The Rifleman
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The Next Step…
Chapter 73 – Fort Stanton
Written by Deanne Bertram

The beginning of October saw Mark talking with Johnny about taking some time off, “Johnny, I know I’ve not been back on duty for that long, but later this month, Ethan and Annie celebrate their anniversary and I thought I’d surprise Hope with a trip out of town to visit them. And I guess that once Seth finds out about it, he probably would want to join us.”

“Mark, you don’t have to plead your case to me. You’re entitled to time. Besides, you report to Denver, not me. But with both of you being gone…”

“I could ask Pa, if he’d agree to be your acting deputy or I could ask Uncle Johnny.”

“No!” Johnny answered quickly. “Your Pa would be preferable. The last time I left your Uncle in charge, I seem to remember him letting two of my prisoners go,” Johnny teased.

“You can’t hold that against him, he was only doing what I asked,” Mark pleaded.

“I know boy. Ask your Pa and if he says no, and if Micah were to say no, then I’ll consider your uncle.”

“Thanks, Johnny. I’ll ask Pa this weekend. Need to get all the details straightened out with Ethan first.”

*****

Lucas and Mark left their homes early Saturday morning to check their herds before heading into town with their families to do their weekly shopping. As they sat on their horses, overlooking one of their herds, Mark stated, “Pa, I have a favor to ask.”

“What is it, Mark?” Lucas asked as he removed his hat and wiped his brow with the back side of his sleeve.

“I was wanting to surprise Hope with a trip up to Fort Stanton in a couple of weeks…”

“Ethan and Annie’s anniversary?”

“Yes sir, only if I take Hope, I know that Seth will want to come too…”

“And that leaves Johnny shorthanded while the two of you are gone.”

“Yes sir, I don’t think we’ll be gone more than ten days. And I know that Johnny would appreciate you being an acting deputy more than Uncle Johnny. You’ve got the experience and have stepped in plenty of times before.”

“You know I’ll have to ask your ma, seeing as how I don’t think you’ll be taking your children with you?”

“I hadn’t planned on it. I mean it’s been a long time since Hope and I had time to ourselves,” Mark stated matter-of-factly.

“That is the problem in being married, with children. I seem to remember this town sending Milly and me on a belated honeymoon, sure Mark. As long as your Ma is okay with taking care of all the children.”

“Gwen will still be here to help out, so it won’t just be you and Ma taking, oh, just Ma taking care of them.”

“Come on… Let’s check the rest of our cattle and get back home.”

*****

Several nights later, the McCain families were joined by Seth Lane for supper. Most of the conversation around the table was directed by the children. The adults didn’t mind, they’d have their time to talk later in the evening.

After supper, Milly, Hope, and Gwen cleared the table and did the dishes while Lucas and Mark, with Seth helping, put the children to bed for the night. After returning to the front porch of Lucas and Milly’s home, the men sat down, just as Milly brought out the pot of coffee and Hope handed cups to them. Gwen started to say goodnight, when Mark asked her to stay.

“But this is your family time,” Gwen answered.

“Gwen, you are part of this family and I have something I would like to discuss tonight and it will affect you,” Mark replied as he motioned for her to sit in the chair on the porch. Hope sat down on the porch next to Mark, leaning back into him, while Milly sat in the chair next to Lucas. Seth sat on the porch and leaned again the porch post opposite from Mark.

Once everyone was settled, Mark stated, “I’ve an announcement that I’d like to make. Now, I’ve already spoken with Johnny and Pa, and I’ve already wired Ethan…”

“Just what are you up to Mark?” Hope asked.

“Well, Ethan and Annie’s anniversary is in a few weeks and I thought it would be nice for us to travel to Fort Stanton to help them celebrate their anniversary. Pa’s agreed to step in as an acting deputy, since I’m sure that Seth would like to join us.”

“Can we really do this?” Hope excitedly asked.

“Mark, are you sure Johnny is okay with this?” Seth asked.

“I spoke with him a few days ago and he said as long as Pa could help cover for us… But, it would also mean leaving our children here, with Ma and Gwen taking care of them.” Mark looked tentatively to Milly.

“Mark, you and Hope deserve some time away. And I think it’s wonderful for you to go visit her brother and Annie,” Milly answered.

“Gwen, would you be okay being here with the children, without Hope or me being around?” Mark asked.

“Sure, I mean… Your parents are so close if anything were to happen or I needed help,” Gwen answered.

“Oh, I can’t wait to wire Annie to let her know…”

“There’s one condition,” Mark interrupted.

“What’s that?” Hope asked.

“Ethan wants our arrival to be a surprise for Annie,” Mark answered.

*****

The morning of their departure woke distressingly enough. Mykaela was crying and could not be quieted, no matter how much Hope rocked her. The boys wouldn’t budge from their room.

“Boys, in here, now!” Mark demanded in a tone he rarely, ever used.

Slowly, one by one they came from their bedroom into the front room.

“Now, we talked about this last night and you promised you would behave. Your Ma and I, and your Grandpa Seth are going to visit your Uncle Ethan and Aunt Annie, we’ll be back before you know it.”

“Why can’t we go, too?” Josh asked.

“Because they live on a army post,” Mark replied.

“But they have children too, don’t they?” Zach asked.

“They do.”

“Why can’t we go?” Eli asked.

“Because Grandpa Lucas and Grandma Milly would miss you,” Hope stated as she continued to rock Mykaela.

“But won’t you miss us?” Zach asked as he tried to hold back his tears.

“Oh Zach,” Mark stated as he knelt down in front of his middle son, “Your Mama and I will miss you, very much. But we can’t take you on this trip. You’ll understand when you’re older.”

“How old?” Josh asked as he wrapped his arms around Mark.

Mark was never more happy to hear his father enter their home, “How are my grandsons this morning?” Lucas cheerfully asked, sensing the mood of the room and trying to lighten it. “Grandma Milly has pancakes on the stove and is just waiting for her grandchildren to come over. And I hear tell, she and Gwen are planning to bake cookies this afternoon and are going to need plenty of help licking the batter bowls clean.”

“Can we help?” Eli asked as he sniffed away his tears.

“Sure, come on,” Lucas stated as he corralled the three boys and Gwen took Mykaela from Hope.

Knowing that Hope was almost as despondent over leaving her children as the children had been, Mark joked, “Grandpa comes over and offers them pancakes and cookies and they forget all about us.” Still trying to cheer up his wife, “Come on, let’s get our bags to the buckboard so Pa can take us to town. I promise, they’ll be fine. It’s not like we’ve not let others watch them before.”

