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Flames of Fire
Written by Vanessa Rose aka lilyrose

North Fork had visitors which was odd at this time of year. It was August and usually quiet since all the ranchers and famers stayed on their land.

"Hello, how can I help you?" Millie asked as two men walked inside the General Store.

"We're lookin' for Lucas McCain." The taller man said.

"Oh really?" Millie smiled. "Why?"

"Itís none of your business, lady." The smaller man snapped. Millie knew something was up now. The main man elbowed him in the ribs.

"Sorry, my partner is a little cranky since we haven't had food for a while. Is there a good place to eat?"

"The saloon or the hotel." Millie replied. She didn't like these two men. They looked like cattlemen, dusty and dirty and probably greedy for money.

"Much obliged, maíam." The man tipped his cowboy hat and left with his partner.

As they were walking to the hotel, the small man whispered, "Rhode, do you really think that McCain will be in there?"

"Yup, look, he's right there." The tall sodbuster was eating at a table with an marshal and a small boy. "That must be his son. Letís go."

"You can sit anywhere." a waitress said to them, pouring coffee to a customer.

"Thank you." Rhode replied. They sat down at a nearby table and ordered food.

"Hey, aren't you Jim Rhode?" The sodbuster said finally glancing at him.

"Yeah! Luke! Great to see you!" Rhode got up and shook hands with Lucas.

"Itís been a long time hasn't it?" Lucas said.

"Yeah, it sure has. Is this the boy you wrote me about?" Rhode asked.

"Yes, this is my son, Mark."

"How do you do?" The boy said politely.

"Nice to meet you, Mark. I'm Jim Rhode." Rhode said then turned back to Lucas. "I heard about your wife. I'm really sorry, Luke but this seems like a nice town to live in." Lucas smiled.

"It sure is, isn't that right, Mark?"

"Yes sir!"

"Oh, this is Micah Torrance, North Fork's marshal." Lucas introduced. Micah stood up and shook his hand. 'How will I get rid of Torrance?' Rhode asked himself. 'I don't like marshals.'

"Well, thanks for the lunch, Lucas! Nice to meet you, Jim. Mark." Micah left. Rhode grinned.

"This is my partner, Cade. Ever since you left the business, Lucas, I had to get a different---" Lucas glared at him.

"I don't talk about that anymore, Jim."

"Why not Pa?" Mark asked. Rhode shrugged.

"If your Pa doesn't want to talk about it then weíll not talk about it."

"Remember when I told you that I used to be reckless before I met your mother, Mark?" Lucas said sitting back down at the table.

"Yeah." Mark said curious.

"Well, letís just say I don't want to relive those memories."

"But we had so much fun together, you and me." Rhode exclaimed. "We would travel the land--" Lucas gave him a warning look. "Sorry. Why don't we talk about something else?"

"Why are you and Mr. Cade in North Fork?" Mark asked looking directly at Rhode.

"Why, we were looking for some work, weren't we Cade?" Jim Rhode replied scratching his neck.

"Oh, yes sir! We've retired from that stressful business." Cade agreed.

******
Mark watched them with wary eyes. Pa's friends acted strange.

"We better get to the ranch." Pa said. "That was really nice talking with you. Maybe you'll come to the ranch sometime?"

"Sure, we'd like that!" Rhode said smiling at Mark.

"Son, why don't you go get yourself a piece of candy so I can talk to Jim, all right?" Pa said handing him a coin. "I'll come and get you." Mark nodded and ran off to the General Store.

"Hello, Miss Millie!"

"Hello, Mark! Where's Lucas?" Millie greeted.

"He's talking with his two friends."

"Friends?"

"Yeah, Pa knew them a long time ago before he met my Ma."

"Oh, that's nice. Would you run over to the bank and tell John Hamilton that I have his order ready? I'll give you a second piece of candy for it."

"Oh, sure!" Mark smiled at her and ran to the bank.

"Hey Mark!" Freddie called. "I wanna show you something."

"What is it?"

