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Fulton's Fury

A Predatory Excursion - To Ravage …. Fury
Night Ride — Chapter Eight
Written by Frank Charles aka weinerdawgy

Beckwith rode in haste along the road to Fort Worth. It was not a very long ride, the thirty five miles didn’t bother him so much as the time he had to get back to Dallas without it being known that he was gone. At least that was what he hoped for. It was cool in the evening and his horse was young and strong. John liked to keep a number of horses at the ready and this was his best runner. When he reached town he rode on through to an area just to the west, then to the back of a house with a light still glimmering in the absolute dark. It was after eight o’clock. He went to the door and knocked. A wrinkled old man came to the door wearing his bifocals and holding an open book.

“John Beckwith? Is that really you? I haven’t heard from you in years, why come on in! By cracky! Are ya traveling through or is this on business?”

“Hello Quentin, We need to talk. We have an old problem about to arise and I figure you better know about this as soon as possible.”

Renfro showed Beckwith a seat in the front room and put a mark in his book. “Can I pour you a drink?”

“I could sure use one. I rode out here in quite a hurry. I don’t want anyone knowing that I was here.”

“And why is that?” The whiskey had a warm glow as it flowed into the glasses.

“It seems a familiar name is back in Dallas, one that you will be very interested in hearing.”

“Well, come out with it…. Who?”

“Fulton! William Fulton. The youngest son.”

“Oh my God! After all of this time. I was hoping we were through with that matter. Nasty piece of business that was. I have nothing to be proud of in that, no sir.”

“I know that you were involved long ago and so was I. There may be some trails left to cover up if you know what I mean. They want to meet with you and Graham concerning the property Sarah still owns, the one with the water rights.”

“Oh yes, that is the worst of it, Graham. He will not be easy to produce. In fact, he is no longer with us.”

“That is just wonderful, do you think you can find somebody to take his place?”

“I will have to work on that. Perhaps we can do with just my presence for the time being. We can come up with a story about him being back east or something. Let me see what I can do in a day or so.”

“That is about what you have time for. I sent you a telegraph this afternoon requesting a meeting. Fulton has some friends with him, one being Bat Masterson. He probably already suspects something. I was just meeting with them and Sarah Cockrell at lunch today.”

“What is it that brings Masterson into this? I find it strange that he would become involved.” Renfro poured more whiskey then sat back in his chair.

“It seems he met Fulton through a man named Lucas McCain out of North Fork, New Mexico. He and Masterson are involved in a sharp shooting show that is making its way through Dallas. Fulton and his older brother, Hank, got into trouble robbing a bank a couple of years after their parents were murdered. Hank was killed and William was sentenced to ten years hard labor. McCain got involved at the time and has now befriended William. They had just finished a show in Santa Fe and so their path brings them to Dallas. They met with Sarah and she got the idea to give the property back to Fulton.”

“That is most distressing. I knew that something like this could happen sooner or later. As the years went by the chances grew better that we were going to get away with this land thing. I was hoping the boys would either be dead or stay away. Our plan worked good for a long time though. I am sure we can negotiate with them. We put a few clauses in that lease in case Sarah should pass or anyone else would want to become involved. They can’t cause us much trouble, unless, of course, Masterson should discover some wrong doing. Let me try to speak with them first, we’ll go ahead and arrange the meeting. Tell them that Graham is back east in New York City. I am the only contact for now.”

“I think we have a chance, but they do not want to sell. William has a sentimental attitude over the family roots as you might expect. There are five years left to the agreement. I know we were hoping Sarah would pass by that time and the land would simply go over to Graham. We can still try to buy our way out of this, but do consider some kind of renegotiation just in case. Perhaps the lease can be extended and Fulton can become the new owner. I am trying to suggest that Sarah retain ownership and that Fulton can receive the payments.”

“Any of those possibilities will likely cause upset with the Carlsons. They still have hopes of owning the entire spread one day. The lease as it rests makes it all but that way now. They certainly wouldn’t want to be discovered by Fulton. If he became owner, we would have to eventually produce a Robert J. Graham. Sarah would most likely recognize an imposter, but it has been about nine years since she met with the first one. I’ll have to see if I can find somebody to play the part. It was going to have to happen sooner or later. I hope I have a picture of him somewhere.”

