The Writer's Corner
Chapter 94 - The Waiting Game
Written by Deanne Bertram
“Hey Johnny!” Martin, Amos’ apprentice telegrapher, called as he
stepped from the telegraph office.
“What’s up Martin?” Johnny asked as he crossed the street.
“Got this here wire for you. Came from Yuma.”
Johnny read the wire Martin handed him and thanked him, before
heading to the Marshal’s Office.
“Anything of importance?” Seth asked as Johnny stepped to the
“Yuma wired, notifying us of another prisoner’s release. The man
served his time. I’ll match it with one of his wanted posters,
if we have one, and file it away in the drawer with all the
Mark made it to Amarillo, Texas and after confirming with the
captain of the Texas Rangers stationed there, that Turpin had
been spotted in Amarillo, he figured the bounty hunter would
turn North and head to the Oklahoma panhandle; Boise City, the
closest location to claim a reward payable in Oklahoma.
Having been gone from home for over three weeks already, Mark
made it to Masterson when he realized he had made a terrible
mistake. Upon checking in with the town Sheriff, he found out
that no bounty hunter had been through there in months, but the
Sheriff had heard about a bounty hunter causing trouble in
Washburn. Without bothering to send a wire home, Mark left town
and headed southeast, frustrated that he was now even further
away from his Pa.
Johnny Drako was the first person to see the steely-eyed man
ride into town. Johnny’s eyes followed as the rider stepped from
his horse and into the saloon. Pulling his hat from his desk,
Drako left the Marshal’s Office and walked across the street,
stopping in front of the saloon. The stranger was sitting at the
table just inside the door, back to the window, hat on the
table; Johnny saw the graying of the man’s hair.
“You’re a long way from Yuma,” Johnny spoke as he stepped inside
and placed his hand on the butt of his gun. He took time to read
the hard, weathered face of the man, wrinkles resembling crow’s
feet played out from his eyes, an ugly scar along the man’s neck
showing above his collar, and a part of the man’s left ear was
missing. Understanding, this man had lived a hard life inside
fifteen years of prison.
“Any law against my traveling?” the man asked as he looked to
To Johnny, those eyes were dark with evil.
“No, but I strongly suggest you get on your horse and leave. We
have a peaceful town and the likes of you aren’t welcome.”
“The likes of me?” the man asked.
“I received the wire you were released from prison two weeks
“I’m just a man who’s served his time. I just want to sit on
something not moving and wash the dust down my throat,” the
“You can do that in the next town.”
“I don’t think so, Marshal Drako.” With a laugh more of a
snicker, the stranger continued, “You once had a reputation as a
gunslinger, now, I see you’re nothing more than a street
“I’ll be a street sweeper if it means keeping the likes of you
out of North Fork. You once had a reputation as a low life, and
I see it hasn’t changed,” Drako mimicked, before turning dead
serious. “You have thirty minutes to enjoy your whiskey and
sitting still. Any longer than that and I’ll personally run you
out of town.”
“You’re not the first person to try to run me out of town.”
“You best not be here when I return in twenty-nine minutes,”
Drako’s eyes narrowed as he sized up the man.
Drako turned and left the saloon, closely followed by Sweeney.
“Drako!’ Sweeney called, once outside.
“What is it Sweeney?”
“You can’t seriously be thinking of letting him stay in my
saloon?” Sweeney nervously asked, looking back to his saloon.
“I gave him thirty minutes to get out of town.” Watching
Sweeney’s nervousness, Drako continued, “You can always refuse
to serve him.”
“Refuse? That’s Dan Maury, no one refuses Dan Maury…”
“I know who he is,” Drako replied. ‘It’s your establishment. You
can refuse whoever you want.”
“You don’t get it. It’s different for you. You know how to use a
gun… Me? …I’m just a saloon keeper…”
“He’ll be gone in twenty-seven minutes,” Drako replied as he
replaced his pocket watch in his vest pocket.
“Man, the last time Maury was here, he sat in that same chair
arriving in the afternoon and didn’t step to the bar until the
following morning. The whole time he kept an eye on the
Marshal’s Office. I heard the stories that Maury was the one who
ambushed Micah and bummed his arm. That morning… Lucas rode into
town, he came in here to tell him to move on out. Warned him if
anything happened to Micah, he’d answer to him. Shot a glass out
of his hand to prove he wasn’t afraid of Maury. Found out later,
it didn’t phase Maury one bit. He’d left town, went out and shot
Lucas in the back. Was by the grace of God that Lucas survived.
