The Rifleman
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The Next Step…
Chapter 62 – The Verdicts
Written by Deanne Bertram

Night had long fallen when Johnny Drako finally made it home. He barely had his hat off his head when Lou started in on him.

“Just how dare ye keep the news that Mark is alive from me! I’ve been here grieving fer almost two days, the whole time ye’ve been gone! Ye know how I feel about Mark! He’s like a son to me! Me own flesh and blood!”

“Lou, I didn’t know myself until earlier today. Mark and Grid cooked it up between them," Johnny replied as he untied and unbuckled his gun belt and placed them on the peg next to his hat.

“I don’t care who cooked it up, I tell ye, it was wrong of ye to keep it from me! I had to hear it from strangers that Mark was alive!”

“You don’t know any strangers,” Drako teasingly shot back.

“Johnny Drako, ye know what I mean! The least ye coulda done was to tell me yerself!”

“I couldn’t come home any sooner,” Johnny answered as he walked to Lou.

“Yer the Marshal! Ye can do anything ye want!”

“Lou, I couldn’t leave until Benton dismissed me,” Johnny said as he pulled Lou into his arms.

“Ye don’t report to the U.S. Marshals. Ye report to this town. Ye coulda taken five minutes. Five minutes to tell yer wife, who is a resident of this town, that Mark was alive. Or maybe ye…”

“Lou, please. From what Mark and Grid told me earlier this evening, they had to act quickly. The only ones Mark told were Hope, Lucas, and Milly,” Johnny answered.

“What about Tom Benton?" Lou asked.


“He didn’t know either. Anyway, both Mark and Grid are still at the office hearing an earful and answering Tom’s questions. Watching Mark squirm under Tom’s verbal assault was almost as fun as watching Mark squirm when Lucas got after him for doing something wrong when he was younger.”

“I don’t care. Ye coulda…” Lou replied.

“Lou you seem more upset in finding out that Mark wasn’t killed, than you were when you found out I hadn’t been killed a few years back,” Drako commented as he held Lou tightly.

“I wasn’t married to ye, back then!”

“And you’re not married to Mark McCain, now!” Drako retorted. Truly enjoying bringing out even more of Lou’s Irish temper.

“MR. DRAKO!” Lou called and tried to push herself from Johnny’s arms.

“You know Mrs. Drako, when you get riled like this...” Johnny replied as he held tight and led her to their bedroom. He quieted his voice before he said, “Calm down or you’ll wake the children.”

“Quit changing the subject,” Lou demanded as she walked along beside her husband.

“I’m not, you are,” Johnny stated as he closed the door behind them.

“I still don’t like it!” Lou pouted.


“I know something that you will like,” Johnny stated as a boyish grin spread across his face. “You know what you do to me when I see you get all riled up like this.”

“How dare ye?” Lou demanded. “We’re not done talking about ye keeping me in the dark.”

Johnny sat down on the bed and pulled Lou to sit on his lap, he playfully kiss his wife. He laid down backwards on the bed and pulled Lou to lie down on top of him.

“You’ve never objected to us being in the dark before,” Johnny replied, still trying to change the subject.

“Johnny Drako, I’ll not have ye…” Lou quieted as her body started to respond to her husband’s advances.

“But I’ll have you,” Johnny replied and then smothered Lou in kisses.

Slowly, Johnny unbuttoned the front of Lou’s blouse, as she unbuttoned his shirt. Lovingly he caressed her as he slipped her blouse from her shoulders. Soon, they were both under the covers.

The fiery anger Lou held towards Johnny when she thought he had hid the truth from her about Mark really being alive, was transferred into a fiery passion as she made love to her husband that night. Ever since Johnny Drako had returned and decided to call North Fork home, there was just something about him that drew her towards him. From their wedding night, she couldn't stop herself from giving in to his desires. Yet, she found that his desires were just a mirror of her own. Until Johnny had come into her life, she had wanted to be a strong, independent woman, but now, she enjoyed the pleasures of being his wife.

*****

It was well after two in the morning before Tom Benton dismissed Mark and Grid. Slowly they stood from their chairs after Tom left the Marshal’s Office.

“Wow, never knew I could get into so much trouble for upholding the law,” Mark replied, rubbing the sides of his temples.

“It’s not that we upheld the law, it’s how we went about doing it,” Grid replied as he rubbed at the back of his neck. “I’m heading to the livery, be seeing ya.”

“You leaving town?” Mark asked.

“Na, can’t leave you to face the hangman’s noose by yourself. I’ll climb into the hayloft and grab some shut eye. You take the chaise in here.”

“Good night, Grid.”