“I know, but before, we’ve always been close by, either here or in town. Mark, it’ll take us almost a day to get home if something were to happen.”

”Don’t you trust Ma to take good care of her grandchildren?” Mark teasingly asked.

“Mark?!,” Hope stated as she swatted towards Mark.

“I understand, I’m gonna miss them too.”

*****

Upon their arrival in town, they stopped at Seth’s home and collect him and his bag. Lucas drove the buckboard to the train station to drop off their luggage, befire the group headed over to the Marshal’s office. Lucas’ face held surprise when the foursome entered the office and Micah and Hattie were standing inside.

“I have to make sure he does this all proper. It’s been a while since Johnny’s deputized anyone,” Micah teased.

Johnny picked the badge up from off his desk and administered the oath to Lucas and pinned the badge to Lucas’s shirt.

“What’s so funny Mark?” Lucas asked as Mark laughed when Johnny stepped back.

“Just remembering all the times when I was younger and Micah would swear you in to help out. It always made me proud to see you wear the badge.”

“Well, just as a reminder, this is only temporary. And I mean, temporary!”

Lucas, Hattie, and Micah followed Mark, Hope, and Seth to the train depot and said goodbye. It was difficult for Lucas to watch them board the train, especially his son. Lucas knew that Mark was grown and had a life of his own to live, yet still...

*****

The first night Lucas stayed in town, he had hoped things would be quiet. He was sorely disappointed. Several cattle drives arrived in the area and when the drovers arrived in town, they headed straight for Sweeney’s. Things got rowdy, so much so that Sweeney came running to the Marshal’s, begging for help.

“There are two competing cattle drives and there’s bad blood a boiling, even their ramrods are having trouble keeping ‘em in line. Most all our folks scattered quickly once those crews arrived, but them drovers!” Sweeney shouted as he entered.

Johnny and Lucas ran back to Sweeney’s, they heard the fracas well before they reached the doors to the saloon. Even with two different ramrods and the marshals trying to bring the melee’ to order, a number of the drovers didn’t want to break off their fight. One rather large, drunken drover threw a punch, landing squarely on the jaw of another, driving him backwards, into an unsuspecting Johnny Drako. Both men landed hard on the floor, with the drover landing on top of Johnny’s leg. Finally, Lucas had enough, he raised his rifle and fired three, rapid shots into the ceiling, regretting the holes that Sweeney was going to have to patch. Quickly the fight subsided except for two men, their ramrods struggled to pulled the men apart.

“Now, every drover in this saloon is under arrest. Ramrods, I expect you to pull the guns from your men and place them on the bar. Then one by one you’ll exit this establishment, and ramrods you’ll give me your full cooperation, and head them over to the jail. It’s going to be mighty crowded, but you men asked for it,” Lucas demanded.

As each man left the saloon, Lucas looked them over to make sure they had be disarmed.

Before Lucas could leave, he turned, still hearing someone cursing. Sweeney hollered, “Lucas, Johnny’s down, I think he busted his leg.”

“Why don’t you go and get Doc, I need to get these men into the jail.”

Lucas put six drovers in one cell and five drovers in the other, ignoring their complaints about the tight quarters. Lucas turned to the ramrods and stated, “You can get your drovers in the morning, and tell your trail bosses I expect them to be here in the morning and ready to make restitution for all the damages done.”

“Deputy, you’re rifle? You’re the Rifleman?,” the first ramrod asked.

“I’ve been called that,” Lucas stated.

“You could have taken anyone of them down,” the ramrod stated.

“Not over a bar fight, but had any one of them drawn…”

“We’re sorry for the trouble our men caused,” the first ramrod apologized.

“I’m not. But them drovers will be the sorry ones,” the second ramrod spoke. “It’ll be a long time before they get to head to any town we pass near.”

*****

Lucas returned to Sweeney’s to find Doc splinting Johnny’s busted leg. “How is he doc?”

“He’ll live, but he’s going to be on crutches for at least five to six weeks. I’ve set the leg and splint it here, Sweeney went to get Lou. Would you help me get Johnny over to the clinic. I’ll be able to put a cast on his leg over there.”

“Sure Doc,” Lucas stated as he helped haul Johnny to his feet.

Johnny muttered, “Of all the damn luck! I can’t believe this! If I find out which one…”

“Take it easy there Johnny,” Lucas suggested. “You were complaining about wanting some down time earlier this evening.”

“Yeah, but not this way,” Johnny grumbled.

With his left arm over Lucas’ shoulder and the right arm over Doc’s, Johnny hung his broken left leg as he ‘swung’ between the two.

*****

Lucas met a frantic Lou as she entered the clinic, “Now Lou, he’s gonna be okay. Doc said he just has a broken leg. He’s putting a cast on it as we speak.”

“All Sweeney said was that Johnny was hurt. What happened…? You don’t know how it worried me…”

“I do know. Just take a deep breath and I’ll take you back to the room and Johnny can tell you all about it.”

After showing Lou to the room where Doc was tending to Johnny, Lucas returned to the Marshal’s Office.

It didn’t surprise Lucas one bit when he entered and saw Micah waiting there to greet him, “Looks like you got more than a full house, LucasBoy.”

“Sure do. Never had this many at one time. Guess with everything else expanding, we kind of forgot about expanding the jail,” Lucas replied as he removed his hat and set it and his rifle down on the desk.

“Never had half this many inside at any one time. How’s Johnny doing, Sweeney said he busted his leg?”

“Yeah, one of the drovers fell on him and broke it. Doc said probably five to six weeks until he’s off the crutches.”

“You be needing any help around here?” Micah asked. As long has he had been retired, every now and then he still missed wearing the badge.

“You volunteering to help out?”

“You know I am,” Micah replied.

“What does Hattie say?”

“I’m the boss in my home,” Micah gruffly answered, but then added, “She pushed me out the door. Said something about me being underfoot a little too much lately.”

“You can come on back to the clinic and Johnny can swear you in, all legal like,” Lucas grinned.

*****

Dawn came to North Fork and many of her long time residents smiled as they passed by the Marshal’s office, seeing Lucas and Micah sitting out front, both with badges pinned to their shirts. Many commented on how good it was, felt like old times returning.

“You gonna feed them breakfast this morning?” Micah asked.

“Naw, let them deal with it when their tail bosses arrive and in fact, I think our first one is about here.”

