The Rifleman
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Fulton's Fury

A Predatory Excursion - To Ravage …. Fury
Fort Worth’s Worth — Chapter Ten
Written by Frank Charles aka weinerdawgy

After departing from Renfro’s office, Bat noticed a small café nearby. He suggested they dine there and keep watch on Renfro’s office for a while. They needed to discuss what they had just experienced. Bat had his suspicions reinforced during the meeting and he wanted to take this opportunity to speak with Sarah without Beckwith present.

Bat took off his derby as they sat down and brushed his hair back, giving out a big sigh. “My dear Sarah, I wish to alert you to certain inconsistencies with what I am finding as I research this situation. I hope it is not offensive to you, but I do not trust John Beckwith or Quentin Renfro.”

“I see. I sensed that you were restless in there. And the tension with John was rather thick. I do not understand the nature of your suspicions, but I trust your judgment. Please feel free to enlighten me.”

“First of all, the three of us went to the courthouse and the library in Dallas. We found the proper deeds and lease documentation as should be easily done. Quentin D. Renfro was signed on the lease contract. We then chose to examine the deeds on file for Vernon Carlson, ones that exist from the time he was buying the surrounding properties before the Fulton murders. We found an early deed with Quentin D. Renfro as the acting attorney. Most of them were represented by another lawyer, Ronald F. Morgan. There are a few other names involved, but it strikes me that Renfro would have dealt with Carlson only the one time, then Morgan took over from there. I haven’t brought this up until now as I wanted to meet the man before accusing him of anything. It may mean nothing, but I want to be sure. Second, I am not at ease about R.J. Graham. Are you sure that you met him?”

“Yes, I met a middle aged man, well dressed, very professional. It was with my real estate lawyers as we all met to sign the lease. I didn’t get to know him if that is what you are wondering.”

“I realize that you had no reason to suspect anything at the time. I just find it very difficult to locate any information about Graham and it seems too easy for him to be out of town. I propose that we attempt to contact him directly if we do not get any answers by the end of this week. Even if we decide not to transfer ownership at this time, I want to know this is legal and proper for your sake. Which brings me to a third matter, I do not trust John Beckwith. I think he is more acquainted with Renfro than he lets on. I am not sure what this is about, but I don’t like the body language or the attitudes. Both men seem to lean towards the sale of the property and I saw no reaction from Beckwith as Renfro brought this up. Furthermore, I observed John ride out of town the other night some time after we met. He did seem to send the telegram we discussed and the appointment was made as requested. But I am willing to bet that he rode out here to talk to his friend Renfro that night. They seem just a bit too cozy for me.”

“This is amazing. You are very thorough with your investigations Bat. I never thought you would be watching these details so closely. I too am not happy with John’s handling of this. He seems to be self interested somehow. I don’t know why. He has been my lawyer and a friend for many years. I had a very long talk with him after our meeting. I’m surprised that he had time to travel to Fort Worth and back in one evening, but I suppose that could be done. It just pains me to no end if there would be any foul play going on underneath my nose!” Sarah was starting to look upset.

“I am sure of it Sarah. I’m sorry to have to tell you this and it still remains only speculation. I’m having a local friend look into a few things for me, and he is going to make it possible for me to meet with a man, John Templeton, who may be able to shed some light on Renfro for us.”

“John Templeton was Attorney General for the state of Texas until recently, how do you do it Bat? How does he come into play?”

“By a very strange twist of fate, he is part owner of the White Elephant and so is my old friend Luke Short. It seems that Mister Templeton and Mister Renfro had some battles during his tenure and they didn’t part as friends. Renfro may have been involved in some unsavory land deals with the cattle ranchers here and I just wonder what he was up to with one Vernon Carlson. Who is R.J. Graham? I’m beginning to wonder if he really exists.”

“That is incredible. The Carlson family had a lot of money and influence. It wasn’t easy for them to see Vernon hang, but that they did, I can assure you. I saw it happen as did many in town. But to think that they propped up a phony company in order to lease and maybe eventually own the Fulton farm once he was gone, that is just beyond me.” Sarah began to get a tear in her eye as this thought sank in. She was not the kind of business person that could be fooled easily. She had many sharp people working for her and she now realized that maybe she was not as in charge as she thought.