Grid turned, waved his hand, and placed his hat on his head.

*****

The sun was barely coming through the windows in the Marshal’s Office when Mark felt a soft hand caressing the stubble on his face.

“Been a while since you’ve shaved?” the voice asked.

“Yeah, being dead does have that affect. Maybe you might want the honor, seeing as your husband is back among the living?” Mark stated as he opened his eyes to see his wife sitting next to him. Propping himself up on his elbow, “How come you’re in town so early? Who’s watching the children?”

“The entire family stayed at Father’s last night. How long did Tom keep interrogating you two?”

“Until two o’clock this morning,” Mark replied, trying to stifle a yawn.

“He looked pretty upset when Ma and I stopped by.”

“Yeah, we sure asked for it,” Mark said as he sat up and pulled on his boots.

“How bad did you break your wrist?” Hope asked.

“Thadd didn’t think it was broken, just sorely sprained. Though he did feel it was better to put this cast on my arm for support.” Mark looked up to see Johnny walking in the door, grinning.

“Pa and Father are planning to walk the town in a little while and then bring some breakfast to your prisoners. Come on, you could really stand to bathe and shave.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

Before leaving the office, Mark asked Johnny if the verdict was in yet.

“No, but I don’t expect to hear about it before he hands it down.” Johnny was still grinning as he started to fix a pot of coffee. “You two sure got yourself into a pile of trouble.”

“Don’t I know it,” Mark stated as he pulled his hat from the peg on the wall and placed it on his head. He wrapped his arm around Hope’s waist and left the office.

*****

After bathing and enjoying Hope shaving his face, Mark sat at the kitchen table eating breakfast with his family. He held his infant daughter in his lap.

“So, Mark,” Seth stated. “What are your plans for today?”

“Steering clear of Tom Benton for starters,” Mark stated as he stirred plenty of sugar into his coffee.

“Things can’t be that bad, can they?” Milly asked.

“You were only in the office with Tom for a few minutes last night. Grid and I were in there until two this morning. Least Grid had the right idea of hiding out and sleeping in the livery. Though it’s more like he’s hiding out. Took Hope and I a lot longer to get from the Marshal’s Office to here with everyone we saw stopping us and telling me how good they felt over the fact that I wasn’t dead,” Mark replied before he took a drink from the cup.

“Mark,” Hope started. “Josh has an appointment with Doc Burrage today to get the cast off his arm. Maybe the two of you can tend to that today.”

“Sure.”

*****

The train from Denver arrived that afternoon, carrying Judge Jules Oury and Marshal Cole Barker. They proceeded directly to the Marshal’s Office. Once inside, they informed Tom Benton and Johnny Drako that the three outlaws who were taken into custody in Willow Point, would not be traveling to North Fork.

“They are to remain in prison and the facts presented in this trial will determine whether they will stand trial for additional crimes,” Cole Barker informed all.

The four discussed the possible charges against Angel Chavez, Ralph Claysin, and Brice Stringfellow. It was determined that the three were not involved in the attempted murders of Mark McCain or Seth Lane, so they would be transferred to the jurisdictions where their wanted posters were issued.

Judge Oury stated the trial for Rigby and Dahl would begin the following day.

*****

For two days, North Fork was the setting for the trial of Artie Rigby and Toby Dahl. Each time the prisoners were moved from the Marshal’s Office to the courthouse, it was a parade of U.S. Marshals' blocking the route. Parents shooed their young children off the streets and turned their heads so as to not see.

The first part of the morning was spent selecting people from the town to sit on the jury. Each person was questioned quite extensively on their ability to be impartial and to weigh all the evidence before coming to any decision. Once the jury was seated, viewing the proceedings was restricted to only those required to be in attendance, as witnesses, and members of the town council, the town’s Marshal, as well as Reverend McCafferty.

Lucas temporarily stepped aside as President of North Fork’s town council, considering who the victims were to him. Mark had insisted that Lucas, Milly, and Hope be allowed to attend the trial. Judge Oury agreed but insisted they had to sit in the back of the room.

The prosecution presented sworn testimony from the Willow Point three, Dean Janes, Micky Roysen, and Harvey Tell, regarding their involvement in the planning of the murder attempt on Johnny Drako. The defense objected to not being allowed to cross examine the prosecutions ‘witnesses’.

“Your Honor, this testimony isn’t the only evidence we have against the two defendants. But this testimony is crucial to establish that the acts were premeditated,” the prosecutions lawyer stated.

“We didn’t premeditate to kill McCain, it were supposed to be Drako,” Dahl yelled as he stood up.

