Stargazer's Midnight Musings - SHADOW OF VENGEANCE

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Re: Stargazer's Midnight Musings - SHADOW OF VENGEANCE Part 3

Post by cowgirl » Fri Apr 28, 2017 4:39 pm

Michelle P.:16840 wrote:Hey Deanne, she's been quiet today.  Maybe she really IS working!
"Keep your 'sites' on The Rifleman"
"The Rifleman hits the 'Mark' every week on abc."
A cowgirl's work is never done.

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Re: Stargazer's Midnight Musings - SHADOW OF VENGEANCE Part 3

Post by cowgirl » Fri Apr 28, 2017 4:39 pm

BluewindFarm:16841 wrote:That or sleeping.  Maybe last night, she was up all night working on her story.

Maybe, maybe if we're REALLY good, she might get a chance to finish her story.
"Keep your 'sites' on The Rifleman"
"The Rifleman hits the 'Mark' every week on abc."
A cowgirl's work is never done.

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Re: Stargazer's Midnight Musings - SHADOW OF VENGEANCE Part 3

Post by cowgirl » Fri Apr 28, 2017 4:41 pm

Stargazer:16896 wrote:Ok, gang...the wait is over!  Now, maybe Deanne and Michelle will leave me alone and I can get some sleep!!!   :grin:
"Keep your 'sites' on The Rifleman"
"The Rifleman hits the 'Mark' every week on abc."
A cowgirl's work is never done.

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Re: Stargazer's Midnight Musings - SHADOW OF VENGEANCE Part 3

Post by cowgirl » Fri Apr 28, 2017 4:41 pm

cowgirl:18750 wrote:This is great!  I'm really enjoying this!

Poor Mark, what he had to go through and what is yet to come!

I'm glad we're rid of Bantry!  I like the fact that Micah killed Bantry and not Lucas.

I know Mark is too.

Now on to part 4
"Keep your 'sites' on The Rifleman"
"The Rifleman hits the 'Mark' every week on abc."
A cowgirl's work is never done.

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Re: Stargazer's Midnight Musings - SHADOW OF VENGEANCE Part 4

Post by cowgirl » Fri Apr 28, 2017 4:42 pm

Stargazer:16897 wrote:Look what the Easter bunny brought...  Please enjoy the conclusion of:

By Judith E. Schaefer

Part IV

On the third day after returning home with Lucas and Mark, Micah stepped out through the door of his office to the boardwalk.  He leaned against the hitching rail, resting his elbows there, while holding a cup of piping-hot coffee carefully in his hands and surveying the main street of North Fork.  As the marshal breathed in the fresh morning air, he thought of how good it was to be back to work.  Looking first up one side of the street and then down the other, everything seemed peaceful and as it should be.  He smiled and nodded hello to Mr. Hamilton who was just arriving to open the bank for business.  

Micah sipped at his coffee, then noticed Lucas as he emerged from the Mallory House and walked across the street towards him.  Lucas had spent the past two nights at Lou’s hotel after she convinced him to bathe and rest after he was sure his son, Mark, was going to recover.  

“Lucasboy?!  Sleep well?”

“Better than I have in days, old friend.”

“Coffee?  Fresh this morning…step inside,” said Micah as he directed Lucas toward the open door.  

Lucas ducked through the doorway and walked over to the pot-bellied stove, grabbed a cup from the table next to it, and poured himself some of the black liquid as Micah seated himself behind his desk.  Lucas then placed a leg over the corner of the desk and perched on the edge as he peered through the open door into the street.  He smelled at the rich brew and gingerly took a sip.

“Mark get to go home soon?” inquired Micah.

“I was just headed to Doc’s to find out.”

“Hmmm…mind if I come along?  I'd like to ask the doc when he thinks Mark will be up to answering some questions.”

“Look, Micah…I know you need to finish your report on Bantry, but Mark needs more time to recover before you go asking him to relive all that!” Lucas scoffed trying to protect his son.

“Lucas, I’m not going to badger the boy, but I would like to get his statement while the whole thing is fresh in his mind.”

“We’ll let Doc decide when he thinks the time is right.”  The two sat in silence for a few minutes as they sipped their coffee.  Then Lucas said, “Let’s get on over there.”  The two men drank up, and leaving the empty cups on the desk, walked over to Doc Burrage’s office where Mark had been recuperating for the past three days.


Lou had been fussing over Mark all morning.  The day before, she brought over a new nightshirt for him and clean clothes for when he could go home.  She also had a tub brought in to Doc’s so Mark could finally take a bath.  Lucas had helped his son in and out, both taking care not to get the injured ankle wet though it was healing nicely.  Mark had complained that it was starting to itch which Doc indicated was a good sign.  Now, this morning Lou had brought in a light breakfast from the hotel for Mark, but he wasn’t at all interested in eating.

With hands on her hips, Lou questioned the boy, “Finished?  Ye didn’t eat very much, young man!”  She took the tray from Mark’s lap as he reclined in the bed.  

“I’m sorry, Miss Lou…I just don’t feel like eating all that.”

“You, not hungry?  Hmmm…,” she sighed then pointed a finger at the boy.  “Well, I know ye…”

Lucas and Micah came through the door followed by Doc Burrage and interrupted Lou’s scolding of Mark.

“How’s the boy this morning?” inquired Micah beaming a smile in Mark’s direction.

“Hello, Micah,” said Mark, coughing forcefully between his words and still guarding against the pain from his broken ribs.  “Pa, Lou brought…over some breakfast…for me.”

“Which he didn’t eat much of!” stated Lou as she flashed a disapproving look Mark’s way.

“That was mighty nice of you, Lou.  But, I can see where Mark’s appetite hasn’t returned just yet.”  Lucas turned toward the doctor and asked, “Well, Doc, what do you think?  Can I take him home?”

“Luke, after examining him this morning, I don’t see any reason to keep him here any longer.  Mark’s breathing is much improved and he has responded well to treatment.”  Doc stepped over to the side of the bed and placed a hand on Mark’s shoulder as he began addressing the boy.  “I’ll send some medication home with you to keep that cough at bay.  The ankle is healing, but you’ll still have to keep it clean and apply the salve I send home with you.  You can let it air when you’re in bed, but keep it wrapped when you’re going to be out in the open air.  And, Luke, make sure you keep those ribs bandaged for the next week.”

Lucas asked, “Any special instructions then?”

Doc turned and grabbed a crutch he had placed in the corner earlier that morning.  “Mark, I want you to use this for at least a week or two until you can place more weight on that ankle.  And, there’ll be no cleaning the stalls or any heavy chores for the next six weeks until those ribs mend.  Do you understand, Mark?”

“Yessir!” Mark responded emphatically, relieved and happy to be going home.

“Lucas…keep him in bed for a day or two just to make sure he has enough strength to get around with the use of the crutch.  Feed him a light diet, plenty of fluids.  I’ll be out day after tomorrow to check on him.  Then, I want to see this young man back here next Tuesday and we’ll see about allowing some limited activity for him.”

“Sure, Doc, anything you say!”  Lucas turned to Mark, “Now, let’s get you ready to go, son!”

Lou and the rest moved into the front room as Lucas helped his son dress for the trip home.  Micah took the opportunity to quietly ask, “When do you think Mark will be able to give me a statement, Doc?”

“Micah, I’m glad you haven’t tried to ask him anything just yet.  Mark’s not sleeping well and his mind is still fragile from this whole ordeal.  Give him until next week, maybe when Luke brings him in for his examination.”

“Sure, sure, Doc,” Micah said in agreement.

They all turned to see Lucas emerge from the recovery room with Mark leaning heavily on his pa for support.  The vigilant friends all smiled, happy to see Lucas and Mark finally going home.  But, they couldn’t help notice how battered, pale and tired Mark appeared.  Micah opened the front door for them as Lou bid her goodbyes.  

“I’ll be out to see ye both later this week and I’ll have some of that chocolate cake for ya, Mark, when ye come to town next Tuesday!” said Lou as she gently cupped Mark’s cheek in her palm.

“Thanks for everything, Miss Lou.”

“Oh, it was my pleasure.  And, Lucas…I know ye will be takin’ good care of the boy.”

“Thanks, Lou!” said Lucas with a smile as he nodded towards her.  “You too, Doc!”  He helped Mark out to the street where Nils was waiting with the McCain’s team, buckboard, and a surprise for his young friend.

Nils called out to Mark, “Well, it’s good ta see ya up and about, boy!”

Mark looked in the direction of Nils’ voice to say hello, but couldn’t believe his eyes.  There stood Nils holding the reins of the horses Mark thought were gone for good.

“Nils!” exclaimed Mark.  “Pa!  It’s Blue Boy and Razor!  But, but…how?”

“Let’s get you into the wagon, son, and I’ll tell you all about it on the way home.”

Nils tied the two horses to the back of the buckboard and then helped Lucas get Mark onto the seat.  Lucas thanked Nils for all of his help.  As Lucas rounded the other side of the wagon, Micah pulled him aside and encouraged him to bring Mark in to make his statement when they both returned to town the next week.  Lucas climbed up into his seat, and with their tack and gear piled in the back, he motioned the team and turned the buckboard around.  Lou waved after them as she walked back to her hotel.  Micah stood with Nils and Doc as they watched Lucas and Mark leave town.  “What do ya think, Doc?” asked the marshal.