“Try to understand Sarah, this is not an easy thing to detect. You had great deal of business to look after so long. If this is indeed true then we should be able to flush these rats out with ease. If I’m not a big enough cat, perhaps John Templeton is. I want Renfro to go on thinking that we do not suspect anything for now. If I’m right, he and Beckwith are going to come up with a scheme before this is over. I have an idea to set a few traps, all I need to do is find out what kind of cheese this rat Renfro likes.

“I’m ashamed to admit it, but I can see how this can be the case. I’m with you so far, but I want to give John Beckwith the benefit of the doubt. He has been so loyal to me over the years. Please be careful with your investigations Bat. I pray you are wrong, but I know that to seldom be the case.”

“It is never easy to be right when foul play is suspected. I didn’t want to find something like this when I started out. I wish it was just my suspicious nature. And I will keep it in mind that it could be just that. However, I think I shall take a short walk across the street and see what our friend Renfro is up to. You all wait here and keep out of sight. He has had enough time to think we are safely away.” Bat left his derby and cane at the table and went back to the office. He saw nobody within and the front door was locked. There was a series of buildings in the row, so he walked down the street and into the back alley. He silently made his way to the back of the office. Slowly, he climbed to a spot where he could look into an upper window on the second floor. Inside he could see the back of Renfro’s head as he sat talking with another man with gray hair. Bat got down and tried to enter the back door. It was easy to pick the lock. He carefully walked to the staircase and could hear what was being discussed.

“I need you to be convincing. You must sell these people, you have to be Robert J. Graham. I want you to study these reports and be able to quote from them as if you have known them for years.”

“But there isn’t enough time, somebody might recognize me, I don’t really look like this man. Who was he anyways, just some bum I bet. My nose is too big!”

“Look Paulie, I don’t have much time. I can understand your apprehension, but you are the only one I know that looks anything like him. Sarah won’t recall, it was ten years ago. Tell her that your nose has been out in the sun too much. You have enough of the same looks, just go with me here, I know you can do it. But you must seem as if you know the cotton business. I’ll coach you. You get five thousand dollars and several new suits out of the deal, I’ll be good to you. All I need is for you to insist on buying the land, make a good impression, and then have to go back to New York. You want to see New York, don’t you?”

“Why yes, it has been a dream of mine. Some of my mother’s family is there. I’ll see what I can do, let me study this stuff some more. Damn Quentin, you sure pick bad times to get me to do these things.”

“I’m sorry my old Graham died. Ebbs was the best front man I ever had. He fooled so many lawyers and landowners over the years. He died much too young!”

“What did he die from? I don’t want to wind up like him!”

“He had a heart attack. I paid him too well and he enjoyed good food. You are more practical than he was, you worked hard all of your life on that ranch. You won’t wind up like him. Now, I made it easy for you long ago, you owe me. Please just do this one time. That is all I ask.”

Bat had heard enough. He went out without a noise and returned to the café. He sat down with a look of shock from how quickly he was able to confirm his suspicions.

Sarah looked at him and couldn’t take it for long.

“Well, what did you see Bat? Your killing me here!”

“I am afraid Mister Renfro is not as smart as I gave him credit for. He is upstairs right now meeting with R.J. Graham.” Bat gave a look of dismay.

“Don’t joke around with me at a time like this, I’m in no mood!” Sarah looked tired.

“My apologies Sarah. His real name is Paulie. I believe he is a rancher from nearby that once was the beneficiary of Renfro’s services. There is no Graham, he didn’t exist in the first place. The man you met was an imposter and is now dead. The one we are about to meet is being forced into playing the part. I am so sorry Sarah. I found them upstairs talking about all of this. But the good news is, we have these scoundrels in the palms of our hands. Before it is over, we just might have the entire state of Texas upside down. We still need to play along for now. We go back to Dallas tomorrow and say nothing. I want to make that inspection seem as innocent as we can. Then we lower the boom and insist on meeting Robert J. Graham! Paulie must be allowed to give his performance and we should be entertained!”

“This is just incredible! I can’t believe it. You walked right into a freak show that I once thought was a sweet deal. I was so afraid that the surrounding land would be worthless and that Graham was real and able to make this work only because I was willing to lease him that farm. Now it seems they were betting I was going to die before the lease was up!”

“I suggest we keep you well protected from here on out. We shall all be your body guards. Do you think Turley will mind?”

“No, he is without a doubt the most loyal man I have ever known. We will rely on him to watch our backs. I keep him informed of all things Bat, I hope you don’t mind!”