The first ramrods, from the night before, and his boss halted their horses in front of the Marshal’s Office. As they stepped down, the trail boss stated, “I’m with the Arizona Bar Cross crew and I understand you have six of my drovers locked up.”

“I do,” Lucas stated as he stood.

“How much do I owe to bail them out and pay for damages?”

“Well, Sweeney stated there was about a hundred and fifty dollars worth of damage to his saloon, then there’s bail for drunk and disorderly at twenty-five dollars a head. That comes to two hundred and twenty-five dollars.”

“Damn, Pecos. You let them know, this is coming out of their wages. Every last penny,” the trail boss stated as he pulled out a roll of money and counted out what was owed.

“And they will also owe for their horses being put up at the livery overnight. That’s two dollars a head.” The ramrod kept quiet as the trail boss looked back to him.

Micah unlocked the cell and one by one the six drovers quietly walked out the door and headed to the livery. Within fifteen minutes, the eight riders were on their way out of town.

“Well, that’s half of them LucasBoy, that’s half,” Micah laughed.

It wasn’t that long before the second trail boss and his ramrod arrived in town.

“What the damages?” the man gruffly asked, offering no pleasantries. Lucas and Micah could tell this man didn’t put up with this type of shenanigans and the men would be dealt with, upon their return to camp.

“There’s half the damages from the saloon, then twenty-five dollars a head for each man to bail them out, then there’s the doctor’s fees. One of your men slugged another and causing him to fall on our Marshal, breaking his leg,” Lucas stated as he scratched under his nose.

“What’s the total, man. I ain’t got all day.”

“Two hundred and twenty five dollars, plus two dollars a head, per horse for the livery,” Micah answered.

“Cooley, pay the Marshal,” he coldly stated as he walked into the office.

The trail boss pulled himself up tall and stared his men down as Micah let the drovers out. Not one man looked at their boss as they walked past him, heads down, fumbling with their hat. Not one man offered any kind of an excuse or apology for their actions.

Once the second bunch was on their way out of town, Lucas and Micah sat back and laughed. It had been a while since the two of them had had so much fun together. Micah counted out the money for Sweeney and handed Lucas the rest.

“Best put that in the bank LucasBoy,” Micah laughed and shook his head.

“Once I pay doc, then I’ll head to the bank.”

*****

Ethan was there to greet his family as the train pulled into the station in bustling town of Stanton.

“Father, Hope!” Ethan called over the sound of the train letting off steam. “Mark! Great to see you!” Ethan stated as he held out his hand in greeting.

Ethan enthusiastically greeted his sister by swooping her up in a hug and swinging her around, before setting her to her feet.

“Father, welcome to Stanton,” Ethan stated as he shook his father’s hand. “I’ve a buggy here to take us back to Fort Stanton.” Ethan took Hope’s bag, with Seth and Mark carrying their own, and led the way. Once the luggage was secured in the back and everyone settled, Ethan urged the team to head on to the fort.

“Who’s your commanding officer?” Seth asked as they approached the fort.

“Colonel Henry Paul. He’s been here for about five years. You’ll be staying in the guest quarters assigned to him. Father, he’s looking forward to meeting you.”

“Oh and Sis, please don’t be upset that I’m keeping this a surprise from Annie. She’ll find out you’re here tonight at dinner. Tonight’s Colonel Paul’s dinner with his staff and all three of you are invited.” Then quietly Ethan asked, “Did you happen to bring that green dress you wore the last time?”

“No, but I have a different one that Mark surely loves,” Hope answered.

“Well, he better love you. If you get as fancied up as you did the last time, every man on this post will be begging for a dance before the evening’s over.”

“A dance?” Hope asked surprised.

“Sure, just a fiddle, juice harp, and an accordion. It’s all good fun. We’re not quite as formal as Fort Sam.”

*****

As Ethan was showing his family into their quarters, they heard a knock on the opened door.

“Well, Captain. I see your family arrived safely. Major Lane, I’m pleased to meet you,” Colonel Paul stated, holding out his hand to shake hands with Seth.

“It’s been a few years since anyone’s addressed me as Major. I resigned my commission a number of years ago.”

“Pu-shah! Once a military man, always a military man. I may not salute you, but you earned the rank and you should wear it proudly.”

“Thank you, Colonel.”

“Sir,” Ethan stated. “This is my sister, Hope and her husband, Mark McCain.”

“Please to meet you Ma’am.” The colonel offered to Hope. “So, you’re the young U.S. Marshal that I been hearing so much about. Your brother-in-law doesn’t do a lot of bragging about you, but I hear through the grapevine. Welcome, welcome all. Now, the dinner my wife and I host will be in the officer’s mess hall at six o’clock sharp tonight. I’ll have one of the corporal’s come for you at about quarter till. Until then, just rest and enjoy yourselves. If you wish to freshen up, there’s a private bath through that door there. Oh, and through that door is one bedroom and through the door over there is a second bedroom.” Colonel Paul started to leave, but stopped next to Mark, “My wife would tan my britches if she found out I didn’t say anything… keep your wife close, we’ve a few recruits who are rough around the edges. Such a beautiful lady doesn’t need to be exposed to such men, but the rough ones have their places and are necessary in the army.”

“Thank you sir. I appreciate the advice,” Mark answered.

“Major, Marshal, as you both represent the law, you’re both welcome to continue to wear your badges and your guns when out and about the post. I’ll see you at dinner,” the colonel stated as he made his leave.

*****

It was nearing time for one of the corporals to arrive to escort them to the officer’s mess hall, Seth and Mark waited while Hope finished dressing for the evening. When the door from their sleeping quarters opened, Mark let out a whistle when his eyes fell upon his wife.

“My oh my,” Seth offered. “You’re as stunning as you were for the dinner at Fort Sam.”

“I’m still waiting for my wife to come out of the room,” Mark stated as he blushed.

“Mark McCain!” Hope declared.

Mark walked over to Hope and presented his arm as they heard a knock at the door, “Actually, there has only been one other time when you outshone how you look tonight,” Mark whispered. “May I have the honor?”

Hope nodded and smiled as she set her hand to his arm. Seth opened the door, “I’m Corporal Lance McGreggins, oh my…” and let out a cat whistle as he saw Hope.

“Soldier, you’re looking at my daughter, who happens to be a married woman with her hand on her husband’s arm,” Seth announced.