“Micah, I’d say that boy and his pa have a rough road ahead of them.”


As the two drove for home, Lucas explained how he and Micah had gone into Red Wing while searching for Mark, about their new friend, Mr. Wilkins, and about finding Mark’s rifle and the horses in the stable-owner’s care. He also told his son about their return to the small town, how Mr. Wilkins helped with the medical attention Mark had needed and also supplied them with a means to get Mark safely back to North Fork. Mark seemed to be listening to his pa, but his mind kept wandering off as the image of Bantry crept through his subconscious.

Lucas took care not to mention Bantry by name and told his son that he didn’t have to talk about what had happened until he was ready, but that Micah would need a statement before too long. “He hopes you will be ready by the time I take you in to see Doc next week.” Lucas looked over at Mark who was staring off into the distance. “Mark? Did you hear me, son?”


“I said…Micah would like a statement from you by next week.”

“Uh, sure Pa.”

Though Mark had answered him, Lucas realized that Mark didn’t fully comprehend what he was agreeing to. Lucas glanced sideways at his son as a worried look crossed his face. They topped the ridge in the road leading down to their ranch, and Lucas pulled up on the team hesitating a moment, then said with a broad smile, “Look good to you, son?”

“It looks fine.”


Lucas stopped the team and buckboard in front of the house. Though Mark seemed happy to finally be home, Lucas could tell there was something not right with his son. He wasn’t his usual inquisitive self and maybe it was just the ride from town that had tired Mark so. The rancher helped the boy from the seat of the buckboard, placed the crutch under Mark’s left arm, and gently held his right, mindful of the injured ribs. They made it onto the porch and Lucas turned the knob and swung the door open. The front room was cleaned up from the last time he had seen it thanks to Toomey and his son.

Mark hobbled through the door and peered around the room spying his hat still hanging where he had left it on the hook near the bedroom door. Everything looked just the same as the day he was last there cleaning the rabbits, but in his heart…things weren’t the same. “I sure am glad to be home, Pa.”

“Me, too, son…it’s been a long time.” Lucas followed closely making sure Mark didn’t lose his balance as he moved slowly in front of the fireplace. Mark teetered there for a second, then signed deeply and began to cough. Lucas took the crutch from his son as he swept an arm under Mark’s and guided him towards the bedroom.

“Let’s get you into bed, son, and give you some of the medicine Doc sent along. I’ll get all the horses bedded down and then make supper for us. How does that sound?”

“I’m really not hungry, Pa.”

Lucas got Mark to the bedroom where he helped him undress and got him under the covers. He propped Mark up with some pillows and made sure he was comfortable.

Once again, Lucas made the suggestion to his son, “Mark, you really should try to eat something. How about if I heat up some of the chicken broth Lou sent along?”

“If you…” Coughing interrupted Mark’s statement. “If you insist, Pa.”

Lucas went out to the kitchen and returned quickly with some water and made sure Mark took the correct dosage of his medication. Then Lucas said, “I’ve got the broth heating on the stove. I’m going out to the barn and then I’ll bring in our things. It won’t take long.  I'll bring a cup of broth in to you when I come back in.”

“Pa, you don’t have to fuss over me like I’m a little kid…that’s what Lou was doing,” said Mark as his eyes met his father’s.

“Mark, I’m so grateful to have you home safe and sound. You’re just going to have to accept me hovering over you for now. It won’t last long!” said Lucas with a sheepish grin.

Pa’s joshing produced a trace of a smile on Mark’s lips; he was glad to be back on the ranch. And, though he was home, why didn’t he feel safe?

Lucas walked outside and grinned to himself. That smile he had gotten out of his son was the first one Lucas had seen from Mark in quite some time. Maybe Doc was wrong about Mark’s recovery. Maybe the boy was going to be alright after all.


That night, Lucas came in from bedding the horses and checked on Mark to find him asleep. He turned down the lantern in the bedroom and quietly closed the door. He removed his boots and stoked the fire, then sat in his leather chair next to the fireplace to read from his Bible.

After reading for half an hour, Lucas yawned and looked up at the clock. Nine o’clock…and he needed to get an early start in the morning; there was a lot to do around the ranch after being gone so long. Even though Mr. Toomey and Freddy had taken care of some things while Lucas and Mark were away, there was still much to catch up on. That and taking care of Mark meant long days for the next few weeks. Lucas stood and stretched, and after placing the Bible back in its drawer next to his chair, he checked the front door and turned out the lamp. He opened the door to the bedroom to find Mark groaning in his sleep and tossing about in the bed. It was happening again.

“NO! Please…PLEASE!” screamed Mark as he sat up in bed. In his sleep he struggled against his foe, breathing hard, gasping and coughing.

Lucas was at Mark’s side and grabbed the boy’s shoulders to try and gently shake him from his sleep. “Mark, you’re alright…it’s just a dream, son. It’s just a dream…”

“Pa?!” exclaimed Mark as he woke from his nightmare and realized he was in his own bed.

“You were dreaming son. Do you remember what it was about?”

“, it was dark and Bantry was…was… Oh, I don’t remember…”

“It’s alright. You’re fine…go back to sleep now,” said Lucas as he encouraged Mark to lie back down and tucked the covers around him.

“Pa?” pleaded Mark.

He could tell from the look on his son’s face that he didn’t want to be alone. In a gentle voice, he assured his son, “Go back to sleep, Mark…I’ll be right here.”

Lucas readied himself for bed and tried to sleep. But the night proved restless for them both. There would be no peaceful nights in the McCain house for some time to come.


Lucas made Mark stay in bed another two days as Doc had suggested. The boy drank the chicken broth his pa provided, protesting each time, as he became increasingly tired of it. And, while Mark’s physical condition improved with each passing day, his mood remained dark and sullen.

On the second day of Mark’s forced bed-rest, Mr. Griswold stopped in after school for a visit with his star pupil. Though Mark smiled politely when his teacher arrived, he didn’t really feel like visiting with anyone.

Mr. Griswold was so happy to see Mark returned safely home. After a rocky start between the two, teacher and student had become good friends. The teacher soon realized he could learn much from his student, and Mark watched as Mr. Griswold became an exceptional teacher. Mark began to excel at his schoolwork much to the delight of Griswold and his pa.

Today, as he piled books at Mark’s side, Mr. Griswold detected an unfamiliar air of moodiness from the boy. He reviewed the lessons Mark had missed over the last two weeks and gave him his studies for the next two. He told him of the activities the students had been involved in and of the upcoming Spring Festival which would be a fund raiser to get new books for the school. He expressed his hope that Mark would be well enough in time to attend the festival, and then he bid his student a good day and walked out to his horse and buggy.

Lucas came from the barn to see Mr. Griswold preparing to leave. He walked over to the buggy and placed a gloved hand on top of one of the wheels. “Thanks for bringing Mark’s work to him.”

“You are most welcome, Mr. McCain. I left written instructions with him and reviewed the work he needs to catch up on. I do hope you and Mark will be able to attend the Spring Festival next month.” Griswold hesitated a moment, then asked a question that was weighing on him, “Tell me, how is Mark…really?”

“Why, what do you mean?” replied Lucas with a perplexed expression.

“It’s just that he seems…well, very quiet…unusually so. Is he still in much pain from his injuries?”

“He’s recovering, Mr. Griswold. But, with what he’s been through, it could take some time.”

“I see, well…I do hope we see him back in school soon. If you need me to bring more work for him, please let me know.” Mr. Griswold cracked the whip lightly at the horse’s hind-quarter as he pulled away from the ranch.

Lucas waved after the teacher, “Thanks again, Mr. Griswold.”

With afternoon chores finished, Lucas washed up and went into the house to check on Mark. He entered the bedroom to find Mark’s school books in a heap on the floor.

“What happened, did you drop them?” Lucas asked. He bent to pick up the books and began stacking them on the table next to Mark’s bed.

“No, I just got mad. There’s so much I missed…I just don’t feel like studyin’”

Anger rose in Lucas’ voice as he tried to reason with his son. “That’s no cause to throw your books on the floor. You know how expensive these are!”

“I know…I’m sorry, Pa.”

“You’re tired, son. Why don’t you try to get some sleep…I’ll be back to check on you later.”

As he watched his father leave the room, fear crept into Mark’s being. He didn’t want to go to sleep…he didn’t want to see ‘him’!


It was late day and Lucas was busy tending the stock when he heard another buggy approach; this time it was Doc Burrage coming to see Mark just as he said he would.

Lucas closed and latched the gate on the paddock and walked across the yard to greet the doctor as he arrived.

“Hello, Doc!” Lucas called out as he removed his gloves and shoved them into his back pants-pocket.

“Luke…how’s our patient today?”

Lucas shook his head, “I’m worried about him, Doc. He can’t get a good night’s sleep…he’s having bad dreams and keeping us both awake!”

“Hmmm…I see. Well, let me examine him. Maybe I can give him a sedative to help him sleep.”

Lucas helped Doc climb down from his buggy and grabbed Doc’s medical bag for him as the two strode for the house.

Soon, Doc was closing the door on the bedroom and came to sit at the table where Lucas had waited.  “He seems to be mending nicely. With any luck, he should be able to return to school week after next. Luke…I’m going to leave some sedative with you. It’s a different kind, a powder you can mix with water so that Mark can drink it. Give it to him for the next three nights before he goes to bed and see how he does.”