“Not at all. We shall have a talk with him when we get back to the hotel. I hope you won’t mind if I take the opportunity to visit the White Elephant again this evening. I want Renfro to know that we stayed in town for one thing, and I have some scores to settle in that fancy upstairs room. I may be lucky enough to meet John Templeton if I play my cards right!”

Lucas and Will sat there speechless through all of this. Lucas finally found a reason to pipe up. “I think we’ll remain with Sarah this evening if it’s all the same to you Bat.”

“That would be best. We shall have time to visit the Elephant more in the near future. I could use some freedom of movement tonight. You boys keep Sarah and Turley company, I think the hotel restaurant is superb and knowing that Sarah is there with you will make it all the more safe.”

And so it came to be that Bat was alone that evening to prowl at the White Elephant. After a brief discussion with Turley and the others about keeping a watch on Sarah, he met early with Luke Short and the two went to the office of John Templeton. He was busy with a client, but was happy to see them after a brief wait. After introductions Bat got right to the point.

“Sir, I am acting on behalf of William Fulton, a man that has been greatly wronged over losing his family’s farm in Dallas. An influential man named Vernon Carlson murdered his parents after trying unsuccessfully to buy them out of their farm. They were friends with Sarah Cockrell and she currently owns the land and leases it to the R.J. Graham Agricultural Company. They are represented by Quentin D. Renfro, attorney at law. We have reason to believe that fraud is taking place. I am here to alert you to the nature of this crime and to ask your advice concerning Mister Renfro. It is my understanding that you two have some differences.”

“I won’t beat around the bush, Renfro is no easy nut to crack. He seems to come up with an answer to every move I make. I tried to bring him up on fraud charges in the past as Attorney General. He always found a way to slip out of my hands. He has hurt many a small rancher, finding ways for his cronies to acquire their land and run people out using legal technicalities. Because his clients are usually large contributors to the state coffers they can persuade judges and politicians. I’m not surprised that you are in such a fix if you are dealing with him. I’m aware of the Fulton case from long ago, but had no involvement. Vernon Carlson was a well known land owner, even in Fort Worth. I’m sure Quentin and Vernon must have known each other.”

“Of that I am certain. I found a deed of Carlson’s with his name on it. It so happens that I may have him trapped in this case. We met him at his office this morning, I found him to be quite engaging and easy to get along with. Afterwards though, I took the liberty of sneaking in through his back door and overheard a disturbing conversation. He was in the process of convincing a man to pose as R.J. Graham in the event that he needed to produce him in our dealings. I realize that this is not admissible evidence, but I intend to expose this fraud and void the lease. We are to meet again after an inspection of the property on Thursday. After that I intend to demand meeting directly with Graham. Once he produces the imposter I will expose him and have him brought up on charges.”

“I wish you luck. I can help you to obtain the proper authorities and procedures once you have enough evidence. Are you sure this can be done?”

“I’m here to find the means sir. I know this imposter he intends to put before us is named Paulie. He owns a ranch somewhere nearby. Renfro said that he made it easy for him in the past and that now he owes him. I’m sure there must be a way to discover who this man really is. I know we have a signature on a ten year old lease from the previous Mister Graham. I don’t think that can be faked easily. I also have the testimony of Sarah Cockrell if she does not recognize him. I intend to search the deeds for ranchers named Paul who have dealt with Renfro. There must be something I can find.”

“I would do that quickly, we have had deeds come up missing in the past. He may have already taken care of that if he is moving this fast. I know of your reputation Mister Masterson, your story is legend in these parts. Maybe you can do something with this where we have failed before. I would get to the courthouse first thing in the morning and check those deeds.”

“I intend to. I want to examine as much about Quentin as I can, including his family history and education. Have you investigated these matters in the past?”

“You can be sure that I did. I have it on file. You are welcome to anything that I have. I would give my right arm to see Renfro behind bars. Please keep me informed and I will direct you to the proper authorities and information as I can. It would be best to keep my name out of this until you have him cold. If the wrong people get wind of this and my name is involved, well, Quentin knows how to squirm out of trouble in some startling ways. He has revealed improprieties to do with some very big people. These have bought his way out of cases that I thought were air tight. Now that I am back to private practice though, I won’t have to be so proper either. Let us see what can be done.

If you need any help at all, feel free to get in touch with me, please keep me informed.”

