Welcome to The Writer's Corner
Chapter 16 - The Truth / The Wait
Written by Michelle Palmer
Her own footsteps echoed on the stairs as Margaret hastened down
them as quickly as she could. The door opened the instant her
feet touched the floor. Snow fell from Peter’s hat as he stood
in the doorway. “Jason, we need you!” Peter’s voice trembled as
he spoke. His hands were shaking from the ordeal he had been
through. But she sensed there was more.
Margaret felt as if her heart stopped inside her chest. She
grasped the banister and closed her eyes. “Lucas…” She whispered
the words. The thought of something happening to Lucas was more
than she could bear. She didn’t want to know the truth, yet she
did. As she spoke his name, she prayed it wasn’t him that put
the sadness in Peter’s eyes. She prayed it wasn’t any of their
family either. But then she realized that no matter what she
prayed, it was someone she loved.
“No,” Peter answered as he hurried to steady her before she fell
to her knees. “Lucas is fine.” Margaret felt relief overwhelm
her, but only for a moment as Peter said, “It’s Abe.”
Margaret stared into Peter’s eyes. She saw fear and sorrow
there. “Is he…”
Peter turned to Jason. “You should go now!”
“Anybody else hurt?” Jason holstered his gun and grabbed his
Peter shook his head. “Not hurt, Doc…Dead.”
Jason froze. Margaret let out a gasp. Which one of their loved
one’s was dead? Surely not her brother! Surely not…“Who?” She
heard her voice ask the question, but she felt it was someone
Peter lowered his head and allowed a sigh to escape him. When he
lifted his head back up to Margaret, his eyes were filled with
tears. “Matthew Williams.” His voice broke at the end.
“Oh my Lord and Savior!” Margaret pressed a hand to her chest.
She tried to allow herself to believe it. She silently asked God
to stop the racing of her heart. She wished her knees would stop
shaking. “You sure?” Of course that was a stupid question, but
Margaret knew of nothing else to ask.
Margaret reached for Lucas’ coat and put it on. “He’ll need me…”
Without waiting for Peter or Jason, she hurried across the road.
Peter turned and looked at the prisoner still sitting in the
chair. Billy Jo began laughing. “Dead…” He laughed. “Your
brother…the Marshal…Ha ha ha!!!” His laughter was sickening.
Peter rushed over to him and smacked him hard across the face.
The slap didn’t even seem to faze him. “Hey, wait ‘til my
partners get done with ya!” He spat out the words in anger.
“Your partners are both being held prisoner by the deputy!”
Peter slapped him again. “I hope you all rot in…”
“Ain’t no deputy gonna hold us!” Billy Jo declared.
“Well…” Peter put his hands down on the arms of the chair Billy
Jo was sitting in. “Well then…We’ll just have to kill you!”
Peter grabbed the front of his shirt. “And let me tell you
something…if my brother dies, so help me, I’LL KILL YOU!!! I’ll
kill all three of you with my bare hands!”
“McCain!” Deputy Black stepped into the room. “He has the right
to a fair trial!”
“Did he give my brother a fair trial? Did he…” Peter stopped
when Deputy Black lifted his hand.
“This man had NOTHING to do with your brother being shot,
“He was part of it…same as them! This man is in as deep as the
others, as far as I’m concerned!” Deputy Black untied the man
and kept his gun cocked. “Mark my word, Deputy…my brother dies,
and so help me…”
“Your brother needs you right now. I suggest…”
“Who’s going to help you with the…” Peter started.
“I am,” Scott answered as he came inside. “Deputy, I’ll help you
get them back to town.”
“That’s not necessary,” Deputy Black declared.
“Oh, but it is.” Scott came to stand before the deputy. “I’ve
some unpleasant news to deliver so I’ll just ride along with you
“Since the Marshal’s dead, I’ll be the one to do the unpleasant
task!” Deputy Black flashed Scott a warning.
“Now, let’s just get one thing straight, DEPUTY!” Scott got
right into his face. “I…” Scott’s voice broke. He had to close
his eyes to regain his composure. “I’ve known that Marshal my
whole life. He was much more than a Marshal to me. He was a
friend. We grew up together, and no deputy who’s been here for
less than two months is going to break the news!” Scott turned
to Peter. “Come on. Let’s go check on Abe.” Scott paused at the
door. “Just give me ten minutes. Then I’ll be ready to ride.”
Margaret stood with Lucas just inside their bedroom door. Jason
worked his jaw in frustration and shook his head. Slowly, he
stood and turned just as Peter was walking inside with Scott.
“It’s not good.”
Margaret grasped Lucas’ hand as her eyes filled with tears. “Can
you save him?”
“The bullet’s pretty deep. He’s lost a lot of blood and is very
weak. I need to operate, but he couldn’t last through the
Lucas’ eyes filled with tears. He grasped Margaret’s hand
tighter and swallowed hard. “Just what are you saying, Doc?”
“I’m saying…” Jason’s own eyes filled with tears. He paused for
a moment before he continued. “I’m saying that I think you
should send for the family. They should say goodbye.”
Jason shook his head. “I’m sorry. I’m going to try a transfusion
and then operate if there’s no other choice, but…the chances of
him surviving are…” Jason shook his head and sighed. “Not good.”
Lucas just stood frozen as he stared at Abe. Slowly, he walked
to the bed and sat down. Margaret watched with desperation as
Lucas lowered his head to Abe’s chest and sobbed. “I’ll do it…”
Jeremiah started rolling up his sleeve. “I’ll give you the blood
Slowly Lucas stood up. “I can…I want…”
“No.” Jason shook his head. “With your recent illness of
malaria, I don’t want to take any chances. I think your brother
will be our best option. Jason turned to look at Scott. “You
should send for the family.”
Scott turned and hurried from the room. Margaret walked over to
Lucas and laid her hands on his shoulders. “Come on, Luke…” She
whispered softly. “I’ll make you some tea.”
“It’s better if you leave,” Jason said softly.
Lucas nodded. He wiped a sleeve across his face but it did
little good. Margaret made him a cup of hot tea then sat him at
the table. After he took a few sips, she took his hand, bowed
her head, and prayed.
Julie paced back and forth at the main house as she rested a
hand on her bulging belly. “Where could they be?”
“I’m sure they’re fine,” Tiffany McCain declared again as she
picked up Baby Willie and walked to the rocking chair. “You know
how those brothers are…get to talking and lose all track of…”
The door opened suddenly. Scott hurried in and took off his hat.
Tiffany stood from the chair. The look on Scott’s face told them
his news wasn’t good. Scott nervously toyed with his hat.
“Well…it’s all over…”
“What?” Julie hurried toward him. “What’s all over?”
“A group of outlaws arrived at Luke’s ranch. We had a
small…battle with them.” Scott lowered his head. “The Marshall…”
He swallowed hard. “He’s dead.”
“Oh no…” Julie whispered. The other women closed their eyes in
sadness. Even the children stopped their play at the news. Julie
turned to look at her children. “Laura…would you…”
“No.” Scott held up a hand. “I think Laura should hear this.” He
looked down at his hat. “It’s Abe…”
Julie clutched the back of her chair as her knees grew weak. “Is
“You should come. Jason told me to fetch all of you at once to…”
Scott wiped the corner of his eye. “…to say…”
“NO!” Julie held up a hand. “I will NEVER say such a thing to my
“Is he going to die?” Laura suddenly asked as her eyes filled
with tears. “Am I gonna lose another Papa?”
Emily hurried to Laura and took her sister in her arms. “NO!”
Emily squeezed her tight. “NO!”
