The Writer's Corner
Chapter 96 - Battle for Burns Flatt
Written by Deanne Bertram
Upon hearing the news that the wanted poster for Lucas McCain
wasn’t valid, Turpin argued with the Elk City Constable.
“It says he’s wanted in Oklahoma!” Turpin pointed to the poster
lying on the desk.
“That’s what it says, but I tell you it ain’t valid. Look it
don’t even state what he’s wanted for or the amount of the
reward,” Constable Gerard replied.
“You don’t waste paper printing wanted posters. You trying to
keep the reward for yourself!” Turpin accused.
“If I was, I’d ask you to bring in this McCain and I’d put him
in jail. I tell you, I’ve never seen this poster in any of the
official publications. Just let the man go before he decides to
press charges against you for kidnapping and unlawful
“I’ll take him somewhere else. Another town, a bigger town with
Lawmen who’ll do their job,” Turpin proclaimed.
Turpin folded the poster and stuffed it in his pocket.
“Do what you want old man. You’re still gonna get the same
Cursing the constable and angered over not getting the reward he
had banked on, Turpin missed the two men entering the jail while
he walked over to the saloon. Ordering a bottle of whiskey, he
grabbed at the glass and bottle and began his attempt to drown
his misfortune. Muttering over the lost reward, he poured a
glass and hurriedly gulped its contents down before he refilled
The evening wore on as patrons came and went; two men entered
and sat at a table close to Turpin and listened to his
mutterings, with curiosity. The taller of the two men stood,
walked over, pulled out a chair, and without waiting for an
invitation sat down.
“I ain’t in no mood for no company,” Turpin growled.
“I’m not offering company. I’m offering a business proposal.
Couldn’t help but overhear part of your predicament.”
“What’s it to you?”
“Let me introduce myself. My name is Aaron Holden and my
associate,” Holden paused and pointed to the man sitting at the
other table, “is Myron Lantree. We might be able to turn your
“You figure you can make this wanted poster good?” Turpin pulled
the folded piece of paper from his pocket and tossed it on the
Holden picked it up and unfolded the heavily worn and tattered
piece of paper.
aka The Rifleman
“It doesn’t have a reward listed,” Holden mused aloud.
“No, but you don’t put out no wanted posted without there being
a reward! Tried to tell that to the Constable.”
“How much you figured this Rifleman is worth?”
“Least two hundred.”
“What if my associate and I paid you a ‘finder’s fee’ and took
McCain off your hands? I presume you’ve got him holed up
somewhere outside of town.”
“Yeah, didn’t wanna bring him to town and have someone else try
an’ claim my money,” Turpin slurred his words.
“So do we have a deal?” Holden pulled a wallet from the inside
pocket of the jacket he wore and counted out two hundred dollars
in twenty dollar bills.
“The constable said the poster weren’t worth the paper it was
written on… Why you give me two hundred dollars?” Turpin asked.
“We have our reasons.”
Licking his lips as his eyes enlarged, Turpin nodded his head
and reached for the money.
Holding the money back, “You’ll be obliged to take us to your
camp?” asked Holden.
“Shore, shore, my horse is right outside.”
“Let me inform my partner. We’ll be with you presently.”
Holden returned to Lantree’s table and collected his hat.
“Why’d you give that bum all our money?” Lantree demanded.
“Because he won’t have it for too long. Listen, we need to find
a replacement. Why not take this McCain? That bounty hunter is
so drunk he won’t know what hit him before he hits the ground.
Why do you think Gerard told us about him?” Holden pointed his
thumb over his shoulder, pointing towards Turpin.
“I told you I wasn’t a fugitive from the law,” Lucas proclaimed
when Archie Turpin returned from town and removed the gag from
“Shut your yap! I ain’t traveled all dis way ta not see a
profit,” Turpin grumbled. “My new friends paid me two hundred to
take ya off my hands.”
Lucas looked up and tried to warn Turpin of the two others who
rode into the camp with him, Lantree had already drawn and fired
before Lucas could get a word out. Having been shot in the bank,
Turpin fell at Lucas’ feet. Lantree slid down from his horse,
returning his handgun to his holster, before he retrieved the
money from Turpin’s coat pocket.
“What’s the meaning of this?” Lucas demanded.
“A business transaction, pure and simple. Only we didn’t care to
take on a third partner,” Holden declared.
“Then you’re going to kill me too?” Lucas asked as he struggled
to his feet.
“No. Aaron, he might just be what we been looking for. You’re
what six, six?” Lantree stated as he approached Lucas.
“What’s it to you?”