“Will this stop the nightmares?”

“Only for a time, Lucas, only for a time. He can’t take this indefinitely. Now, you need to get him up and moving. Let him get dressed and sit out on the porch a few times a day…get some fresh air. It’ll give him a new perspective on things…he can read and get caught up with his schoolwork.”

“Alright…but…” Lucas wanted desperately to help his son get through this, but what could he do?

“Just make sure he uses the crutch and keep that ankle wrapped with clean bandages when he’s outside. The ribs, too, at least until you bring him in on Tuesday.”

“But, Doc…the nightmares?”

Doc thought a moment, and then said in a soothing voice, “The only way he is going to get over this is if he starts talking…over the next few days, you need to get that boy talking. He needs to talk about what happened to him and get it out into the open. I know Micah expects to talk to him next week, but before that can happen…that boy needs to open up to you.”

“Okay, Doc…I’ll take your advice.”


During the course of the week, Lucas allowed Mark to dress and sit out on the porch several times a day. He would help Mark make his way out to a chair and bench he placed there for him where Mark could prop up his foot and read and watch his pa. Lucas took some of his reading books out for him and encouraged his son to start catching up on his schoolwork.

Lou came to visit one afternoon and brought some food for Lucas and his son.  Mark was in bed, but awake, when she arrived and Lucas told her to go on in and sit with him for a spell.  Lou tried to make small talk with the boy, but he wouldn’t engage in conversation.  She told him a funny story about one of her guests thinking it would cheer him, but Mark didn’t laugh or even offer a smile.  

As the week progressed, Mark’s cough seemed to get better. It was less of a problem now and didn’t cause severe pain to his ribs when he did cough. And, with the help of the sedative, Mark was actually able to get some sleep and Lucas, too. But, the powders had run out now and it would be two more days until they were due in town for Mark’s appointment with the doctor.

Lucas grew more and more concerned because his son still looked just as frail as the day they found him with Bantry. He was still refusing most food, he said he just didn’t feel hungry, and he had dark circles under his eyes. He remained quiet and pensive, and didn’t have any interest in talking or anything else, for that matter. Lucas kept trying, though, and Sunday evening Mark finally gave in to his pa’s efforts and agreed to eat a meal.

“Mark, you’ve been sitting in that bed enough. Why don’t you have supper out here with me tonight? It’s almost ready…here you can sit in my chair and rest until it’s on the table.”

“Alright…I am kinda tired of the broth,” Mark said as he moved into position near the chair, dropped the crutch on the floor and then lowered himself into the seat.

“Well, I’ll have food on the table shortly,” said Lucas as he worked at the stove. He had prepared some pork chops and fried potatoes, one of Mark’s favorite meals. As he cooked, he would shoot a glance now and then over at Mark to try and determine what kind of mood his son might be in. He hoped to get the boy to talk to him tonight.

“You know, son, Blue Boy is missing you. He whinnies every time he sees you out on the porch. Hopefully Doc will let you start riding after Tuesday...”

Lucas’ words were falling on deaf ears as Mark sat staring into the fire. He drifted off to sleep in just moments and soon ‘he’ was there, laughing his evil laugh. “Heh…heh…heh…”

In his dream, Mark was running…running through pine trees which cast long shadows before him. He backed into a dark corner and suddenly held a six-gun in his hands. Bantry taunted, “I’m gonna kill yor Pa!”

“No, NO!” Mark yelled in his sleep. “NO!” he yelled again as he pulled on the trigger…

“Mark, Mark! Wake up…you’re dreaming!” Mark opened his eyes and pressed his back into the chair as he slid down retreating from the figure before him.  Lucas knelt before his son and placed a hand on Mark’s shoulder trying to calm and reassure him.

“Pa?! It was him! He…he was gonna kill you…” Mark cried in a panicked voice.

“Son…it’s just a dream. You’re home safe!”

Mark looked around the room and tried to breath slowly to calm himself down. “But it was so real, Pa…”

“Dreams can be scary, son…but they are just that, dreams. Do you want to talk about it?”

“No…no, Pa!” protested Mark with fear in his eyes. He didn’t think he could face talking about ‘him’ in the here and now. It would make the outlaw and his treatment of Mark too real to handle.

“Alright, son…,” said Lucas. He felt dejected but would try again. “Well, supper’s on the table. Here, let me help you up.” Lucas picked up the crutch and stood in front of Mark, and then he handed the crutch to his son. He extended a hand for Mark to grab on to and helped hoist him from the chair.

As they sat at the table in silence, Mark ate a few bites of his food, and then began to push the remainder around his plate. He stared off into space, again deep in his own thoughts.

Lucas tried to get his son’s attention to pass the biscuits, but when Mark did not respond, Lucas reached in front of Mark to help himself.

The motion startled the boy who flinched as though Lucas was about to strike him. Mark flashed a look of fear and anger at his pa.

“Mark, what’s the matter…did you think I was going to hit you?”

“No,” Mark quickly replied though it was a lie.

“Yes, you did…you did think I was going to hit you! Mark, you know I would never…?” Lucas stopped short of finishing his sentence as he looked at the fading bruises on Mark’s face, his brow wrinkled with worry, “What did that animal do to you, son?”

Tears were forming in Mark’s eyes as he began to shake. His pa’s words forced him to remember flashes of Bantry’s actions. “Pa, I just can’t…I can’t talk about it!”

“Mark, you need to start talking about what happened in order to get past this. Just let it out, Mark!”

“If I talk about it…about him…it’s as if he’s here right now! It’s like it’s happening right now! And, I can’t, I can’t face it…” Mark buried his face in his arms on the table. His muffled sobs tore at Lucas’ heart; he couldn’t stand seeing his son in such pain and anguish.

Lucas placed his hand on the back of Mark’s neck as he spoke, “Son, sooner or later you are going to have to face what happened to you. Besides, you will need to give Micah a statement on Tuesday; he’s waited long enough to finish his report.”

Mark just wanted to run away from his thoughts, but he knew he couldn’t escape them. He rose up and brushed a sleeve across his tear-streaked face, “I’m tired now, Pa…may I be excused?”

“Sure, son…why don’t you go to bed. I’ll be there in a little while.” Lucas watched as Mark moved slowly off to the bedroom and closed the door. He thought to himself, ‘There must be some way to help him through this,’ and Lucas was determined to find it.

That night and the next, Lucas and Mark got little sleep as dreams terrorized the boy. It was getting to the point where Mark didn’t want to go to sleep at all and have to see Bantry’s face haunting him.


The ride into town was long and silent. No words were exchanged between father and son. Mark averted his eyes from the stares of the townsfolk as they stopped to watch Lucas pull the buckboard past the livery and down the street to Micah’s office.

Lucas climbed down from the buckboard and grabbed the crutch, then helped the boy safely down. “You go on over to Doc’s, son…I’ll be there shortly.”

“Alright…” said Mark glumly as he turned to hobble towards Doc Burrage’s office.

Lucas picked up his rifle and watched Mark make his way across the street. Then he went into Micah’s office to let him know Mark would be over to speak with him after his doctor’s appointment.

Mark tapped on the office door just as Doc, who had seen the boy approaching, opened it. The action slightly startled the boy who appeared embarrassed.

“Mark, come in…come in,” Doc said cheerfully. “Here, let me take that crutch from you and you have a seat right here next to my desk.” After Mark was seated, the doctor sat in his office chair and cleared his throat. It took Doc one look at the sunken eyes and somber mood to know the boy’s mental state.

“Well, young man…how have you been feeling since I saw you at the ranch?”

“Okay, I guess…”

“Just okay? How’s your appetite…are you eating better?”

“I…I don’t really feel all that hungry, Doc.”

“Hmmm…,” said Doc rubbing his chin. “Well, get that shirt off and let me help you up on the examining table. We’ll check out those ribs and that ankle of yours.”

Mark complied, and Doc listened first to Mark’s chest with his stethoscope as he had the boy breath in and out. This produced a bit of coughing, but Doc wasn’t too concerned. As he began to look over Mark’s injuries and contusions, he continued questioning the boy. “So, tell me…how are you sleeping? Still having the bad dreams?”


“Can you tell me about them?”

“No, not really…I, I don’t remember them…” Mark stated falsely.

Finished with the examination and satisfied with the improvements to the boy’s physical condition, Doc took in a deep, slow breath and looked Mark in the eye. “Son, your injuries are healing and your lungs sound much better. That cough will probably hang on for a bit longer, but that will cease sooner or later. Continue with the cough medicine…I’ll give your pa some more to take home. I’d say you should be able to start back to school in a day or two, but no riding until Monday.”

Lucas entered the office just in time to hear Doc’s last sentence. “So, he can go back to school?”

“Yes, but no riding until Monday. Absolutely no galloping, just walk the horse. Those ribs will need a bit more time to heal. You can start doing some light chores…like feeding the chickens or doing dishes. But, no heavy lifting for another month.”

“That’s good news, Doc…isn’t it Mark?” said Lucas flashing a smile at his son.

“I guess…” mumbled Mark.

Lucas picked up Mark’s shirt from the back of the chair and handed it to his son. “Why don’t you get dressed and go on over to Micah’s. He’s waiting for you. I’ll be over after I speak with Doc.”

Mark dressed and climbed down from the examining table with help from Lucas.