“Shut up! You idiot! You just placed the noose around your necks!” the defense lawyer hissed.

Those in attendance mumbled and tried to hide their laughs, as they heard the exchange.

Testimony presented next, was from Sweeney. Talking of how the two strangers came into the saloon, appearing to already be intoxicated. How he tried to refuse service to them, suggesting they go sleep it off.

“They started fighting and tearing up the place. So, I went to go get the Marshal and Deputy, so they could stop ‘em. They returned with me and broke the fight up. Then, as they were leading to the Marshal’s Office so they could sleep it off, I watched as they no longer looked drunk and started fighting. First with Seth and then next with Mark. Others came riding into town, fast and furious. One took a potshot at me and also shot Mark in the back!”

The prosecution attorney continued to question Sweeney about various details. When he was done, the defense tried to lessen Sweeney’s credibility and put doubt in the minds of the jury as to the kind of man he was or that his memory might not be that good. The prosecution took objection to questioning a man’s reputation just because he the establishment he owned and operated was a saloon. Judge Oury agreed.

By late afternoon, the prosecution had finished hearing Seth Lane’s testimony as to the events that transpired that night in June. After years of being a soldier in the U.S. Army and finishing his career as a Major, the defense had no luck in shaking his confidence or getting Seth to admit that things might not have happened as he remembered.

Judge Oury excused Seth from the witness stand, then announced, “Considering the lateness of the hour and we still have more testimony to hear from one more key witness, I’m adjourning this trial until tomorrow morning. Proceedings will start promptly at nine o’clock. Marshals, take your prisoners back to their cells.

The following morning, the trial was back in session and the first person called to testify was Mark. The Prosecutor requested for Mark to tell the jury in his own words, what led up to the events that happened that night.

Mark allowed the memories from that night to return to his consciousness. He closed his eyes as he saw the scene play itself out in his mind. Slowly and deliberately he told the jury of what had happened. Breaking up a fight at Sweeney’s saloon. Starting to lead the men who were fighting across the street to the Marshal’s Office. Hearing the sounds of horses’ hooves running and splashing through the mud puddles as the rain continued to pour. He saw the first man turn and struggle to take Seth’s gun away from him. He heard the shot. Next, he felt his rifle being torn from his hands. He struggled to retain control. Next he saw the light from a street lamp flash off the blade of a knife and then that knife was plunged into him below his ribcage. He felt another punch across his face as he crumpled to the ground and felt the knife being pulled from his body.

“That’s all I remember,” Mark stated in conclusion. He let out a deep sigh, thankful this part was over.

“Marshal McCain, are the men who attacked you in this courtroom?” the prosecution asked.

“I OBJECT!” the defense roared.

“Oh what grounds?” Judge Oury asked.

“The defendant, by his own account, was only attacked by one man,” the defense attorney declared.

“I will rephrase the question. Marshal McCain, is the man who attacked Deputy Seth Lane and the man who attacked you, are either or both of these men present in this room?”

“Yes sir, they’re sitting at that table.” Mark pointed to the defense table.

“I’m through with this witness,” the prosecutor stated as he returned to his seat.

For the next two hours, the defense attorney took time trying to tear apart Mark’s testimony, but Mark stood firm in his resolve.

The final witness was Thaddeus Burrage, MD. He was questioned as to the extent of the injuries suffered by the victims. For those present, who were not members of Mark’s immediate family, it was a shock to hear the exact extent of his injuries.

After both sides rested their cases and had given their closing arguments, Judge Oury ordered the jury to exit the courtroom and to determine their verdict.

*****

The following morning, the court was back in session when Judge Oury requested John Hamilton, the jury foreman, to stand.

“Has the jury reached its verdict?”

“Yes, your Honor.”

“I’ll call out each defendant’s name and the charge against that person, then you will inform the court of the decision of the jury on each charge. Do you understand?”

“Yes sir,” John answered.

Artie Rigby, Disturbing the Peace
Drunk and Disorderly Conduct
Resisting arrest
Two counts Attempted Murder
Two counts Conspiracy to Commit Murder

Toby Dahl, Disturbing the Peace
Drunk and Disorderly Conduct
Resisting arrest
Two counts Attempted Murder
Two counts conspiracy to commit murder

After each defendant’s name and charges were announced, John Hamilton stated guilty. The crowd murmured as the final verdict was announced. The only charge the defendants were acquitted on was charge of being drunk at the time.

“Artie Rigby and Toby Dahl, you have been found guilty as charged. You will now hear your sentence, but first, there is one formality. Is there anyone present who wishes to speak prior to handing down the sentence against these two men for their crimes?”