Without warning, Lantree threw a hard punch into Lucas’
midsection, knocking him backwards to the ground.
“I’ll do the asking of questions. From now on… You keep your
mouth shut unless we give you permission to speak. Prove
yourself in the arena and you might get to live. Disappoint us,
and more than likely you’ll end up dead,” Lantree declared.
“McCain, I’d listen to Lantree, he’s the brawn end of our
partnership. Me, I’m the brains and I can’t always stop him
before he… acts.”
Lantree and Holden rode with Lucas as their prisoner through a
series of narrow canyons. Had he not been with the other two,
Lucas would never have seen the entrance. Lucas had lost all
track of time when they finally came around a bend and the
canyon opened up to a small valley. Before them, stood a house,
a couple of bunkhouses, several storage buildings and barns.
“Little late for visitors, ain’t it boys?” came a deep feminine
voice. The light from the lanterns inside the building
illuminated her silhouette. Upon being hauled off his horse and
pushed to the porch, Lucas noticed the woman wore a red satin
dress, which she amply filled out.
“Miss Mable, we’re sorry about the hour, but it couldn’t be
helped. We hope that we’ve found the right man to suit your
needs,” Holden answered.
“Bring him inside.” Miss Mable turned and without waiting for
the others, retreated into the house.
With his hands tied behind his back and a gag in his mouth, the
men push Lucas into the house, a six-shooter poked into the
small of his back.
The room was richly decorated with thick curtains and deep,
colored upholstery on the furniture. A few bookshelves lined one
of the walls with some books standing on end and others lying on
their sides. The carpet was plush, as it quieted the sounds of
their boots on the floor. Opposite the desk where the woman
walked to, Lucas noticed a large mirror in a gold, gilded frame.
“So, promising. Nice and tall. Welcome to Burns Flatt,” Miss
Mable stated as she rubbed at her chin, and sighed as if in
anticipation of the man standing in front of her. Putting her
hands on her hips, “Untie him and have him remove his shirt,”
Mable instructed as she walked around Lucas and looked him up
Lantree cocked the hammer of his weapon as Holden cut the ropes.
Lucas didn’t hesitate before he threw his shoulder into Lantree
and grabbed for the man’s gun. Lucas didn’t duck fast enough
before Holden had his weapon drawn and brought it down on the
back of his head.
“DON’T DAMAGE MY PROPERTY!” was the last Lucas heard before he
Mark arrived in Elk City just before noon on the twenty-seventh
of January. He took time to curry Rainmaker at the livery before
he headed to the hotel.
After looking at the register, the man behind the counter
commented, “Mr. Jones, there’s a doctor down the end of the
street if you need your hand looked after.”
“Guess I should have someone look at it,” Mark replied as he
looked at the dirty, bloody bandage around his left hand. “Which
The clerk handed Mark the key to his room, “Out the door, turn
right, last door on the left.”
Mark left the lobby with his saddlebag slung over his shoulder,
his Pa’s rifle slung over the crook of his left arm, and his own
rifle in his right hand.
Mark was greeted by a middle-age, portly looking man, wearing
spectacles half-way down his nose as he entered the doctor’s
office. Mark held up his hand and followed the doctor as he
motioned for Mark to an examination room.
After removing the crude and filthy bandage, Doctor Brubaker
commented, “Pretty minor injury for such a messy bandage,” as he
examined the injury. Peering over the rims of his glasses, the
doctor tried to assess why the charade.
“I’m told you can be trusted,” Mark hesitated in asking.
“Depends on what I’m expected to keep a secret. Just so you
know. If you’re an outlaw, I’ll fix up your hand, but that’s
“And if I’m not an outlaw?” Mark asked.
“Not an outlaw…,” the doctor scoffed. “Ain’t nobody but outlaws
come to Elk City any more. Any good, decent folk been driven off
or are too scared to come to town anymore.”
“Then why do you stay? Why not pack up and head to Sayre?”
“Sayre? You know Sheriff James?”
“The man I met wearing the badge was named Gusstafson…” Mark
worriedly answered, wondering if the others were skillfully
laying a trap or was he already in it?
“James Gusstafson. He’s married to my sister; been trying to get
me out of here for quite a while. I would, only there are a few
decent folks around here that still need a good doctor.”
“He said you could be trusted,” Mark said again.
“I need to leave something with you,” Mark stated as he reached
for his saddlebag.
“I don’t have a safe,” Doc replied.
“As long as your desk can lock, I guess that’s good enough,”
Mark replied as he pulled out his journal. “I can’t leave this
at the livery with my saddle, nor can I leave it in the hotel.
