but…”
 
“You gave him a chance?”
 
Lucas remembered back to that time in his life. He had discovered what Hezekiah Fiske had been trying to do. Instead of going to his boss and telling him of his discovery, Lucas snuck up on the man and held his rifle on the man. The man turned and drew, and Lucas fired. He knew in truth he hadn’t given the man a chance. He wasn’t intending to kill him, but the gun had gone off all the same. The man was dead all the same.
 
Lucas swallowed the lump that was rapidly forming in his throat. “I gave him one,” he said with a nod. “He just didn’t take it.” He didn’t know it either, Lucas thought. If only he hadn’t approached the man from behind, he may be alive today…
 
“Well, the way I hear tell, I’m giving you more of a chance then him. But I’m gonna kill you!”
 
“Not today!” Lucas looked up to see his brothers standing at the edge of the yard. Abe had his gun pointed at the offending man. “Now…ride on out while you still got the chance.”
 
The man turned back to look at Lucas. “You wouldn’t shoot a man in the back…Who are these men, your personal bodyguards?”
 
“We’re his brothers.”
 
The man laughed and rolled his eyes. “Well, you know I ain’t made much of myself and I always wanted ta hear my name spoken with respect. Maybe if I kill the Rifleman, I’ll get that respect!”
 
“You kill him and…” Abe didn’t get a chance to answer the question. Fiske drew his gun and Lucas pulled the trigger on his rifle. The man fell dead at Lucas’ feet.
 
Nobody said a word. The door to the house opened and Margaret hurried out to stand beside her husband. Lucas didn’t look at her, for he could only stare at the dead man laying at his feet. Slowly, his brothers slid from the saddles and walked to stand over Fiske’s body. Nobody spoke for several moments. “This didn’t have to happen,” Peter muttered.
 
That was when Lucas finally lifted his eyes to look at his brothers. He saw the accusations laying there. He knew he was guilty of a crime, and they were going to make sure he paid dearly. “Well, say it!” Lucas demanded angrily.
 
“Say what?” Peter asked when Lucas settled his eyes on his middle brother.
 
“I told you so.”
 
Peter looked down at Lucas’ rifle. He remembered the conversation he had with Lucas, warning him what would happen. Peter shrugged and shook his head. “I don’t think I have to do that…do I?”
 
Abe cleared his throat. “We’ve come about this article.”
 
“Yeah, seems I’ve gotten a lot of company on that article this morning. Funny thing…” Lucas emptied the used cartridge from his rifle. “I haven’t had a chance to read the article myself.”
 
“What article, Luke?” Margaret questioned, suddenly confused.
 
Lucas allowed his eyes to settle on his wife’s face. He closed his eyes, dreading what this article would hold. “I’ll…tell you later.” Lucas put his arm protectively around her. “I think you can manage getting this body to town.” Lucas turned and walked with Margaret into the house.
 
“Wait! We want to talk to you!” Peter declared at his brother’s retreating figure. “Did you hear me, Luke? We want to talk to you about…” But Lucas and Margaret stepped up onto their porch and disappeared into the house without a word or a backwards glance. The pail of milk sat in the yard, forgotten.
 
Jeremiah picked up the pail and sat it on the porch. He signed as he shook his head. “We’ll come back later.”
 
***
The Rifleman is Born
 
Anyone who lives in the untamed and unsettled West has seen their share of gunfighters and outlaws, but rarely is there a man heard of that can rapidly empty thirteen bullets into a man under five seconds.
 
Recently, it has come to the attention of many that such a man now exists, and he is quickly making a name for himself. There is confidence growing in Oklahoma Territory that this man will someday be known as The Rifleman.
 
Lucas McCain comes from a well-known family in Enid, Oklahoma. Born and raised there, Lucas had done little traveling before the war. At the age of eighteen, Lucas left his family in order to join the Union Army and fight on the side of the blue. A witness who worked closely with Lucas during the war states that he was one of the best shots in the war.
 
After the war, Lucas traveled to Texas where he worked for a year. During his time in Texas, he found odd jobs working cattle drives. He worked with such famed men as bank robber, Tom Birch; and gun fighters, Johnny Drako and Sam Morley. He was not a stranger to gun fighting. Lucas was even involved in a scandalous cattle rustling scheme, one he claims he’s innocent of. Though witnesses place him with the known rustles, there was never proof of his involvement.
 
The famed rifle was not made until McCain moved back to his hometown. There, it is known that he created the rifle. A witness quoted the rifle as being “a mean-looking rifle with an enlarged firing ring, and a pin that allows the rifle to fire automatically upon being cocked. There’s only one reason this rifle was created – to kill man.” The witness also stated the rifle was made after McCain’s current firearm couldn’t save the life of a fellow war veteran, Ned Majors, who was shot down by known gunfighter, Jackson Black. It is believed that he is waiting for Jackson Black’s return.
 