“He’s been shot…in the chest. Jason said he’s weak and he may
not survive surgery.”
Julie hurried to get her coat. “Tiffany, you and Em stay here
with the children please?” Tiffany nodded. “If he’s too bad,
I’ll send for you.” Julie turned to Laura. “You and Emily
come…he’s your brother too.”
“I’ll go hitch up the buckboard. The snow’s coming down hard. Do
you think you can make it to the ranch alone? I’ve another visit
to make.” The look on Scott’s face told everyone how unpleasant
the visit he had to make would be.
Julie nodded. She grabbed Scott’s hand. “Tell Mrs. Williams that
we…” She stopped and turned away. The truth was, she could be
joining Miriam Williams’ status very soon…as a widow.
Lucas sat on the bed and spoke softly to his brother. Peter and
Jeremiah stood close by while Margaret tried to keep herself
occupied fixing supper. Jason walked over to the bed and checked
Abe once more. Finally, he stood, turned, and shook his head.
“It’s not good. He’s getting weaker. I’m afraid…” Jason stepped
toward the brothers. Lucas stood and walked over to them. “I
have to operate.”
“You said it would kill him,” Lucas stated.
“Yes.” Jason sighed. “But I have to try!” Lucas turned from the
brothers and heaved a deep sigh. “Luke…It’s his only chance.
The transfusion isn’t helping.”
“We should wait for Julie. She should have the chance to…” Lucas
put a hand to his mouth. “To say…”
Margaret, who had been listening at the door, slowly walked into
the room. “Luke…if I was Julie and I knew Abe had a chance with
surgery, I wouldn’t want Jason to wait. Let him try…”
Lucas looked toward his brothers. They both nodded their heads
in agreement. Lucas turned back and walked over to the bed. He
sat down and picked up Abe’s hand. “He’s more than a big brother
to me. At times he seemed more like a second father…” Lucas gave
a short laugh. “He gave me as many whippings as my Pa. He’s
always trying to straighten me out….So you see…this is hard.”
“Luke…we won’t consent if you don’t,” Jeremiah said quietly.
“But he deserves the chance to live.”
Lucas closed his eyes as he pressed a hand to Abe’s cheek.
Jason hurried forward and asked Peter to stay. “I want everyone
else out.” Jason watched Margaret hurry to Lucas and coax him
from the room.
The wagon hardly had a chance to stop before Julie jumped down.
Emily and Laura were close behind. Julie didn’t even pause, but
rushed inside. She froze when she saw Margaret holding a weeping
Lucas close while Jeremiah and Peter held their hands in silent
prayer. “Oh no!” Julie cried. “Oh please…no!”
Lucas lifted from Margaret’s shoulder while Peter and Jeremiah
stood up. “Jason’s operating. We wanted to wait until you got
here but…” Lucas stopped and shook his head, unable to say
anymore. It was obvious to the three who had just entered that
Abe’s condition was very bad.
“Then he’s alive?” Lucas nodded. Julie clung to Laura as they
wept together. Then she grabbed Emily. Forcing Emily and Laura
onto their knees, Julie began crying out to God. “Oh God,
please…Please save him! Oh God, I need him so bad…I just can’t
bear the thought of going on without him!” She prayed, pleaded,
and begged for a long time as tears fell down her face.
Margaret, Lucas, Jeremiah, and Peter all kneeled and joined the
group. Their lips moved in silent prayer as Julie’s prayers
shouted through the house. They prayed for God to guide Jason’s
hands as he operated. They prayed for Abe’s body to be
strengthened so he could live through the surgery. They prayed
for God’s will to be done.
When Jason opened the door fifteen minutes later, he saw the
family gathered in prayer. Tears filled his eyes. While
operating, he had the feeling he wasn’t alone – like someone’s
hands were guiding him. Now he knew he wasn’t imagining things.
There was someone else in that room. He was more powerful than
Jason and had guided his hands during the surgery. All
throughout the surgery Jason too had prayed hard for God to
guide him. “Thank you, Jesus!” Jason breathed.
Everyone in the group turned from their kneeled positions to
look up at Jason. Jason sank down in a chair and allowed tears
to fill his eyes. “He’s alive. And I must say it’s not because
of anything I did. Our God has a lot to do with that.”
Julie began weeping as she threw a hand to her mouth. “Thank
you, God!” Julie wept as she clung to Margaret. “Oh, thank you,
“Yes, thank you, Jesus,” Margaret prayed beside Julie. The
other’s started praising God too.
“Now hold on…” Jason bent down in front of Julie. “I do give God
all the credit, and he deserves the praise, but I can’t give you
false hope. Abe’s still in bad shape. I don’t know if he’ll last
an hour or even five minutes…he’s that close to death.”
“Can…can I see him?” Julie asked as Lucas and Margaret helped
her to her feet. Jason nodded as he held out his hand to her and
led her toward the bedroom.
The rest of the family continued to pray.
Scott mounted his horse and sat still as he stared down at the
saddle horn. He felt the tears come. It brought a bit of relief
to the heavy burden that had been boiling inside him since
Matthew was killed. As he slowly started riding from the house,
he could still hear the wails from within. Mrs. Williams was
seven months pregnant with the child they had prayed for so
long. Their only son, Johnny, was trying to be strong. He was
now the man of the house.
Scott paused outside the Marshal’s office., The town would never
be the same….nobody could ever replace Marshal Williams. Scott
slowly dismounted his horse and walked into the jail. Deputy
Black was going through the desk of Marshal Williams. “What do
you think you’re doing?”
“My job,” Deputy Black answered.
“Just because the Marshal’s dead don’t mean you’re now Marshal.
“He’d want it that way,” Deputy Black declared. “Said I’d make a
good Marshal someday. You tell the widow?”
“Mirriam is the wife of one of my best friends!” Scott declared.
Deputy Black shrugged. “It’s a risk you have to take when you
sign up for this job.”
Scott hurried forward and grabbed his arm. “Don’t you even care?
A good man was gunned down tonight and you don’t even CARE?”
Deputy Black silently looked down at Scott’s hand on his arm.
Scott calmed and removed it. “How’s McCain?”
“Don’t know. I’m on my way back there now.” Jason looked toward
the cells. “How’s the prisoners?”
“Killed one of ‘em,” Deputy Black answered. “The other two are
“Killed? Who? Why?”
“Simmons…he tried to escape.” Deputy Black lifted some papers
onto the desk. “Well, I’ve work to do, Gibbs.”
Scott stepped from the jail scratching his head. He had a bad
feeling about this. Something smelled rotten, and he wasn’t
quite sure what it was.
Julie had crawled up into the bed beside Abe. She spoke softly
to him as she sobbed beside him. Her hand lightly brushed his
bearded face as she spoke. In time, she fell into a troubled
In the other room, the adults slept in the chairs or at the
table while Laura fell asleep in Lucas’s lap. Lucas had
continued to speak softly to her. They needed each other more
than ever now. He hated the fact that he could lose a brother,
but he hated even more that Laura may lose the second father she
had. The small child had already been through so much. She’d
lost her father, then her mother, then her home. Now with Abe so
close to death…
Lucas finally fell into a troubled sleep.
He was dressed in black and stood in the doorway. A smile played
at the corners of his mouth. Lucas stood up from the chair and
shook his head. He grabbed the only thing he knew he could use,
and that was his rifle. Lucas shouted for him to leave. He
shouted, but no words escaped. The black figure shook his head,
his eyes gleaming pure evil. Lucas cocked his rifle, this time
he shouted for him to leave again; and again no words came. The
man again shook his head. He wouldn’t leave.