If this town is as corrupt as I’ve been informed, this journal…”
“What are you hiding?” Doc Brubaker asked.
“Doc, I’m not an outlaw…” Mark stated, handing the journal to
“You wear a badge?” Doc Brubaker asked, looking over the top of
the rims to his glasses.
“They only sent one man to help clean up this town?!” Doc
Brubaker’s voice elevated, and quickly lowered to a whisper, “I
had hoped the Army might come in.”
“I’m not here in any official capacity, but I can’t just walk
away and leave what good folks there are, in trouble. Let me ask
you, have I jumped straight into the fire. ”
“That pretty well sums it up,” replied Doc Brubaker.
“I also would like to leave this rifle in town. Can your
gunsmith be trusted?” inquired Mark.
“I was curious about the double rifles. Sure he can be trusted,
but I wouldn’t let on to him that you are the law.”
Realizing he needed an excuse, Mark broke off the firing pin to
his Pa’s rifle; effectively disabling it from possibly being
used against him. Finally, he allowed the doctor to re-wrap his
“You take care of yourself. I’ll do my best to help you.”
Upon leaving the doctor’s office, Mark located the gunsmith and
left his Pa’s rifle for repair.
“I got a number of other weapons that were here before you…
Could take me three to four days to get the firing pin fixed and
make sure it’s working properly.”
“That’s fine. Been looking to spend some time out of the saddle
anyway and Elk City seems just the right place.”
“And your other rifle?” the man asked as he eyed it still in
“I can always clean it up for you, compliments of the house.
Since I won’t be able to get the other back to you so quick…”
“No, I prefer to clean it myself. Never know when a body might
For the next three days, Mark kept his true-identity a secret
and learned as much about Elk City as he could. Regretting the
delay this was causing him, but as a U.S. Marshal, he could not
stand by and allow good, God fearing people to suffer.
After retiring to his room and having kicked his boots off, Mark
crawled into the hotel bed and slept so soundly, that he didn’t
hear the door to his room open, let alone the quiet footsteps of
the man who walked across the floor in the early morning hours.
Mark’s eyes bolted open with fear as a hand was placed across
his mouth, “Easy there Mark, it is me,” came the quiet voice
that belonged to the hand, “Sam Buckhart.”
As rationale thinking returned to Mark’s mind, he took the time
to confirm the voice as his friend, U.S. Marshal Sam Buckhart.
Mark’s taunt body relaxed as he tried to slow the rapid beat of
“I presume Tom Benton sent you to help me find my Pa?”
“Find Lucas? He’s missing?”
“I’ve trailed him this far… If you’re not here to help me, what
are you doing here?” Mark asked.
“I’m on assignment. Mark, you’re being watched in this town.”
“That’s what I had hoped for,” Mark replied.
“This town and Burns Flatt are full of outlaws. What are you up
to and how did Lucas end up missing?”
“A bounty hunter took him before Christmas.”
“Christmas? That was over six weeks ago?” Sam stated.
“I know, I’ve been in the saddle since the day after he turned
up missing.” Swinging his legs over the side of the bed, Mark
continued, “It was a ruse from so long ago. Micah and the
Marshal up in La Mesa, Wyoming put out a wanted poster on Pa.
It’s not valid…”
“But how did you end up here?”
“It said Pa was wanted in Oklahoma. I presume this bounty hunter
Turpin found it and is trying to claim a reward. Elk City is the
largest city he’s been through in the territory.”
“Turpin is dead,” Sam stated.
Not believing, Mark asked, “What are you talking about?”
“That bounty hunter was killed not quite a week ago. I buried
him out on the trail.”
“Killed… If he was killed, where’s Pa?”
“Mark, if Lucas was with Turpin, then he has been pulled into a
terrible situation, the reason that I am here. And the only way
he is going to get out, is for you and me to think rationally
and on our feet.”
“I know some about missing men, that’s why I came in here
without wearing my badge. I was hoping if I can catch up with
Pa, then together, we can help deal with whoever is
“There are too many men in the camp for the two of you to
handle,” Sam answered.
“But you make three?” Mark asked.
“Mark this situation is bigger than your looking for your
father. This bounty hunter was last seen in the company of two
men I’ve been trailing after. I followed their tracks only to
find the man dead and evidence of someone who put up a struggle.
I now believe that man was your father. And if that is the case,
I fear your father has been taken to Burns Flatt and that place
is a stronghold all its own.”
“Then let’s go!” Mark stated as he jumped to his feet.