“I’m hopeful that we can find a way to make a deal, but what if Masterson persists, he has that kind of reputation you know.”

“I have heard of him, just about everyone has. All I can do is try to keep him from suspecting our little scheme. I’m glad you were able to get out here to warn me. Best that our meeting is a secret and you didn’t have to warn me by telegraph. You just can’t trust those clerks to keep their mouths shut.”

“I can’t trust the ones in Dallas anymore. They keep changing. I quit asking them to keep secrets for me long ago. I used to have one that would let me do the sending so he wouldn’t know what was said. But it is too easy for a guy like Masterson to tip his way into finding out with the ones today. If we need to make further contact, I will send a rider with a sealed envelope or come myself. I don’t want this to become any worse than it is right now.”

“Neither do I my friend. We have a lot of money at stake here, not to mention our freedom. Please be careful and keep me informed. I want you to act as if you do not know me when we meet with them. Do they know otherwise?”

“I was asked when Masterson saw your name on the lease. I told him that we have met a few times over other matters and that I do not know you very well.”

“That is alright then, no matter. We just don’t want them making any connections to us over this past as you no doubt understand.”

“No doubt! I know there isn’t any lingering paperwork as I stayed out of the picture back then. I don’t think we ever did any official business.”

“I will look in my files and so should you. Let’s be sure on this. We must keep our stories straight and above all, avoid mention of anything to do with Carlson.” Quentin poured a third glass of whiskey but Beckwith turned it down, he had another ride ahead of him and he needed to look good the next day.

“I will do that first thing tomorrow. Be sure to answer that telegram right away, I know they want to resolve this soon or at least have things understood before they go back to North Fork. Masterson is the one I am concerned with. He was giving me the evil eye this afternoon. He naturally suspects something is up at any turn.”

“I can handle Masterson. If I have to, I will delay things with the need to contact Graham back east and that will give us some time. I don’t think there is anything that he can find. We were very thorough in covering our tracks at the time. The good name of Graham will keep doing its job as long as I am around. I think I have somebody in mind to play his part. It seems I will have a long day of it tomorrow and so shall you. Better get on your way and I better get to bed. Thanks for dashing out here tonight John. I owe you one.”

“I’m sorry this had to come up. I hope there is no need for any further foul play.” Beckwith stood up and put on his hat.

“That is a very last resort. I wouldn’t want Sarah to meet with an early demise. It would be convenient to our cause though. Ah, who am I kidding? We’re both to old for that kind of thing. Let us rely upon our skill as lawyers, few have a clue about what we are up to most of the time.”

“Don’t discount Masterson! He is a sly one. He is used to suspecting first and finding delight at the few times he discovers honesty was at play afterwards. Professional gamblers and gunfighters are just that way by nature. I’ve met his kind before and there isn’t much they won’t do to find trouble where trouble shouldn’t be.

“I understand. I won’t let my ego get in the way with this case. I do enjoy a challenge though. He must figure that to be the case. I’ll rehearse a bit before we meet.”

“I told them I have a trial coming up next week. If they are in more of a hurry than that, they will bring one of Sarah’s real estate lawyers with them.”

“I can deal with that. It may help in our desire to avoid being connected.”

“I thought that might would be the case. It could help to keep things innocent. I’ll encourage it.”

“Not a bad idea. If we are both there Masterson may be able to read something unsaid between us. I kind of have a feeling he already has!” Renfro walked Beckwith to the door.

“That may be true. He can be intimidating with that big old face of his. I may have flinched a time or two.” Beckwith stepped out the door and gazed into the night sky. “You know Quentin, it just never pays to be dishonest, all you can do is buy yourself some time.”

“That is all we ever do my friend. We have had a good run with this arrangement. Never forget that. If something goes wrong it might be better to cut our losses and run for it. We all have plenty of money by this time. Let them clean up this mess. I have a spot picked out south of the border as it is. Getting old you know, not much left to lose. You, on the other hand, have a sweet deal with Sarah. I don’t think you want that to end any time soon.”