“Mark, leave the crutch here with your father.  He can bring it along.  I want you to start trying to walk on that leg.  It may hurt a bit at first, but you’ll get the strength back in that ankle before you know it.”

Mark hesitated in leaving and it wasn’t that he was afraid to walk without the crutch; he didn’t want to go talk to Micah, he didn’t want to be forced to talk about ‘him’. “Go on, Mark,” said Lucas as he held the door open, imploring his son.

Lucas made sure Mark kept his balance as he made his way over to the marshal’s office.  Then Lucas closed the door and turned towards the doctor, “He’s not getting any better, Doc! He can’t sleep, he can’t eat…he won’t talk to me. His dreams are torturing him, and I don’t know what else I can do to get through to him.”

Doc Burrage instructed Lucas to have a seat.  As he listened to the rancher, Lucas told him about the way Mark had reacted when he thought Lucas was going to hit him.

“Hmmm…I see. Luke, do you recall how some men were, and still are, after the war? The slightest noise, even an image can startle them. They react as if they are still living ‘in the war’. That’s what’s happening to your son. He’s still fighting Bantry in his dreams. And, I’m afraid he’s starting to fight his ghost in the present by the sound of things. He may get worse before he gets better.” As Doc Burrage began to outline what they could do to help improve Mark’s mental condition, Lucas interrupted.

“Doc, what if he won’t…what if he won’t talk to me? He’s been so quiet and sad. I’m afraid he is shutting himself off.”

“The melancholy and the detachment is part of it…and, he may start to show signs of anger as he fights his way through this. The slightest thing might cause an outburst.  You’re just going to need even more patience and show more love and kindness towards your son than you already have. But, I don’t want you babying him.”

Lucas stared out the window towards the marshal’s office as he grew concerned about how the interview with Mark was going. He was afraid for his son.

“You’re going to have to push him to talk, Luke.  It’s the best thing to help him start healing...emotionally.  You need to find out what really happened to him with Bantry, so you can help the boy deal with it.  In time, I’m confident Mark can overcome this.”  


Mark shifted nervously in Micah’s chair where the marshal had instructed him to take a seat.  He wanted the boy to ‘be comfortable’ during his statement.  Mark fidgeted and shuffled his feet, and then he removed his hat and placed it on the desk while running his hand through his hair.

Micah slowly paced back and forth on the other side of the desk with a tablet of paper and a pencil in his hand.  “Just relax, Mark.  
“I’ll try, Micah,” Mark replied as he first crossed and then uncrossed his legs.

“Now…consider yourself under oath here, Mark.  I need you to tell the truth and I need you to tell me what happened to the best of your knowledge and in your own words.  You can take your time…I’m going to be writing some notes while you relay your statement.  There’s going to be a series of questions, and the first one is…what happened when you were taken hostage?”  He waited for Mark to begin but saw the boy hesitating, “Go ahead, son.”

Mark first cleared his throat, inhaled with tightened lips, then exhaled before he began, “Pa had gone into town and I…I was at the ranch feeding the chickens af’…after cleaning the rabbits I shot earlier.”  He spoke haltingly, trying to piece together what must have happened, “There were shadows, long shadows…and, and I…never saw him coming.  He must’ve… hit me over the head with somethin’.  I think I was knocked out for a long time ‘cause…when I came to we were…we were in the cabin.”

“And, did you realize who your kidnapper was?”

“It was dark when I came to…it was hard to see.”  Mark’s breathing became shallower as he continued to talk.  “I thought it was Pa at first…until the man came towards me.  Then I…I new it was him!”

“And, by him…you mean…?”

“Bantry…it was Earl Bantry!”  There he had said it…he had said ‘his’ name out loud!  It had happened!  He was taken by the most evil man Mark had ever seen and thought he would never have to see again and subjected to brutal treatment he had never experienced before.  Mark pulled at his shirt collar; though it wasn’t buttoned…it felt as if the air had been sucked out of the room.

“Was there anyone else with him?” inquired the marshal as he continued walking back and forth.

“No…it was just him.”  Mark sat and stared out the window as if in a trance, his mind whirling as the image of Bantry taunted him.

Micah saw that Mark was starting to have a hard time relaying his story, so he poured a glass of water for the boy as he attempted to regain his attention, “Mark…Mark, would you like a glass of water?  Mark?”

“Oh, I…I’m sorry, Micah.”

“There’s no need to apologize.”  The marshal placed the glass on the desk in front of Mark, picked up his paper and pencil, and continued his questioning, “Now, you were in the cabin…was there ever a time when you had the chance to get away?”

“No…NO! He had me chained up…I…I couldn’t get away!  He left me in that cabin alone in the dark, and when he would come back…he, he was drunk most the time.  He’d yell and cuss and call Pa some terrible names.  He said he was gonna kill him…he was gonna kill Pa!”

“It’s alright, boy…calm down,” said Micah as he picked up the glass of water and held it out for Mark.  “Here…take a drink.  Go as slow as you need to, son…we’ve got plenty of time.”

But, that was just it…he didn’t want to take more time.  Mark wanted this to be over with.  


Lucas had left Doc’s office and walked over to peek through Micah’s window.  Satisfied that Mark seemed to be doing okay, he moved over to the buckboard and climbed up to have a seat in the back.  He sat dangling his legs and holding his rifle in his lap as he watched the townsfolk walk by, greeting some with the tip of his hat or offering a friendly, ‘hello’.

Lou had seen the cowboy leave Doc Burrage’s as she stood in the doorway of her hotel.  This might be her only opportunity to talk with him about Mark, so she decided to walk over to where Lucas sat waiting.

“Hello, Lucas,” she called out as she approached.  

“Oh…hello, Lou.”  Lucas smiled at her, though he wasn’t particularly pleased to be having to talk to Lou right now.  He just wanted to get his son and go home.  

Lou came around the wagon to the boardwalk and leaned against the back wheel looking up at the rancher, “Waitin’ fer Mark?”

“Yes, he’s…he’s in talking to Micah now,” Lucas said with a sigh.

“How’s he doin’?”

“I don’t know, I haven’t gone in and…”

“Not with Micah…oh, ye know what I mean…  He, he seemed so sad when I stopped by the other day.  He should be happy ta be back home with ye safe and sound.  Have ye gotten ta talk with him about what happened?”  

“He’s going be fine, Lou.  Sometimes a man’s just got to deal with things in his own time and in his own way.”

“Oh, Lucas…as much as that boy has tried ta get ye to allow him ta grow up…well, this…this isn’t the time ta be tellin’ him ta act like a man!  To be sure, he’s not full grown yet…he’s just fifteen…and he still would be needin’ the guidance of his father!”

“Lou…stay out of this!  I think I know what my son needs!” Lucas proclaimed sternly.

“Oh, do ye now?”  Feeling her Irish blood beginning to boil, Lou turned away and paused a moment to compose herself.  She turned back around, placed a hand on Lucas’ knee, and in a calmer voice she offered, “Lucas…I’m yer friend…and I just want ta help ye any way I can.  Ye know that much, don’t ya?”

Lucas looked into Lou’s eyes and gave her half a smile.  He knew she was just trying to help.  “I know, Lou.  I just…” Lucas hesitated in answering because the truth was…he didn’t really know the best way to help his son either.


Inside the marshal’s office, Micah was attempting to get an answer from Mark by restating his last question, “Mark, once again…six days passed between the time you were abducted and the time your father and I found you.  Can you tell me what happened in those six days?”

Mark’s hand was shaking as he picked up the water glass, gulped down its contents, and then set the glass back down on the desk. He closed his eyes and swallowed hard as he tried to form the words that would explain those agonizing days so Micah would fully understand what he had gone through.  


“I felt like a slave, Micah,” said Mark with tension in his voice.  “I was chained up like an animal and when he…when he did let me up, he never let me out of his sight.”  Mark’s words became angrier, “I had to fix his food, and when I’d ask for water or something to eat…he’d…he’d yell at me or throw things at me!”  Tears started to slide down Mark’s face and he angrily wiped them away with a clinched fist.  “He’d…he’d get drunk…and yell…and tell me over and over that he was gonna kill Pa!  He kicked me and beat me…he kept beating me and I…I…”  Mark slammed his fist on the desk and then buried his face in the crook of his arm.  Micah could barely hear his muffled voice as Mark cried, “I couldn’t…I couldn’t get away…”  Mark’s emotions were getting the best of him and Micah knew that he had to finish his questioning or give Mark a break.  

“Son, I’m almost finished…just a few more questions, and then we’ll be done.  I promise,” said Micah as he rounded the desk and patted Mark’s shoulder trying to reassure the boy.  

“Mark…can you sit up, son?”

Mark rose up slowly and sat back in the chair, his face and eyes red from crying.  He wiped at his face with his sleeve as he tried to regain some composure.

Micah’s emotions were starting to get the best of him too, sniffing to suppress his own tears; he felt so sorry that he had to force the boy to recall his experience.  “Now Mark, at any time…did Bantry threaten to kill you?”