Since its creation, the rifle has been witnessed as being a third arm for the man who declares himself a rancher. Some close to the family, however, feel that he’s a gunfighter.
 
The Rifleman is married to Margaret Gibbs-McCain, the daughter of another well-known family in Enid. His brothers are all married as well. At the time of this printing, Lucas’ entire family lived in Enid, Oklahoma. His brothers and families are as follows:
 
Abraham McCain is married to Julie. Together, they have seven children. They have four sons, two daughters, and the McCain’s orphaned sister.
 
Jeremiah McCain is married to Emily (though everyone calls her Em). They have one child together, and are in the process of adopted two orphaned children. They lost a son at birth.
 
Peter McCain and his wife have two children. It’s rumored that they are expecting their third child in the fall.
 
Emily McCain married Dr. Jason Livingston after a rather brutal kidnapping and rape. They have one child. Further investigation yielded the fact that the kidnapping occurred during the war, so Lucas McCain didn’t have a chance to use his rifle on the outlaw. He was brought to justice, tried, and hung.
 
The youngest McCain, Laura, is being raised by her brother Abraham.
 
We mention the above in order to show that Lucas McCain was raised in a rather large family. It’s told that all the brothers wear guns, and the brother-in-law doctor also wears a gun. When asked if Lucas plans to be a father soon, the source states that Margaret has been unable to give her husband a much-anticipated son as of yet. Lucas hopes to have a large family, and undoubtedly raise his sons in his footsteps – as gunfighters.
 
Many killings have already taken place at the hand of the Rifleman. More articles will follow. The next article will be printed in a week.
 
Because of the large family Lucas McCain has, there are fears that his actions are putting his entire family in danger. Some say elevating the Rifleman will make his family safer.
 
What does the future hold for the Rifleman? Stay tuned for further details.
 
***
 
Lucas felt sick as Margaret sat his breakfast in front of him. The smell alone was enough to make him want to heave. “Take it away, honey. Please,” Lucas groaned as he waved his hand toward the food.
 
“Luke, you have to eat!” Margaret argued.
 
Lucas slowly stood. His legs shook unsteadily beneath him. “I…I can’t, Margaret. I have to go into town.”
 
“Luke, what’s in the article?”
 
There was NO way Lucas was EVER going to let her see this article! It was bad enough that his brothers knew of his past. It was bad enough that his entire family had been exposed. If Margaret read the words printed about her, it would cause all sorts of pain for his young bride.
 
Lucas put his hat on and reached for his rifle. It suddenly felt hot in his hand and he jerked his hand back. His eyes stared at the long piece of steel that could possibly be tearing his family apart.   Peter’s words, warning him against making the rifle echoed in his head. Peter himself had called Lucas “The Rifleman” in mockery when Lucas was creating the rifle. “Nothing,” Lucas lied. He forced himself to pick up the rifle. Shifting it in his hand, he turned and pointed a finger at Margaret. “I want you to stay inside today, ya hear?”
 
Margaret sucked in her breath at his order. She knew something was wrong…terribly wrong. “Does this have anything to do with that man you killed?”
 
Lucas’ head jerked up. He glared at Margaret, her words stinging him in a way she would never know. “I didn’t kill him!” Lucas shouted. “I…” He closed his eyes to regain some of his composure. “Just do as I say and…lock the door behind me.”
 
“Lucas McCain, I will not…” Margaret started in her defiance tone of voice.
 
“YOU WILL!” Lucas shouted. His words and tone stung her. He saw it in her eyes. “Just do as I say. I’ll be back.”
 
Margaret stared at the door after it closed. “Lock it!” Lucas demanded as he stood on the other side of the door. Margaret hurried forward and did as she was told. Then she watched out the window as he stomped angrily to the barn.
 
“What was in that article, Lucas?” Margaret hugged herself, fearful for her husband. “And why are you once again shutting me out?”
 
***
“Damn it, Luke!” Abe smacked the paper on the kitchen table at Peter’s house. “It’s bad enough the McCain name is being dragged through the mud, but they’ve involved our wives and children!”
 
Peter had come storming back into his house and asked Tiffany to take the kids to Em’s house for awhile. Paul had been asking for them, and this was as good a time as any for Peter’s kids to get to know their adopted cousin better. Tiffany had warned the brothers before she left that God still had his ears wide open. Peter kissed her briefly, nodded his head, then watched her leave. Only after Abe was sure Tiffany and the children were out of ear shot did he dare to speak. Up until that time, Abe glared at his baby brother, working his jaw in anger as he did so.
 
“I know, I know!” Lucas shouted. “At least they didn’t say such hurtful things about YOUR wife!”
 