Had little Mark not found him when he did… Maury called Micah
out later that night. Lucas, practically on death’s door,
somehow made his way to the street and created a diversion for
Micah to get the upper hand. Anyway, later, we all told Lucas
that Maury was dead, it’s the way Micah wanted it… We didn’t
figure he’d survive in prison long enough to be released.”
“I hadn’t heard that. I just knew that he’d been in prison after
serving time on multiple charges of murder and attempted murder.
I get notified of any outlaw being released.”
“You think he’s here for Lucas or Micah?” Sweeney asked.
“Sweeney, right now, I don’t know. I’m pretty sure Maury doesn’t
know that Lucas is missing. If he did, that’s dangerous for Hope
and Milly. Whether he knows Mark grew up to be the territorial
marshal… Damn it!” Drako cursed. “Sweeney, thanks for the
“Drako?!” Sweeney called out as Johnny returned to the Marshal’s
With moments to spare, Maury exited the saloon and climbed
aboard his horse, slowly he left town. Johnny and Seth nervously
watched as he headed in the opposite direction of the McCain
“What’s he doing in town?” Micah demanded upon entering the
Marshal’s office as he pointed to the man riding down the
“We’re handling it, Micah,” Johnny answered.
“Handling it? Letting him ride nonchalant through town? I’ll ask
again, what’s he doing here?”
“Micah, he’s just passing through. Wanted to just sit a spell
and have a drink.”
“Johnny you know damn well and good that Dan Maury never just
‘wanted’ to do anything. He’s planning something. You get out
there and order him out of town!”
“Micah, he’s leaving. I talked with him thirty minutes ago and
he’s leaving by my deadline. Now, why don’t you just go on back
to Hattie’s and take it easy. We’ve got everything handled,”
Johnny stated as he escorted Micah from the office.
“I ain’t a helpless old man! Never realized how anxious you were
to put me out to pasture!”
Micah pulled his arm from Johnny’s grip, stormed out of the
office and to the saloon.
Upon the hill overlooking the ranch houses and barns…he watched
as two woman and numerous children went on with their lives,
none the wiser of his presence. The figure’s curiosity was
piqued when a lone rider stopped in front of the barn. Pulling a
spyglass from his saddlebag, the man gave a sigh as he didn’t
recognize the rider…
Micah was on his second beer in his attempt to drown his anger.
Two men stood at the middle of the bar, talking of Dan Maury and
how Drako had handled the situation.
“That’s a real lawman, ordering an outlaw from town,” one of the
men stated. “Gave him fair warning of how long he could stay.
Still, letting the likes of him just vamoose, I’d feel a whole
lot better knowing he were dead.”
“Sweeney, another beer!” Micah ordered.
“Yeah, from what I heerd, some other lawman was such a poor
shot, he allowed that outlaw to live and stand trial instead of
planting him six feet under.”
Micah heard enough. The men talking were relatively new citizens
to North Fork and didn’t know the history of her people; he
threw his beer glass shattering it against the far wall. Micah
promptly grabbed for the beerglass from Sweeney and downed it as
quick as Sweeney had ever seen anyone down a beer.
“You think you know what you’re talking about?! You think you
know how to handle the situation?! See how better you fare when
Maury returns to town. See if you upstanding citizens will
support your lawman or will you cower in your homes,” Micah
hollered as three beers took affect he started slurring his
“Micah, come on now. They don’t know what they’re talking about.
They’re only talking hearsay,” Sweeney said as he came around
the bar and tried to persuade Micah to go home. “We know the
“The truth, maybe I was washed up, but see how you do standing
in front of your ghost. What would you do?”
“The same as you did, try your best to defend your town,”
The two men stood at the bar and watch Sweeney lead Micah out
the door and down the boardwalk.
Hattie stood at the door, “What happened?” she asked as Sweeney
helped Micah to the sofa in the parlor.
“Dan Maury’s back in town,” Sweeney bluntly answered.
“Dan Maury?” asked a fearful Hattie.
“I’ll let Johnny and Seth know that Micah got into it with two
men in the saloon. They’ll keep Micah safe.”
“Safe! I can keep myself safe!” Micah slurred.
“You’re drunk!” Hattie declared.
“I ain’t drunk, woman!”
“Sweeney, please, let Johnny and Seth know. Thank you,” Hattie
stated as she showed Sweeney out the front door.
“I tell ya, Seth, you should have seen Micah. I ain’t seen him
this way since Lucas rode out and told Ansel Bain where to find
“He’ll thank you in the morning for seeing him home,” Seth
offered. “Maury rode out of here this afternoon. I’m sure he
won’t be back.”