“You have my word sir. If you don’t mind, could I take a look at some of your files before you close the office for today? Then we shall be off to the Elephant for an evening’s game of chance.”

“Be my guest Bat, I’ll have my secretary show you the way. And if there is something you cannot find, then I can probably get it from Austin.”

“That is very generous of you, perhaps we can bring down this house of cards that’s been standing for far too long. Both Sarah and William deserve better after the tragic murder and fraud that has been haunting them. I‘m amazed that we have stumbled into such an arrogant clan, so daring and shameful. The further I look, the more I realize the far reaching ramifications. If we expose this, maybe it will lead to other cases and help bring some of your past charges back to light.”

“That could be possible, there is much evidence. But also a great power struggle to be revived. It could start war among the ranchers once again. I’m not sure Dallas or Fort Worth is ready for that to happen.” Templeton, being a very astute lawyer was unflappable in the face of big trouble, but deep down he knew this was a very dangerous matter and that Bat Masterson was not going to be satisfied with merely catching just one rat in his trap.”

“I’ll try to step on few toes while I slay this giant, but when he falls there is no telling who will get hurt. I won’t make a move without your advice once the sparks begin to fly. Thank you John, it’s been a pleasure to meet you and your assistance is invaluable. I hope we can do each other some favors as this transpires.”

“And thank you for bringing this to my attention Bat. It’s a good thing that you and Luke are so close and that I just happen to be a member of the White Elephant Owner’s Club. Dinner is on me from here on out, but as for the poker, you will have to fend for yourself I’m afraid. Even I know better than to jump into that rattle snake pit!”

“I have been bitten a number of times myself. But the redeeming thing about that is, I get to come back and do some biting of my own. Luke and I both have some proud scars and sometimes fat wallets to show for it!”

“I’m sure you do. Well, being a lawyer is an even bigger snake pit I’m due to jump back in with my client right now. You guys be careful, there are some bad boys to be dealt with. I’ll look forward to hearing from you again soon.”

“As soon as I know something John, I’ll be right here, thanks again.”

As Luke and Bat followed the secretary to the file archives they spoke about range wars of the past that made for some very deadly times. Both men had experience in such matters in earlier days, mostly in Kansas. Luke had a bit of a range war of his own going on with Jim Courtright. The saloon business was lucrative with all of the cattlemen passing through town. Many of the businesses depended on lawmen and thugs to keep the peace, and the peace needed keeping. It was a common practice for an ex-marshal such as Courtright to collect protection payments from the saloon and bordello owners. But once the cash was in hand, most so called protectors were all of a sudden hard to find when trouble arose. The White Elephant was one of the most profitable and well run establishments in Fort Worth and Luke was not going to give in to the likes of Longhair Jim. Bat promised to do what he could when he had a chance, but he must keep his focus on William’s case.

“I understand Bat, but I have to tell you something. I made a decision earlier today. Now don’t get too excited, but I’ve sold my interest in the White Elephant to Jake Johnson. I’ll still work there, but I don’t want to be an owner anymore. Courtright is about to ruin everything. I want to be able to take off or leave something to my wife if anything should happen to me. So to protect everyone involved, I’m letting go of my responsibilities before I get into trouble.”

“That is a desperate move Luke. I wish you had talked to me before making this decision. Let me help you somehow. What can we do to run Courtright off?”

“I don’t know, he has it in for me, I try to avoid him but he keeps coming back. I think it’s a point of pride for him. I’m his last challenge in town and if he can’t get me to join in his protection scheme he’ll lose face with his other customers. He has to prove he is more powerful than I am. I can’t stand for that as you well know.”

“I know Luke, you have always been a tough customer. I can’t blame you for how you feel, but I can be there for ya. Maybe Courtright won’t bother you if he sees me.”

“Maybe we can scare him off tonight, but I’m not going to let him win. If he gets the better of me then the joke will be on him. It won’t mean a thing as far as our beloved Elephant is concerned. And I’ll leave my family with plenty of money too.”

“Alright my friend, let’s be careful this evening, I’ll pretend that I don’t suspect a thing.”

“I’d prefer it that way. I can take care of him if he makes a move, mark my words, he ain’t gonna win!”

When they finished talking the secretary brought them some files to look over and went on her way. Luke enjoyed learning investigative techniques from Bat. Perhaps he could use some of this knowledge to better deal with his problems.