“And our sister!” Jeremiah shouted, his face blazing red-hot as well. “Who would tell this reporter about our sister’s past? Do you know the pain this is going to cause her if she…”
 
The door opened, and Jason Livingston walked in. “Why’d you do it, Luke? WHY???” No one had ever seen the doctor so mad. “After all the HELL my wife has been through, why did you allow them to print about her attack??? Do you know she saw this article? Do you know she is currently experiencing the hell she went through during those horrid days? WHY???”
 
“Jason, I’m so sorry…” Lucas started. But he didn’t get a chance to go any further. Jason reared back and gave Lucas a hard punch. His anger drove him, causing the punch to send Lucas flat on his back. Lucas stared at Jason from the floor and swiped the blood from his mouth.
 
“The hell you are!” Jason shouted. He reached down and grabbed Lucas by the shirt, intending to give him some more. Peter and Abe bolted forward and grabbed Jason, restraining him. “Let me go!” Jason shouted.
 
“Just calm down!” Abe ordered. “I mean it now, calm down!”
 
“I had to sedate her, she was so upset!” Jeremiah shouted angrily.
 
“And I’m about to ‘sedate’ you!” Abe shouted back, just as angry. “Punching Luke isn’t going to solve anything!”
 
Only after Jason was calm did they let him go. “I don’t think Lucas had anything to do with this article,” Jeremiah finally stated in a calm voice. “But I must say I’m not happy about having the impending adoption of Paul and Genni mentioned in the paper either. This only means trouble!”
 
Lucas didn’t take his eyes off Jason. Jason’s eyes finally softened and closed in regret. When they opened, he gave Lucas a sorrowful, but cautious, look. “I’m sorry…” Jason ran a frustrated hand through his hair. “The paper was hand delivered to us yesterday. I didn’t think anything of it…if only I had known.” Jason punched his other hand with his fist. “I heard Emily crying when I came in from delivering the Wilson Baby this morning. She was shaking and sobbing…I hadn’t seen her that way since…” Jason allowed breath to slowly leave his lungs. “She hasn’t even spoken of the attack since before we were married. I thought she was over it.” Jason turned and looked at Abe. “She became hysterical. I read the paper she was pointing to. It didn’t mention make, but just the thought of it being exposed for the world to see…She said she felt she was being…” Jason swallowed, unable to say the word. “…all over again.” Jason wiped a tear that had left his eye. “I was finally able to settle her down enough to give her the shot, then I sent someone for Aunt Jenny. She was there sitting with Emily when I left. ‘Don’t act in haste, Jason,’ she warned me.” Jason shook his head. “I guess I let the anger build up the whole way over here.”
 
The room was quiet as the men listened to Jason’s grief. Then Abe cleared his throat. “When I was in town yesterday, a boy I didn’t know came and gave me the paper…said I should have a copy. I wasn’t sure why at the moment.”  He looked at Jeremiah and Peter who also reported they had been given a copy. “So…whoever spilled the information to this reporter was intentally trying to hurt us.”
 
“Who would do such a thing?” Lucas asked then, his voice shaking. “Who would put our entire family in danger?”
 
Peter folded his arms and slowly walked to look out the window. “It has to be someone close to our family.”
 
“Who knows about the rape?” Lucas asked.
 
“Oh well…” Abe pressed a hand to his forehead. “That’s common knowledge, unfortunately. She confessed it at the trial out loud…everyone heard that.”
 
“I see…” Lucas sighed. “But they know about things that happened when I was away…I didn’t tell any of you about some of those things.”
 
“Yes.” Abe folded his arms across his burley chest and stood squarely in front of his brother. “And we’ll discuss that later, little brother. But for now…who was with you when that stuff happened?”
 
Lucas shrugged. “Those mentioned in the paper were with me off and on. I saw my army Captain, Tom Benton, but he wouldn’t do anything. Johnny Drako and Tom Birch hung out with me several times. We did some pretty wild things…” Lucas lifted an eyebrow and shook his head, assuring his brothers he wasn’t going to go into detail at the moment. “Then, of course, Reef and I did some crazy things together... I knew several others during that time as well.”
 
Abe rubbed a hand across his face as he mumbled. “Pa always tried to teach us we should be careful what we do, because things can come back and hurt those we love.”
 
“Abe, now’s not the time to…” Jeremiah started.
 
“Now’s the perfect time!” Abe shouted. “Our baby brother has already gotten himself and his family into trouble! Now his year of sowing wild oats is putting our ENTIRE family in jeopardy!”
 
“Don’t you forget what they said about my wife!” Lucas shouted back in frustration. “If she ever reads that…”
 
“Okay, but WHO did it?” Abe questioned then, bringing them all back to the problem at hand. “Does anybody know who the boy was delivering the papers?” They all shook their heads. “Yeah…and we’ll probably never find him.” Abe placed his hands flat on the table and let out a long breath. “Alright…we know that every gun fighter in the country is going to try take out the great Rifleman.”
 