Mark took in a deep breath as he tried to gather the strength to continue, speaking now in a lower tone, slow and deliberate, “Both times he left, I thought…I thought he was leaving me there alone…alone ta die.  But he…he always came back.  He’d point that gun at me…telling me if I…if I tried anything, he’d shoot me!”  Mark clinched his fists and gritted his teeth as he went on, “I can still smell the whiskey on his breath!  He said Pa was gonna be dead!  And he said…he said when Pa was gone, that…that I would have to call him Pa!”  Tears again rolled down Mark’s face as he tried hard to keep going, his voice growing steadily louder and angrier as he spoke faster and faster, “I tried to think of ways to get away…but my ankle, it hurt so bad…I couldn’t walk.  It was so cold up there…the fire was always burned out…and, and I started to get sick.  And, I was so hungry…why he’d eaten nearly all the supplies he stole from our house.  Then I found the pepper tin, and I thought…I thought if I put all the pepper in his food, maybe…maybe he would get sick too…and I could get out of the cabin and take his horse...”  Mark gasped for air, this painful recounting taking everything out of him.  

“You’re almost finished, Mark,” said Micah as he willed the boy to go on.  

Mark suddenly felt cold…he was shaking as he tried to speak, his teeth chattering as the words tumbled out in a rush, “I did it…I put the pepper in his food.  But, it just…it just made him madder.  I tried to get out the door, but…but he grabbed me and he threw me across the room!  He was yelling and pointing the gun at my head.  He said…he said that it was my last mistake and that…that…and we…we heard your voice.  Then he was holding me and pointing the gun at Pa and…and they were fighting.  I picked it up…I picked up the gun!  I wanted…I wanted to...!”

The marshal walked behind the desk and pulled Bantry’s gun from its holster where he had placed it on the wall, holding it up for Mark to see, “Son…is this the gun?  Is this the gun that Bantry used to threaten to kill you and your Pa?”

Micah knew that Mark was troubled from his experience, but he had no idea that the sight of Bantry’s gun was all that was needed to trigger the explosion that followed.


Out in the street, Lucas thanked Lou for her concern but let her know he needed to take care of his son in his own way.  She said she understood, then she offered dinner for both Lucas and Mark, but he declined…saying the best thing was to get Mark home as soon as Micah was through questioning him.

From inside the office, they heard yelling and Lucas bolted for the door.  He threw it open and rushed in to find Mark standing with his back in a corner, shouting at Micah, “I wanted to kill him…I wanted to kill him!”

The marshal watched helpless as the boy screamed in an uncontrollable rage.  

Lucas stepped in front of Micah, his back towards the marshal and facing his son with outstretched arms.  “Micah, what…what happened?” he shouted back over his shoulder.    

“Lucas…I’m sorry…I don’t know…I don’t...”

Mark continued screaming at Micah, “I wanted to kill him…kill him the way you should have two years ago!  But, you didn’t…you didn’t!  You had your chance and you didn’t do it!  YOU let him do this to me!  YOU LET HIM DO THIS TO ME!”

Lucas tried to yell above Mark’s shouting and get him to calm down, “Mark!  Mark!”  He grabbed the boy’s shoulders and shook him, but Mark continued to scream.  His eyes grew wide with fear and he began to struggle as if he wanted to run, but Lucas wrapped his arms around him and held his son tight.  

Mark fought against his father, coughing, sobbing and screaming over and over, “Kill him!  Kill him!”  Lucas couldn’t believe this was happening; Mark was yelling and pointing as if Bantry were standing right before him. "Kill him now! What are you waiting for?! He's gonna kill Pa! KILL HIM! PA!!" A strong coughing fit struck Mark, almost as bad as the first day they had found him.
Lou stood in the doorway watching in horror as the scene unfolded.  “Lucas!” she called out, “I’m goin’ fer Doc Burrage!”

As Lucas tried to hold his son, he yelled back at her, “Tell him to bring a sedative.  Hurry, Lou!”

She ran for the doctor’s office.  As soon as Lou started to explain what was happening over at the marshal’s, Doc knew what was needed.  He grabbed his medical bag and rushed with her back to Micah’s.  

Doc quickly accessed the scene and began yelling instructions, “Micah, get over here and help Lucas hold him.  Watch his legs!”  Doc opened his bag, pulled out a needle and syringe and filled it with Laudanum.  

Mark was out of control and no longer aware of his surroundings.  He only saw Bantry in front of him, taunting and laughing.  Mark was breathing hard and struggled to get free of the arms restraining him.  He kicked and screamed, “NO…NO!”  

Doc yelled, “Rip his sleeve, I need to get this into his arm!”  Lucas grabbed hold of the top of Mark’s sleeve and ripped the seams apart as he pulled the material down to his son’s elbow.  

Doc then told the two men to get Mark down on the floor, and when they had him held securely, Doc moved in and waited for just the moment when he could get the needle into Mark’s arm without breaking it off.

Within moments, Mark stopped struggling and his breathing slowed.  His screams turned to mumbling noises and he soon relaxed in Lucas’ arms as the medication took control.  Micah sat back on his heels and pulled out his bandanna to blot at his eyes and wipe the sweat from his brow.  Lou brought over some water which she handed to Micah, then she looked down at Lucas with tears in her eyes and placed a hand to her lips.  Lucas, breathing hard and shaking from the struggle, pulled his son into a sitting position and held him tight in front of him just as he had when Mark collapsed in front of Bantry’s cabin.  Doc sat down in Micah’s chair, propped an elbow on the desk and rested his head against the back of the chair.  The sun cascaded through the windows and filled the room with pockets of shadows and light.  The only sound was the ticking of the clock on the wall.


An hour later, Micah helped Lucas get Mark over to the hotel where Lou had prepared a room for the father and son.  Lucas placed Mark in the bed and pulled the covers around him.  Doc said the boy would sleep until the morning, and if there were no more outbursts, Lucas could take him home.  He pulled a chair over to the bed next to his son and sat down to keep vigil as he had too many times before.  As evening fell, a lamp on the nightstand next to the bed, its wick turned down low, cast the image of Lucas on the wall behind him.      

Downstairs, Lou, Doc and Micah sat quiet for a while at one of the dining room tables, none of them hungry and all too exhausted to discuss what had happened.  Doc finally excused himself and went to his office to go to bed.  Micah finished the cup of coffee Lou had brought to the table and pushed back his chair to excuse himself.

“Well, I’ve got rounds…thanks for the coffee, Lou,” said Micah as he stood up and prepared to leave.  

Lou grabbed Micah’s sleeve and looked up at him to ask, “Micah…what’s Lucas goin’ ta do now?”

“I don’t know, Lou.  I honestly don’t know,” he said shaking his head.  “All we can do is be here when they need us.”  Micah turned, took his hat from the rack in the corner and placed it on his head.  He bid his host goodnight and walked slowly out to the darkened street.    


A cool, gray morning had arrived and Lou agreed to sit with a still-sleeping Mark so Lucas could go talk to Micah and Doc about the previous day.  Lucas descended the stairs and crossed the hotel lobby.  

The last of the breakfast patrons were just leaving except for the marshal and the doctor, who sat waiting for him in the dining room.  As Lucas approached, Micah shoved an available chair out from the table, “Here, Lucasboy…have a seat.  You look terrible.”

“Thanks, Micah,” returned Lucas sarcastically.

“Well, you do.  Here, drink this,” said Micah as he pushed a cup of coffee towards his friend.

“Got anything stronger?” Lucas asked as he sat down in the chair.  He placed his elbows on the table and rubbed his eyes with the backs of his hands as he tried to shake off his weariness.  

Micah snorted, “Hmmm…might early for anything else, isn’t it?”

“Guess you’re right,” said Lucas with a nod of his head and a long sigh.

“Is he still sleeping?” asked Doc.

“He was when I left Lou sitting with him.”

“Blessed sleep…and no more incidents?”

“He was quiet all night, Doc.”

“Good, good,” said Doc placing a hand to his chin.  “Luke, I’ve been giving this some thought and I think we need to change how we’re handling this...”

Frustration laced Lucas’ response, “Doc…first you say to get him talking.  Now, you’re telling me to…”

“I know this is confusing, but obviously what we’ve been doing isn’t working.”  

“I don’t know what to do…I feel like he is shutting me out.  If Mark doesn’t tell me what happened, how can I help him?”

Micah interjected, “From what he told me yesterday…the beatings and the violent death threats against him and you…being chained up, half starved, and wondering if he was ever going to get out of there alive and see you again.”  Micah hung his head as he continued, “I’m sorry I had to put him through that!  I’ve got enough for my report, I…I won’t be questioning him again.”

With a wave of his hand, Lucas refused to accept Micah’s apology; he knew Mark’s reaction wasn’t the marshal’s fault.  Especially not after Doc further explained Mark’s mental condition and what they might expect.  

“Micah, you’re questions may have triggered Mark’s violent outburst,” said Doc, “but they didn’t cause it.  It’s something buried deep in his mind.  Unfortunately, he has to face it to get over it and your questioning was just the beginning.  Luke, you’ll have to continue to get him talking…but in a controlled way, maybe of an evening and then, just for short amounts of time.  And, what he needs even more is to get back to some normal routine, get him back in school and doing some light, daily chores…help him to stop dwelling on this thing day in and day out.”

“He’s so full of hatred and bitterness. What if the dreams continue?  What if he can’t get over this?” asked Lucas with fear in his voice.  “I just want my son back.”

Micah leaned in towards Lucas, “You’ve been where Mark is…maybe not this low, but you know something of what he’s feeling.  That murdering outlaw may be dead, but what he put that boy through is haunting him and tearing him apart.  Don’t let Bantry’s ghost come between you and your son!”

