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Fulton's Fury

A Predatory Excursion - To Ravage …. Fury
Lunchtime — Chapter Seven
Written by Frank Charles aka weinerdawgy

A brisk sunny morning greeted the town of Dallas as the next day came to be. Bat was sleeping in after a rough night of poker. Owen was able to win some of his money back and Bat was smarting from a few long shot bets that did not pay off. Will and Ann had much to talk about, so they spent the evening at dinner with Lucas and Aubrey. Will and Lucas agreed that selling the property was not a wise thing to do in the short term. Waiting would not be so bad because Will didn’t expect to come into ownership at this point. Long term security was more important and Sarah said that she would provide more income if necessary. There was nothing to lose by being patient. Everyone was expected at the lawyer’s office at one o’clock for lunch. Bat wanted to meet at noon for a brief time so everyone knew what was going on and what to expect. Sarah was busy arranging to have a catered meal delivered to Beckwith’s office.

“Before we all get cozy with the lawyer, I just want to be sure we know what is going on.” Bat opened the conversation. “I don’t want this repeated outside of our little group. We have found something of interest in the names of the lawyers on the deeds of the Carlson properties and the lease agreement for the Fulton farmland. I won’t give out the details just yet, but I want you all to know that I will be fishing for more information as we talk with Sarah’s lawyer today. He may have nothing to do with it because it happened many years ago, but you just never know.”

“And I want everyone to know that Sarah probably has nothing to do with this.” Will added. “There may be no trouble at all. It depends on how people react as we approach the idea of taking ownership.”

“Bat nodded his head. “I especially want to see what happens when I ask to meet with R.J. Graham. It’s been difficult to find anything about him so far.”

“Can we simply send him a letter Bat? Ann asked.

“That may become the answer, but let us see what Beckwith has to say first. I don’t want to just ride out there and ask to see him. That might alert his people if there is something underhanded going on. You have to be careful when you deal with lawyers. They all seem to know each other and something about each other. It is kind of like playing chess or poker. You can’t reveal your hand right away. I want everyone to know that it’s better to say nothing at all than in reaction early on. We should remain calm and try to be aware of body language and facial expressions.” Bat raised his eyebrows a few times which in turn brought on a chuckle.

“I guess most of us haven’t gone to school enough to learn how to handle a lawyer properly. I imagine Bat has dealt with more than his share.” Lucas commented.

“It is a school of hard knocks to say the least. I have had to act as my own attorney on more than one occasion in court, something that could have cost me my life. It has been my experience that truth is lighter than water and will always come floating to the top for those patient enough. This can certainly be one of those times. Research and asking the right questions at the right times are the keys to this game. Remember that we have nothing to be in a hurry for. If they show too much interest in buying the property or try to suggest that Will would upset their lease agreement, anything like that, and I will be on guard to investigate matters further before saying anything about what we know. I’m sure this lawyer has heard of me and knows to be careful. This first meeting may not reveal much. Then again, the least of subtle reactions could tell us volumes. So please be careful of what you might ask or comment about concerning the property. We should all be very cordial and make good conversation though. Most of all, remain relaxed and enjoy the lunch.”

“You can count on us. I think we know how to remain cool under fire.” Lucas seemed assured.

“I’m very grateful for your help with this Bat. I hope I can make it up to you some day. This is something I never figured would happen and I don’t want it to cause any of you trouble.” Will said.

“Most important for us now is to avoid alerting the newspaper people. If anyone asks, we are simply making preparations for the upcoming gun show. And I have not mentioned that to anyone but the marshal at this point. We want to keep Will out of the news and public interest until such time as we know what we are doing, understood? Bat looked at each of them for an affirmative response. “Good, I think we should be on our way to lunch. Let us take our time and do some window shopping along the way.

A hotel wagon pulled up in front of Beckwith’s office with a banquet fit for a queen. Sarah played the part quite well as she arrived in her carriage soon after. John was waiting to greet her. She guided the servants in every detail as they cleared the front office and set the dinning table. Silver covered trays with ham and roast beef were brought in first. Sarah took pride in her hotel and restaurant. Everything was top notch, including the silverware and fine crystal. Two men in white suits handled everything in perfect order. It was quickly in place and ready before the guests arrived. Sarah joined John at one end of the table to wait for their arrival.

“Well Sarah, you never cease to amaze me. If you closed my eyes then told me I was in the St Charles I would believe you. This office has never looked so classy!”