The man stepped further into the room. Lucas shot the rifle, but
the bullet went right through him. It didn’t even faze him.
Lucas stared at the figure in front of him. It was at that
moment that he realized he was fighting something evil…He was
Death took another step toward the door where Abe laid. Peter
and Jeremiah both stood in front of him, but death pushed them
out of the way and took another step forward. He put his hand on
the door and began turning the knob.
Suddenly, a woman stood in the doorway. She was dressed in white
and held out her hand. Looking death straight in the face, she
shook her head no. Death took a step backward. He pleaded
silently with his hands, but the figure in white shook her head
no again. She waved her hands above her head and lifted her head
in determination. Death’s eyes grew wide. Around him, people
were on their knees in prayer. Death fell to his knees in agony
and cried out in pain. Then he was gone. The only thing left of
him was the black hat he had worn.
Lucas jolted awake and sat up straight. He gasped, causing Laura
to wake up suddenly. “Luke? What is it?” Laura asked.
“I don’t know, Rose Bud,” Luke answered. “It’s something…” Lucas
lifted her to the floor and stood up. He hurried to the bedroom
and opened the door. Julie was still sound asleep beside Abe,
but Lucas allowed a smile to cross his face when he saw Abe
awake. “Hey everybody!” Lucas let out a big whoop as he hurried
into the bedroom. “Well Abe, you ol’ rascal you!”
Abe held a blank stare on his face. Julie startled awake and
lifted beside him. “Abe?” She stared at his face. “Oh Abe!”
Julie kissed him softly. “You’re going to be okay! You’re going
to be okay!”
Abe was overwhelmingly surrounded by his family. He moved his
eyes, staring at each smiling face that bent over him. He gave
a hard swallow. “Jason…I came to tell you Charlie’s sick…”
“Oh Papa Abe!” Laura clung to him and cried. Abe groaned, but
when Laura tried to lift from him, he slowly folded his arms
around her tighter. “Oh, I thought I’d lost you for good!”
“What does a man have to do to get some food around here?” Abe
Julie laughed and kissed him soundly on the mouth again.
Margaret giggled. Emily rolled her eyes. “You just have to ask!”
Margaret and Emily folded arms around each other’s shoulders.
“Come on! Let’s prepare breakfast!”
Jason shooed everyone out of the room so he could examine his
hungry patient. Abe didn’t remember much about what had
happened. He remembered going into town to get Jason for
Charlie, but he couldn’t remember anything after that. Julie
didn’t want to stay away from Abe for too long. Margaret and
Emily insisted she sit and rest, especially after they saw her
rub her belly again.
Jason finally came from the room and shook his head. “I don’t
understand! I just don’t understand!”
“What?” Julie asked, concern returning to her face.
“That man…He was shot in the chest and almost died…should have
by all rights…and he’s now trying to get out of bed…insists you
can’t keep a McCain in bed for a meal!”
Relieved chuckles sounded through the room. “Well!” Julie dipped
some oatmeal in a bowl. “I reckon I’ll just see what I can do
about keeping him still!”
As Julie walked by, Jason took her arm to stop her. “Julie,
we’re far from out of the woods. He’s still very weak and very
sick. I don’t want him moving around at all. He may eat a few
bites, but he’s in a lot of pain and will probably sleep more
than anything else. I’ll have to keep a close eye on him. He
could develop a number of infections and I’ll have to keep the
wound very clean.” Julie nodded in understanding. “He can still
take a turn for the worse.” Jason shook his head. “I’m sorry,
but I don’t want to give you false hope.”
Margaret walked up to stand beside Lucas. She wrapped her arm
around his waist and looked up into his face. “You’re worried.”
Lucas nodded. “So am I.” Lucas looked down and kissed her.
“He’ll take Matthew’s death pretty hard. They’ve known each
other since they were in diapers.”
Margaret chewed on her lip as she turned to Jason. Jason sat
down his empty plate and stood from the table. “Emily and I
should go. I’m afraid we have a lot of sick people to tend to.”
Margaret nodded. “I’ll be out to check on him every day. If
there’s any change…” Margaret nodded again.
No sooner had Jason and Emily left did Scott ride up. He was
relieved to hear Abe was doing somewhat better. Margaret sat him
down at the table and gave him a plate, then excused herself.
She wanted to check on Julie and Abe. Scott waited for the
bedroom door to close before he spoke. “I talked to Mrs.
Williams.” He shook his head. “She took the news really hard.
That was one of the hardest things I ever had to do.”
“Reckon we’ll need a new Marshal now.” Lucas shook his head. “I
can’t imagine anyone other than Williams as Marshal.”
“How about Black?”
“Black?” Lucas raised an eyebrow. “No…I don’t reckon Black’s cut
out for such a job.”
“He thinks he is. Seems to be settling in quite nicely.” Lucas
cocked his head to one side and narrowed his eyes at Scott.
“Says he’s assuming the position as Marshal.”
“He’s assuming too much!” Lucas shook his head. “Two months ago
he was working part time at the livery cleaning up manure! He
doesn’t know the first thing about…”
“Hm…Well, he’s killed one of the outlaws already. Said he was
trying to escape.”
“Simmons.” Lucas wrinkled his brow, deep in thought. “We’ll have
Matthew’s funeral tomorrow.”
Lucas sat down his coffee cup and looked toward the bedroom
door. “How do we tell Abe?”
“I…don’t know,” Scott answered. Then he looked around. “Brothers
“Went to feed the animals. They were tired of sitting around.”
Lucas folded his arms. “Margaret’s coughing some. Jason left
some medicine to give her…told me to keep a close eye on her.”
“She’s strong.” Scott smiled.
“Yeah…Well, I’ll see you at the funeral tomorrow.” Scott nodded.
The night passed slowly. Lucas cleaned up the guest room,
telling Margaret he didn’t want her to see it in the state it
was after the killing of a man. Jeremiah made the decision to go
home and stay with the women while Peter stayed. Lucas tossed
and turned for a long time. He remembered back to all the times
he’d joined his brother and Matthew in play or hunting. He still
remembered laughing when Matthew was elected Marshal. It was
something he found hard to believe at the time.
Margaret was laying on a cot beside Lucas and sensed his
agitation. She turned to face him. “It’s nearly two in the
morning,” she mumbled as she pointed to the clock the moonlight
was shining on. “Storm’s finally over.”
“I know. I guess I’m just thinking and…remembering.”
“Matthew?” Lucas nodded. “I worry for his wife.”
“I keep telling myself that they knew the risks when he signed
up for the job, but then I wonder if we really think about the
risks. His son was always so proud of him…I just…don’t know
Margaret lifted and leaned over toward his cot. She kissed his
cheek. “He’s in Heaven. He’s safe.”
“Little comfort to his wife and son and…” Lucas sighed. “Unborn
“You’re worried about Abe too?”
“Yes. And Julie and our town…A town without a Marshal is in
trouble.” Lucas smiled. “Go to sleep now, honey.” He closed his
eyes and laid still, but he never went to sleep.
The next morning, Julie came from the bedroom to get breakfast.
Margaret decided that was the opportunity to talk to her about
Matthew’s death. “You have to tell him.”
Julie simply turned and looked toward the closed bedroom door.
“He has to know, Julie.”
“He should know before the funeral.”
Julie concentrated on stirring the oatmeal. Without lifting her
head, she silently asked, “Why? What good will it do? Telling
him won’t bring Matt back, will it?” Julie lifted her head and
stared into Margaret’s eyes. Margaret didn’t answer. “It’ll just
give us a fight. He’ll want to attend the funeral and he can’t.