Doc continued, “You know what to expect, and it isn’t going to be easy.  You’ll need to use a firm, but gentle hand…”

“Lucas, just know that we’re here for you…both of you,” offered Micah.  “We can all be on guard for that boy, now.”  

Lucas rose up from a slouching position and squared his shoulders with renewed determination, “I’m not going to let Bantry take over…he’s not getting my son.”

Lucas looked the marshal in the eye, “Thanks, Micah!”  The three men stood and Lucas went to shake Doc’s hand, “And, Doc…soon as that reward money comes in, I’ll pay you for Mark’s care.”

“You know I’m not worried about that, Luke.  You just take care of that boy!”

“I will, Doc…and thanks.”


Moonlight streamed through the window, illuminating the room.  Lucas sat up in bed and swung his legs down to the floor.  Sitting on the edge of his bunk, he peered at his son through the half-light.  

“Pa…PA…he’s got a gun…PA!”  

Lucas went to Mark’s side and gently shook him, “Mark, wake up, son…you’re dreaming again.”

The boy opened his eyes.  “Pa?  I…I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“It’s alright…lie down and try to sleep.”

And, so it went night after night as the bad dreams continued into the next month, but father and son seemed to become accustomed to them…almost as if they were something normal and to be expected.  Always the same, Mark would wake screaming in terror and thrashing about, his eyes wide with fear, his body drenched in sweat.  Lucas would calm him and they both would try to go back to sleep.


Though he had returned to school, the sleepless nights wore on Mark’s face like that of an old man.  He couldn’t concentrate on his work, and his grades began to suffer.  He was somber and indifferent; the slightest thing would agitate him.  Mr. Griswold became very concerned about the boy.  The teacher had encouraged Mark to get involved in the preparations for the Spring Festival, but the boy showed no interest.

The day of the festival was bright and warm, a beautiful spring day.  All the students, their parents, and other townsfolk were in attendance.  Lucas had arranged to meet Mark there, but as he walked around the school grounds, he didn’t see his son, “Lucy, have you seen Mark anywhere?”

“No, Mr. McCain…I haven’t seen Mark since I got here.”

Lucas walked around the school two times hoping to encounter Mark as he made his way through the crowd of people enjoying their picnic.  The rancher spied Mr. Griswold talking with Toomey and his son under the shade of a tall oak.  He walked over to where they stood, and with the tip of his hat, greeted them cheerfully, “Toomey, Mr. Griswold…hello Freddy!”

“Hello, Mr. McCain,” Freddy said politely, hiding his bruised chin from Mark’s father.

“Have any of you seen Mark?  I was supposed to meet him here.”

They all shook their head, no. “Oh, well,” said Lucas looking around, “Guess he hasn’t arrived yet.”  Mr. Toomey grabbed Freddy’s shoulders and guided him away as he called back, “We hope Mark gets better soon, Lucas.”  

Lucas watched the father and son walk away, his head tilted and one eyebrow drawn up questioning the tone of Toomey’s statement.  He shrugged it off and turned his focus to the teacher, “Mr. Griswold, I’ve been meaning to ask how Mark is doing in school?”

“Mr. McCain…Mark hasn’t attended school for over a week.”  

“What do you mean?”

“Why, I just assumed after I sent the note home with him, that you…”

“Note?  What note?” Lucas shot back as the color drained from his face.

In a halting voice, Mr. Griswold replied, “The one explaining that maybe Mark had returned to school too early and that perhaps he should continue studying at home.  When he tried to start a fight with his best friend, Freddy, over a trivial matter…I knew that…”

“Mark never gave me a note…he was fighting with Freddy?  I thought he was going to school every day...”

“I’m sorry, Mr. McCain, I…”

Lucas closed his eyes, anger and worry creasing his brow. “It’s not your fault…”


Lucas rode hard to the ranch driving Razor at a gallop.  He arrived to see Blue Boy standing in the paddock as he jumped from his horse and threw the reins over the hitching rail.  He marched up to the porch and threw open the door finding Mark sitting in a chair at the table.

The action caused Mark to stand up abruptly, the chair falling back behind him.  Pa came at him, pointing a finger as he yelled, “Mark…what’s this about you not going to school?”

Fear rose in the boy as he backed slowly away, “I’m sorry, Pa…I…I just couldn’t be there every day!”

“What do you mean?  What were you doing every day I thought you were in school?!” Lucas asked as he took off his hat and threw it on the table in a rage.

Mark winced and looked away as he began to shake.

“Answer me!” shouted Lucas.

“I…I’d just go for a ride…or sit by the lake,”  responded Mark who now cowered near the kitchen door, and Lucas had followed him there not realizing he was yelling at Mark with only an arm’s length separating them.

“And do what?”


“Nothing!”  Lucas mocked.  “Mark…you are to stay here every day and study.  I want your schoolwork caught up, and if you can ditch school…then you can damn sure stay here and work on your chores…do you hear me?!” he yelled pointing his finger in Mark’s face.

Mark recoiled and swallowed hard, tears welling in his eyes, as he responded in a hushed tone, “Ye…yessir…”

Lucas made for the door as he sternly added, “I’ve got to take care of the stock.  And, since Doc says you are healing just fine, it’s time you started pulling some more weight around here.  When you get through with your lessons, you can fix supper!”

The boy turned away, looking out the kitchen window as he leaned against the sink.  Drawing his hands into tight fists, his face reddening, he whirled in anger at his pa, “I’m not hungry…”

“We’ve talked about this, son,” said Lucas as he moved past the table and picked up his hat. “Now, you get started on…”

Mark flew at his father, stunning Lucas, as he shouted, “If you’re so hungry, why don’t you fix it yourself?!”

Placing his hat on his head, Lucas stopped short of the door and wheeled around with his jaw dropped open in disbelief.  He rushed forward and hammered his fist on the table causing Mark to jump back. His eyes narrowed as he glared at his son, then he stabbed at the air with his finger emphasizing every word, “Boy, you are being disrespectful…and, I do NOT EVER want to hear you speak to me that way again!  Do you understand?  Do you UNDERSTAND me, Mark?!”

Mark was shaking, but managed to give a nod in agreement.

“You…go tend the horses…I’ll fix the supper,” Lucas ordered, turning away from his son.

Mark opened the side door and stood there, clinching his jaw to hold back the tears.

“Go!” said Lucas angrily with his back still turned.  Mark hesitated as he looked at the man standing there.  In his heart, he knew it was Pa, but his fears had him seeing Bantry.  He turned and ran for the barn.


‘Heh…heh…heh, you’re my son now!’ The outlaw stood before him laughing and waving his gun.  ‘You’ll be just like me!’  “No, no…” Mark moaned as he tossed and turned in his bunk.  Someone was calling him from a distance.  Mark rushed for the open door, but the hand pulled him back.  “No, no…”  He struggled and fought to get away.  The shadows…the shadows…it was too dark. Two men were fighting…punching, kicking…one man held the other to the ground…choking him…killing him.  Mark couldn’t breath…he had to do something.  The gun …it was there in front of him.  He picked it up…he held the gun in his hands; he pulled back the hammer and squeezed the trigger.  A shot rang out…the shadows…he couldn’t see…no!  

Mark sat straight up in his bunk, shaking and gasping for air, straining to see through the darkness.  Breathing hard, his heart pounding in his chest, Mark slammed his eyes shut as hot tears streamed down his face…he remembered…he remembered.  He wanted to run, he wanted out of there.  He closed his mouth tight and tried not to make a sound.  He could see Pa still sleeping in his bunk across the room, so he got up quietly and slipped out, pulling the bedroom door closed behind him.

He made his way to the front door and slowly turned the knob.  Still shaking, Mark stepped out on the porch.  He grabbed for the post, pulled himself to it and rested his head against the wood.  He remembered…he didn’t want to…  He clamped his mouth shut trying to suppress his cries; he didn’t want Pa to hear him.  He didn’t want to have to face him.  

Mark slid down and sat leaning against the post. His whole body shook as he sat there sobbing, his shoulders rising and falling as his mind raced.  The figures came at him; the cougar…Charlie shot dead…Pa’s rifle…Marty pulling a gun on Pa.  He wrapped an arm around the post and held fast, his thoughts rushing around him, poking at him and prodding.  Bantry stood before him…pointing his gun.  The outlaw was choking Pa…killing him.  The images consumed him and with his knees pulled up bracing his arms, Mark buried his face and cried.  

Soon the call of a whippoorwill begged his attention.  Mark rose up and wiped at his face with the sleeve of his longjohns as he slowly breathed in and out.  The moonlit hills of the ranch lie softly before him…beautiful in their blanket of mist, but offering him no peace.  The whippoorwill called again, and Mark looked up into the night.  Wisps of clouds swept the indigo sky as the full moon peeked out now and again to reveal a million stars.  Suddenly, a breeze picked up the strands of hair falling at Mark’s forehead and gently brushed it aside.  It was if heaven were calling to him; he lifted his face towards it as persistent tears fell.  Mark closed his eyes again and prayed, “God, please…please help me.  I don’t know what to do…please.”  He waited there, face tilted upwards…but no answer came to him.  The breeze wafted again, tossing Mark’s hair, and he brushed it back with his hand.  He stood slowly and sighed, he was so tired.  He took one more look across the hills, then returned to his bed to try and sleep.