Bat leafed through the case files and singled out a few that had Renfro’s name on the front page. He studied them a while looking for anything that could lead him to understand Renfro’s methods and the nature of the cases. They were all issues concerning land ownership and it would take too much time to read all of it. He made notes and decided he would come back later to do more in depth reading. Finally he found a dossier file on Renfro that outlined his childhood in upstate New York. He attended law school and started practice in New York City. He moved to Fort Worth in 1856 to set up practice and lived in the same house for a very long time. Finally, Bat found a list of Renfro’s clients, at least the ones that Templeton knew of. As he read down the list he came to a name he was hoping for, Vernon Carlson. He found three men with the first name of Paul and settled on one of them as a good guess. The last name was Gusset. The other two seemed more distinguished and probably wouldn’t go by the nickname “Paulie”. Bat made notes from all of his discoveries knowing that he could come back and read these files in more detail later. It was starting to get late and the office was due to close soon.

Bat and Luke were in the midst of a rousing evening in the posh upper room of the White Elephant. The droning sounds of the penned cattle could be ignored from there. Both men knew the fine art of investigation when it came to poker. It was times like this that kept their minds sharp. Bat was confident that he had his man cornered and he knew that tomorrow would reveal even more at the courthouse. He was thankful that all of these buildings were reasonably close together and that he didn’t need to do more than walk to each location. After some time, Bat and Luke decided to take a break from the poker room. They proceeded downstairs to the billiard room where it was quiet. While they were discussing the matters at hand, a bartender came in to inform Luke that he had a visitor.

“Luke, I hate to tell you this, but that Courtright is out front asking for you again. He looks mean as hell. He’s got both of them guns on his hip. Do you want me to tell him to leave?”

Luke looked at Bat and shook his head. “No, I better do this myself, I can’t let it go on any longer.”

“Do you want me to go with you?” Bat offered.

“No my friend, it isn’t your fight, you stay here and I’ll be right back.” Luke got up and went out to the foyer to confront his nemesis.

Bat looked at the bartender and shook his head, “I don’t like this.” That was all that he could think to say. The bartender went back to his duties just in time to see Luke and Jim go outside. They walked a brief time, stopping in front of a shooting gallery next door to the Elephant.

“I told you too many times already Jim, I’m not gonna pay you. I can take care of my own business, now leave me alone!”

“This is my town Short, nobody tells me to get out.” Courtright looked down at Luke who was moving his hands down to his sides. “Don’t you pull no gun on me!”

“I ain’t even armed! Look for yourself.” Luke shouted back as he opened his vest for inspection.

Courtright knew better and went for his right hand gun. Luke went for his .45 concealed in his hip pocket. Courtright’s gun caught a snag on his watch chain giving Luke just the moment he needed to beat him to the draw. Luke fired and tore the right thumb clean off of Jim’s hand. Stunned, Jim tried to toss his gun over to his left hand but Short fired four more times sending Courtright falling back and into the doorway of the shooting gallery where he laid bleeding to death. The echoing gunfire brought on a crowd and the authorities arrived right away. Bat came out to see what his worst fears told him had happened. He was at first relieved to see Luke still standing. Some in the crowd tried to say that it was murder and the rumblings began. The law was right there to take Jim into custody and Bat went with them to the Tarrant County Jail. Soon, a small crowd gathered outside and called for Luke to come out and face their mob justice. Luke was a well known man. There was no way they were going to get what they wanted. As the evening wore on things became more tense and the marshal wanted to go home. Bat offered to stay the night in the office outside Luke’s cell. The marshal gave him a shot gun and some rounds, telling him to keep the lights out and stay quiet. Bat asked him to send word to Lucas McCain telling him to escort their group home and that he would try to join them on Thursday.

“Well, you’ve done it now Jim. We can only hope they’ll see it your way tomorrow.”

“Thanks for staying with me Bat, I didn’t mean for this to happen. Courtright was drunk and mad as could be. I tried to calm him down but he wouldn’t listen. He pushed me into it. If he wouldn’t have had trouble bringing his gun out, he probably would have got me. But you know how it is, once I get the draw I don’t hesitate. That first shot took his thumb right off. Never saw anything like it. I hoped he would stop there, but oh no. He immediately tried to throw the gun over to his other hand. I had no choice but to let him have it. I kept on firing until he dropped. Just like with Storms in Tombstone, I won’t give him a second chance to draw on me.”