“Mark, from what I’ve learned, this camp is run by a woman who
has a flair for the ancient world. At Harvard I learn of the
Roman Gladiators and evidently the men who are taken are made to
fight in her arena.”
“Fight?” the word died on Mark’s lips. “Sam, if they have Pa,
then I have to get inside. I have to make it so they take me
“No, your father would not hear of it,” Sam replied.
“He’s not here, besides, I’m your superior…” replied Mark,
knowing full well his pulling rank was dirty handed.
Knowing both McCain’s as well as he did, Sam realized now was
not the time to argue with Mark. Better to stay close where he
could keep an eye on Lucas’ son versus alienating him and
forcing him to go it alone.
“Tell me what you want me to do,” Sam answered.
“I’ll get into a brawl in the saloon tomorrow afternoon, if you
indicate the men who killed Turpin are present.”
“Why not today?”
“Today is Sunday… At least it will after the town wakes,”
answered Mark, raising his eyebrows.
Mark stood at the far end of the bar, casually drinking from the
beer mug in his hand. In the reflection of the mirror, Mark
watched Sam give him the signal and pointed out the two men he
had been trailing as they entered the saloon.
Flipping a couple extra coins on the bar, Mark turned to leave,
bending down to pickup his rifle, he deliberately bumped into a
patron stepping to the bar, “Watch where you’re going!” Mark
“Watch it yourself,” the man replied.
With the speed of a rattlesnake, Mark reacted as the man threw a
punch in Mark’s direction. Mark ducked and landed a hard punch
of his own along the side of the man’s ribcage. The man bellowed
and dove for Mark, catching him in a bear hug and lifting Mark
off the ground. Mark used both hands and boxed the man’s ears.
The man dropped Mark as he reached for his ears, to ease his
pain. Upon gaining his balance, Mark threw a right hook landing
solidly on the man’s left jaw and quickly backed away. Again,
the man charged for Mark, who readily sidestepped his opponent
but landed another punch to the man’s ribcage as he fell past
As the fight continued, the man did manage to land a few punches
to Mark’s jaw and a couple to his ribs. The patrons inside the
bar were readily enjoying the brawl, yelling encouragement with
a few placing side bets. The disappointed in the room was
staggering when Mark landed just the right punch and sent his
opponent to the ground, unconscious. Standing, both hands to his
knees, heavily breathing from his exertions, Mark accepted the
congratulations and offers for drinks on the house.
The bartender handed Mark a full glass of beer as a skimpily
dressed, young woman wrapped her arm around Mark’s right arm.
Pulling a handkerchief from between her breasts, she dipped a
corner of it in Mark’s beer before dabbing at the blood coming
from the corner of his mouth.
“Ow, that stings,” complained Mark.
“Cowboy, you take out Goliath there singlehandedly and complain
about my ministrations to cleaning your wound…” the woman’s
“The name’s Joel Jones. Maybe I should have let him beat up on
me a little more,” Mark stated as he sipped from the glass of
beer. Remembering to play his role, Mark’s gaze traveled from
the woman’s face, pausing as her bosoms lifted with her deep
“I can fulfill all your pleasures, and ease your hurts a bit
too…” she spoke as she leaned against Mark.
From the corner of his eye, Mark saw one of the men approaching.
Pretending not to notice, Mark rested an elbow on the bar,
leaned close to the woman, “You are quite…” Mark whispered in
“Hazel, leave us,” the man demanded as he pushed Hazel aside.
“Mister, I don’t know who you are, but the woman and I are
having a conversation,” Mark stated as he stood straight, his
posture daring the man to fight.
“I’m not here to fight you. You two can talk later. Right now I
have a proposition for you.”
“A proposition? Ain’t that some kind of grammar ya learn in
school,” Mark wily asked.
Figuring Mark wasn’t that well educated, the man corrected, “I
would like to talk with you about a business arrangement.”
“Do I get paid for this… arrangement?” Mark asked.
“Let’s go into the back room and talk.”
The man stepped away from the bar, turned and walked through the
doorway, encouraging Mark to follow him.
Setting his beer mug down, Mark picked up his rifle from leaning
against the front of the bar and followed the man.
Mable tried to hand Lucas a drink as he relaxed back on the
couch in her office.
“Well Doc?” Mable asked after he had finished wrapping bandages
round Lucas’ ribs.
“He won’t be able to fight in your next tournament,” Doc stated
as he stood. “That’ll be fifteen dollars.”
“Fifteen, that’s robbery!” Mable declared.
“You want my services, you pay my price.”
Sashaying to her desk, Mable opened a drawer and pulled out a
moneybox. She let those present in the room know her displeasure
as she counted out the money.