When he’s better. I’ll tell him then.”
Margaret shook her head. “He’ll resent you for it, Julie. He
“I’m his wife. It’s my decision.”
Margaret turned from her and flipped the pancakes. “Alright.
It’s your decision.” Nothing more was said.
The ride into town was silent. Margaret had never seen the town
so empty. She couldn’t keep her head turned from the Marshal’s
office, and let out a gasp when she realized his name was no
longer on the door. Inside the door stood Deputy Black. He
wouldn’t be attending. He’d have to stay in town and mind his
prisoners. Lucas said the judge would be coming through Monday.
He suspected the two prisoners would be dead by sundown.
Margaret lowered her head as they approached the graveyard; she
hated coming here.. As Lucas helped her down, she saw Miriam all
dressed in black. Their son, Johnny, stood close beside her, it
was hard to tell who was protecting who. Lucas took Margaret’s
arm. Her other hand clinched her Bible to her chest. Slowly they
The moment Miriam saw Margaret, she burst into tears and hugged
her tight. Margaret whispered words of apology, but Miriam shook
her head. “He was a good man, Margaret. He never hurt a person,
and never let a person hurt another. Why, he’d throw his own
brother in jail if he had to…threw your husband in jail a few
times for getting out of line…He died doing what he loved –
protecting the citizens of Enid.”
“It was us he was saving,” Margaret mumbled. “It sort of makes
me feel respons-“
“NO!” Miriam held up a hand. “The only one’s responsible for my
husband’s death is…” She paused. “I was wondering if you and
Luke would accompany me to the restaurant after the service.
There’s something I should talk to you about.”
“Of course.” Margaret smiled. “Anything we can do to help.”
Miriam nodded. She pressed a hand to her swollen belly. “I’m
sorry for this child. He’ll never know his father.”
Reverend Gentry stood up and opened his Bible. Margaret looked
around at the crowd gathered. Never had she seen so many people
in the little graveyard. It seemed every citizen of Enid had
come to pay their respects. The preacher spoke, and allowed
others to speak as well. Margaret held tight to Miriam’s hand as
she went forward and picked up the handful of dirt. “Ashes to
ashes…and dust to dust…” It was hard, but Miriam slowly allowed
the dust to fall onto the casket of her deceased husband. Tears
filled her eyes.
Up to this point, Miriam had been so strong. “Oh…I…I can’t…”
Suddenly, she started to go limp. Margaret cried out to Lucas
who was there in an instant. Lucas caught Miriam as she fell and
carried her to their wagon. Jason was there in an instant with
smelling salts. After he revived her, he ordered her to the
hotel for a good rest.
Only after Jason had examined her did he allow Margaret and
Lucas to enter the hotel and sit down beside her. She motioned
for Lucas to sit on her other side. Then she swallowed and
spoke. “About two weeks ago, Matt came home in an agitated mood.
Something was really bothering him. I tried to get him to talk
to me but he wouldn’t. He said it was a case he was working on
and it would be better in time. The next day he came home and
told me he felt he had made a big mistake, but he didn’t tell me
what that mistake was.”
Miriam took a swallow of the tea Margaret held up to her before
she continued. “One day, he came home and told me that Johnny
Morgan had drawn up a will for him. A Marshal should have a
will, I know…but…I suppose he never wanted one. I found this odd
that he had done it at a time he felt he had made a bad
“Did he say anything more on what was bothering him?”
Miriam nodded. “Our last evening together. Johnny had just gone
to bed. I was mending and Matt came home late. He was really
agitated. He took a drink of whisky and that’s something he
never did around me. I immediately got concerned and begged him
to tell me what was going on.” Miriam gasped as she grasped her
“Maybe we should come back later…” Lucas started.
“No.” Miriam shook her head. “I have to get this out.” She took
a deep breath before she spoke. “Matt said his mistake could
cost him his life. I asked him what mistake he was talking
about, and he simply answered, ‘Trusting someone I shouldn’t
have trusted.’ He was cursing and pacing the floor. All night he
just paced and ran his hands through his hair. He was so
agitated. He said he couldn’t get out of it – that he had been
threatened. Then he ordered me not to ask any more questions.”
Miriam lowered her head. “He…left shortly after that. I never
saw him again.”
Lucas looked up at Margaret. “Are you worried that had something
to do with his death?” She nodded. “But one of the outlaws shot
“It’s woman’s intuition. In my heart…I know there’s more to the
Lucas lifted his eyebrows. Miriam laid back on her pillow and
took some deep breaths. “I…think you should send the doctor in
Margaret and Lucas stood to leave. “Margaret…you stay.” Margaret
looked toward Lucas and motioned for him to go on. Miriam took
Margaret’s hand. “I’ve a feeling I’ll need a midwife.”
“But it’s too soon!” Margaret shook her head.
“No matter…” Miriam smiled. “I’ll need ya just the same.”
Jason came in and examined her. He frowned at his discovery.
“Miram…you know it’s too early.”
Miriam tried to keep the tears from coming, but her efforts came
up short. “I know.” She pressed her lips together as a
contraction ceased her. “I believe Matt needs some company.”
“No…” Margaret shook her head as she grabbed Miriam’s hand. “You
“It’s too late.” Miriam smiled. “It’s too late…”
Margaret fell into Lucas’s arms and cried two hours later. The
ordeal was over. The baby was gone. “It was a little girl, Luke.
She’s gone to heaven to be with her father.” Lucas held Margaret
while she cried. “Luke…It’s almost like that’s what Miriam
“Maybe the thought of having his baby now was just too much for
her…” Lucas mumbled. “How’s she doing?”
“As well as can be expected. Jason’s letting her hold the baby
for a bit. She said she looks just like her father.”
“Will there be a funeral?”
“No.” Margaret shook her head. “She’s just requesting that Jason
have her buried beside her father.” Margaret hugged Lucas. “Oh
Luke…it’s just so sad!”
“I know.” Lucas put his arm around her shoulders.
They walked out of the hotel. “I guess it’s over.”
“The trial’s Monday. I hope we can put this all behind us then.”
“What about what Miriam told you, Luke?”
Lucas shrugged as he led her down the boardwalk. “I’m afraid
those secrets may have died with Matt. I’m not sure who he had
trusted that…” Suddenly, Lucas stopped walking. He turned and
looked toward the Marshal’s office. Margaret saw a confused
expression come over him. “Honey, you go on and sit with Emily a
spell. I’ve something to check on.”
“What is it?”
Lucas motioned for her to go on, but never took his eyes off the
Marshal’s office. “I’ll come by for you in a bit.”
“Never mind, Margaret. Just wait for me at Emily’s, please.”
Margaret studied him, looked toward the Marshal’s office, then
nodded her head.
Lucas made his way across the street. When he came in, he found
Deputy Black sitting behind Marshal William’s desk. “Came to
check on the prisoners,” Lucas announced.
“Don’t reckon I need the help of a…”
“…concerned citizen,” Lucas answered. “Now that we don’t have a
Deputy Black threw down his pencil and stood up. “McCain…there’s
something you and your kin don’t understand. I’M the Marshall
“And there seems to be something you don’t understand…” Lucas
leaned across the desk. “Matt’s making you deputy doesn’t make
you Marshal because he died.”
“I’m standing in until I’m officially elected in.”