“It looks like your story might hold up, you’ll make out. The aftermath speaks for itself. And there are plenty of us who know that he was threatening you. I can’t help but wonder why he didn’t draw his left hand pistol instead of trying a foolish thing like that?”

“Just reaction, he had no time to think about it and I wasn’t going to give him any. I’m glad it’s over. This has been torturing me for too long. And I feel better that my wife is safe also. Courtright had it coming and I was happy to oblige him. He knew better than to try to mess with me.

Sarah entertained her three bodyguards with stories and they returned the favor with some of their own. Turley learned a great deal by joining them at the table. He preferred to keep his distance from her guests, but things were getting serious. Sarah informed him in private of what Bat had determined. After that, the decision was made to have him get closer with the others. Sarah rarely had any trouble and Turley could go along in his own remote fashion. Considering the fact that Sarah was spending so much time and getting more involved with these people, they were not just guests. He was very concerned that Sarah could be in danger if these rats felt threatened or should get the idea that her demise could solve their problem. This meant less sleep and maybe some nights sharing a room. He was grateful that Masterson was along and well experienced, as was Lucas. Turley was a naturally suspicious man and this helped to make him fit in with his new close friends.

As a first precaution, it was arranged to change rooms and keep it off the register. They were going to head home the next day. Turley and Sarah would share an undisclosed double room now and at the St. Charles. Will would wear his Colt and keep his derringer handy. There was no legal restriction for him to carry a gun in Texas now that he was in the clear. Lucas decided that he would finally buy a handgun. It was not going to be a hip iron though. He was going to get himself a short barreled Colt like Bat’s and keep it concealed. Nothing could convince him to wear a holster belt. There were to be no risky side trips or separations from the women until this was over. If the women were to be left out of a trip at least one man would stay with them. Lucas or Turley were going to be the best candidates for this duty. The women could spend most alone time at the theater with Emma.

Before long, the marshal found them and delivered the message about the incident at the White Elephant.

“Oh my God!” Sarah cried out.

“Are you sure, is Bat alright? Lucas asked.

“Bat and Luke are both fine. It looks like self defense to me. Bat is staying by his side tonight and will probably want to stay for the inquest tomorrow. He asked me to tell you to go on home and he would try to join you on Thursday.”

“I would rather join him right now!” Lucas insisted.

“I’m afraid not. I can’t let you become involved. Bat is a witness in some regard and should stay. His having been a marshal allows me to let him stay by Luke’s side. I have a man watching from across the street. I‘ll know if anything should happen.”

“We’re going to stay and see this through with him then.” Will joined in.

“All I can say is that he requested that you all go on home for now. You are free to do as you like of course.”

“We will at least try to speak with him in the morning then, let him know we are going to wait. Is it alright if Will and I come to the Jail first thing tomorrow?” Lucas stood up to walk out with the marshal.

“I don’t mind, but make it early if you want to get a word in, things will be hopping by Seven o’clock when I get there. A crowd is sure to form after that. This is big news and Courtright was a well liked man by many in these parts. Not by everyone mind you.”

“Do you think Luke stands a chance?” Will asked as he got up too.

“It looks to be self defense. Once the Coroner gets a look at the body there will be a determination made. I’m sure Bat wants to wait and see if he will be needed as a witness. I don’t blame you for wanting to speak to him. Maybe I’ll see you in the morning then.” The marshal turned and walked out leaving Lucas and Will standing in front of Sarah.

“Oh my! What is going to happen next? We better go and change rooms right now.”

Sarah and Turley got up and they all went to the front desk to make the arrangements.

Lucas and Will got up very early and went to the County Jail. Bat and Luke were already up and the marshal was at his desk. The four men talked over what happened and the marshal tried not to pay attention. Once Will and Lucas were filled in, Bat asked them to stick around and if it was possible early on, he would join them to go home. The marshal over heard that and told them that the coroner would be in at 8:00 to perform his inspection and an inquiry would follow at the courthouse soon after, perhaps by 10:00. Because of the high profile of those involved, they would do their best to sort out the details. The marshal was of the opinion that it was a cut and dry case of self defense.

“This won’t be popular with many of the townsfolk, but I don’t see it going any other way.” The marshal looked out into the street to see if a group was forming. There was nothing yet.