“What?! Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Sir! I’m sorry! I… I didn’t mean any disrespect, honest. Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat, we don’t get that many women visitors as beautiful as she is. I mean some of the officer’s wives are very pretty and a few are beautiful, but we see them all the time…” The soldier kept digging himself further into his embarrassment. The soldier took a deep breath and gulped it down and after affecting an extremely serious tone, he continued, “Ma’am, please accept my apologies! If you’d allow me, I’ll show you and your party to the officer’s mess hall”

“Corporal, lead on,” Mark stated as he tried not to laugh.

The corporal showed them to a side door, “I was instructed to see that you waited here. I’ll open the door from the other side to let you in.”

From the other side of the door, they could hear the Colonel welcoming the officers and their wives.

“This evening, we have guests visiting. I have invited them to join us for dinner.” The colonel nodded to the corporal to show their guests in, “I present, Deputy Marshal Seth Lane, U.S. Marshal Mark McCain and his wife, Hope, all from North Fork.”

From those present, a feminine voice squealed in surprise. A few decidedly male whistles emanated from some of those present in the room.

“As you can probably surmise, the Deputy is Captain Ethan Lane’s father and Hope McCain is the captain’s sister. So those of you who are single, mind your manners, they represent the law and I have given them full authority to wear the badges and carry their firearms. Captain, if you’d show your family to their seats.”

Annie stood with her hands to her mouth and once Hope was standing beside her the two of them hugged, “Hope, what are you doing here? I mean?”

“Mrs. Lane, I’m pleased we could surprise you for your anniversary, but this is MY dinner party.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, Colonel,” Annie answered and insisted that Hope sit beside her.

“Henry, let them be,” the colonel’s wife chastised, but the colonel didn’t mind, he was enjoying watching the reunion.

Throughout the evening, pleasant conversations were held throughout the room.

Annie quietly asked Hope, “Why didn’t you wire? I mean the colonel knew you were coming?”

“Annie, Mark said Ethan wanted to surprise you. He and Mark talked about our coming here to celebrate your anniversary. I hope you’re not too upset…”

“Never, I’m tickled that you’d come all this way for us.”

“It’s not nearly as far as you’ve traveled, when you’ve visited us in North Fork.”

*****

After the tables were cleared, the colonel stood and tapped his spoon against his class of water to obtain the attention of those present. “Attention, I do have one piece of business to be announced this evening.”

Once all the conversations quieted, the colonel proceeded. “Earlier this month, I failed to post one promotion that was due a member of my staff. It was deliberate on my part, not that I didn’t feel this officer was deserving of the designation, but my wife found out that he had family coming for a visit. Captain Lane, front and center please?”

Ethan excused himself from those around him and walked to where the colonel waited for him.

“It takes courage and dedication to make a commitment to being an army officer. With the transfer of Major Kingston back to Washington, I found myself without a Major at this fort. Ethan, I don’t think those captain’s bars suit you anymore. As approved by Washington, you are hereby afforded the rank of Major in the United Stated Army.”

The colonel waited for Ethan to remove his captain’s bars before he placed the maple leaf pin on the placards on Ethan’s shoulders. “Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, Major Ethan Lane.”

After a hearty round of clapping the colonel motioned for the room to quiet.

“Since, this now concludes this evening’s business, I think after clearing the floor of tables and chairs, a dance is in order.”

As was customary, the Colonel led his wife to the floor first and danced to a slow song. Halfway through, the Colonel maneuvered to where those from North Fork watched. The Colonel asked for the courtesy to dance with Hope, while the Colonel’s wife first asked of Mark, but he deferred to Seth.

“As her father, he should have the first dance,” Mark commented and stepped back.

At the end of the first dance, the Colonel escorted Hope back to Mark, “It is a pleasure to have such a lovely dance partner. Marshal, I return her to your arms, hopefully no worse for wear.”

The second song was an upbeat tune to which the Colonel reached for his wife’s hand and that danced around the floor invited all the couples to join them as they passed by.

The rest of the evening Mark tried to keep Hope to himself, but a number of the officers were single and presented themselves and requested the honor of dancing with Mrs. McCain. When the first officer tried to request a second dance with Hope, Mark stated, “Sorry, but she is MY wife and I think she deserves to catch her breath.”

Mark and Seth tried to hide their grins as the officers who had hoped for a second dance, returned to the other side of the hall. When the first strains of a slow song played next, Mark asked for the pleasure of the dance from his wife. Mark smiled, enjoying holding Hope in his arms and dancing around the room. Mark felt a tap on his shoulder and was about to curtly decline when he realized it was Seth who stood behind him.

Soon, it was Ethan asking to change partners as he danced with his sister and his wife danced with his father. Soon, Seth lead Annie and handed her over to Mark. By the end of the song, husbands and wives were with the respective partners.

All too soon, the evening came to a end. “Major Lane,” Colonel Paul called. “Tomorrow you are excused from duties to tend to your family. However, I do expect you to return to full duty, day after tomorrow.”

“Yes, sir,” Ethan answered.

Ethan and Annie walked with their family back to the guest quarters, “We’ll see you at nine tomorrow morning?” Annie asked. “Seth Edward and Marissa will love seeing you.”

The group bid goodnight.

*****

As Mark and Hope readied themselves for bed, Hope dared asked, “Do you consider me…, dowdy?”

“And just where would you have gotten that idea?”

“Earlier, the way all three of you reacted and you said there was only one other time when I look more beautiful than I did today,” Hope stated, nervous for what Mark’s remark would be.

Mark walked up to Hope and drew her into his arms, “You are my wife, the mother of my children, and you help me run a working ranch. Dowdy? Never.”

“But…” Hope tried to state.

“I remember when we went to Fort Sam and the wives let you borrow dresses for the dinner, you were dressing to impress the officers and their wives, same as tonight. The day I’m thinking about was the day when you dressed only for me…”

Hope started to blush as Mark pulled her closer and teasingly kissed her. “Do you remember the day?” he asked.

“I think I do,” Hope answered.

“There’s no thinking about it,” Mark quietly replied as he lifted Hope in his arms and carried her to the bed.

“I do remember,” Hope replied as she pulled Mark to her. Without having to worry about their children calling for them, they made love to each other that night.

*****

The following morning, Ethan arrived at the guest quarters and knocked.

“Now this, is the sister I remember!” Ethan declared as Hope answered the door.

“And just what’s wrong with the way I look?” Hope teasingly asked.

“Nothing, just last night, same as back at Fort Sam, I couldn’t believe you were my sister.” Turning to Mark, “She does clean up pretty.”