“Thank you John. I want this to be a very special occasion. I trust you have some good news for us today.”

“I think so. The paperwork all looks good so far and maybe I can settle this deal quickly. Do you think they would be willing to sell?”

“Not really. I know Will wants to own, but I have not asked him about it since our first talk after we met. They have noy hurry over this, remember, I want Will to benefit in the best possible way.”

“Alright, I understand of course. But I bet Graham will be willing to pay a good price if it could be agreeable.”

“I will not try to influence Will’s decision. If he agrees, that is his business. Just keep it simple and we shall see where they go with it. If you don’t like it, give me a nod and we can excuse ourselves and talk it over in your office.”

“Of course, it is my hope that we can make everyone happy with this gift as you call it. And I hope that it does what it is intended to do. But keep in mind that it is a tremendous responsibility also. You of all people should know.”

“I do at that! And Will just might want that responsibility, he is a grown man.”

“Of that I am sure. And his friends are very capable people as well. I look forward to a most interesting gathering indeed.” John folded his hands and gave Sarah a wide grin.

“May I serve you a glass of wine before our guests arrive? I’m feeling parched at this moment.”

“That is a good idea, I need to loosen up just a bit.” Sarah motioned and one of her servants brought forth a bottle. They sat in silence quenching their thirst. Before long, six hungry guests arrived and were greeted at the door by Sarah.

“William Fulton, may I introduce my personal friend and lawyer, John Beckwith.”

“John, pleased to meet you. I have been looking forward to this occasion.” William removed his hat and shook his hand.

“Very good, I am so very glad you have come back to your home town. I trust it is to your liking.”

“I have been very pleased so far, it’s good to see Dallas once again. The town has really grown.”

Sarah continued the introductions and motioned for everyone to have a seat. John enjoyed meeting Lucas and Bat, but he saved his biggest compliment for Emma noting that her upcoming debut was much looked forward to. She assured Sarah and John that they would have front row seats.

John was bursting to engage Bat in some conversation. He didn’t want to appear too anxious though, so he first asked Lucas how things in North Fork were going.

“To tell you the truth, I have been away so long now I’m starting to wonder myself. I left our ranch business in some very capable hands, including Ann’s father, Sam. I think once we are finished in Dallas we will all head back to see how much progress has been made. The cattle business is heating up and smaller ranches are having a rough go of it. We are trying to join together to better compete.

“That is true all over this country now that the railroads have gained a stronghold. The longhorns are giving way to more sophisticated breeding practices. The various European varieties will no doubt take over. But we must feed an ever increasing population. I look forward to your efforts paying off Lucas, good for you.”

“Thank you John, I hope that is also true for the Dallas area, cattle must no doubt figure heavily in this economy.”

“Yes they do, but Cotton has been our main product for quite some time. We have many irons in our fire being a crossroads town. I’ll put you in touch with a friend of mine who is in the cattle business here. Perhaps you can do each other a favor in time.”

“That is a grand idea, I’ll look forward to it.” Lucas smiled and nodded.

“And I understand that you served in the Civil War. Was that for the North?”

“Why yes it was. I had little choice in that matter, but I love this country and I’m glad to see that it has healed well.”

“I see. You do know that most people in this area sided with the South.”

“I know that to be true. I won’t hold no grudges if Texas don’t!”

“I think you will find us most hospitable these days. Ten or Fifteen years ago maybe that would not have been the case. Business has replaced warfare in most men’s hearts once again. I hope we never have to relive those awful days.”

“My sentiments exactly. Warfare breeds darkness in our hearts, sometimes that darkness never leaves. I’ve had my share of bad attitudes after the war. But I also have found better people because they knew how to heal, to let go of hatred.”

“Well put Mister McCain. I am in the business of helping people heal, I couldn’t agree more. I put my Southern allegiance behind me the day I heard the war was over. It was sad for everyone involved and there is no value in perpetuating the pain.”

“I know you are right Mister Beckwith. I have a feeling there can be no animosity between us. I’m very pleased to know you.”

“Thank you Lucas. I have some good ideas for our matter at hand, but first I want to pay my respects to one of the most famous lawmen in the world. Bat Masterson, it is my extreme honor to make your acquaintance.”

“Why thank you John. I think we shall get along just fine. It is always my pleasure to work with the law.”

“Mine as well. I think we can have a very pleasurable experience with our business here. I am most interested in your career as I imagine many are. I have read every article I could find. Even some you have written in fact. I enjoy history and you certainly have figured heavily in our local lore. The most memorable being the battle at Adobe Walls.”