“That’s just it. That’s what we thought the last time. Lucas
almost ended up dead, because he and Micah figured wrong.”
“Sweeney, Johnny’s headed out to Lucas’ place to let Lariat
“I just don’t like it. Dan Maury showing up now. After all these
years, why now?” Sweeney asked.
“He was released from prison two weeks ago. He’s just traveling
“If you say so.” Sweeney turned and left the Marshal’s Office.
Johnny called out to Lariat as he stepped down from his horse.
“Hey Johnny, did you receive another wire from Mark?” Lariat
“Not today. I came to let you know that a man named Dan Maury is
“Dan Maury, am I supposed to recognize the name?”
“No, he was released from prison two weeks ago. I didn’t know
there was history between him and Micah and Lucas until Sweeney
told me. Maybe it is a good thing that Lucas and Mark aren’t
here. Unfortunately, Micah knows he’s been in town. He rode out
of town earlier this afternoon, but I thought it might be best
to warn you, just so you’d know.”
“Thanks for the heads up. How long ago was this ‘history’?”
“From what Sweeney said, fifteen years ago and as far as Lucas
or Mark know, Micah killed Maury that night.”
“Lucas don’t know he’s alive and in prison? Boy, whose
hare-brained idea was that?”
“Unfortunately, it was Micah’s. Everyone went along with it
because no one thought he’d survive in prison long enough to
serve his sentence and be released.”
“Well, let’s hope that when he realizes Lucas and Mark aren’t
here, he’ll just move along,” Lariat replied.
Johnny Drako returned to the Marshal’s Office to find Seth
looking through one of the drawers in the filing cabinet in the
“What are you looking for?” Johnny asked.
“Sweeney stopped by here after you left. Seems Micah got into it
with a couple of men over at the saloon. He’d already had three
beers when he started going off on them. Sweeney saw him home.”
“Johnny I was hoping to maybe find some notes that Micah might
have written regarding the last time Maury was in town. There
has to be more than just Maury injuring Micah.”
“Some men can’t handle losing. They’re always seeking to settle
“I know, but still. Why would Micah go off and get drunk… I’ve
never seen him drink a quarter of a glass of beer. Sweeney said
he downed three…”
“I came down on him pretty hard. I only wanted to get him out of
here and safe. Keep him hid so Maury will just go away. Told
Lariat it might be a blessing that Lucas and Mark aren’t here.
With no one to antagonize, we can only hope that Maury decides
North Fork isn’t for him.”
“Still, he came all this way for something. Lucas or Micah, I
just wanted to find out more about what happened,” Seth stated
as he pushed shut the drawer, not finding anything to enlighten
“If you’re looking for information,” Thadd stated as he entered
the Marshal’s Office, “You might want to come to the clinic. I
got to looking through some of Uncle Jay’s old records and
there’s plenty of information regarding Dan Maury.”
After reviewing the records of the Late Dr. Burrage, Johnny and
Seth sat back and pondered, “I can’t believe it,” Seth was the
first to speak.
“Maury was pure vindictive back then. Micah was right, he said
that Maury didn’t just ‘want’ to do something for the sake of
doing it. He has reason and motive enough to come back here.”
“Can you believe they’ve kept this secret from Lucas for all
this time. I can’t imagine how he would react, if he were here,”
“For one thing, we’re doing right in keeping Micah away from
Maury,” Johnny spoke.
Nils came running into the clinic, “Drako, Sweeney told me to
come get you. Said you’d want to know that Maury’s back.”
Johnny and Seth looked at each other.
“Now look here Marshal. I ain’t causing no trouble. I’m paying
my tab as I go and I’m just sitting here minding my own
“I told you to get out of town,” Johnny replied.
“And I did, but… You said something that got me to thinking… How
this is a nice quiet town. I’m tired of always being on the
“You’ve only been on the move for two weeks, you can keep on
moving,” Seth added.
“You keep North Fork real peaceable. Maybe this is where I want
to spend my final years.”
“There’s no maybe about it, Maury,” Johnny added insistently.
“If you have charges to prefer against me, then take me to your
jail… Otherwise, I’d appreciate being able to enjoy my whiskey,
quietly,” Maury stated as he raised the shotglass to his lips
and took a sip. “Good, quality whiskey. Missed this while I was
Johnny motioned for Seth to follow him from the saloon.