“Every now and then,” Mark answered.

“Oh, you! Men!” Hope affected an air of being upset, but she couldn’t be, not after the night before.

“Hope, you know I love you, regardless of how you look or what you wear,” Mark answered wrapping an arm around her shoulder. “Are you ready to go see the rest of our family?”

“I have to warn you, when we told Seth Edward that I would be returning with his grandfather, it was all I could do to keep him in our quarters. I felt like I should have hog-tied him or something. He’s so excited.”

“Well,” Seth replied. “Shouldn’t keep my grandson waiting.”

The family spent the morning getting reacquainted with Ethan and Annie and their children and just catching up on life. As lunch time neared, Annie and Hope headed to the kitchen to fix a quick bite to eat for everyone. After lunch, Ethan asked, “So Mark, I don’t mean to pry, but have you found yourself a horse?”

“No, not yet. Hope’s been letting me ride Two-Bits. Nils has had some great horses come through, but none of them seem to be the right fit.”

“If you’re interested, the colonel is scheduled to ride out Saturday afternoon to look at some horses. We have a few Indian horse wranglers and from what I’ve heard, they’re supposed to be bringing in some quality stock. They always do.”

“Do you think the colonel would allow us to ride with you?” Seth asked.

“I think he’d enjoy having you ride with us Father. When he realized I was your son, he said it was such a shame your resigned to become a deputy. He followed your career. I honestly think, if you had stayed in a little longer, you would have found yourself stationed here, instead of me.”

*****

When Saturday afternoon arrived, Colonel Paul and Ethan escorted Seth and Mark to the fort livery and told them to choose a horse for the day. After looking over a number of horses that were stabled inside, Colonel Paul started laughing when Mark indicated the horse he chose.

“Did I choose wrong?” Mark asked.

“For anyone else, yes. That’s the colonel’s horse,” Ethan answered.

“I’m sorry sir, I’ll choose another horse,” Mark quickly replied and pointed out his second choice.

“Good to know you have an eye for horses. Ethan tells me you are in the market for a horse for yourself.”

“Yes sir,” Mark answered.

“Well, get the beast you’ve chosen saddled and we’ll meet you on the parade grounds.”

Mark and Seth waved to Hope and Annie as they rode out with Ethan, Colonel Paul, and a small detail.

*****

The group arrived at the holding station. Colonel Paul introduced the head wrangler, Quetano, to Mark and Seth.

“If you’re looking for good stock, there’s none finer anywhere around,” Quetano stated.

“They look mighty fine,” Mark answered as he climbed on the corral railing.

“Mark? Mark McCain?”

Mark looked around to see who had called him. He finally saw a rider heading his way, “Mark good to see you.”

“Sam! What are you doing here?”

“I think, same as you,” Sam Buckhart replied. “Deputy Lane, good to see you too.”

“Same here, Sam.”

“So Mark, have you set your eye on any one in particular?” Sam asked.

“There’s two that caught my eye right away.”

“Doesn’t surprise me. Tell Quetano which ones and he’ll pull them out.”

Mark pointed to a black horse with four tall socks and black and white paint horse.

Quetano had his men bring the two prospective horses out of the main corral and put them in a smaller holding pen.

Quetano entered the pen, walking next to Mark. “You know Marshal Buckhart?”

“Yes, sir. I met him about fourteen years ago,” Mark replied as he closely examined both horses. “I consider him a good friend, as does my father.”

“If I may, you are the son of the Rifleman?”

“Yes, my Pa’s known as the Rifleman,” Mark answered.

“Then you are the one known at The Lawman?”

Mark nodded, “But please, call me Mark.”

“It honors me that you consider looking at the horses I bring. Both are gentle broke,” Quetano informed Mark.

“Both are good of bone and appear to have strong backs. May I ride each?”

“Osef, bring a saddle!” Quetano yelled to one of the others.

“I don’t need a saddle.” Mark answered as he grabbed a handful of mane from the black horse and swung himself up to its back. He took the lead line Quetano handed to him and proceeded to put the horse through its paces. After a few minutes, Mark returned the horse to the fence and slid down and handed the line to Osef. Before leaving the horse, he petted it on the shoulder.

Mark walked to the paint and grabbed mane, to swing himself up. The moment Mark’s seat settled on the horse’s back, Mark felt the electricity. There was no tension, the horse was tentative and waiting for the slightest signal to move out, but didn’t flinch until Mark signaled. After five minutes Mark had made his final decision.

Quetano watched as Mark put both horses through their paces, musing to himself, ‘He rides as good as any brave.’

“Quetano, this is the one.” Mark slid from the paint’s back and slapped him affectionately on the shoulder as he handed the lead line back to the one called Osef. The horse lipped to Mark’s pockets, searching for a sugar cube.

From outside the holding pen Mark heard Seth laughing, “What?!” Mark called.

“Well, from what Sam just told me, he already had his eye on that one.”

“Sam, if this is the one you want…” Mark tried to back away.

“No, I only had my eye on him. I had not told Quetano I was interested in him. Besides, I too had my eye on that black horse.”

The colonel allowed Mark and Sam to finish their transactions with Quetano before he started negotiating various horses of the herd for the soldiers at the fort. After two hours of trying horses and finalizing their transactions, everyone was satisfied with the various deals that had been made.

Before the horse wranglers left, Quetano asked for a moment of Mark’s time. When Mark returned to the group, Seth asked, “What was that about?”

“I bought his prized horse. He wanted to tell me how much it honored him that I had chosen him. He was pleased that The Lawman has favored him by purchasing the best horse they had brought with them. He told me his name’s Rainmaker.”

“Rainmaker?”

“Yep, Quetano also told me of how he was named.”

*****

Mark, Seth, and Ethan returned to the fort that afternoon. Ethan told Mark he could put the horse in one of the round pens. Once the gate was shut, they climbed upon the fence to admire the horse one more time.

“Pretty spirited,” Ethan stated as they watched the horse prance around.

“Yes, but he’s gentle. Totally different than Copper. I mean, even though he is a stallion, I felt a gentleness in him. If it came to it, I don’t think Hope would have any trouble with him.”

“Mark…”

“It’s okay. Seth. I should have realized long before, that a day might come where Hope would have needed to ride him in an emergency. It just never occurred to me. I’ll see to it that she gets to know this one better. Besides, what I wouldn’t give to see his offspring.”

“You thinking Two-Bits?” Ethan asked.

“Yes. Their confirmations and temperaments, should be a remarkable foal.”