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Re: Stargazer's Midnight Musings - SHADOW OF VENGEANCE Part 4

Post by cowgirl » Fri Apr 28, 2017 4:43 pm

Stargazer:16898 wrote:Over the next few days, Mark did everything he could to avoid Pa.  He pretended to sleep late, and only rose after Pa had left the house.  He would busy himself with small chores when Pa was at home.  He was ashamed that he had caused his father so much grief, and he was sorry for being disrespectful, but Pa just wouldn’t understand.  Mark couldn’t bear to talk to him, much less face him.

One morning, Lucas left a note for Mark telling him he would be first going into town and then out on the north fence line in the afternoon, and he left instructions for Mark to groom Razor and Blue Boy.  He took the buckboard and drove into North Fork. When asked by Nils and John Hamilton how Mark was doing, he couldn’t bring himself to tell them the truth and answered cheerfully, “Mark’s coming along…won’t be long before he’s back to his old self.”

He couldn’t fool Doc, though, who saw right through Lucas’ deception.  He had heard what had happened between Freddy and Mark, and how he was sent home from school.  “I want to see that boy on Tuesday, it’ll be six weeks,” insisted the doctor.  “More than likely, he’ll be released from all restrictions and be able to get back to normal.”  

“Normal, Doc?” questioned Lucas.  

Doc’s parting words were for Luke to have patience with his son, but his patience was wearing thin.  He didn’t find Micah any more helpful.

The marshal sat back in his chair, listening, as a frustrated Lucas stormed around his office and carried on about his son, “He just refuses to talk to me, Micah.  He’s becoming more and more disrespectful, and I…I’m afraid I didn’t handle this last confrontation very well.”

“Sounds like you’re handling it as well as can be expected.  He’ll come around.”

“But, when, Micah?!”

“Only God knows the answer to that, Lucasboy.  Besides, you’d never give up on that boy…no matter what.”

The afternoon sun was warm on Mark’s face as he turned Razor out into the corral.  He walked back into the barn and gently spoke to his horse which flicked its ears towards Mark.  “Your turn, Blue Boy…that’s a boy.  Get on over there,” he said as he entered Blue Boy’s stall.  Mark saw the pitchfork leaning against the post, and had half a mind to start mucking the stall, but knew he shouldn’t as he felt of his ribs.  They didn’t hurt at all anymore, but just thinking about the injury got him thinking on Bantry again.  He shook his head to try and make the thoughts go away.  

“Soon as Doc says it’s okay, me and you are goin’ ridin’,” said the boy to his horse.  Blue Boy nickered as Mark brushed across his back.  “You sure do need this…” said Mark as he patted the horse’s flank.  He continued combing and brushing, it felt good to be tending the horses.  It also kept Mark’s mind from wandering into his darkest thoughts.


Lucas pulled the buckboard and team to a halt in front of the house, climbed down from the seat and grabbed his rifle.  He took off his hat and wiped at his brow with the back of his gloved hand.  He looked around the yard and called out to Mark, who didn’t answer, but Lucas thought he saw him through the open barn door.  

The rancher had put in a hard day’s work and was dusty and sweaty.  He took his hat and swiped at his dirty shirt and trousers.  ‘Might just need a bath tonight,’ thought Lucas to himself.  He walked up on the porch and opened the front door to prop his rifle into its holder.  Then he turned around and pulled a cigar from his shirt pocket, lit it, and puffed a few times.  He thought on Micah’s words and decided to go out to the barn and make another attempt to get his son to open up to him.


For the first time in a long time, Mark was engrossed in his work.  He had finished grooming Blue Boy and thought maybe he would go for that ride.  After all, Doc had told him he would know when he was ready.  He was finishing placing Blue Boy’s bridle, fastening the throat latch, when the faint smell of a cigar drifted through the barn.  Thoughts of Bantry sprang into his mind…the outlaw blowing his stale breath in Mark’s face.  

Blue Boy picked up a foreleg and struck the ground with his hoof.  Mark gripped the horse’s bridle with both hands and froze in fear as he watched the long shadow of a man creep up the wall of the barn.  His heart started pounding and he couldn’t breath…he stood there locked in a panic and couldn’t move.  It was him!  A cold sweat enveloped Mark, his eyes darted about and he swallowed hard as his mind raced, ‘I have to get away!’

Out of the corner of his eye, Mark spied the pitchfork and, in desperation grabbed the implement, swung around, and lunged at his assailant.

Lucas stumbled backwards, “Mark?!  What the…?”

“Get away from me!” screamed Mark, hatred flashing in his eyes. “Leave me alone!”

“Mark!  Mark!” Lucas yelled as he dodged the pitchfork.  

The boy suddenly realized it was his pa standing before him and dropped the pitchfork to the ground.  “Pa…Pa, I’m sorry…I’m sorry,” he cried, shaking to his core.  “I thought you were…”

“Mark…what’s the matter with you?  Talk to me, son!”

“I can’t…I can’t…” the boy cried as he started to run.  

Lucas grabbed Mark by the arm and pulled him towards him, “You are going to stay here and talk to me!”

“Let me go!  Let me go!” Mark shouted as he struggled to get free.

Still holding Mark’s arm, Lucas pulled the boy around to face him, “This isn’t you, Mark…so full of hate and anger!”

Mark looked up into Lucas’ eyes, rage surging inside him, “Well, maybe this is what I’m gonna be…just like Bantry!  You said yourself…people who are mistreated turn into…”

“Is that what you think?  You think because of the week Bantry had you that…  Mark, you misunderstood me!”  ‘So, that was it,’ Lucas thought to himself.  “You think you’re going to turn into someone like Bantry?  That will never happen, son!”  

“You don’t understand, Pa!’ Mark started to cry as he tried harder to pull his arm away.  “You don’t understand…you…you…”

Mark jerked his arm from his pa’s grip as Lucas finally let him go.  The boy stepped back towards Blue Boy and picked up his hat which had fallen to the ground in the struggle.  He stood there, trembling, as he wrung his hat in his hands.  “You don’t understand!” he said through gritted teeth as tears slid down his face.  “I can’t be around you…I can’t…”    

Lucas interrupted his son, pointing a finger at him again, “Mark…Bantry is dead and buried, he can’t control you.  You have to let this go, son.  It’s eating you up inside!”

Mark shot back in anger as he bolted for his horse, “That’s just the trouble…he won’t LET ME GO!”

Lucas stood there and watched as Mark grabbed Blue Boy’s reins and flung himself onto the horse, and then dashed out of the barn.  Lucas ran out into the yard and made a futile attempt to call after his son, “Mark…Mark…you come back here!”  All he could do was watch in astonishment as Mark raced away from the ranch.

Standing there, defeated, his eyes followed Mark and the horse until they disappeared over the ridge.  He walked slowly up to the house and through the side door.  

Lucas stepped to the counter and angrily threw his hat on the floor.  After priming the pump, he filled the sink with water and stripped his shirt.  He leaned over the sink and began splashing cool water over his face.  He ran the water over his head and came up shaking.  As rivulets ran down his face and chest, he closed his eyes and thought to himself, ‘I have to go after him…where would he go?’  He slammed his hand on the counter; angry with himself for how he handled his son.  

He grabbed a towel and began drying his hair as he leaned against the counter.  He dried his face and his chest, and as he turned towards the bedroom, he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror.  The image stopped him in his tracks and a chill came over him as the reflection glared.  Lucas took a step back and put a hand to the stubble on his chin.  There before him was the obvious key, “Banty…Bantry!”

The rancher threw down the towel and rushed into the bedroom.  He came out with a fresh shirt, grabbed his hat and rifle, and ran out the door.  He quickly saddled Razor and galloped off for the lake.  That’s where he would find his son.


As the sun dipped in the sky, the horizon took on an orange and blue glow.  The wind was calm and the lake looked like glass…like a looking glass.  Lucas walked his horse on the ridge above the lake along a pine tree shaded path.  He thought of what he would say to his son when he found him, how he could help them both get through this.  

Mark sat with his legs drawn up leaning against the trunk of a huge, old oak; it was his and Pa’s favorite spot when they came to the lake to go fishing.  But, now it was Mark’s safe haven and where he had been coming nearly every day since leaving school.  Blue Boy stood happily grazing nearby, and he looked up when Lucas and Razor approached.  

Mark saw his pa coming down the hill towards him, and he turned away but didn’t run.  

“I thought I’d find you here,” Lucas called out as he tied Razor’s reins to a low-hanging branch, then walked slowly towards his son.

“Go away, Pa.  Please…go away,” said Mark in a flat, emotionless voice.  

“You know…I come here too, whenever I need to think.”  

“Here?” questioned Mark. “I didn’t know that…”

“Hmmm…guess we’re more alike than we know,” Lucas said as he squatted down next to Mark and looked out across the water.  “Son, I think I know what’s really troubling you…”

“Y…you think you know?” quipped Mark in exasperation.  “You don’t know anything, Pa!”

“All I had to do was look in a mirror to see what you see…”

Mark’s eyes welled up.  How could he tell his pa what he was about to say…he didn’t want to hurt him, “I can’t…I can’t do this…”

Lucas put a hand on Mark’s shoulder, but his son shrugged it away.  “Mark, I want to help you…please tell me.”