“I told him this was going to happen!” Peter shouted as he punched the wall. “I told him, but he wouldn’t listen! He insisted on making that blasted rifle just so he could…”
 
“Now that’s NOT fair!” Lucas shouted. “I have to protect my family!”
 
“You and I BOTH know it’s not to protect your family! It’s for revenge – revenge on one man…Jackson Black.”
 
“If Black ever shows his face in this town again, I’ll kill him!” Lucas shouted. “And if I ever find out who talked to this reporter, I’ll kill him too!”
 
“Then you’ll end up in jail!” Peter shouted. “Can’t you ever think of anyone but yourself?”
 
“I’m not thinking about myself!” Lucas was face to face with his brother now. His face was red from anger. “But let me tell you something, Peter McCain…NO MAN, and I mean NO MAN is going to come in here and…”
 
“HEY!” Suddenly, Abe’s authoritative voice shouted, causing the room to fall into dead silence. He glared from brother to brother. “Now, you are allowing this man to do EXACTLY what he intended! You are allowing him to break us apart.”
 
Jason sighed and shook his head. “This is obviously a plot against Lucas. But why would somebody want to see Lucas killed? Why doesn’t he just kill Lucas himself?”
 
“Because…” Lucas grumbled as he continued to glare at Peter. “He’s a coward.”
 
“And now the Rifleman has been called out. He’ll have no choice but to use that great and powerful weapon of his…getting himself killed in the process!”
 
“Peter, that’s ENOUGH!” Abe ordered gruffly. “We’re brothers, and Lucas needs our protection now.”
 
Lucas took offense to that. “I don’t NEED anybody’s protection!” He started toward the door. “I can handle it myself!”
 
“Pride cometh before a fall, little brother,” Peter declared then.
 
Lucas froze in his tracks and whirled around. He gave Peter a hard punch in the jaw. Peter gasped in shock after regaining his balance and stared at Lucas. Everyone saw the regret in Lucas’ eyes, but it was too late…his temper had gotten the best of him.
 
“And you two can’t see that this is driving us apart? That’s why he attacked the family like he did – because he’s trying to isolate Lucas to make sure Lucas is easily killed.” Abe came to stand in front of Lucas. The look on his face was enough to stop any more outbursts. “Lucas Mark McCain, what would our father say?”
 
Lucas lowered his head and rested a hand on his forehead in instant repentance. “I’m…sorry, Peter. That was uncalled for.”
 
Peter said nothing as he stubbornly crossed his arms. Abe turned his full attention on him. “Well?” Peter glared back at Abe, but his glare easily melted under his brother’s stern look. “Peter, I’m warning you…”
 
“Alright, alright! You can stop treating us like kids…” Peter ran a hand through his hair. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said the things I said.”
 
“I could make you kiss and make up…” Peter glowered at that. Abe shook his head. “But I won’t. We have a problem in the family, and it’s up to us in this room to…”
 
“Abe, I don’t want to drag the entire family into this. I…” Lucas started.
 
“Luke, the family was dragged into this when this article was written,” Jason said lightly. “Our family is going to hurt over this.”
 
“We can’t tell…”
 
“We have to, Luke,” Jeremiah immediately said, breaking him off. “Papa always taught us not to keep things from each other. I think we’ve all learned through our wives what the price of secrets cost.”
 
Lucas didn’t want to agree, but in time he had to.
 
“Alright. Now then, I think we should ask the women to prepare us a meal here tonight. We’ll tell the entire family then.” Abe could tell Lucas didn’t like the plan at all. “This is a family matter, Luke. They have to be told before they find out some other way.”
 
“My wife is going to lock me in the bedroom and won’t let me out for ten years!” Lucas grumbled, knowing how protective she was.
 
“That may not be a bad idea,” Peter grumbled. Abe shot him a warning look and he immediately recanted his remark.
 
“Alright. For now, we’ll leave it be. After we tell our wives tonight we’ll try to find some way to repair the damage. We may have to go to Oklahoma City and talk to that so-called reporter.”
 
Jeremiah thought it was wise to lead the men in prayer. After they prayed, the brothers all went back to their families.
 
***
 
Lucas didn’t know it, but someone was kind enough to deliver a newspaper to his house while he was gone. When he got home, he found Margaret at home busily scrubbing the kitchen floors. Margaret was humming a hymn while she scrubbed the floor. Lucas leaned in the doorway, folded his arms, and shook his head. He couldn’t help admiring her; even when she was doing chores she did it with a cheerful heart.
 
One time Lucas had questioned her on her cheerfulness while sweat poured down her cheeks and she stood shaking out clumps of sod. Margaret smiled and said she did it all to please him, and that gave her great joy.
 
Lucas cleared his throat. Margaret didn’t pause in her humming but kept on at it as if she hadn’t heard him. Lucas cleared his throat louder. She did stop then and turn around. Margaret lifted to her knees and planted her fists on her hips. “Now Lucas McCain, if you plant one foot on my clean floor, I’ll…”
 
“I have to talk to you,” Lucas said as he continued grinning, though his face had lost some of its humor.
 