“Well, that’s next spring, right now, I’m hungry, and I’m sure Annie and Hope have supper waiting for us,” Ethan stated.

*****

The threesome had just stepped to the porch after enjoying a steak and potatoes supper when Mark saw a private running in their direction and heard him request Ethan’s presence in the colonel’s office.

*****

The colonel told the lieutenant standing in front of his desk to proceed with his report as Ethan entered. A short time later, an upset Ethan requested one of the privates standing outside the door to go get Mark and return with him to the colonel’s office.

“Sir, you knew my brother-in-law is the territorial Marshal, he should have been sent for when I was. He should have been informed first!”

“Major, I understand what you are saying, but Lieutenant Gardner had a report to give to me. And as the commander of this fort, I will decide who is told what and when. Am I clear?”

“Yes sir, I’m sorry sir, it’s just that…”

The private knocked to announce Mark’s arrival. Colonel Paul instructed the lieutenant to recount his story about how they had been out on patrol when they encountered a band of outlaws ambushing two riders.

“Sir, we gave chase and saw one of the riders go down. I ordered most of the detail to continue the chase and kept five of my men with me, to check on the downed rider and see to the other one he was riding with.” The lieutenant looked to his commanding officer, who nodded, then he continued, “I’m sorry to report, we buried a Deputy U.S. Marshal out there. Before he died, he said the other man was in his protective custody, he weren’t under arrest, but it was the deputy’s responsibility to see that the man got to Denver, alive.”

“Do you know who the deputy was?” Mark asked.

“Anders, I believe he said his name was Drew Anders,” the lieutenant replied as Ethan placed a hand to Mark’s shoulder.

Mark grieved at hearing the name, he remembered the friendship they had developed the first time he’d gone to Denver. Mark’s memories turned to the first time Drew arrived in North Fork and Mark ended up taking Drew’s prisoner to Clovis…

“Where is this man?” Mark asked.

“We brought him back with us and since he was a civilian, I left him in town with Sheriff Roehl,” the lieutenant answered. “Marshal, before returning to the post, I wired the Marshal’s Office up in Denver that their deputy had been killed.

Mark closed his eyes, turned and walked away; he left the colonel’s office. He returned to the livery and saddled the horse he had ridden earlier and headed into town, to the jail to check on the man in custody.

“I’m looking for Sheriff Roehl,” Mark stated.

“That’s me,” the Sheriff answered as he turned from placing a rifle in a rack on the wall.

“I’m a U.S. Marshal and I understand a cavalry detail brought in a man one of my deputies was transporting and you have him,” Mark said as he saw the sheriff look at his badge and then to his face. Mark knew the Sheriff was thinking he was too young to be a U.S. Marshal.

“Sure do. Pretty suave customer. Never seen a prisoner the likes of him before,” Sheriff Roehl stated.

“Do you know who the prisoner is?” Mark asked.

“Said his name was Tom Birch,” Roehl stated as he looked to the cell area.

Mark froze in place when he heard the man’s name, but regained his composure quickly and asked, “May I check on the prisoner?”

“This way,” the Sheriff called as he pulled the jail keys from the peg on the wall and walked to the back room.

Mark followed Sheriff Roehl into the cell area. He saw the prisoner lying on the bunk, hands behind his head, legs crossed, hat covering his face.

“Birch, seems you’ll be heading on your way sooner than we thought. This here’s the U.S. Marshal for the territory.”

Slowly Birch pulled his hands from behind his head, removed his hat, uncrossed his legs and sat up on the bunk.

“Well now, that was mighty quick traveling time, Marshal...?”

“Sheriff, thank you. You’ll be compensated for your efforts in keeping him overnight. We’ll be on our way before daybreak.”

After Mark walked out, Birch stated, “Pretty young to be a U.S. Marshal.”

“I was thinking the same thing.”

“Maybe you should wire Denver just to confirm he is who he said he is,” Birch suggested. “Hate for him to be one of the outlaws who you’re trying to protect me from.”

“He never gave his name,” Roehl replied.

“Well, as long as you keep me safe and sound, that’s all you have to do Sheriff,” Birch stated as he laid back down on the bunk, clasped his hands behind his head and crossed his legs. “Yep, you have to keep me safe and sound.”

***********

Things had settled down somewhat in North Fork, except for Lou, she was having a terrible time keeping Johnny off his feet to allow his broken leg heal.

“Johnny Drako, ye’ve two capable deputies minding the office. Doc wants ye off yer feet and off yer feet ye’ll stay,” Lou ordered with both her hands balled into fits and placed on her hips.

“I’ve a job to do,” Johnny replied.

“Not for another four or five weeks. If ye don’t keep off yer leg, it won’t heal properly! Now don’t make me hide the crutches from ye,” Lou pointed her finger at Johnny.

“Woman, I’m not a child!”

“No, but yer acting every bit the part. Please, I’ll have Connor come in from the kitchen and ye can help him do his homework.”

Johnny finally gave in to his wife’s orders. Deep down, it felt good to spend more quality time with his family than just an occasional off day, here and there.

*****

“LucasBoy,” Micah called as he entered the office, “You look like you lost your best friend.”

“Huh? Oh, just got a nagging feeling that something isn’t right,” Lucas responded.

“Out at the house? I saw Jake McCafferty head out that way earlier today and I’m sure if something were wrong, he’d of been back in town, pronto.”

“I know, it’s just something I can’t shake…”

“Tell you what, I think I can handle the town for a few hours. Why don’t you go home and spend some time with your family, Myra should be getting out of school here in a few minutes, they only have a half day today, remember?.”

“You sure Micah?”

“About your daughter getting out of school and about minding the town, too. Go on! Git out of here. I managed this office all by myself many a times.”

Lucas picked up his hat and his rifle from atop the desk and strode from the office.

As he entered the school yard, he watched as Myra ran down the steps of the schoolhouse, “Papa!” she called as she ran and jumped in his arms. “You coming home soon?”

“How about now? Micah said he could watch the town for a while.”

“You ride me home?”

“Now what kind of a question is that?” Lucas asked.

“Are you going to ride home with me?” Myra corrected herself.

“Sure, sweetheart,” Lucas said as he plopped Myra up in the saddle on BlueBoy.

*****

Milly was standing on the porch when Lucas and Myra rode into the yard, “Well, this is a surprise. What brings you back? Are Mark and…”

“No, probably not for another day or two. I just missed seeing you,” Lucas stated as he stepped from the saddle, and wrapped his arms around Milly and gave her a kiss that left no doubt how much he missed her.