Tears rolled down Mark’s face and his lip started to quiver.  “I see him everywhere.  He’s in my dreams every night!  He’s in the barn…he’s in our house!”  Mark stood up and started yelling, “I can’t get away from him…I can’t get away!”  He started to rush off and Lucas caught up to him.

“Mark, stay here and face this, son!  Don’t run away again.”

“But, I’m afraid!”

“There’s no reason to be afraid, Mark…I’m here…”

“I…I don’t want to be afraid anymore, but…” he said shaking his head.  The agonizing words came slowly, “I can’t…I can’t be near you, Pa.  I can’t be in…in the same room with you.”  Mark turned away with pain in his eyes.  “Every time I look at you…I see him!”

“Every time I look at you, I see your mother.”

“Oh, Pa…I feel sick.  I can’t…”

Lucas reached out and gently touched Mark’s shoulder, “Tell me.”  

Mark couldn’t keep it inside any longer; this thing that was eating him alive.  He had to let it out, “He said he’d kill you…he said when…when you were dead, he’d be my pa.  He said I’d be just like him.  He beat on me, and he…he kicked me…and I…I thought he was going to kill you!  I wanted him dead.”  Mark drew his hands into tight fists and jabbed at the air.  “I wanted to kill him!”  

“But, you didn’t, son…”

Mark reeled to face his pa, “If I had pulled that trigger, he would have been dead!  But, I couldn’t…I couldn’t…”

“It was Micah, he shot that son-of-a…”

“If you had killed him two years ago, this wouldn’t have happened.  He wouldn’t have taken me…he wouldn’t have…”

Mark was sobbing uncontrollably and spitting as his words rushed at Lucas.  And, even though Lucas was afraid for his son, as long as Mark was finally telling him what was truly wrong, he wasn’t going to stop him.  “Go on, son…go on…”

“I wanted him dead!  I want him dead!” screamed Mark.  “I want him to leave me alone…I want him to go away and just leave me alone!  And, and in…in my dreams…I pick up the gun, I pick it up and I aim it…and I shoot him!  I’m glad…I’m glad he’s dead!  He’s finally dead…only…only it’s not him!”  Mark cried out dropping to his knees.  “It’s not him!  It’s YOU, Pa…I KILLED YOU!” shouted Mark as he collapsed on the ground sobbing.

Lucas knelt next to Mark and pulled his son to him, “Mark…I’m sorry…I am sorry you have been carrying this burden.  It’s my fault…killers coming after me…because I’m the ‘Rifleman’.  Murderers coming after you…because they know I would die for you!  You’ve had to watch me in ‘kill or be killed’ situations too many times.  You’ve seen the anger and bitterness I’ve carried in my heart, seeking revenge because someone had hurt you. Then God showed me the way, son…he showed me the right path.  But…I should have been teaching you, Mark…it’s my fault, not yours!  You haven’t killed me, son…I’m right here.  I’m not going anywhere.  And…and, you could never be a cold-blooded murderer, no matter what you have to go through.  You have too much goodness inside you, you have too much of your mother in you to ever be like Bantry!”  

Mark continued crying as Lucas wrapped his arm around him desperate to find some way to get through to him.  He hugged his son tighter as he spoke, “Mark…listen…listen to me, son.  Do you remember Mr. Goss, Abel Goss, the photographer?  When he came to town…he was a bitter man who wanted revenge against the men who treated him so cruelly in the war.  Do you remember?”  Mark nodded yes, he was listening.  “When everyone else thought Abel had killed that man, you believed in him.  You believed that Abel was too good of a man to ever take another life.  And, why is that?  Because, you knew he was a good man who knew right from wrong…he had a conscience.  That’s the difference between someone like Bantry and someone like Abel.  Bantry lived in pain and misery all his life.  He was in pain because he couldn’t forgive.  And, because of that…he lost his way.”

Mark sat up and brushed at his face.  “What do you mean…why should…?”

“Son, resentment and bitterness will cause a slow death…a slow death to one’s soul.  You have to let go…you have to let it go and forgive.  Forgive those who have wronged you…and forgive yourself.  It’s the only way to be free.”  

“But, Pa…I don’t…”

“Mark…I think you were giving up.  You were giving up because you didn’t know what to do.  You were seeing Bantry in me because you hadn’t let go of the bitterness.  You need to have faith, Mark.  You need to have faith in yourself, and you need to have faith in God.  I’m not going to give up on you, son…not ever.  Don’t you give up either!  Mark, believe me when I say, I love you and so does God.”

Mark sat up as the call of a whippoorwill beckoned again.  “I heard that bird the other night when I asked God to help me.  I didn’t think He heard me.”  

“Sometimes, God doesn’t answer right away, Mark.”  

Mark looked into his pa’s eyes, and then he wrapped his arms around Lucas and gave him a big hug.  They sat there together for a while and looked out over the water.  Mark was exhausted, but he felt calm…and he felt lighter.  He sighed, “The lake looks so peaceful…wish I had my fishing pole.”  

Lucas chuckled, “Me, too, son…me, too.  Ready to go?”  

Mark nodded, yes, as he stood up, reached out a hand and helped pull his father up.  

The two walked side by side as they gathered their horses.  The tree frogs wailed and a whippoorwill called its ‘goodbye’ as it sailed above their heads.  The shadows had faded all around as the pale glow of the setting sun reflected on the crystal lake.  They mounted up and gave one last look, and then Mark said, “Let’s go home, Pa.”  



In the few weeks since their encounter at the lake, Lucas had seen a great improvement in his son.  Mark began to talk to his father and tell him whenever he was feeling anxious or worried.  The bad dreams were subsiding and his appetite returned so much so that Lucas had trouble keeping enough food in the house.  Doc released Mark from all restrictions and he was finally able to return to school.  

This day, as Lucas placed supper on the table, Mark came through the door, “Finished all my chores, Pa.”

That’s fine, son.  Supper’s ready, why don’t you wash up.”

Mark walked across the room, placed his hat on the rack, rolled up his sleeves and washed at the sink.  “I got an ‘A’ on my geography test, today.  Mr. Griswold says I should be all caught up by next week.”

“I’m proud of you, Mark,” said Lucas as he piled some biscuits on a plate and carried them to the table.  
“Sure smells good, what’re we havin’?” asked Mark as he pulled out his chair.

“Stew,” replied Lucas.

“Stew?!” Mark echoed as he plopped into his seat and rolled his eyes.

“Yes, stew.  Only problem is…we’re all out of pepper,” Lucas said impishly as he placed the empty pepper tin on the table in front of his son.

Mark let out a small gasp as he realized which pepper tin it was.  “Where did you get that?”

“I found it in your jacket the night we took you to Red Wing,” his pa replied, not entirely sure how his son was going to react.  “It’s all gone…just like Bantry.”

Mark sat there a moment, thinking on that last terrible day, but he wasn’t about to dwell on it.  He looked his pa in the eyes and responded with a sly grin, “Uh, Pa…seein’ as how you don’t really like pepper…well, I…I don’t see any reason to get any more, do you?”

“No, son…and we probably don’t need this anymore either,” said Lucas with a smile as he tossed the empty tin into the fireplace.  “Now, pass the biscuits!”

"Keep your 'sites' on The Rifleman"
"The Rifleman hits the 'Mark' every week on abc."
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Re: Stargazer's Midnight Musings - SHADOW OF VENGEANCE Part 4

Post by cowgirl » Fri Apr 28, 2017 4:44 pm


Are you a professional writer or what?  This was dang good writing - I wish I could write like that!!!!!

This last part was definitely the BEST!!!  Such drama and so realistic!  Now if I could watch this episode...

Mark flew at his father, stunning Lucas, as he shouted, “If you’re so hungry, why don’t you fix it yourself?!”
Everyone in the office heard my gasp as I shot my hand to my mouth!! Boy, but Lucas had a lot more self-discipline than I would have had!  I was just waiting for the slap!  My heart jumped into my throat at that part!!!  That whole scene was heart-wrenching to the max - probably the most heart-wrenching part of the whole entire episode!!!

Okay, I have just ONE more thing to say:

NO, you can't go to sleep!  Get in there and start working on the next one!!!!!!
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Re: Stargazer's Midnight Musings - SHADOW OF VENGEANCE Part 4

Post by cowgirl » Fri Apr 28, 2017 4:44 pm

BluewindFarm:16911 wrote:I've heard she already has ideas, but we'll let Stargazer catch up on her rest, before we start hounding her!

Now, let me go get my reading glasses so I can read what has Michelle all excited.!
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Re: Stargazer's Midnight Musings - SHADOW OF VENGEANCE Part 4

Post by cowgirl » Fri Apr 28, 2017 4:45 pm

Stargazer:16917 wrote:Thank you so much, Michelle...I am humbled.  And, I love that you said 'episode'.  

And many thanks, Deanne, for your support, suggestions, and editing skills.  What would I do without you!  

I must admit...this was a doozy to write, and the gray matter definitely needs a rest before I get started on the next story.  But, as long as the ideas keep coming, I'll keep writing.   :grin:
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Re: Stargazer's Midnight Musings - SHADOW OF VENGEANCE Part 4

Post by cowgirl » Fri Apr 28, 2017 4:45 pm

ilovemarkmccain:16935 wrote:Star,

That was a wondering ending to a great story.  I wish it was part of the episodes as well.  I think I went through three boxes of tissues on that one.  You get some rest.  We will be here when you get your next wonderful work of art finished.
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