“That is true, but she is getting up there in years. I know her family would probably retain me, but I wouldn’t mind an early retirement. Most of my family is back east. I’ll keep that advice in mind. Thanks Quentin, I’m sorry we had to reunite under these circumstances. I wish you luck, I’ll do all that I can to protect our interests.”

“I know you will friend. I think we can handle this, but if we can’t, look me up in a small town down the east coast of Mexico called Juaquin. They have a nice little village there and I love to fish.”

“That sounds real good. I don’t like my family back east all that much anyhow. Kind of why I stay in Dallas. Say, all that money we have would go a long way down there wouldn’t it?”

“That is exactly what I have in mind. You just never know how long the markets here will hold up in the future. I already have a few bags packed in case I need to run off quick. I’ve been practicing law for many years, and this isn’t the only skeleton in my closet.

“Mine either. You can’t practice law without breaking it once in a while. I am tired of having to look over my shoulder. If we get through this mess, we should go south anyways, who needs this aggravation?”

“I think we have a plan John. Learn some Spanish when you find the time. I have been working on it for years.”

“Muy bien mi compadre! I know some already. I deal with plenty of mi amigos as it is. I think my wife would love the adventure too. You almost have me wanting this to fail.”

“I’d rather just leave without a chase John. Let’s give this our best shot.” Renfro patted Beckwith on the back as he went to untie his horse.

“Ah you’re no fun, but I also enjoy a challenge. It would be grand to have a story to tell over fooling Bat Masterson. He’s a tough nut to crack though, his legend goes far and wide. And I don’t think McCain is a pushover either. He has the grip of a hard working rancher. Be careful when you shake hands with him!”

“Thanks for the warning John, it’s always been my policy to never hand a man a dead fish.”

“I’ll be seeing you Quentin, live by that saying, it has always paid off for me! I’m going to sleep good tonight.” Beckwith rode quickly out of sight. It was going to be close to midnight by the time he got home.

Renfro went back to reading his book and drinking whiskey. He took some time to reckon about his involvement with Vernon Carlson over the years. Most of it was under the table, but it didn’t start out that way. He got up and walked back to his study. He began searching through his files, back to the time he was afraid of. There it was, his worst fear was real, the same deed that Lucas found near the bottom of the stack at the courthouse. He didn’t think anything about it at the time, he merely advised Vernon to use another lawyer for the farm purchases. If he had known what the fool was up to he would never have entered into business with him in the first place. It was too late to do anything about it. He couldn’t very well go to Dallas and replace that deed. With Masterson on the case, it may be too late anyhow. He decided to sit in his chair and read further, it was going to be a hard night to fall asleep lying in bed. Within a half hour and another shot of whiskey he was snoring in his study.

Lucas and Aubrey joined Will and Ann for another ride out to the farm. It was going to take time for a reply to the telegraph and Bat was going to stay in town and look into getting the publicity started for the gun show. He intended on paying a visit to Beckwith later in the day. Bat cautioned them to not make a scene if they ran into anyone on the property.

“Don’t even let them know who you are!” Bat made sure to tell them. “In fact, don’t go near the line shacks and if you do see anybody simply ride away.”

Will told him that he wasn’t going to ride around like he did the first time. They would only keep a safe distance and see the countryside. And that is just what they did. They found an area near a grove of junipers that seemed safe enough to have a picnic and enjoyed a pleasant afternoon. Some clouds began to appear on the horizon and Will knew that meant a late January thunder storm could be on the way. A cold breeze came along which meant that the storm was moving fast. As they decided to pack up and get started back to town two men on horseback came along with rifles drawn.

“Do you people realize that you are on private property?”

Will looked at the men and smiled. “Why no sir, we were passing through and thought we would stop and eat then be on our way.”

“I don’t reckon you’re doin’ any harm, but best get goin’, we’ve had some problems with trespassers of late and you fine folks don’t look the part. This is R.J. Graham property if you don’t know, all the way to the rise at the north end and as far south as you can see. Please stay on the road.”

“That we will mister, we don’t want any trouble.” Will helped Ann onto Flash and Lucas did the same for Aubrey.

“Are you folks from around here? I don’t recognize any of you.”