“Ah, come on. Nuff of that mushy stuff,” Myra called.

“Young lady,” Milly replied.

“I know, I know. I’m gonna take BlueBoy to the barn and I hope you’re done when I return.”

“Myra Gabriella McCain!” Milly called even more severely.

“You think she missed me?” Lucas asked.

“I know she did, as did Little Ted and Levi,” Milly answered.

“What about you? Didn’t you miss me?” Lucas teased, feigning a hurt look.

“Just a little. Been kind of nice not having to share the bed or fight for the covers.”

“Well then, Mrs. McCain,” Lucas stated as he pushed his hat back on his head.

“Go help your daughter.” Milly insisted, but then asked with her heart, “How long can you stay?”

“Until this evening. I don’t feel right leaving Micah in town alone after dark.”

“I’ll have supper on the table when you get done.”

*****

After tending to all the stock, Lucas entered his home to find all seven McCain children playing on the floor, “Well, what a full house we have?” he called as various of the children called out Papa or Grandpa!

“Where are Gwen and Jake? Micah said he saw Jake head out this way earlier.”

“They went for a buggy ride, and were going to have supper with his parents,” Milly replied.

*****

For Milly, the afternoon turned to evening too quickly. Lucas returned to the barn to saddle Blade before heading to town.

“Lucas, there’s something else… Besides missing us. I can see it in your eyes. What’s wrong?” Milly asked as she entered the barn.

“Everything’s fi...” Lucas started to say, but saw the expression on Milly’s face that said, ‘we don’t keep secrets’. “All morning, I’ve had this feeling that something wasn’t right. Micah saw it in my eye, too. That’s why he sent me here.” Lucas playfully kissed Milly. “But whatever it is, it’s not here.”

“Are you thinking its Mark?”

“I don’t know…”

“You best get back to town.”

“I wish I didn’t have to return,” Lucas whispered as he lead Blade from the barn.

“Well, I’ll keep your side of the bed warm, until you can return.”

“Promise?” Lucas asked.

“With our marriage vows,” Milly replied as she stepped to her tip toes to give Lucas a kiss.

*****

Mark returned to the fort and once inside the quarters where they had been staying, he removed his hat and threw it down on the table. He stepped to the window and slammed the side of his fist against the wall and cursed.

Hope entered from the bedroom and witnessed the display by her husband.

“Mark?” Hope carefully asked.

“Hope… I’m the marshal of this territory and supposed to be able to handle my responsibilities…” Mark shook his head, turned and leaned his back against the wall, running a hand through his hair.

“What’s wrong?”

“Why does it seem like every time I turn around God is testing me? Why can’t I just have a quiet trip with my wife to visit with her family?”

Hope could hear the hurt in Mark’s voice, “Tell me what’s wrong, please?”

“I presume Ethan told you about the man the detail brought in?” Hope nodded. “He’s a man from my past. Actually from Pa’s past.” Mark stood from leaning against the wall, walked over and sat down at the table in the middle of the room. He rested his head in his hands.

“Go on,” Hope spoke as she sat in one of the other chairs at the table.

“Hope, Drew’s dead. I didn’t know he was transporting a man in protective custody. Anyway, Drew was transporting Tom Birch. Birch knew my parents from way back…” Mark struggled with his memories as he looked up to Hope. “Back in Oklahoma. They all grew up in the same town, and after the War, Pa and him had, well… It was before Pa married my Ma. Anyway, Birch left and went to Denver. I remembered, once, I think I might have been five, overhearing Ma and Pa talk of him one night after he came for a visit. I remember not understanding everything Ma and Pa were saying, but I knew Ma was upset about his visit… He finally went away and Ma was happy. The next time I saw him, we were living in North Fork, I think I was ten. I…”

Mark paused in his story telling as remembered back. He rubbed his hands together in a worrying fashion.

“He used my Pa. The whole time he stayed with us in North Fork, he was planning to have his gang rob the town’s bank.”

“Mark, I’m sorry…”

“That’s not everything,” Mark answered, he raised his head as they heard the door open.

“What’s up with the prisoner, Mark?” Seth asked as he entered.

“Father, he’s from Mark’s past. He was just telling me about it,” Hope answered as she placed a hand on top of Mark’s. Seth sat down in the chair on the opposite side of Mark from his daughter.

“He spent four years in prison for his part in attempting to rob the bank in North Fork. Got out because members of a ladies aid society saying he had redeemed himself, good behavior and all. He turned out to be the leader of another gang and attempted to rob a stage carrying a large money shipment on its way to a bank in California. Only, members of his gang complicated matters before they met up with him for the big job.”

“How so?” Hope asked.

“By kidnapping two boys.”

“Kidnapping for ransom?” Seth asked.

“No. As hostages to make their get away,” Mark answered.

“We’re the boys rescued?” Hope asked.

“Eventually.”

“Mark, there’s more to your memories than what you’re telling us,” Seth commented.

Mark inhaled deeply and slowly let out his breath before he continued. He leaned to the back of his chair and closed his eyes as the memory played in his mind. “Pa and me, and a few other ranchers, had just returned from driving some cattle down to Las Cruces and selling the cattle to the army. When we got back in town, Pa allowed me to deposit our money from the sale in the bank while he went to catch up with Micah. While I was inside, three men robbed the bank and…”

With his elbows on the table, Mark buried his face in his hands. Seth placed a hand to Mark’s shoulder and said, “Go on, son.”

“One of the men reached for a friend of mine, Jacob Preston, and another… grabbed me. I was one of the two boys they took as hostages.”

“Mark, how old were you?” Seth asked.

“A few months shy of fifteen. They kept us for ten days, then things went bad in one of the jobs they tried to pull and I thought Jacob had been killed. He didn’t return with them. A few days later, they took me along on the real job. There was a shoot out and Birch force me to stay with him. Once he realized that he wasn’t going to get the money, he decided he’d head for Mexico. The whole time, using me as his ‘ace in the hole’. For three days we rode. He knew we were being followed, and I prayed Pa was one of those following us.”

Seth and Hope gave Mark the time he needed to tell his story, they could see by the expression on his face and hear it in his voice, the hurt in re-counting the events.

“Pa and the others got real close to us one afternoon, we were trying to make our way up a narrow path along the wall of an arroyo. I watched in horror as Birch started a rock slide down on Pa and the others. He kept pushing me in front of him. Told me if I didn’t do as he said, he’d kill Pa. He was supposed to be a friend of my Pa’s…, and my Ma’s,” Mark’s voice faded to a whisper.