“I just may have to find another doctor to fulfill our
requirements,” Mable stated as she turned her back on the doctor
and walked to her desk. “Leave us!” she demanded as she flipped
her hand over her shoulder.
Holden closed the door after the others left Mable’s office.
“That means you too, Aaron,” Mable ordered.
Sulking, Holden left the office, slamming the door behind him.
“It’s so hard finding good help,” Mable stated as she stood from
her desk and proceeded to sit down on the couch, next to Lucas.
“Now, you’ve done quite well for yourself in the arena the last
four times. And, you’ve made me very, very rich.”
“I’ve done what I’ve had to do in order to survive. The men
talk, if a man doesn’t fight, you order his execution,” Lucas
stated as he placed his hand to his side, as if it would take
away some of the pain.
“Execution is such a graphic word. But you,” Mable leaned into
Lucas. “I can make your life easy or I can make your life… end.
It’s your choice.”
“I just want out of here and to get back to my home,” Lucas
stated, looking straight ahead.
“Home? I take it you’ve family… and a wife…”
Mable opened her hand for Lucas to see his own wedding band. The
wedding band Turpin had taken from him their first meeting.
“Yes, I’m married to a woman I love.”
“We’ll see about that. In time…”
Mark returned to his hotel room and closed the door behind him.
Sitting down at the foot of the bed, Mark worried about his Pa,
and how all of this was going to pan out.
“Enter…” Mark called upon hearing a knock on the door.
“You were pulled away before we could finish our conversation…”
Hazel entered the room carrying two glasses and a bottle. “I
thought we could celebrate your win over Goliath. Have our own
“Hazel, I’ve spent too many days in the saddle and taking on
that gorilla… I’m plumb tired…”
“Men say my hands work magic in nursing the weary traveler… or
“Not tonight,” answered Mark.
“You don’t know what you’re missing…” Hazel sorrowfully answered
while approaching Mark. Hazel knew how to move her body to tease
“If you’ve been with one woman, the next…” Mark answered and
quickly ducked as Hazel threw the bottle towards him.
“Ewwwwwww, MEN!” Hazel yelled as she turned and slammed the door
behind her as she left the room.
After seeing Lucas returned to one of the bunkhouses, Mable
called Holden into her office.
“Well, Lucas is unable to fight for a few days; I need someone
new, exciting, and just as crafty…”
“There’s a young poke in town.”
“I don’t want young, I want STRONG,” Mable stated wrapping her
arms around herself.
“Strong? You asked Goliath about his black eye?”
“This young man you’re talking about took on Goliath?”
“Bring him to me.”
Even though he heard them enter his room, Mark found himself
being roughly rousted from bed, “Jones, get dressed! Time to
meet your new employer.”
“In the middle of the night?”
“Either that or you meet the undertaker…” Lantree snickered.
Holden and Lantree led Mark into the dimly lit office.
“You’re the scrapper who took down Goliath?” Mable asked as she
stood from her desk.
“What’s it to you?” Mark answered.
“A man with your talents can… let’s just say bring a new breed
of money into my fights.”
“Money’s money,” stated Mark.
“Good looks, very muscular arms...” Mable stated as she ran her
hands down Mark’s upper arm, squeezing his arm in admiration.
“Remove your shirt.”
“Do as Miss Mable says,” Lantree barked and jabbed his handgun
in Mark’s back when he didn’t move.
“Don’t tell me you’re embarrassed by little ole me,” Mable added
a little southern accent to her voice.
“You want my shirt off...”
Receiving a stronger jab in the back, “Mind yourself in front of
“Oh, I do like a man who knows how to give a woman a treat,”
Mable whispered as she stood in front of Mark.
Mable reached up toward the first fastened button on Mark’s
shirt and started to unbutton it, lingering before moving down
to the next button. She pulled up on the shirt to unbutton the
last button. Letting the shirt hang open, Mable sighed as she
looked at the sinewy muscles across Mark’s chest.
Running her hands across his chest, Mable pushed Mark’s shirt
off his shoulders, as she walked around to his back, lingering
her fingers as she toyed them over his bare skin.
Mark remembered Marnie’s warning of a spider and her web; he
couldn’t help his revulsion at the way this woman was treating
him. ‘Like a prize breeding bull,’ slipped into Mark’s
consciousness and he could not prevent the shudder that coursed
through his body.
“Oh, you’ll more than do,” Mable whispered in Mark’s ear.
Turning to Lantree, “Take him to Bunkhouse B.”