"A rabbit's foot!" Freddie showed him the foot. Mark shrugged.

"Itís okay."

"Okay? But itís amazing!" Freddie insisted.

"Sorry, but I have to tell Mr. Hamilton something." Mark said. "We'll go fishing tomorrow right?"

"Great! See you tomorrow!" Freddie ran off. Mark opened the door to see Jim Rhode pointing the gun at Mr. Hamilton!

"Well, well, well, what do we have here?" Cade said behind him. "A little nosy kid!" He shoved him towards Mr. Hamilton.

"You better not hurt Mark!" Mr. Hamilton said, glaring.

"Cade, take Hamilton outside to the livery." Rhode ordered

"You were Pa's friend!" Mark said with a sad voice.

"Now that's no way to talk about me, Mark. I thought we were friends." Rhode said grasping Mark's shoulder. "Why don't you just sit down?" Mark sat down on a chair slowly. Jim tied him to the chair as he squirmed until the man held a gun to his head.

"It will be a painless death, itís not going to hurt that much."

"What are you talking about?"

"Cade! Get over here and pour it all over!" Cade came inside without Mr. Hamilton, and started to pour alcohol all over the floor, the walls and close to Mark.

"NO! You can't do this!"

"Sorry, Mark, you weren't supposed to die...well, actually itís my revenge on Lucas McCain." Rhode snapped. "That stupid sodbuster will die along with you!" Mark's face paled. "I'm not going to hurt him, you are." This man had gone completely insane.

"Yeah, and he's going to be so sad that you're dead, he'll no longer be able to live!" Cade bragged, taking a swig of the bottle. Mark wanted to just redo everything that had happened today.

"Pa never hurt you!" Mark yelled.

"Well, boy, I've gotta tell you, he did hurt me. He left the business without me." Rhode said.

"You better not hurt my Pa!" Mark shouted leaping forward in his chair that he sat in. Rhode laughed hysterically as he reached for a box of matches in his pocket. Mark's heart pounded in his ears.

"No please! Don't do this---" Rhode backhanded the boy.

"Sorry kid. I really am." Cade said shrugging. Jim handed him the match.

"Have the honors." Jim said grinning. The match lit up with a small flame of fire. The small flame of fire that could change everything, that could slowly kill Mark by suffocation.

"Good bye Mark." Jim said walking towards the backdoor. "I hope you don't get too hot." Mark watched the flame. Then he dropped it on the soaking floor. Fire began quickly.

"NO! Please, come back, Mr. Rhode!" Mark shouted after him. Smoke burned his lungs. He struggled in his chair until he broke free but there was nowhere to go, it was closing in on him like a pack of wolves. Tears stung his eyes from the heat. The fire drew closer, while it was deafening in his ears, it licked the building like it was taunting him.

"Pa!" He yelled. "Help! Help! Somebody hellllp!"

**********

"Lucas! There's a fire in the bank!" Nils yelled inside the Marshal's office. Micah and Lucas stood up. Millie came running inside the building.

"Where's Mark, Lucas?" She asked desperately.

"Isn't he with you?" Micah asked.

"No."

"Oh, no!" Lucas shouted. "I have to save him!" They all ran to the bank to see many of the townspeople with buckets of water dumping on it. The fire slowly died.

"I think I see a person inside!!" A person shouted over the noise.

**********

"Hello Mark."

"Ma?"

"You look grown up since the last time I saw you."

"I missed you."

"So did I, but you need to be with your Pa, Mark." The woman said.

"Why can't I be with you?"

"You know why, don't you?"

"Yes Ma. I do." They hugged.

"I love you, Ma."

**********

"Lucas! He's breathing!" Lucas loosened his grip over his son's body.

"Son, oh my son! Mark, oh Mark." He said crying tears of joy.

***********

"He'll be all right." Margaret said watching them from above. "I wish I could be with you though." She closed her eyes and sighed.

Love is like a match aflame: Nothing can ever destroy the love of a family, not even fire.

The End

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

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