Mark struggled with his memories, reliving how someone who had said, he too had loved Margaret McCain, could do what he did to her son.

“It was night, we were out on the flats of the desert when Birch bound and gagged me. Covered me over with a blanket and told me not to make a sound or move. Said, there were plenty of wild animals around and I didn’t want to attract their attention. He left me. I heard him ride away. I had no idea how close or far away Pa was. I knew he was following after us, but had no idea if he had made it up out of the arroyo. I heard noises as something entered the camp, I tried to make myself as small as possible. Never was I more relieved to see Pa standing over me when the blanket was pulled from my face. Imagine my horror when I saw Coltrane Walker coming into the light of the fire.”

“Walker? But he’s a Deputy Marshal, why would you be scared?” Hope asked.

“Because back then, I didn’t know he was a marshal, he was working undercover, I thought he was one of the outlaws. He was one of the three who robbed the bank and kidnapped me, though all he did was carry the money in the saddlebags.”

“You went and saw Birch at the jail, did he recognize you?” Seth asked, trying to return Mark to the present.

“Didn’t look like he did. Drew was transporting him to Denver as a prime witness to a murder trial according to the lieutenant.”

“If you want…” Seth started to say.

“No, this is my responsibility. But I would like for you to see Hope home safely…”

“No!” Hope demanded.

“Hope, we were only going to spend another day here, there’s no reason for you to…”

“We’ll wait for you here. I won’t return home without you,” Hope pleaded.

“We have four children at home who need their mother,” Mark stood firm. “There’s no discussion. It’ll be easier for me to make this trip to Denver if I know you are safely on your way home.”

“Mark, I’ll see that Hope gets home safely. How are you… Are you going to tell Birch who you are?” Seth asked.

“No, for now, I think I’ll take your last name.”

“What are you going to do next?” Hope asked, understanding that it would be easier on Mark if she was on her way home.

“I need to write a letter to send to Drew’s family in Kansas City. They need to be notified other than a wire. The lieutenant stated he’d wired Denver earlier in the day... If you don’t mind, I’d like some time alone.”

*****

Hope and Seth stood from their chairs and left the room.

As the door closed behind them, Hope stated, “Father, I’ve never seen him like this,” as they sat in the chairs under the veranda of the porch.

“Writing a letter, notifying a family of their loved one’s death, is difficult. I had to do it on many occasions, it doesn’t get any easier. This is the first time Mark’s had to write such a letter. That, and add Birch into the equation. Be understanding and give him the time he needs.”

“I will. And I’ll go inform Annie and Ethan we’ll be returning home, tomorrow. I think Mark would appreciate knowing that I was on my way home, before he has to transport that man.”

*****

Once the door was closed, Mark walked to the bedroom and pulled out a small case from his carpet bag, opened it, and placed his reading glasses upon his face. He returned to the desk in the sitting room and sat down in the chair. From the center desk drawer, he pulled out a sheet of paper. Picking up the pen and dipping it in the inkwell, he proceeded to write:

To the Parents of Deputy Drew Anders
Kansas City, Kansas

I’m not sure exactly how to write this letter. It’s difficult enough to tell someone face to face, but to send a wire and have it delivered… feels cold. I felt you deserve a letter… An explanation…

I know that Tom Benton or Cole Barker would have already wired the notification, and I wish that I could be there to tell you in person. I’m not sure what all they would have included in the wire, but you should know, Drew, was killed in the line of duty. He gave his life protecting a witness. A detail from the U.S. Cavalry stationed out of Fort Stanton encountered outlaws chasing two riders and witnessed as one went down. Part of the detail stayed with Drew and was there when he died and saw that he had a proper burial, as proper as can be out in the desert.

I hope you find some comfort in knowing that this letter is not written by someone who didn’t personally know Drew. I met him, can it really be seven and a half years ago, when I went to Denver for my first training session to become a deputy U.S. Marshal. We struck up a friendship, and occasionally over the years, our jobs would allow our paths to cross. He was present the day I was officially sworn in as the Territorial U.S. Marshal for New Mexico.

Sadly, it has been a while since I’d seen Drew and had a chance to spend time together. I’ll miss hearing his laugh and seeing that crooked smile of his as he would contemplate pulling a practical joke on someone. He loved his job, traveling, helping people… protecting…

I really don’t know how to close this letter, except to say, that… as fine a friend and a lawman as Drew was, I’m sure he was just as equally a fine son and brother.

Sincerely,


Mark McCain
U.S. Marshal

Mark set the pen to the desk after addressing the envelope. He sat in quiet reflection as he remembered the first time he met Drew and their subsequent meeting in North Fork, after Drew broke his leg, necessitating Mark taking the prisoner on to Clovis.

*****

Coltrane Walker was a day’s ride from Stanton when he received a wire from Cole Barker advising him of the situation at Fort Stanton and Drew Anders had been killed. He was ordered to ride for Stanton and transport their witness to Denver. Walker folded the wire and placed it in his pocket, mounted his horse and rode for Stanton. If he rode fast, he could make it to Stanton by noon the next day and take Birch into custody.

*****

Later that night, Mark returned to Stanton and to the Sheriff’s office.

“Sheriff, I’d like for you to see this letter is posted tomorrow. It’s to the family of the deputy who was killed,” Mark stated and gave the man a few coins.

“Sure.”

“Well, marshal, seems were going to be traveling companions for a while,” Birch stated as Mark walked into the cell area after hearing Birch call for him.

“Tom Birch, if I had my way, I wouldn’t be transporting you to Denver, I’d see you back in prison, where you belong. You went to Denver once. You should have stayed there and never left,” Mark tersely answered.

“Before you head out of here, you mind telling me who you are?” Sheriff Roehl asked.

“I told you, I’m the U.S. Marshal for the New Mexico territory,” Mark answered.

“No, your name.”

“Lane, Mark Lane.” The tone of Mark’s voice held the bitterness he felt towards the man standing inside the cell.

Then turning to the Sheriff, “Like I said earlier, you have him ready to travel at dawn. I’ll get a packhorse from the fort and supplies.”

“You’re not taking the train?”

“Don’t know yet. I have to keep him safe and if that means not telling you how I’m getting him there, so be it.”

The Next Step — Denver Bound - Homeward Bound

This is a story based on the TV series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!

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