“Oh.” Lucas folded his arms. “I’d like to talk to the
“They have a right to visitors, don’t they?” Deputy Black nodded
his agreement. “Well?” Deputy Black held out his hand. Lucas
looked down at his rifle and frowned. “You intend on doing this
by the book, huh?” He handed Deputy Black his rifle. Deputy
Black unlocked the jail door and let Lucas go in. Lucas walked
up to the closed cell. He waited for the door to close and lock
before he spoke.
But first, he folded his arms and looked both men up and down.
“Alright…who shot Marshal Williams?”
“Well now…” Billy Jo grasped the bars to the cell and chuckled.
“What if I told you it was me.”
Lucas grasped him by the shirt. “Don’t get smart with me!” He
shoved Billy Jo, causing him to go backwards and hit the wall.
“I want to know WHO!”
Billy Jo looked around the cell. “I don’t believe he’s anywhere
in this cell today…check back tomorrow.”
Lucas snarled. “I’ve given my only warning!”
“Alright, sod buster…” Parker grasped the cell bars and leaned
forward. “If you want the answer to that question, be in the
court on Monday. I’m…sure you’ll want to see me hang.” He
chuckled. “But unless that brother of yours rolls over and
croaks, I don’t reckon you’ll see that.”
“Why did Black kill Simmons?”
Parker laughed. Billy Jo joined in with him. “Well now…” He
shook his head as he crossed his arms. “Billy Jo…Seems to me
this here sod buster might just be smarter then we give
credit…You reckon he suspects the truth?”
“I reckon so…” Billy Jo leaned forward. “You just ask Black in
there why he killed Simmons. I guarantee you it won’t be the
“Because he was trying to break jail?”
“NOPE!” Billy Jo popped his ‘P’. “Like I said…you’ll find out
Lucas cocked his head to one side. “Why are you waiting until
Parker laughed. “Well now…you’ll find out then.” He continued to
chuckle as he went to sit down on his cot. Lucas turned and
walked to the jail door. He banged on it as he continued to
glare at the two outlaws. Deputy Black let him out and handed
Lucas his rifle.
“So…I heard tell you killed Simmons.” Lucas propped his foot up
on a chair and leaned forward. “How come?”
Deputy Black clinched his jaw as he looked Lucas up and down.
“Like I told your brother-in-law…because he tried to escape.”
“Hm…” Lucas nodded. “I’m sure.”
“Now what’s that supposed to mean?” Deputy Black asked as he
jumped to his feet and put his hands on his hips.
“I mean this…Those two men in that cell BETTER be alive to stand
trial Monday. If they aren’t…” Lucas lifted his rifle. “You’ll
“Now hold on just one…”
“By the way…why’s the Marshal’s name off the door?”
Deputy Black put his hands on his hips and leaned forward. “He’s
dead. Don’t reckon he’ll need his name there anymore.”
“I see…” Lucas angrily walked toward the door. Then he spun
around and pointed a finger at the deputy. “You’re a snake! I’ll
see you in court…DEPUTY!”
It was growing colder and dark as Lucas and Margaret rode home.
Margaret knew Lucas was chewing on something that didn’t sit
right with him. The muscle in his neck clinched like his jaw. He
didn’t say a word to her. Finally, Margaret spoke. “Luke?” Lucas
grunted for her to go on. “I’m worried about Abe and Julie.”
“I tried to convince Julie to tell Abe about Matthew’s death but
she wouldn’t do it. She’s afraid he couldn’t handle it right
now. I think she’s making a mistake and…”
“It’s none of our business, Margaret. That’s between Julie and
Margaret pressed her lips together and stared at him in
surprise. Lucas must have realized the way that sounded. He
turned and looked at her. “I’m sorry, honey. Of course Julie
should have told him but…I guess she’s trying to protect him.
He’s weak, and it wouldn’t take much to put him in distress
again. He and Matthew were close growing up. I suspect he’s
going to take the news hard.”
“Tell me what’s wrong, Luke?”
Lucas pulled back on the reins as they pulled into the yard. He
sat still in the seat and looked down at the floor of the
buckboard. “Margaret…I suspect there’s more to what happened in
our front yard Wednesday then meets the eye. I think I’ll know
more Monday.” He lifted his head to look at her. “Until then…I’d
rather not talk about it. Okay?”
Margaret nodded. Lucas climbed down from the buckboard and took
her hand to help her down. Julie came from the house. “Well…I
cooked supper and was hoping you’d be back in time to enjoy it.”
“Jeremiah here?” Julie nodded. “How’s Abe?”
Julie lowered her head. “He’s had a rough day, Luke. The
pain…it’s bad. Jason just left here. Gave him some medicine to
make him sleep.” Julie’s eyes filled with tears. “I can hardly
stand seeing him like this.”
“Does he know about Matthew?” Margaret asked. Lucas put a
warning hand on her arm and shot her a disapproving look.
“No.” Julie turned on her heels and hurried back inside.
“Margaret McCain…” Lucas warned as he lifted his eyebrows.
“I’m sorry. I just think he should be told is all.”
“And I told you that it’s none of our business.”
“He’s your brother!” Margaret argued.
“Yes. But he’s Julie’s husband. He’s her responsibility now.”
Margaret nodded that she understood. Then they went inside.
The weekend passed by slowly. Lucas woke up Saturday morning to
the sound of his brother’s cries of pain. He could hardly stand
to hear such a big, strong tough man crying so deeply at the
pain he was feeling. As he was coming out of the bedroom, Julie
hurried in and begged him to go for the doctor. Lucas quickly
dressed and did just that.
Jason shook his head and said the pain medicine would do little
to help him at the moment. The best thing for him was to sleep.
Julie didn’t know how much more she could take of listening to
his cries. Jason worried about Julie’s health and insisted she
go home and spend some time with her children. Julie argued for
a long time, but finally gave in as she realized her children
needed her. They didn’t understand at all what was going on.
Lucas and Margaret stayed with Abe all weekend. Lucas didn’t
want to leave Margaret alone for too long with Abe because Abe
would try to get up when the pain got bad. He was out of his
head most of the time.
Sunday was easier for Abe. Margaret read the Bible to him. She
and Lucas had a short worship time with Abe, and it seemed to
have a calming effect on him. Abe mumbled that he wanted Julie,
and Margaret promised she’d be there the following day.
Abe rested until just after lunch. When he awoke, he screamed
cries of pain once again. Lucas shed tears as he held his
brother down in the bed until the medicine put him to sleep.
Then he sat with him some more.
By bedtime that night, Lucas and Margaret were both exhausted.
Neither of them had gotten a decent sleep since this whole
ordeal had started. They both fell exhausted on their cots that
night, but Abe’s pains wouldn’t allow them to sleep. Margaret
kept the coffee on as Lucas once again spent a sleepless night
trying to keep his brother still and helping him through the
Of course, they worried about Julie. When she showed up on
Monday morning she looked refreshed. Tiffany had insisted on
coming with her to help out during the hard times. Lucas nodded
his approval, but warned that Abe was still in a great deal of
pain. Julie assured him she could handle it.
The trial would begin at nine o’clock. Lucas allowed Margaret to
walk him outside. She straightened his string tie and kissed him
before he mounted his horse. “I hope you find the answers you’re
looking for,” she stated. Lucas nodded then rode away.
Tiffany looked up from kneading bread as Margaret slowly closed
the door. “Everything okay?”
“No,” Margaret answered as she watched Lucas ride out of sight.
“Everything’s a mess. I pray this trial will put some end to the
Lucas wasn’t surprised at the number of people who showed up for
the trial. Marshal Williams was well liked. He was always a
kind, generous man and a great husband and father to boot. He
had everything a man could want. Lucas knew that if these men
were found guilty, they would be strung up before the gavel hit
The two acused men walked into the courtroom. As Deputy Black
led them up to the front, Billy Jo paused in his steps and
grinned at Lucas. He gave Lucas a wink and a nod. “Get movin’!”