Margaret saw the seriousness in his eyes and knew what he had come to talk to her about. She took out the newspaper from her apron. “About this?”
 
Lucas merely stared at the newspaper in her hand. Slowly, he pushed himself off the door jam and walked toward her. He kneeled in front of her and took the paper from her hands. “Where’d you get that?”
 
Margaret didn’t miss a beat. She bent over and went right back to her scrubbing. “A young man dropped it off while ago.”
 
“A boy?”
 
Margaret wiped wisps of hair off of her forehead with her arm. “Yes. I’d say he was about oh…eight or nine.”
 
“Who was he?”
 
“I don’t know,” Margaret shrugged as she soaked her scrub brush in the soapy water and scrubbed in circles around the table. “I’ve never seen him before.”
 
Lucas studied the article. “So…you read this?” Margaret nodded. “The whole thing?”
 
Margaret heard the unspoken question in her husband’s voice. She stopped her scrubbing and looked up at him. “Now, if you think some harsh words on a paper are going to send me in tears pining away for you and hurt, you don’t know me very well!” Margaret declared. She went back to scrubbing as Lucas watched her. “I must admit I’m hurt by the words that were said about Emily…and me…but Luke, they were just spoken in spite!” Margaret kept scrubbing as she said her last words. “I suggest you go and find whoever it is and make sure they know what happens when they start messing with a McCain…for Emily’s sake!”
 
Lucas reached out and put his hand under her chin. He lifted her head and smiled into her eyes. “You are an amazing woman, do you know that?”
 
Margaret grinned back at him. “Of course.” She shrugged as her grin grew into a smile that covered her face. “Only an amazing woman would dare to marry Lucas McCain!” She studied his face more intently, then touched the swelling on his cheek. “What happened?”
 
Lucas rubbed his jaw. “I’m afraid my brother-in-law also read the article. He wasn’t too happy with me.”
 
“Scott?”
 
Lucas shook his head. “Jason.”
 
“Oh.” Margaret gave him a small, worried smile. “I’m surprised he didn’t offer to examine you to make sure nothing was broken.”
 
“He was too upset,” Lucas answered as he lost his smile. “So was Emily.”
 
“Emily was there?”
 
“No,” Lucas answered as he shook his head. “He had to give her something to calm her down. She got the paper before he did and read the article. All her memories came flooding back.”
 
Margaret closed her eyes in regret. “I’m sorry for her, Luke. It was a really hard time for her.” Margaret looked into his eyes. “Any idea who did this?”
 
“No.” Lucas sighed. “The four of us discussed it at Peter’s house while ago. It’s really putting a strain on our relationship already.”
 
Margaret shrugged lightly. “The McCain brothers are tough. You love each other.”
 
“Yeah, but is love enough? We said some pretty rough stuff to each other…Peter and me.”
 
“I have faith in you, Luke. Nothing can ever tear your family apart.” Lucas saw a hint of regret in Margaret’s eyes as she thought of her own family. The damage done to her family was irreversible. They’d never be as close as they once were again. Lucas suddenly had the desire to take that look of regret from her eyes.
 
Lucas bent over and kissed her. As always, his kiss muddled her brain, and Margaret wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him closer to her. Finally, they parted and stared into each other’s eyes. Then she gave his arm a smack. “OUCH!” Lucas groaned.
 
“I told you not to dare come onto my clean floor, Luke! Now I have to wash it all over again!”
 
“Yeah, but this was an emergency,” Lucas explained in a soft-spoken voice.
 
“You’re going to have another emergency if you don’t…”
 
“Alright, alright I’m going!” Lucas turned from the door. “But your attitude sure has changed from earlier this morning. But then again since you are scrubbing my floor and…”
 
Lucas dodged, barely missing being hit flat in the face with the soapy scrub brush.
 
***
He rode into town slowly, with his head held high…too high…The smile on his face was prideful, smug, and daring. His face was familiar to some. Some knew exactly what he was doing in town. Others knew he was in town for a bad reason. As the boy paused in cleaning the boardwalk, he gaped at the man as he took a long puff off his cigarette and sat on his horse looking around the small town of Enid. The boy slowly stood to his feet and backed away as the man’s piercing, icy blue eyes stared into his. The man uttered words and the boy turned and ran to the Marshal’s office.
 
The man slid off his horse and spread out his legs, looking around the street until he had the attention of every man, woman, and child there. He threw his cigarette down on the dirt and squashed it with the toe of his boot. After giving the citizens one more look, he tipped his hat back on his head and slowly walked into the saloon, giving the doors a hard swing as he went through.
 
The men inside the saloon could only stare. Most of them knew who he was and why he was there. By this point, the article was common knowledge, and they remembered the last time this particular man had been in town. Nobody said a word as the man stepped up to the bar. He slapped his hand down on the bar. Ike jumped, but lifted his eyes to the piercing ones of the man. “Beer.”
 