“He’ll do?” Holden queried. “And just how will he do?”
“Don’t tell me you’re getting jealous, Aaron?” Mable asked.
“I just don’t like you getting so involved with these men,”
Holden stated, pulling Mable into his arms and burying his face
at the base of her neck. Mable tilted her head backwards and to
the side; allowing her long blonde hair to fall off her
shoulders, revealing the cut of her dress and exposing plenty of
cleavage. Holden breathed in deeply of her perfume.
“Haven’t you noticed the men are bringing escorts and the women
are getting interested in the fighting? They’re even betting.”
Pushing Holden’s head away from approaching her breasts, “We
need good looking men in the arena. Lucas will do once he’s
healed, but we also need to address the other women who are
coming… Some of the women go for mature men like Lucas… Others…
let’s just say young, vibrant women need young, vibrant men.”
“And you being a young and vibrant woman?” Holden asked and
pulled Mable closer, if it was even possible.
“You’re the only one man enough to bed me. But keep up this
jealous streak and I might have to train one of my gladiators in
just how to please me when I take him to bed.”
“Mable, don’t make threats you can’t keep.”
“Threats? Who said anything about threats, my love…” Mable
playfully removed Holden’s jacket and lingered even longer as
she unbuttoned his shirt. “That Jones might be well built, but
you know there’s just something about you that he’ll never
measure up to…” Mable twirled a lock of hair from Holden’s chest
around her finger.
“Thompson, just what’s this all about?” Holden asked as he blew
smoke from the cigar he was enjoying into the air.
“I gotta see Miss Mable.”
“You don’t get it. Miss Mable doesn’t want to see you. You’re
just supposed to clean up the bunkhouses, the arena, and this
office, behind the scenes.”
“I know and I done that. But she’s gotta know…”
“I gotta know what?” Mable asked as she walked up from behind
Thompson and ran her hand over the top of his head, pushing his
engineers hat off.
“Oh, Miss Mable, please don’t do that,” Thompson begged,
grabbing for his hat.
“What do I need to know?” Mable femininely asked as she sat on
the edge of her desk.
“One of the new men…” Thompson stopped talking as Mable leaned
forward to scratch at her ankle.
“What about one of the new men?” Mable asked.
“I don’t think he is who he says he is. I worked the trains and
he ain’t no drifting cowboy. It’s been a long time ago, but I
swear he’s the same man I saw. For two days I been thinking on
“Same man you saw? Who? Where? When?” Mable raised up, her
interested piqued, and stood to her feet.
“Now it’s been nigh on eight years, but I remember lawmen,”
“LAWMAN!” Mable declared. Her eyes expressed her anger towards
Holden. “You bring a lawman here?!”
“Lawman? Thompson, you’re a drunk!” Holden declared.
“I weren’t a drunk back then. But I remember him, his name,
McCain, same as the tall man.”
“McCain? You think he’s related to McCain?” Holden asked.
“I never saw the tall man before he arrived here, but the one
calling himself Jones I heard him say he came here from New
Mexico and I remember the lawman from New Mexico.”
“Oh, you…” Mable dared Holden to say anything. “If Jones is a
lawman, this McCain… Then his first fight will be his last
fight. If he manages to win his match, you’ll see that he
doesn’t live to see dawn.”
“What about the other… Your Lucas?” Holden asked.
“Imagine the fun I’ll have, watching him watching his son die…”
“Mable,” Holden stated as he came to stand behind her and
wrapped his arms around her shoulders. “You’re enjoying this as
much as a cat toying with a mouse.”
“Toying is so much more fun…” Mable whispered. “Now, get the
arena ready. We’ve a fight to put on tonight. Oh, and keep them
“McCain ain’t been out of the bunkhouse since Doc left,” Holden
Lucas had endured, but at a cost, an eye practically swollen
shut and badly bruised ribs. As uncomfortable as he was, he
tried to sleep and not think about the pain.
One of the hands entered the bunkhouse and declared, “Listen
up!! Tonight’s combatants are, Washburn, Pulaski, Howell, and
Lucas closed his eyes and sighed deeply as a he pushed the
vision of Milly further from his thoughts.
Not a vacant seat remained around the arena, men and women alike
brought the house to capacity, many dressed for a high social
occasion. In the middle of the arena, Mable began announcing to
those present, “Not all of our gladiators are big men. Same as
in Roman times, we have gladiators of various sizes. Various
levels of training. As fighting skills increase, so does the
reward and the gladiator’s status. So, ladies and gentlemen, for
the first time, I present to you the feather-weights!”