“I really hope that is what happens. Then I won’t have to stick around. But I’m not leaving Luke’s side until we know for sure. So if you guys want to get home and make ready for the visit to the farm, I’ll do my best to get back in time to join you.”

“We’re staying right here Bat, We can go tell Renfro to wait, maybe we can do it on Friday. He has to know about this by now.” Lucas knew this was going to delay things.

“Tell you what, we’ll need the time, you guys go reschedule with Renfro and we’ll do it on Friday. Good idea.”

Lucas grinned at the marshal and grabbed Will for a quick exit. “I want to get back to see what happens, let’s get to it.”

While they went to change the date with Renfro, the coroner showed up to view Courtright’s body. He examined the wounds and listened to both Luke and the marshal’s account of the incident. He could tell from the shape and exits of the wounds that it happened at point blank range. Jim’s pistol was damaged from the first round and there was nothing apparent to show that Luke was the only one who drew.

Will and Lucas arrived back well before the Judge was ready for the inquest. They informed Bat that Friday was a good time as far as Renfro could tell, he would contact them by telegraph. They stayed together until it was time to see the Judge.

There was no close up witness to prove Luke’s version of the shooting inaccurate. Once the Judge heard the story from Luke and Bat he spoke with the marshal and was reasonably convinced that Luke should be released. Bat gave him the best of reference and assured the Judge that he would be available upon request. He left his contact information in Dallas with the Judge.

“There may be further investigation, but I know we can trust you Mister Short. The reputation of Mister Masterson gives me assurance that you had no interest in a murder and were most likely trying to deal straight up with Courtright. I want you to stay in town for the time being”

“You have my word sir. I don’t have any interest in running off. My wife and job are long term in this town and we aim to stay.”

“Fort Worth is much obliged for your cooperation and upstanding citizenship Mister Short. You may leave.” The Judge left the bench and retired to his chamber.

Many present were not pleased with this verdict. They jeered and the rumbling was great as the courtroom emptied. Luke was accompanied by his friends back to the Elephant where they could rest in a private room for a spell. Once the heat was off for an hour, Luke told them he would be fine and they better get home and take care of business. His friends at the Elephant would look out for him now. Luke inspected his pistol having just gotten it back from the marshal after the inquest. It felt good to have it loaded and back in his hip pocket.

Bat, Will, and Lucas returned to the courthouse in order to search for deed records before joining Sarah and Turley to go home. There was a register to be signed and Renfro could find out if they had been there if he desired. Upon reading the register Bat saw no evidence of Renfro. He looked over various deeds and court records to find the name Paul Gusset and whatever first names of Paul that could match. Sure enough, Gusset’s deed had Renfro’s name on it. He found a deed in the name of Carlson, but not Vernon. It was a woman named Emily. Vernon was previously named on the deed. Next he went to the registry of lawyers and looked up both Morgan and Renfro. Both were properly documented. He wrote some notes down for future reference and they went back to the hotel.

As soon as they got back, they checked out of the hotel and were ready to leave as Turley brought the carriage around to the front. Bat asked Turley if he would take them by Renfro’s office on the way out so they might be noticed. The four horses made a good amount of noise and Bat yelled out the window “Good day” as they went by. They all looked into the office window and there was Quentin gazing back at them. This told Quentin that Luke Short must have been released. Bat tipped his derby and pointed his cane in his direction. Quentin waved back wondering what kind of an inspection was going to occur on Friday. Somehow he knew Bat was going to find a reason to meet with R.J. Graham. Paul Gusset was due for further rehearsal later that afternoon. Bat now had an opportunity to tell Sarah the story of Luke Short and Jim Courtright. The ride back to Dallas was going to take them into the evening, so they had time to talk over what Bat had found out from Templeton and the courthouse.

Quentin walked to the telegraph office and sent a message to his brother in New York City, telling him to be ready to send replies. He was to pose as R.J. Graham while he was in New York. He was accustomed to this duty over the years. Quentin ran this scam many times. It was needed from time to time in order to make Graham seem real for legal reasons and to verify his existence to occasional concerns in Fort Worth or Dallas. He knew the basics and Quentin let him know about the details in a code they used to disguise the nature of the business in the telegram. They had a little time to work things out but he was sure that Bat would try to hurry this business along. Paulie met him at the office several hours later after visiting the tailor for a new suit.

Fulton’s Foray — Property Inspection

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

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