“You’re just gonna let him stay?” Nils asked as he followed the
“Nils, I’ll tell you the same as I’ll tell Sweeney. The man’s
served his time and I have nothing to charge him with.”
“But, Micah and Lu… What about Micah?” Nils insisted.
“We’ll keep an eye on Micah and we’ve already warned Lariat,
just in case. He might not have done anything I can charge him
with, but that doesn’t mean I’m not prepared to act if he steps
one inch out of line.”
After three days on a drinking binge, and ultimately some strong
words from Hattie threatening to leave him, Micah forced himself
to put the bottle down. Two days later, the whips and jingles
found him cowering behind a locked door in his own home.
Refusing Hattie’s desperate pleas to let her help him.
Desperately wanting another drink, Micah remembered the words a
young boy named Mark asked him, “Whiskey make you feel better?”
“I can do this. I done it before.”
The following morning, standing tall as he could, Micah opened
the door to find Hattie waiting in the hallway, “Hattie, I think
I could stand a cold bath. Nothing like a cold bath to firm
one’s resolution to get through the whips and jingles.”
Hattie hurried down the steps to prepare a bath for her husband,
content that he was going to make it.
For the past week, Maury affected an air of enjoying the
quietness of North Fork, tipping his hat as he passed any woman
walking along the street. Most of the women turned their heads
and hurried on by without even acknowledging him. The men looked
at him and quickly averted their eyes as they passed. Entering
the general store, Maury was looking over some of the clothing
when he overheard two women talking…talking about how difficult
it must be for Mrs. McCain, what with both of the men in the
family missing for over a month. Maury slipped a wiley smile on
his face as he tipped his hat to the ladies and left the store.
“So, that ranch still belongs to the sodbuster and he has
himself a family… Too bad he left the women and children all
alone. Wonder who the man is?” Maury asked aloud, not noticing
the figure in the shadows.
Maury believed he had quietly slipped from North Fork and
directed his horse to the McCain’s ranch. From the hill
overlooking the homestead, he watched the comings and goings for
several hours, not realizing that he too had someone watching
Lariat Jones exited the barn to find a man sitting on a horse,
with his leg hooked over the saddle horn.
“Well… well… well…” Maury spoke. “When the cat’s away, the mice
will play. Wonder what Lucas McCain would say about some saddle
tramp moving in on his woman? Which one is Lucas’ wife. I’m
thinking the brunette; the redhead seems a little too young for
the sodbuster. Maybe that’s why you come and go from her home.”
“I take it you’re Dan Maury?” Lariat asked.
He watched as Maury slid from his saddle, landing on his feet.
“I’m touched, you’ve heard of me.” Maury removed his hat and
bowed deeply. Standing up and placing his hat back on his head,
“So, how is the redhead? Is she as much fun as I hear tell
redheads are? Or maybe you’re sneaking around and sampling the
“Maury, you’re not welcome here.”
“You know… I’m getting tired of people telling me where I am and
where I’m not welcome. I heard from Marshal Drako himself how
nice and peaceable North Fork was. You’re making your marshal
out to be a liar.”
“When it comes to the likes of you, he can lie all he wants,”
Without warning, Maury reached for his gun. Lariat saw Maury’s
hand moving and quickly went to draw his own gun. He fired his
weapon as he felt the searing pain in his right shoulder,
spinning him around and knocking him to the ground. As Lariat
looked up, he saw the streak of red along Maury’s ribs where his
bullet had only grazed his opponent.
“You know, that old man of a marshal wounded me worse than you
done,” Maury stated.
With one hand over his ribs, Dan Maury walked to stand over
Lariat as he lay on the ground cradling his shoulder. A crooked
smile played on Maury’s face as he brought his gun to bear on
the one man keeping him from Lucas McCain’s family. Maury cocked
his gun and tightened his finger on the trigger, “Say goodbye.”
From the corner of his eye, Maury saw movement in the barn. He
turned, raised and pointed this gun in the direction. Two shots
rang out…the first belonged to Maury’s handgun, the second a
rifle. The crooked smile turned to one of disbelief, as Maury
looked down and his grip on the gun lessened; it fell from his
Lariat did his best to move out of the line of fire as Maury
dropped to his knees, the red of blood spreading out over the
blue of the shirt he wore. Looking to the barn Lariat saw where
Maury’s bullet had struck the open door, but walking from the
“You were warned a long time ago, you don’t mess with me or the
McCain’s!” called a determined voice as Micah stepped from the
barn, rifle still pointed at his nemesis.
“Old man! You and that mangy sodbuster…” Maury’s eyes rolled
backwards in his head as he collapsed to the ground with a thud.