“Y…Yes sir,” Ike declared, turning quickly from the man and filling the mug with the foamy liquid.
 
A young man, no more than eighteen, threw down his cards and ran from the saloon.
 
***
A fierce knock sounded on the McCain’s front door as they were finishing their noon meal. Lucas stood and went to answer the urgent knock. He stared down into the eyes of Josiah. “Well boy?” Lucas prompted as the boy stared up at him.
 
Josiah swallowed hard. “He…he…I mean…” He swallowed again. “In town…he…”
 
Lucas crossed his arms and leaned against the door. He knew his stance was intimidating the boy, but he didn’t have time for this. “Well, spill it, boy!” Lucas gruffly demanded.
 
“He’s in town!” Josiah finally confessed.
 
“Who?”
 
“That man who…Who…”
 
“Who what?”
 
“Sir, you said you’d kill him if he came to town. Well…he’s there…and I reckon he’s waiting for you.”
 
“What man, son?” Lucas asked as he straightened his form over the boy, his eyes boring into the boy’s frightful ones.
 
“Jackson Black,” the boy whispered.
 
As soon as the name left the boys’ mouth, any softness left Lucas’ as well. “Black…” Lucas muttered angrily. “Thank you, boy.”
 
Margaret slowly stood from the table when she saw Lucas’s back straighten in a hard stance. “Luke…” Margaret started as her heart pounded in her chest.
 
Lucas slowly turned. His eyes met Margaret’s before they traveled to the rifle sitting in its stand proudly by the door. He remembered the bitterness and anger he felt after his friend was gunned down in town by this gun fighter. He remembered the promise he made to himself and the reason he made the rifle in the first place.
 
Margaret’s eyes grew wide when she saw Lucas reach his shaky hand toward the rifle. “No! Lucas, NO!” Margaret bolted forward and grabbed his hand. “You can’t!”
 
Lucas angrily worked his jaw. “Get out of my way, Margaret.” His voice was icy cold as he spoke.
 
“You can’t do this!”
 
“He’s come to town for me, Margaret.”
 
“Luke, can’t you see? Whoever wrote that article is taunting you! They made the challenge, not Black! Can’t you see that?”
 
“He’s here all the same, Margaret.” Lucas’ voice was low, yet she heard so much more in his voice.
 
Margaret didn’t release his hand, but her eyes softened. “Alright, Luke. Go. But leave the rifle here.”
 
“You know I can’t!”
 
“If you don’t have your rifle, he won’t have cause to shoot you, Luke. He’ll turn and walk away. I’ve heard the stories same as you. He doesn’t fight unarmed men.”
 
“Stay out of this, Margaret,” Lucas ordered harshly. He shoved her hand back and grabbed his rifle. “This is not your fight.”
 
Lucas hurried to his desk and took out more bullets, filling his rifle, though he knew he’d only need one to kill the man. “Luke…NO!” Margaret ran to him. She grabbed his arm as Lucas started toward the door. “PLEASE, LUKE, DON’T DO THIS! PLEASE DON’T…” She continued crying and pleading, but Lucas shook off her hands and hurried out the door. Margaret stood, her hands clinching each side of the door frame in fear. “Luke, DON’T DO THIS!” she screamed. She watched her dear husband get on his horse and quickly ride away without a backwards glance. She fell to her knees and buried her face in her hands. “Oh God, go with him…” she cried as she wept.
 
It wasn’t long before Margaret felt hands on her shoulders. Ann had heard the commotion from across the street and came to her. “Margaret, what is it? What’s wrong?”
 
Margaret frowned as she stared into her best friend’s eyes. “Jackson Black’s in town,” she whispered.
 
“Dear God!” Ann breathed.
 
Margaret stood and stepped off the porch. “I need to borrow your horse.”
 
“No Margaret, you mustn’t!” Ann cried.
 
“I MUST! He’s my husband!” Ann only nodded after several moments of silence. She knew Margaret had to be there.
 
***
Black looked up when he heard the saloon doors swing harshly. He turned his head to see who had come inside. Lucas McCain stood in the door, his rifle held tightly in both hands, his legs spread apart, and his tall form towering angrily over the men at the tables. “You asked for me?”
 
Black turned in his seat, spreading his elbows back on the bar from behind him. A stupid grin crossed his face. “I didn’t say a word.” Black looked around the group. “But then…I reckon I didn’t have to.” His grin widened.
 
Suddenly, those occupying the tables between the two men jumped up and hurried to the back. Lucas turned to look behind him and saw men and women staring in from the saloon doors. “Clear out! Clear out NOW!” Lucas shouted. The people scattered, afraid of the look of rage they saw in Lucas’s eyes.
 