One lone person stood from those in attendance, “I do, your Honor,” came from the back of the room. The spectators turned to see who had spoken. Another murmur rumbled through the room.

“Order, I will have order in this courtroom!” Judge Oury demanded as he banged his gavel to quiet the room.

“Come forward and state your name,” the judge stated as he tried to look over the top rim of his glasses.

“U.S. Marshal, Mark McCain.”

“Oh, one of the victims?”

“Yes sir, but right now, I want to speak as a citizen of this community. If I may?” Mark asked.

Judge Oury motioned for Mark to proceed. He walked forward until he was about ten feet away from the judge’s bench.

“Your Honor, I know it’s your responsibility to see that justice is carried out, once these men were found guilty of their crimes. I know that their punishment is in your hands and the law gives you guidelines on appropriate punishments… I just wanted to say that… Though I’m sure that hanging is one of the choices you have, I don’t know how North Fork would react to a hanging. We’re a growing community, with newcomers arriving daily -- families with young children. People are traveling through here from locations in the East, on their way to new homes. Maybe they might stop and say, “North Fork is where we want to call home.” We’re trying to convey an image that communities in the West can be as civilized as communities back East. North Fork has seen one hanging since my father and I started calling this town our home, it wasn’t pretty and it took a while for the community to get past it. It was my life these men almost took, but through the skills of our town doctor and through the prayers offered by my family and friends, and I’m sure by the Grace of God, I still stand here before you. I guess what I’m trying to ask, is… Don’t give these men death sentences. I ask that you sentence them spend the rest of their lives in prison. That’s all I have to say your Honor.”

There was a surprised tone in the voices as those present started murmuring when Mark turned and walked back to his seat in the back row, and sat down between Hope and his father.

*****

“Well,” Judge Oury declared. “Never in my tenure on the bench have I witnessed a victim request leniency against those accused of attempted murder. The law is specific as to what sentences I can hand down based on the crime or crimes committed. But, based on the request of one of the victims, I am reminded of Leviticus 24:19-21 and Exodus 21:22-25, and Deuteronomy 19:21, in which a person who has injured the eye of another is instructed to give their own eye in compensation. The purposes of our laws are to provide equitable retribution for an offended party.

But an eye for an eye is not just about retribution, but also implies mercy and I must believe that a sentence of hanging, though I am sorely tempted, such a sentence would far exceed the crime of attempted murder, even though there were extenuating circumstances.

I will grant the request of U.S. Marshal Mark McCain in sentencing the defendants to life without parole in a federal prison. During your stay, you will be put to hard labor to pay for your sins against these two men and your sins against God.

“This court is adjourned!” Judge Oury banged his gavel one final time before ordering the defendants to be immediately removed and escorted to the waiting train. Once the defendants were removed, he requested the court room to be cleared of all persons.

*****

The courtroom was clearing when Tom Benton called for Mark and Grid to remain behind. Mark leaned over and gave Hope a kiss and told her to wait for him at her father’s.

Slowly, Mark and Grid walked to the front of the courtroom and stood in front of the judge. Tom Benton and Cole Barker stood to the side.

“Now I understand the two of you used an ‘unorthodox’ method of bringing the outlaws to trial?” Judge Oury asked.

“Yes sir,” Mark replied.

“I’ve reviewed the report that Marshal Benton has planned to file and I am quite appalled that you would contemplate such a scheme. In your effort to ascertain what other crimes the criminals might potentially be planning, this community was put at great risk…”

“But it wasn’t!” Grid interrupted.

“I haven’t finished speaking young man.” Judge Oury wasn’t used to being interrupted and his voice and face showed it. “Now, as I was saying. This scheme of yours put this community and possibly a number of other communities at great risk, had you not be able to re-capture those you set free. Because you were able to recapture Rigby and Dahl, and bring a number of known outlaws into custody, and because you both are thought of so highly by your superiors, your sentences won’t be as long as they might have been. Both Marshal Benton and Marshal Barker have made recommendations as to your sentences. You’ll both face a two week suspension, without pay, beginning tomorrow.”

“Suspension?” Mark asked.

“There are repercussions to your actions, be thankful you both still have badges to wear, the U.S. Marshal Service could very well have terminated both of your appointments.” Looking to Mark, “As a U.S. Marshal.” Then looking to Grid, “And as a Deputy U.S. Marshal. I take it you both will remember this lesson?”

Both nodded as they accepted their sentencing.

“Good, then case closed and this court’s adjourned,” Judge Oury declared and banged his gavel on the bench top.