Micah turned at the sound of riders approaching to see Johnny
and Seth riding their mounts hard, guns in their hands.
“Micah, what the hell do you think you’re doing?” Johnny yelled
as he and Seth reined their horses to a stop, the animals’
flanks heaving from the race to get to the McCain’s.
Seth had already dismounted, turned Maury over as he knelt next
to him, and declared, “He’s dead.”
“As he should have been fifteen years ago. Had I been a better
shot and not so exhausted, he would have been.”
“You should have left this for us to handle,” Johnny proclaimed.
“I might be a retired lawman but I ain’t no invalid! I only did
what should have been done a long time ago. Besides, had we left
it up to you, Lariat would be dead.”
Micah watched as Milly ran from her home to Lariat, and he
asked, “How’s Lariat?” as he ejected the spent cartridge from
“Thanks for worrying about me. Just a scratch,” Lariat jovially
replied as he stood to his feet, supported by Milly.
“Just a scratch? You need to see a doctor!” Milly declared.
Hope came running from her home and stopped by Micah, wrapping
an arm around his arm, “Micah who is he?”
“You two women get back into your homes and keep your children
from the windows,” Micah ordered.
“Micah!” Milly called.
“Do it. You know Lucas wouldn’t want either of you out here.
We’ll explain later.”
Hope and Milly turned to walk to their respective homes.
“What about me?” Lariat asked.
“Can you ride?” Micah asked, not giving Johnny or Seth time to
“Yeah, I can ride. Didn’t even get a kiss for saving the day,”
Lariat commented as Micah helped him into the saddle.
“I didn’t do it to get a kiss from Hope or Milly,” Micah
“You…” Lariat gave a brief laugh as he pushed his hat back on
his head. “I guess it was you who saved the day. Thanks for
saving my bacon.”
“Johnny, I’ll stay here for a while,” Seth stated as he looked
to the two homes.
Having left Maury with the undertaker and Lariat at the clinic,
they returned to the Marshal’s Office, Johnny pushed Micah to
sit down in the chair in front of his desk. Taking a page from
Tom Benton’s book, he walked to his side of the desk, turned to
look at Micah, leaned forward with both hands on his desk and
yelled, “JUST WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU WERE DOING?! You
could have gotten yourself killed!”
“But I didn’t!”
“That doesn’t change the facts!” Johnny yelled.
“Oh, you’d prefer that I’d been killed?” Micah asked as his
bantering, old self settled into the chair.
“That’s not what I mean and you know it, old man!”
“I ain’t an old man. I stepped aside to give you and Mark the
respect you were due as lawmen. It’s been a long time since I
felt this good.”
“Four days ago you were a drunk!”
“And this morning, I’m stone sober and more alive than ever.
Johnny, I miss this office. Maury’s coming back to town made me
“What are you talking about?” Johnny asked as he sat down.
“Come on, North Fork’s grown and God only knows when Mark will
return. You and Seth can’t always be in the office. You need
someone here, to keep an eye on things and let North Fork’s
citizens know they have protection.”
“Old man… and I use that term the same as you call Mark, boy…”
“I know,” Micah stated with half a laugh. “With old age comes
wisdom. I still have plenty to teach you and your deputies about
upholding the law and figuring out the facts and keeping people
“Such as?” Johnny asked.
“You totally missed the signs that Maury left indicating what
his intentions were…” Micah raised his eyebrows.
“We figured it out.”
“And it could have been too late for Lariat and possibly Lucas’
and Mark’s families.”
“So what are you proposing?” Johnny asked as he finally sat back
in his chair and crossed his arms.
“Re-deputize me. I can help keep an eye on the town.”
Shaking his head, Seth stated, “And Lucas is going to shoot me
when he returns and finds out.”
Thadd knocked on the door to the Marshal’s Office before he
“Well, how’s Lariat?” Micah asked.
Thadd was quiet for a few moments while he tried to comprehend
what his eyes saw.
“Don’t stand there gaping your mouth. I asked you, how is
Lariat?” Micah asked again.
“Didn’t mean to keep you waiting, Deputy? He’s going to make a
full recovery, in time. Won’t be using his arm for a while.
He’ll sleep through the night. Oat Jackford stopped by and said
he was going to send a couple of his men out the McCain’s.”
“Thanks Doc…” Johnny stated as he watched Micah shine up the
badge pinned to his vest.
The Next Step — Words of Warning
This is a story based on the TV
series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
around The McCain Ranch