Mark watched from the sidelines and thought ‘black widow,
indeed.’ Mable was dressed in another low cut dress, black with
sparkles and a red belt around her waist. Mark noticed the easy
smile she held on her face as she exited the floor. From behind,
Mark felt a set of strong hands push him into the arena as
another man eagerly entered the arena from the opposite side;
both stripped to their waists. Mark was curious about the
wrapping around his opponent’s hands while he danced about the
floor, jabbing his fists into the air.
After leaving the arena floor, Mable maneuvered next to Lucas,
intently watching his expression. Mable wickedly delighted in
the anticipation, as ‘Jones’ turned around to keep an eye his
opponent as the man danced around the floor. Holden prevented
Lucas’ attempt to bolt forward and yell, by pulling his gun, “I
wouldn’t if I were you McCain.”
“So what Thompson told us is true? Let’s see if the son is as
good as the father,” Mable purred, teasing Lucas.
The crowd started yelling, encouraging the fight to begin.
Everyone present saw that Mark’s opponent was a scrapper; and to
Lucas he appeared to be someone who enjoyed fighting on the
bowery, be that east coast or west coast. Even though he wasn’t
overly tall, he had weight behind him.
The women present began to take notice of Mark, as tall as his
opponent but… One of the women reached out to the shirtless Mark
as he passed in front of her. Mark was oblivious to the woman’s
actions as he attempted to evaluate his opponent.
Mark’s opponent was the first to throw a punch, Mark had seen it
coming and was able to step aside, barely evading the blow to
his cheekbone. Mark felt the air push against his cheek as the
fist missed. Raising his own fists in a defensive posture, Mark
saw an opening and threw a jab towards the other man’s exposed
“Ow!” roared from the crowd as fist on flesh sounded throughout
Both fighters landed punches and both fighters caused their
opponent to miss. Those present were thoroughly enjoying Mable’s
From the sidelines, Lucas tried his best to think of a way for
him to protect his son.
Mark was growing tired, each punch he landed coursed through his
arm and into his chest. With each punch missed, Mark felt the
waste of his energy. Worse was each punch that his opponent
landed. As with Goliath previously, Mark saw his opening and
landed a lucky punch knocking his opponent off his feet. The
crowd yelled wildly. Mark stepped back as the man tried to crawl
to his feet. The crowd started yelling for Mark to ‘kill him’.
The mere thought of the brutally these people expected was
sickening. It only took a few more moments before the man’s arms
gave way and he dropped to the ground unconscious.
Lantree entered the arena with his weapon holstered and tossed a
towel to Mark, and pointed the direction for him to exit the
arena. Upon reaching the sidelines, two other men took positions
on either side of Mark.
“You stay put, we’ve a surprise for you… later,” Lantree spoke.
Mable assumed her position in the middle of the arena, “Ladies
and Gentlemen, I hope you’ve enjoyed your visit this evening and
all the previous matches?”
The throng yelled “Yes!” as cheers echoed through the room.
“Since no one brought from their own stable any man for this a
match, our final battle this evening pits my current champion
against one of my own who has displeased me.” Turning around
with her arms held wide, “Let the battle begin!” Mable declared
and quickly left the floor.
Each man standing next to Mark grabbed hold of one of his arms
while Lantree whispered, “One move and you’re dead, not to
mention your papa.”
Mark cringed upon seeing his Pa’s eye swollen shut and the
discoloration along his ribs. Mark recognized the man who stood
opposite his Pa, ‘Goliath’.
Even in as much pain as he had to be, Lucas fought for his life,
because he realized his and his son’s lives depended upon him
winning this fight and staying alive.
The crowd roared, giving Mark the distraction he needed to break
away from those standing guard over him after he watched his
father fall to the ground and struggle rise. Goliath threw
several savage kicks to Lucas’ ribs and one last stomp on Lucas’
leg. Running across the floor, Mark jumped on the fighter’s back
and wrapped his legs around the man’s waist. His arms held a
death lock around the man’s neck. The fighter spun around as he
threw his elbows backwards, striking Mark hard in the ribs. Each
time, Mark struggled to take in a breath and keep his arms’
grip. The man continued to spin around as his vision started to
fade and he lost consciousness. Mark didn’t have time to react
as his weight caused the man to fall backwards, collapsing on
top of Mark. Mark’s head struck the ground causing his vision to
become blurry, but he struggled to remain conscious.
Lucas and Mark were oblivious to everything happening outside of
the arena as men started yelling and women started screaming.
The crowd broke and ran in every direction. Lucas managed to
drag himself over to where Mark lie and pulled his son out from
underneath the unconscious Goliath.