Mark and Grid turned to leave the court room. As Judge Oury gathered up his personal affects he did call out. “Though I personally think it was mighty brazen of the two of you. Damn it, if I didn’t wish I had thought of doing the same then when I was your age, given the proper circumstances. But that doesn’t leave this room!”

*****

Feeling a little more justified, in hearing Judge Oury’s final comments, Mark and Grid left the courtroom. They stood and watched as Barker, Benton and Aubrey loaded the prisoners on the train and then closed the door to the rail car.

“Well, I guess it could have been worse,” Mark quietly stated.

“Yeah. Well, November ain’t exactly the best time of year for a vacation,” Grid replied.

“You’ll survive, Grid. Tell you what, why don’t you come to the house tonight. Have supper with the family.”

“Naw… I probably should get back home.”

“Grid, not on this train. Wait until tomorrow. Hope and I will plan for you to arrive at the house around four o’clock?”

Grid nodded, turned and walked away.

*****

Mark turned and headed towards his father-in-law’ home to meet up with his families and tell them the news. Everyone was surprised to hear Mark tell them of his, and Grid’s, two week suspension.

“Pa, you’ve always said there are always consequences to one’s actions. I’ve accepted the fact. But Grid sure is taking it harder than I thought.”

“What do you mean?” Milly asked.

“I think under that gruff exterior he carries around, he puts his heart and soul into wearing the badge. He’s good at what he does. Ma, his growing up was a lot more difficult than mine and maybe he didn’t get the opportunities to be taught all the lessons I did… He doesn’t take kindly to people telling him he did wrong. He’ll accept it, but he buries the hurt deep inside. No one ever took the time to explain to him how to accept criticism and how it can be constructive.”

“I feel sorry for him,” Hope answered.

“Don’t. That’s the last thing he needs. Just treat him as you would any friend. I’ve invited him to supper at the house tonight. I said we’d expected him to arrive around four.”

*****

After supper, as their sons asked questions of Grid and listened intently to his every word, Mark saw a change in Grid. He wasn’t that ‘gruff’ loner he tried to portray. Once the children were in bed for the night, Mark, Hope, and Grid decided to take advantage of the unusually warm November evening and sat on the front porch. Hope sat one step down from Mark and leaned back to him.

They talked for a long while, finally Grid got up to leave. Hope stood up and walked to the door of their home. Mark got to his feet and followed Grid to his horse. Before he put his foot in the stirrup, Grid paused and turned to Mark, "You know, some day, I hope to have me a place like this to call home."

"Grid, all you have to do is stop running."

"Running?"

"You're not as 'gruff' as you make yourself out to be."

"What do you mean?" Grid asked, a gruffness having returned to his voice.

"You let me and Pa in a long time ago. Why don't you put a window in that wall around your heart? If you'd soften your act a little, I'm sure you'll find yourself a nice gal and maybe you'll even fall in love."

"Love's for fools."

"Yeah, love makes you do silly things, but it's a nice place to be. It's awful nice to have someone besides your horse to talk to or keep you warm on a cold winter’s night." Grid stepped into the saddle and Mark offered his hand up to Grid. "Remember, we'll always consider you a part of our family, whether you want to or not. You'll have a place to take your boots off next time you visit North Fork."

"Maybe… But I am who I am. I ain't gonna let no gal tell me what to do and who to be."

"Grid, I hope you find a gal who can be to you, what Hope is to me. Someone who accepts you for who you are and understands you have a past. When you find the right one, you'll understand that she won't want to change you, because then you won't be the person she fell in love with. Grid, Pa once told me there’s no looking back. You have to let go of the past, so you can live for today and tomorrow. You take care, Grid."

“You too, McCain.”

Mark stepped back to the porch and wrapped an arm around Hope’s waist as they waved goodbye to Grid.

“You think he’ll ever find what he’s looking for?” Hope asked.

“He just might. I changed his mind nine years ago when he wanted to kill Pa. Maybe, I… Maybe we changed his mind tonight; I saw a change in him as he talked to the boys and then again as he shook my hand. I think… maybe he already has a gal back in Oklahoma. A gal that he hadn’t been ready to commit too. Sort of like Pa and Miss Milly, before she left.”

“How so?” Hope asked.

“Pa was too worried about raising me and he was still hurting from losing Ma. It took losing Milly for him to realize that he really did love her, and then by then it was too late.”

“But she came back,” Hope stated.

“And tonight, Grid’s heading back home. Maybe he’ll allow whoever’s waiting for him to finally heal his hurt. I think when he gets back to Oklahoma life will be a whole lot different for Grid Maule, Jr.”

Both turned and walked into their home and closed the door.

The Next Step — Seven

This is a story based on the TV series The Rifleman
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