Deputy Black demanded. “And remember what I told ya!”
Lucas looked Deputy Black up and down as they passed. He was
curious as to just what he had told Billy Jo. He didn’t have
time to think on it as Peter pulled him down beside him and
Jeremiah. Scott sat down behind Lucas. The judge called the
court to order.
Lucas watched as Billy Jo stood and was called to the stand. The
judge listed the crimes he was being tried for. Then he began
his questioning. “On the afternoon of October 31, 1866, did you
have anything to do with the killing of Marshall Williams?”
“How can we be sure?”
“I was tied up nice and snug in the house across the street.”
Billy Jo snickered. “I had nothing to do with the Marshal’s
“What about the death of Pete…uh…Gavens?”
Billy Jo smiled. “Well now…Pete Gavens…That would be my
partner’s handy work…Harold Parker.”
“Do you know who killed Marshal Williams?”
“I surely do.”
“And how did you come upon this information?”
Billy Jo looked straight at Lucas as he answered. “Simmons told
me before he was shot in cold blood.”
“In cold…” The Judge shook his head. “Did Simmons kill the
Billy Jo sat straight up in his seat. “Nope.” Mumblings suddenly
erupted from the crowd. Lucas looked toward Peter and lifted his
eyebrows. “Oh, he SAID he killed him alright when he was at the
house…bragging to Parker. But the truth was he had nothing to do
with the killing. But he saw the whole thing.”
“And who DID kill the marshal?” Judge Blankenford was getting a
bit irate in Billy Jo’s running around the truth.
Billy Jo grinned as he winked at Lucas. “The man who killed the
marshal is right here in this court room.” Billy Jo grinned. “In
fact, the man who killed Marshal Williams is the same man who
More mumbling sounded. Billy Jo grinned. “Yes sirree! The man
who killed Marshal Williams was…Deputy Black himself!”
Lucas stood and turned to look at the crowd. His eyes focused on
Deputy Black. Anger seethed inside him. “Mr. McCain, I order you
to keep your seat!” The judge banged his gavel to silence the
crowd. He turned back to Billy Jo. “Sir, would you mind telling
me just how exactly you came upon this information?”
Billy Jo nodded. “It was after we left the ranches. That deputy
there…he was leading us. Simmons got mad because Deputy Black
wasn’t walking slow enough. He told Deputy Black that he knew
the truth about the killing. He was really smug about it. Then
he told us that the deputy turned on the marshal and said, ‘It’s
time. It’s now. Say goodbye.’ Then he pointed the gun straight
at the Marshal and fired.”
“And you believe it?”
“Yep. I believed it because I saw Black shoot Simmons.” Billy Jo
nodded his head. “Simmons was shot and killed right there.
Neither of us wanted to die that way so we kept our mouths
The judge whipped off his glasses and narrowed his eyes at the
defendant. “Is there any proof that what you say is true?”
“My word ain’t good enough?” Billy Jo started laughing again.
“Now mister, I’m warning you for the last time…”
“No proof.” Billy Jo leaned forward. “Lessen you wanta ask
Deputy Black just how much he wants to be marshal.”
Lucas suddenly stood up. “Judge, may I approach?” The judge
nodded. Lucas hurried up to him. “Judge, my wife and I had a
conversation with Mrs. Williams yesterday that I think you
“Well, I’ll be happy to hear her story. Just bring her by…”
“No, Judge…” Lucas shook his head. “You see, the day of the
funeral, she gave birth to their second child. The child died.
She’s in no…”
Suddenly, the door opened. Lucas turned to see Mrs. Williams
standing in the doorway. Her head was held high and her
shoulders straight. “Never mind, Mr. McCain. This is one story I
want to tell.”
Lucas hurried toward her and lifted her in his arms as she was
about to fall. After sitting her in a chair close to the judge,
the court listened as she retold the information she had told
Lucas and Margaret. The judge thought on everything that was
said. After Mrs. Williams finished her speech, he ordered two
men to help her out. Lucas turned and looked at the judge. “I
think Deputy Black should be locked up until we can investigate
“Mr. McCain, what Mrs. Williams told us doesn’t point a finger
at the deputy.”
“Yes sir.” Lucas nodded his agreement. “But with all due
respect, sir…Deputy Black was the only other one there.”
“Just a minute, Mr. McCain. Let me finish with these men first.
Billy Jo Lee, you have heard your charges. I can’t hang you
because I can’t prove you have murdered anyone. More than
likely, you are innocent of any murder charges as far as this
court is concerned. But, you did take one Ann Dodd hostage, and
you were involved in the killing of Peter uh…” Judge Blankenford
looked at his paper. “Peter Gaven. You are therefore being held
in jail, and will be transported to the state prison as soon as
I can arrange it where you will serve not less than five and no
more than ten years in the prison.”
Judge Blankenford turned to the second man, Harold Parker. “Mr.
Parker, you have been found guilty of cold-blooded murder. You
are accused of shooting Peter Gaven in the back and leaving him
to die. Then later you broke into the Mr. McCain’s house where
they were caring for him and shot him in cold blood. How do you
plead?” Harold Parker didn’t say a single word. “Don’t you have
anything to say before I pass sentence? “ He continued to stay
silent. “Very well. You are also accused of shooting Abraham
McCain twice. Is this true?”
Still, Parker didn’t say a word.
“You know you’re putting the noose snug around your own neck by
staying silent.” Judge Blankenford sighed. “Very well then. Can
you give me any more information on the murder of Marshal
Judge Blankenford tapped his gavel on the desk as mumbling
began. “I have no choice, then, but to order you guilty of these
crimes. I sentence you to hang by the neck until dead. And
because I believe in giving a man time to make peace with his
maker, I’ll give you one more day. The sentence will be carried
out at dawn tomorrow.”
Lucas turned to see Deputy Black stand up and make his way
toward the prisoners. This whole time the deputy had been
silent. “Where do you think you’re going?” Lucas asked gruffly.
“To escort my prisoners back to jail.”
“Just a minute now.” Judge Blankenford motioned to Peter and
Jeremiah. “You two men see they get back to jail safely. Deputy,
you have heard some accusations today. Do you have anything to
say for yourself?”
“Only that I don’t recall going on trial,” Deputy Black
“Very well, sir. But Mr. McCain here has requested you be held
in the jail along with the prisoners until I can set up a new
trial for you. What do you have to say?”
“Nothing.” Deputy Black turned and glared at Lucas. “He’s upset
because Williams was his friend. He can’t stand that I’m now
Marshal of this here town. I…”
“No.” Judge Blankenford shook his head. “Until this is
investigated further, you will not be allowed to work as deputy
or marshal. I ask that you turn in your badge and go to the
hotel. You will stay there until this can be further
“Judge, I think it’s best if…” Lucas started.
“You are not in charge either, Mr. McCain.” Judge Blankenford
pointed his gavel at Lucas. “And you McCain’s may THINK you are
can run this town, but let me assure you are NOT! I don’t think
Deputy Black will try anything because he knows he’ll be
declared guilty of murdering the marshal and strung up quickly.”
“Judge…If you allow me to leave here without clearing up my good
name, I may be lynched anyhow! McCain here will see that
Judge Blankenford shook his head. “No sir, it won’t. Because I
want this to serve as a warning to one and all. If any harm
comes to Mr. Black before his accusations are investigated, you
will be immediately tried and convicted of murder. Do I make
myself clear?” Mumblings of agreement was heard around the room.