Shaking his head to help regain his senses, Mark looked to
Lucas, “Pa, are you alright?”
“I’ve been better, son.”
The room had quieted when Mark finally looked up to see men
wearing badges surrounding the spectators and competitors alike.
They both heard, “I’m looking for Lucas or Mark McCain.”
Weakly Mark called out, “Over here.”
A corridor slowly appeared through the throng and Mark
recognized a few of their rescuers walking towards them, Tom
Benton and Coltrane Walker, in addition to Sam Buckhart.
“Unhand me!” Mable called as another deputy escorted her to the
Lucas gave a brief laugh followed by a groan as even that little
movement agitated his ribs, he collapsed to lay flat out on the
“Pa!” Mark called out. “Tom, get a doctor in here! Pa’s beat
The rescuers loaded Lucas and Mark in the back of a wagon and
with Tom Benton volunteering to drive the buckboard; they were
made ready to travel.
Before leaving Tom hollered, “Coltrane, I want names and
addresses from everyone present. Figure out who were spectators
and who were running the fight. Separate the fighters and I’ll
be back once Lucas and Mark are tended to.”
Tom rein slapped the horses to get them moving as they proceeded
to Elk City and Doctor Brubaker’s clinic.
“Your father will be okay, but he’s going to be sore for quite a
long time. He received at least three broken ribs on his left
side, and his ribs on the right are bruised. His left leg is
fractured so he won’t be walking for a while. I’ve sedated him;
he should sleep through the night. Now, what about you?” the Doc
“Just been used as a punching bag, though not nearly as bad as
my Pa,” Mark answered as he looked to the room where his pa
Once Doc Brubaker saw for himself that Mark was telling the
truth, he released Mark from the clinic with orders to head to
the café for a bite to eat.
Mark stepped into the telegraph office first.
Milly and Hope McCain
North Fork, New Mexico
Pa sends his love /stop/
So do I /stop/
Not realizing anyone was behind him, Mark startled when he
heard, “Not mentioning Lucas’ injuries?”
“Tom, no. I’m sure they’ve been worried enough. No need to add
“Your call,” Tom replied.
“Tom can I ask you a question?”
“Sure, Mark,” Tom answered, curiously.
“What is today? I’ve totally lost track of how long I’ve been
gone from home.”
“Today’s February fourth.”
Mark took a moment for the date to sink in, “I’ve been gone for
almost seven weeks?”
“Yes,” Tom replied as he put a hand to Mark’s shoulder. “I can’t
wait to read this report.”
“Mark, whether you realize it or not, we’ve been trying to bust
Mable Kargen for years. Never were able to get a man in here. So
you might think you were just trailing after Lucas, but
considering how this excursion ended, you’re considered -- on
duty the whole time you’ve been trailing Lucas.”
“Thanks,” said Mark a little sarcastically.
“Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time to write your report
while you’re heading home. I’ll see that two train tickets are
sent over to the hotel. Once the doc says Lucas is ready to
travel, you two can get out of here.”
“Tom, how did you get here? I mean…” spoke Mark as they stepped
from the telegraph office.
“After you disappeared,” Sam stated as he stood from the bench
out front. “I rode hi-tail for Sayre. We were already working
this case when you showed up, and Tom was waiting for my signal
once I found a way inside... I know that I should not have
allowed you to become involved, but I saw no other way to get
inside their camp.”
Shaking his head, “Can’t you write the report?” Mark asked of
“I will write my part, but you need to fill in the blanks and
your own observations.”
As the threesome headed to the café’ they heard Doc Brubaker
call out for Mark.
“Think you’ll be wanting this later tonight.”
“Thanks doc,” Mark answered as he gladly accepted his journal.
“I hope you have some notes in there to help you write your
report, Marshal McCain,” Tom smiled as he slapped Mark on the
back. “Come on, I know you have to be hungry.”
Throughout the night, Tom Benton and the others rounded up any
known outlaws unfortunate enough to have not left Elk City and
handled arrangements for their transportation to whichever
jurisdiction had warrants out for their arrests. Those who
hadn’t heard the news gave up their weapons upon seeing the
sheer number of U.S. Marshals and Deputies throughout the town.
The following morning, Mark was present when Tom read the
charges against Mable. Tom had put the ‘constable’ in one of his
own cells, pending formal charges being filed against him.
Looking at one of the pictures on the wall, Mark recognized the
map of the Oklahoma Territory and his attention drifted from the
The Next Step — Reunited
This is a story based on the TV
series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
around The McCain Ranch