“Yes, that was the second battle, back in June of 1874 in fact. We ran into Hanrahan’s saloon and managed to shoot it out with a few hundred Comanche and Kiowa. We were greatly outnumbered and we didn’t dare venture out for quite some time after the fighting. We all left town a week or so after that, the Indians didn’t like us being there, that was for sure.”

“Those must have been harrowing times. I am also familiar with Bill Dixon. He was in that battle as well.”

“Yes, Bill and I know each other, we have served together under General Nelson Miles. We both hunted buffalo before that and were in Adobe Walls at the same time.”

“They say he killed an Indian from a mile away with his Sharp’s rifle. Is that true?”

“Many of us had those rifles and were darn good shots. That is what made shooting the buffalo profitable. We could get them from further away, they would spook and even charge at times. Being too close with a lesser rifle was not a safe proposition. Bill never took credit for that shot. It could have been any one of us that got lucky, but yes that Indian fell off his horse and was quite far away. Bill was a great shot, no question about that.”

“I understand he is still in that part of the state. He worked at the Turkey Ranch and stuck around Adobe Walls.”

“I have not heard about him in quite some time. I got involved in more buffalo hunting soon after our time with Miles. A few years later I was shot in that unfortunate incident with Melvin King. That put a stop to my long riding for a while and I wound up back in Dodge City working for the law. I guess Bill took to more peaceful pursuits.”

“I think so. I have met him a few times over the years. He came through here on several expeditions. I got to talk to him in a saloon on more than one occasion. I have a way of running into the more colorful characters somehow. And now I can count you among them. Thank you for coming to meet me here today.”

“I am happy to be on your list of characters in Texas history. I’m on many lists in quite a few states for that matter. Some I don’t want to be on!” Bat smiled and got a few laughs for that response.

“You can be sure that my list is a good one sir.” John lifted his glass and they drank a toast. “Now let us enjoy this marvelous feast that Sarah has provided for us, then we can discuss business.

During the meal Will recounted his story for John and gave some history on his parents experiences during the Civil War and then coming to Dallas. John was somewhat familiar with this from talking with Sarah, but it let him know that Will was honest and a hard working man. He felt that everyone there was of high quality and that he wasn’t going to need any fancy talking to get his points across. The only one he knew to be careful about was Bat.

“So tell me Mister Masterson, You have been involved in many matters with the law. Is it your intention to be involved with this transaction?” John brought out his folder of papers and placed them onto the table.

“As a friend of Mister Fulton, it is my duty to pay attention. I have been asked to discuss matters with you when appropriate. I hope you have no objections.”

“William, is this correct? Do you want me to discuss any of this with you in private?”

“No sir, you can say anything you have to say to me in front of everyone here.”

“Very well, I have no objections. I just need to ask up front before we get started. Sarah and I have discussed this matter at length and she feels the same way, isn’t that right Sarah?”

“That is correct. William is to be as my family in all respects.” Sarah gave John a nod and smiled.

“Very good. Now, I have done as much research as possible from the records in my files and at the courthouse regarding the contract with the R.J. Graham Agricultural Company. I was not the acting attorney for the original agreement and I want to caution you that it is binding at this time. Sarah has other lawyers that were involved directly in her real estate dealings. Have you had an opportunity to look at any of this documentation so far?”

Will looked over at Bat and got a nod to answer. “We went to the courthouse yesterday and reviewed the basic deed and agreement, yes.”

“Very good, I am glad that you did, it will save us some time. Then you must realize that a direct transfer of ownership before the contract terminates is not allowed and by stating the intention to do so will give the Graham concern a right to first offer at buying the property. This would require you to out bid him. Also, if Sarah should will the property and pass before the contract expires, ownership goes to Graham and market value will be paid to the beneficiary. Therefore, it is my recommendation that you either sell this land now or wait for the contract to expire. We could write it into Sarah’s will that you are her heir, but we already know that Graham gets his chance even there.”

“I understand the property is key to the value of the surrounding farm land and that Graham relies on this arrangement to make his investment worthwhile. I am not in a hurry to own the land. I know Sarah wants to make this gesture to benefit me in a quicker manner, but I can wait. I also want to know that this land can become mine some day. It is where my life took roots and where my parents sacrificed their lives. What can I do to be sure that this can happen?” Will responded.