Nobody had ever seen Lucas quite like this. He looked back at Black and nudged his head toward the street. Ned smiled as he slid from his seat and looped his fingers through his gun belt. He walked to stand in front of Lucas and looked him up and down. “Well, well, well…if it ain’t the great Rifleman himself!”
 
“DON’T CALL ME THAT!!!” Lucas ordered through clinched teeth. Lucas glared at the men behind Black. “You men, clear out! This is none of your business.”
 
It was just the two of them now. They stood facing each other. Black threw his head back and started laughing. “Ha ha ha ha…The great Rifleman! Yessiree…” He gave Lucas a mock bow. “It is my pleasure to stand in front of you, oh great one!”
 
“Just tell me what you want,” Lucas ordered. “You come back to mock me? You come back to kill me after gunning my defenseless friend? Why are you here?”
 
Black took out the newspaper and threw it down on the table. “THAT’s why I’m here!”
 
Lucas lowered his eyes to look at the paper, then lifted them back up. “Black, I said I’d kill you if you ever came back into town! And I will! I’ll kill you right here and now!”
 
“What did I do that would make one of the GREAT McCain’s kill me?”
 
“You MURDERED my friend!”
 
“Oh, he drew first and you know it,” Black stated matter-of-factly as he rolled his eyes. “That’s why nobody came after me to arrest me. Your cop friend knew I was innocent…the cop friend who, I hear tell, was shot down himself not long ago.” Black lowered his eyes to the rifle.  “And I have the honor of being the reason for the famous rifle.”
 
Lucas said nothing. When Black started laughing, Lucas declared through gritted teeth. “I’ve had a bad day, Black. And it’s gonna be an honor to kill you! What’s your pleasure?”
 
Black chuckled and shook his head. “Aw now, you ain’t gonna kill me, Luke!” Lucas stared at Black in silence as Black unstrapped his guns and threw them on the floor. He held up his hands and laughed at Lucas. “See? I’m unarmed! You CAN’T kill me! You won’t shoot me with that rifle!”
 
Everybody outside heard the sudden gunshot, but nobody saw it.
 
Black fell to the floor.
 
Lucas stared down at Black, his eyes growing wide. The echo of the gunshot still rang deep inside him. He hands became sweaty…too sweaty. The rifle left his hands and fell to the floor, but Lucas heard nothing. His eyes grew wide as he stared down at the body. He had just taken a life! Shock registered on his face, his eyes growing wide at the realization at what he’d done.
 
“Oh God…” Lucas felt his eyes fill with hot, angry tears. He dropped to his knees and closed his eyes as he lifted his face toward the ceiling. “Oh God, what have I done?” His body started shaking with sobs at the bitter realization that he had just intentionally taken the life of a man. “What have I done?”


Lucas didn’t hear the men walk into the saloon. He was too filled with grief and regret to hear anything but his own moans and tears, cries of guilt escaped his lips.
 
Men mumbled, discussing what they believe had been murder. “Lucas McCain will hang!” one man mumbled in disbelief. “Never thought I’d see the day!”
 
But the mumbling stopped when another person walked into the saloon. Their mouths gaped open and they were shocked to silence. Margaret held her head high, her chin was thrust out in determination as she made her way across the saloon floor. She kneeled in front of Lucas and took his face in her hands. Lucas opened his eyes, his cries silenced for a moment as he stared into his wife’s eyes. She spoke softly, as if she were consoling a small child. “Luke, we all have to make mistakes to learn. I love you, and I want you to come home.” Lucas stared silently into her eyes for a long time, then slowly shook his head. How could she invite him back into her home when he had just killed a man?
 
Margaret didn’t say a word as she held him in her arms. She kissed his tears and repeated her words. “I love you, Luke. I want you to come home.” Her words were soft, but firm. With strength, she lifted Lucas to his feet, put her arm around his waist for support, picked up his rifle, and walked out of the saloon. People stared as she led him to his horse and helped him into the saddle.
 
“Ma’am, the Marshal will need to question your husband,” one of the citizens said softly.
 
Margaret paused in mounting her own horse. “He knows where we live,” she said before swinging into the saddle. She grabbed the reins and turned her horse around. Laying Lucas’ rifle across her lap, she stated, “I’m taking my husband home.”
 
The citizens watched as the couple rode out of town.
 
***
Margaret remained on her borrowed horse and watched as Lucas slid from the saddle and stood staring down at the ground. He was numb, thinking about what had happened earlier she knew. Margaret walked to her husband and took his hand. “Let’s go inside,” she said softly, still holding his rifle. Lucas didn’t move. Margaret wrapped her arm around his waist. “Let’s go.” She spoke in a little more than a whisper. Lucas turned and walked into the house. His eyes were far off, as if he were thinking of another time and another place.
 
“Sit down here, Luke.” Lucas obeyed her as she pushed him down in a chair at the table. “I’ll get you some coffee.”
 