“I ask that you be escorted to the hotel and locked in your room
until further notice. Mr. McCain, your brothers will stand guard
on the prisoners until we can straighten this all out.”
“Yes sir.” Lucas grabbed his hat and rifle and assisted Peter in
getting Black to the hotel where he was securely locked in.
A knock sounded on the door late that night. Lucas rose from the
cot he had been sleeping on and hurried to answer the knock.
“You should come. Parker’s asking for you.”
“What’s he want?”
“He said he’ll only talk to you.”
Lucas nodded then hurried to get dressed. Margaret stood from
her cot and questioned Lucas on what was going on. Lucas simply
told her he had no idea then hurried from the room. Julie came
out from the other bedroom then. She also wondered what was
going on. Peter told Lucas he’d stay with the women and help
when Abe’s fits of pain returned. Then Lucas hurried out the
When he arrived at the jail, Jeremiah escorted him into where
Parker was. Parker had his head in his hands and looked rather
frightened. “I had to talk to you, Mr. McCain.”
“About what?” Lucas sat down in a chair outside the cell and
waited for him to speak.
“A man…when he’s looking death in the face…can see things from a
different light. I’m afraid, and I don’t guess it matters one
way or the other if you know it. I was drunk and stupid when I
lost my money. Then I was in so deep that…”
“What do you want?” Lucas interrupted his confession. “Just tell
“Had a visitor.”
“Tonight. You interested in knowing who was outside my cell
window two hours ago?” Lucas nodded. “It was Black.”
Lucas suddenly lifted his head slightly and raised an eyebrow.
“He’s locked up in the hotel.”
“No. I’d say he’s on his way to the Widow Williams’ house by
now. He said he’d help me escape if I promised to help him. Said
all he needed was half that ten thousand dollars. He thinks I
know where it’s at.”
“What did you tell him?”
Parker shook his head. “I’m not stupid, McCain. I know he would
kill me the minute he got me out of here. I also know that I
can’t stand by and watch a nice lady get herself killed.”
“Just spill it!”
“He said he bribed the Marshal. Had something on him and he was
using that to keep his job. He told the Marshal it was only a
matter of time before he killed him and took over his job as
acting Marshal. There’s a newspaper article on something he did
a long time ago. Black told me he wrote a couple notes,
threatening the Marshal. He figures they’re somewhere. Said
since I was now about to hang, I could be his ‘partner’ and…”
Lucas shook his head. He didn’t have time for all that. “He’s
going over to find the paper?”
“Looked for it all day, day before yesterday. Never found it
here, so he figured…” Lucas stood and hurried from the jail.
Jeremiah watched him, asking him what was wrong, but Lucas
didn’t have time to explain. He jumped on his horse and took off
for the Williams house.
She heard a noise. If she didn’t know better, she’d say it was
her husband returning from his nightly rounds, but she knew
better than that. Miriam called out to her son, but he was sound
asleep. As she quietly got out of bed, she walked over to her
bureau where Matt had always insisted she keep a loaded gun. He
said she never knew when someone would come in who had a grudge
Taking the gun, Miriam made her way to the bedroom door. She was
still very weak from her recent ordeal of burying her husband,
and then their baby daughter. Her heart was heavy. If it wasn’t
for Johnny, she’d probably just allow death to take her to her
husband. But her son deserved life with a mother at least.
She heard more noise coming from the front room. As she cracked
the door open, she saw someone stooped over her husband’s desk.
He was shifting through papers. Miriam pointed the gun at him as
she opened the door. “Alright…whoever you are…”
The man straightened and slowly turned around. Miriam sucked in
her breath. “So…it WAS you!” He started forward. “Stay right
where you are!” She held the gun tighter. Hot tears filled her
eyes. “How could you? He helped you when you had no place to go!
He brought you into this home and fed you. He gave you a job…”
“It’s because of that that I killed him!” Black took a step
forward as he held up his hands. “I found out your husband
wasn’t as clean as you all think he was. I saw a way to get his
job…his life…The perfect life…” Black snarled. “HA! He’s been
living a lie!”
“What ARE you talking about?” Miriam shook her head. “My
husband’s never done a bad thing in his whole life!” She shook
the gun at him. “You took him from me! You took him from my son
and daughter! You have robbed me of so many things!” She shook
the gun at him as more tears streamed down her cheeks. “WHY?”
“For power…and money…” Black shrugged. “You see…when your
husband was seventeen years old, he killed a man.”
“What?” Miriam rolled her eyes. “Is THAT what this is all about?
You blackmailed him because of THAT?” She shook her head. “I
knew all about it…Maybe I should have told him I knew, but I
knew! I knew it before I even started courting him. It didn’t
matter. He was a seventeen year old kid who made a mistake. He
paid for it dearly when he spent that year in jail with those
men who beat him every day. He came back a changed man.”
“Just give me the gun. You can’t kill me…” Black held out his
hand. “Just give it to me.”
“No! No! I’m going to KILL you!!!”
“Ma?” Suddenly, her son was there. She turned for only a second,
but it was long enough for Black to take the gun. She let out a
scream and fell to the floor. Johnny ran to his mother’s side.
“Don’t kill her! Please!”
“I’m sorry, son. I have no choice.” Black lifted the gun toward
Miriam and readied it. “Say goodbye.”
“NO! NO!” Miriam began screaming as loud as she could. She
lifted her hands to shield her face and closed her eyes. “Oh
A gunshot rang out. Miriam stopped screaming and jerked. Her
eyes opened as she stared at Black who had a pained expression
on his face. The gun fell from his hand and he fell to the
floor. Miriam sat there shaking from head to toe. Her mouth
gaped open as she stared down at Black’s lifeless form. Then she
slowly lifted her eyes and looked into the eyes of Lucas McCain.
Smoke was coming from the barrel of his rifle.
Suddenly, her son was in her arms and she was shaking so badly
she could hardly stand it. She began sobbing uncontrollably.
Lucas bent down and smoothed her hair. “It’s over…” He whispered
the words softly. “It’s all over.”
“I don’t understand!” Miriam screamed. “I don’t understand why
he killed my husband!” Her tear streaked face turned to look at
Lucas. “He said he was bribing Matt because he knew about the
man he had killed when he was seventeen. It was self defense and
everybody knew it, but they gave him a year in jail since they
were…” She stopped, knowing Lucas already knew the truth. “Why
would he allow…”
“There’s only one thing I can think of that would get me to
allow a man to bribe me.” Lucas stood and walked over to the
desk. There was a locked compartment that Black had been trying
to pry open. Lucas shot the lock off then opened it. There he
found what he was looking for. He opened the first letter. “I
know about the bank you robbed. I know about the man you killed.
If you fire me, as you said you would, your wife and son will be
told, and the town will be told. You will lose everything you’ve
worked for. I will tell everyone what you’ve done, and I will
make sure you never work again.”
“He threatened us?” Miriam sat down at the table and put her
face in her hands. “I killed him.”
“No…” Lucas shook his head. “No you didn’t.”
“I did. I should have told him I knew. Everybody knew about his
past but nobody told him. They were afraid he’d feel ashamed…he
wouldn’t want to act as Marshal anymore so we all stayed
silent…” Miriam looked up at Lucas. “Our silence…killed him.”
Lucas couldn’t go inside just yet. It had been an exhausting
night. Tomorrow morning, he’d have to witness a hanging that he
wasn’t sure should actually happen. After all, Parker could have
stayed silent and allowed Black to kill Williams’ wife. He could
have gotten away to Mexico before anyone even knew anything was
wrong. Lucas tied his horse to the hitching post and made his
way to the barn to do some thinking.