“The chances are that you can wait for five years and assume ownership without a problem. Graham may want to renegotiate the contract at that time, but that is not for sure. The only problem is if Sarah should pass before the contract expires. Then you have no choice but to honor his options in the agreement.”

“I see. Do you think it can be a good idea to approach Graham about the contract before the five years are up? Maybe he would be willing to allow me to be the owner once he understands the nature of our intentions.”

“I do not know Mister Graham. I can certainly arrange a meeting if that is desired. But do let me make the first contact. It is usually best to have a lawyer represent you from the start.”

Will looked over to Bat and nodded to him. Bat took a deep breath and thought for a moment before answering. “We would like to meet with Graham. Is that alright with you Sarah?”

“I have no problem, I only met him briefly and do not know what to expect. I think it is about time we all have a talk and understand his perspective. Can you arrange this meeting soon John?”

“I will make the inquiry this afternoon then. I am not sure how long this will take, the lease payments come from a lawyer’s office in Fort Worth. I do not know who I can contact or how soon at this point. I think a telegraph is the best way to start. Then we can send a letter.”

“Has anyone had contact with this company recently?” Bat asked.

“Not to my knowledge. Sarah is a busy lady and I have many other clients We have had no reason to contact them in years.”

“I see, has anyone gone to their facilities to inspect the operations since the lease was signed?” Bat looked at Sarah and saw a blank look.

“I have no memory of that happening either. I think you will find things in order.” Beckwith started to look over at Sarah for a nod, none was forthcoming.

“I don’t want to go on assumptions Mister Beckwith. Sarah, did you have to ask for permission for us to visit the property? Was anyone from the farm operation notified that we were to visit?” Bat was taking control and doing some fishing.

“Why no, I do not need permission to go onto my own land. There is no mention of that in the agreement is there John?”

“Not at all, you have that right. Did you all see anyone while you were out there?”

Bat looked around at everyone then replied. “I don’t think any of us saw a thing, I have no idea if anyone saw us. But we did stay there a while and ride around a good bit. If there was someone paying attention they must have noticed us. When was the last time you visited the property Sarah?”

“I have not set foot on it since taking ownership until the other day, my employees handled all of the arrangements. I ride by it once in a while, but that is rare. I just never gave this any thought. I have so many other things to be concerned with as you can imagine.” Sarah got a bit red at the thought of this question which she was not expecting to come up. It all of a sudden came over her that she had been rather neglectful from the start of owning the land.

“Then I can assume that no one has spoken to R. J. Graham since this lease was agreed upon.” Bat grinned and looked at Will. He was doing his best to not overreact to what Bat was up to, but he did acknowledge his amazement.

“Now Bat, I don’t think there is any reason to get excited by this. It is not unusual for a farm land lease to go unattended for long periods of time. I am sure they will not mind us contacting them or bringing up this matter.”

“Alright then, I am just a bit surprised at this. It probably means nothing. Let us contact them as soon as possible and see what happens. I know that Sarah has nothing but the best of intentions and there is probably nothing to worry about. Are you agreeable to this William?”

“Yes, I trust your judgment. No hurries at this point, but I hope we can be in touch with Graham very soon. I want to know what the score is before we go home.”

Bat reached out and took the lease agreement from the table. He looked it over for a few minutes, giving Beckwith time to ponder. “Who is Quentin D. Renfro? Do either of you know this lawyer?” Bat tossed the paper back in front of Beckwith.

“I have heard of him of course, he works out of Fort Worth. We have met a time or two, but nothing recently. It is his office that sends us the payments.”

“I understand. I just want to know something about him. He may come into play if we enter into contract negotiations.” Bat studied Beckwith’s face, noticing just a twinge of discomfort. Beckwith shuffled in his chair and coughed with a strained effort. “Is there anything wrong Mister Beckwith?”

No, not at all. I really don’t know much about Renfro. Obviously he represented Graham in the formation of this lease. My experience with him was related to other matters. Do you want me to contact him as well as Graham?”

“I think that would be appropriate. I want to be sure that we know who we are dealing with. If need be, we will do the riding and go to Fort Worth.”

“That would be alright as far as I know. Would you like to be in on this trip Sarah?” Beckwith was still unsettled.

“I have not been there in a long time, perhaps I should go along. Do you think there is a chance we can get them to travel here?”

“I will see what I can do. I have a trial coming up next week so I must work around that time frame if I am to travel to Fort Worth.”

“I understand John. Let us make contact first and we can decide if travel is necessary later. Perhaps I can have one of my real estate people go with us.”