Margaret carried the rifle to the case by the door and slowly put it in its place.
 
Suddenly, something inside Lucas snapped. He bolted from the chair and rushed over to the rifle. Cursing, he picked the rifle up and started toward the fire. “NO!” Margaret cried out as she grabbed his arm. “Don’t do it, Luke!”
 
“Margaret, this rifle has destroyed me! It’s destroyed us!”
 
“THAT rifle didn’t do it, Lucas McCain!” Margaret reminded him sternly. “That rifle only did what YOU told it to do. The RIFLE is a tool like an axe. It can only act when someone else uses it.” Lucas stared down at the rifle, then turned and looked into her face. “Come…sit down at the table.”
 
Lucas did so. His hand continued clutching the rifle. He laid it across the table and stared at it. Margaret brought him a cup of coffee and sat down beside him. “I love you, Luke.”
 
Lucas closed his eyes in regret. A tear slipped from the corner of his eye. “Why?”
 
Margaret didn’t answer right away as she silently sipped her coffee. In time, she cleared her throat. “I don’t know why exactly. I’ve…I’ve always loved you.”
 
“I don’t deserve your love, Margaret.” When she didn’t say anything, Lucas lifted his head. His eyes were filled with bitterness, regret, and disgust. “I killed a man today, Margaret.”
 
“I’ll agree that your actions caused a man’s death,” Margaret whispered.
 
“You should be angry with me.”
 
“Oh, I am!” Margaret declared passionately. “I’m furious with you! I’m angry that you ever made that rifle! I’m angry that you took it to town with you today. I’m angry that you felt you had to take the law in your own hands.”
 
“I could…I could hang for this.”
 
Those words hung between them in bitterness. Margaret’s eyes filled with tears. The truth was, he very well COULD hang for this. She burried her face in her hands and wept. “Oh Luke…What are we going to do?”
 
It broke his heart to see her hurting like this. He was the cause of her hurt. He dropped to his knees in front of her chair. “I’ve done this to you, Baby!” He laid his head in her lap, wrapped his arms around her thighs, and burst into tears.
 
Margaret spoke softly to her husband. “Luke, I don’t know exactly what happened in that saloon, but I know you didn’t kill that man in cold blood.”
 
“Margaret, he died by my rifle. I killed him!”
 
“No, I don’t believe that, Luke.”
 
“Why not?” Lucas asked as he barely lifted his head.
 
Margaret forced her tears back and gave him a stern look as she lifted his face from her lap.  “Because Luke, I know that you could NEVER intentionally kill a man.”
 
After one more long look, Lucas again buried his face in her lap and wept for his loss of innocence. Margaret’s eyes focused on the rifle. “Luke, if we get out of this…I want you to keep the rifle. May it always serve as a reminder of how deep you made yourself fall today. You made that rifle in anger. You allowed your hatred for a man to be the motivation for that tool. But you must always keep it…to remind yourself every day why hatred of any kind is wrong. Hatred kills, Luke.”
 
Her words quieted his sobs. Slowly, Lucas lifted his head from her lap. With a keen awareness, he pressed his hands to her cheeks and studied her face as if he’d never seen it before. “You are the most amazing woman, Margaret. How you could ever…love me after all I’ve done…I’ll never understand.” Tears flowed down Margaret cheeks then. Lucas pulled her face down to him. Their lips met in a kiss that was filled with fear, love, and questions. After their lips parted, Lucas pressed his forehead against hers. “What am I going to do?”
 
Margaret bit her lip. She knew things looked bleak. “You’re going to allow the marshal to arrest you. You are going to go to jail and stand trial if it comes to that.”
 
“But what if they…” Lucas allowed the question to die. He couldn’t put his thought into words.
 
Margaret closed her eyes. Her forehead was still pressed against his. “Father God…You know what really happened in the saloon today. Please allow Your truth to be revealed. Don’t take Luke from me. I love him so. Amen.”
 
A knock sounded on the door.
 
The knock was like the sound of a rifle going off. It caused Lucas and Margaret to fall against each other and cling to each other. “Come…” Lucas choked on his words. “Come in.”
 
When Marshal Stevens walked through the door, he saw husband and wife kissing. They held each other as if they would never be able to hold each other again.
 
“Luke…” Marshal Stevens stepped further into the room as Lucas slowly stood to his feet. “I don’t want to do this.”
 
“Does my family know?” Lucas questioned.
 
“Peter was in town a bit ago. He went to get your brothers.”
 
Lucas stepped forward with a nod. “Margaret, you stay with Hal and Anne until someone comes for you.”
 
Margaret sobbed, her body shook. Lucas ached, wishing he could hold her and take the pain…the pain he’d caused her…away. “Lucas McCain, you are under arrest for the murder of Jackson Black.”

The Margaret Years — The Rifleman on Trial

These stories are based on the TV series The Rifleman
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