Margaret wasn’t sleeping. She paced the room as she listened to
Abe’s cries of pain again. Julie and Peter tried to calm him.
The medicine was no longer helping him, and she could feel Julie
was very strained under the pressure. Margaret went to the
window and watched Lucas step down from his horse, then led it
in to the barn. Margaret went and put on her boots, then she
bundled up and went out to the barn.
When she first opened the door, she didn’t see him anywhere.
Then she saw him. He was sitting in an empty stall petting the
barn cat. Margaret walked inside and kneeled down in front of
him. She didn’t say a word but reached out and stilled his hand.
“It’s over.” Lucas lifted his head to look at her. That’s when
Margaret saw his tears. “I killed him.”
“Black?” Lucas nodded, not at all surprised Margaret knew. “Then
he DID kill Matthew?”
“He was bribing Matt for a secret that we all knew about. Nobody
cared. It was obvious when he came back from prison that he was
a changed man. There were only a few of us that knew of the
trouble he’d gotten into robbing that bank and killing that man,
but we figured he’d learned a lesson. Somewhere along the way
others found out, but they wanted to spare him of any…shame.”
Margaret’s heart was breaking at Lucas’ sobs. He laid his head
facedown in her lap and sobbed louder. “Our silence killed him.”
“No, Luke,” Margaret spoke softly. “Black killed him. He wanted
his power…his life…He didn’t understand that you can’t get it
that way. He didn’t know.” Margaret smoothed his hair as he
sobbed. “I know he was a dear friend…” Margaret spoke softly,
allowing all the hurt he was feeling to be cried into her lap.
“I remember how he used to play with you…let you tag along with
him and Abe even though you were little.”
Lucas lifted his head. “No secrets, Margaret. No secrets.” He
put a hand to her cheek. “Promise me.”
“It’s always been that way…hasn’t it, Luke?”
Lucas hugged her. They held each other for a long time. In time,
Margaret stood and held her hand out to Lucas. Lucas nodded and
stood up. They walked to the house arm-in-arm. Lucas stopped
beside his horse. “I need to bed him down.”
“I’ll do that, Luke.” Peter said as he stepped out of the house.
“You look beat. You should go to bed.”
Lucas nodded as Margaret led him inside and to the bedroom. Soon
they fell asleep on the cots.
It was the following night as they lay in bed that Margaret
suddenly remembered what had started all this. “Luke?” Margaret
whispered as she turned toward her husband. Lucas mumbled.
“Honey, you know I have the money safely locked in the box in
the desk. Go to sleep.”
“No Luke…not OUR money…That man’s money…Mr. Gaven’s.”
Lucas sighed and turned to face her. “What about it?” he
mumbled, still half-asleep.
Margaret propped her head up on her arm. “We never found it.”
Lucas mumbled. “Well, he did something with it. He said
something about saddle…” Margaret heard Lucas’ snore. She rolled
her eyes as she lay down on the pillow. “A lot of help you are!”
Then she turned toward the window. She remembered back to that
night when the wind had shifted and all their trouble started.
She remembered seeing a shadow on the wall. “Luke…” Margaret
turned, but it was useless. He was fast asleep. Margaret chewed
on her lip as she stood from the cot and slowly reached for her
robe. She walked toward the window as she slipped her robe on.
It had been outside their own bedroom window. I wonder if…
Quietly, Margaret slipped from the bedroom. After closing the
door behind her, she lit the lantern on the table and slipped
out the back door. She went around to the back window and shone
the light down on the ground. Margaret let out a gasp.
“It’s here!” She dropped to the ground and began shoveling the
dirt away with her hands. Her hand brushed a leather strap. She
began rejoicing at the thought that Mr. Gaven’s family would
have money to help them after all! They’d have $10,000…
Margaret paused in her digging when she saw two booted feet
beside her. Slowly, she lifted her head up the long legs to see
fisted hands on familiar hips. Lifting her head up a bit more,
she saw the annoyed expression on her husband’s face. “Margaret
McCain, what are you doing out here in the middle of the night?”
Lucas reached down and grabbed her arm to pull her into a
standing position. She had every intention to answer him, but he
suddenly began speaking before she could say another word. “It’s
dark and cold…You are supposed to be getting plenty of rest so
you don’t catch your death and you are out here digging in the
dirt in the middle of the night? I’ve a good mind to…”
“LUKE!” Margaret hissed. Lucas stopped his scolding immediately
when he heard the sharpness in her voice. “Now…if you will just
give me time to explain…”
“Darn right you can explain! Start with what you are doing?”
“The saddle bags are…”
“Saddle bags? What saddle bags?”
Margaret rolled her eyes at her husband. “Well now…if you will
just give me time to…”
The door opened. Julie stepped out onto the back porch and
tightened her robe around her. “What’s going on out here?”
“That’s what I’m trying to figure out!” Lucas declared. He
turned and looked at Margaret. Folding his arms he cocked his
head to one side. “Well?”
“When Pete Gaven was in our house, he kept crying something
about saddle bags. As I was laying in bed tonight, I got to
thinking on it and remembered the shadow I saw Halloween
Lucas chuckled. “Yes dear.” He turned and looked at Julie. “My
wife had me chasing ghosts that night.”
“It WAS NOT ghosts!” Margaret declared. She bent down and
pointed at the dirt. “He was burying the saddle bag under the
Lucas kneeled beside her. He touched the leather strap then
looked up at her with raised eyebrows. Margaret nodded and gave
him an ‘I told you so’ smile. Lucas quickly began digging with
his hands. He pulled out the saddle bag. “Well…what do you
The women followed him inside and sat at the table as Lucas
slowly opened the bag. There were several coins. “There must be
close to $500 in cash here.” Lucas searched through the bag. At
the very bottom was a sheet of paper. Lucas opened it up and
read it. “It’s the bank draft.” Lucas lifted his eyes to look at
the two women. “For ten thousand dollars!”
Margaret clapped her hands and giggled as she jumped up and
looked over Lucas’ shoulder. Lucas pulled out another sheet of
paper. “It’s a scribbled note. I can’t quite make it out.”
Margaret took the note from him and lifted it into the light.
“To my lovely wife and children: If you get this, that means
they killed me. Please use this money to better your life. Raise
my children right, my love. Smile for them. I want them to see
your beautiful smile. I came by the money honestly. Just this
once, I wanted to do something right.”
“Well…” Lucas took the note from her and walked over to the
desk. “Seems the mystery is solved.” He lifted another sheet of
paper. “I’ll send this to his family in the morning.” The women
watched Lucas lock the bank draft safely into his desk. “But for
He and Margaret walked back into the extra bedroom. After they
were once again settled on the cots, Lucas chuckled. “What’s so
funny?” Margaret mumbled, half asleep by now.
“I must be rubbing off on you. You’re becoming a detective.”
“Hm…I think you have that a little backwards, my love.”
Margaret giggled as she leaned into him and kissed him soundly
on the mouth. She rested her hand on his cheek. “I’m rubbing off
on you…and YOU will someday become a good detective.”
“Oh?” Lucas lifted an eyebrow and narrowed his eyes. “How do you
Margaret snuggled down under the covers. “I’m a woman.”
Lucas lifted his head slightly off the pillow and looked her
over a few times as he thought on that. “Yes you are…indeed…”
Lucas bent over and kissed her cheek. Then as he softly
chuckled, he lay down and went to sleep.
The Margaret Years — Margaret's
These stories are based on the TV series
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