“I think that might work. I trust that you can find the time better than I can right now. Any one of your real estate lawyers can handle the transaction should an agreement be reached. You can always have me sign off on it afterwards. Is that acceptable Mister Masterson?”

“Bat sat staring right into Beckwith’s eyes. This made him feel restless. “I think that will do nicely John. I would like to go to Fort Worth for that matter, do offer us up for a trip!”

“Very well then, I’ll get started just as soon as we have dessert. I see Sarah has provided her finest pastries and the cream pie is to die for!”

“I like the sound of that. I want to thank you John. I am sorry if I seemed a bit direct in my questions. One tends to get that way when one is accustomed to criminal investigations. I may not know any other way to act. Forgive me if I made any of you feel uncomfortable.” Bat raised his eyebrows and got a smile out of Will and Lucas. The girls did all they could to keep from laughing. Sarah didn’t know what to think. She made herself busy overseeing the serving of dessert, intending to corner John after the meeting.

John took a bite from his dessert then reached into a brief case he had resting on the floor. “Since we are having dessert, I saved the best part of this meeting for last.” John brought out five thousand dollars in cash and a bank draft for an additional one hundred thousand. Sarah looked at Will and smiled. “Sarah wanted to give you some traveling money for your stay here, and we can wire the rest of this fortune to your home bank in North Fork if you like. I wouldn’t advise transporting this kind of money, there are far too many scoundrels in this town and on the road.”

Will smiled back at Sarah and then to Ann. “I thank you from the bottom of my heart Sarah. I promise that I will do the best that I can to make this money grow and do good things.”

“I trust that you will, there are a couple of wise old men and women watching you! And Ann will no doubt know what to do with it.” Sarah and Ann giggled.

Will picked up the stack of bills and fanned them. “Anyone got change for a hundred?”

“Now, now William, you will have to wait until after this lunch to start spending. And I want you to keep a certain card shark away from your new found wealth!” Sarah looked over at Bat with a humorous yet stern look.”

“Oh, well I think you can rest assured that I have no designs on the Fulton fortune. That sharp one over there can fend quite well for himself at a card table. I happen to be on the red end with him so far!”

“Is that so? I might have known that my William is a good poker player. Good for you Mister Fulton, don’t ever let this shark come up for air!” Sarah chuckled, it did her good to have a few laughs after the tense discussion they were just having.

After the lunch, Bat, Will, and Lucas headed right over to the telegraph office to see if the information about Renfro had arrived. The girls went shopping and then to the theater to watch Emma rehearse. Bat found the response waiting and tipped the clerk asking him to say nothing about them being there or the nature of the message. He then suggested that they move along to read it so Beckwith would not find them there if he really was going to send those messages right away. Bat led them to a store front just down the street where they could observe the telegraph office. He opened the envelope and saw the information pertaining to Quentin D. Renfro, Attorney at Law. He had been in practice for a very long time and advertised expertise in real estate and agricultural matters. There was also an address listed for Robert J. Graham. He was also listed on the Cotton Merchandiser’s Exchange since 1877. This was right near the time of the Fulton murders. Bat wondered if there was any information going further back. Why would anyone want to get started in the cotton business with a risky operation and controversial land? They walked up and down the street nearby and saw no sign of Beckwith at the telegraph office. They walked by his office and saw that Sarah was still there. It was time to find something else to do.

Bat decided that another trip to the library basement was in order. They searched for articles surrounding the Carlson trial. Bat wanted to know the names of the attorneys involved and if there was any link to Renfro. He wrote down the names of Byron R. Townsend who was the defense attorney and George K. Blythe named as the prosecutor. There was no direct mention of Renfro, but Bat wondered if either man was ever in his employ. That sent him back to the registry of lawyers and then to the marshal’s office. Both lawyers were properly documented and Owen had no memory of either man being involved with any trouble. After an hour of this investigating they walked back by Beckwith’ s office and saw that Sarah was still there. Bat figured that he had rattled their cages and that he also had time to send another telegram off to Fort Worth to find out if either man had been an employee of Renfro. William was beginning to see what patience and persistence were all about. Bat had Will and Lucas keep watch on the telegraph office while he left to join Emma at the theater. It was after four o’clock in the afternoon before they reported to Bat at the theater. Beckwith had paid a visit to the telegraph office. He was there for about half an hour and then rode off on his horse westward down the street.

Fulton’s Foray — Night Ride

This is a story based on the TV series The Rifleman
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