“No sir, we are visiting in Dallas and were just on a ride to see some of the scenery. We were only out to have a picnic. This is a very attractive meadow and we couldn’t help ourselves, I hope we didn’t bother anyone.” Will made a move to get on his horse while Lucas kept a close eye on the men and ready to go for his rifle.

“I see, just passing by and thought you would enjoy a picnic. That’s cute. You sure you don’t know anyone in these parts? How about I get your names?”

“I don’t think that would make any difference, we’ll be on our way. Please, we don’t want any trouble. You won’t be seeing us again I can assure….. Just then the second man cocked his rifle.

“Billy said how about he gets your names, now let’s have ‘em!”

Lucas didn’t like this one bit. He looked up at the first man and saw that he was not in a mood to be messed with. “Alright mister, I’ll give you my name, will that suit you?”

“I want to know all of your names and right now!” Billy cocked his rifle and they both gave a stern look.

“Alright, I’m Lucas McCain, this fine lady is Aubrey Canton, over there is Ann Bard, and my son here is Mark. Is that good enough for you?”

“I don’t like your attitude McCain. And I’m not so sure I believe you. Now get on your horse and maybe we’ll all take a ride over to the main house just to be sure.”

“I think that is a right fine idea, just as soon as you put those rifles away. I don’t like your attitudes either. We haven’t given you any reason to bother us. Maybe I’d like to have a conversation with your boss, who is he by the way?”

“You’ll find that out soon enough, now get on your horse!”

Lucas looked over and nodded at Will. He kicked his leg over the saddle and gave his horse a jab in his flanks. He took off at a fast pace and Billy took off after him. The second man took one look at Will and began to follow after Billy. Will drew a quick deep breath and escorted the ladies out of sight into the junipers and on a short distance so they could wait for Lucas. Will took his pistol out of his saddle bag and got ready in case there was more trouble. They couldn’t hear any gunfire and the hope was that Lucas would be successful at leading them away.

Meanwhile, Lucas was hightailing it down the road and further onto the farm property. He had an idea where the main house might be from the heavy tracks on the road. Billy didn’t want to draw too much attention by shooting and he couldn’t ride as fast as Lucas did. As they approached the main house Lucas jumped off his horse and drew out his rifle. Billy had no time to react and drew up short in front of Lucas. The second man came along shortly after and lowered his rifle.

“Now, where is this boss of yours’. I want to talk with him right now!”

“He’s inside. I’m sure he’ll be right out. Davey! We have some trouble out here!”

Lucas backed up to cover both the men and the front of the building. “Alright Davey, come on out here, make it slow or your underlings here will regret it!”

“I’m on my way, just take it easy. What seems to be the trouble here?” Davey came out the front door and onto the porch with a rifle in his hands trying to look important and mean.

“We caught these trespassers Davey, redhanded. We were a gonna bring ‘em to ya when this one put up a fight. We chased him right up to the front door.”

“Think you’re smart by coming here mister? How do you know I ain’t got ya covered? We got more men around here.” Davey brought his rifle into a level postion.

“I wouldn’t be surprised. But if there’s going to be any shootin’ you’re the first one going down! Now back off, all of ya.” Lucas cocked his rifle and the men noticed the lever.

“That’s a mighty fine piece you’re waving around there mister.” Davey commented.

“Says his name is McCain” Billy added.

“What’s that? McCain? Ain’t you the fella in the newspapers, shootin’ up the targets with old Bat Masterson? I know who you are! We got us a live one here boys, keep those guns ready until we talk a bit now. What brings you out here McCain?”

“My family and I were just having a picnic in a meadow nearby, we had no idea we were trespassing. Your men made more out of it than they should have, started to get mean with us, so I took off to lead them away from the others, thought I would just as soon come pay you a visit, like they suggested.”

“I see, kind of clever of ya I guess. More dumb than brave maybe, but I gives ya credit. Good thing ole Billy and Pete here are less dangerous than they look. Reckon they were just having some fun with ya anyhow.” Davey lowered his rifle, nobody out here but us chickens, but you better figure on hearing from the law over this, we don’t want people thinking they can just trespass any time they want to.”

“I know the law here and I also know the owner of this land, now how does that grab you?” Lucas kept his rifle at the ready and gave Davey a stern look.

“Is that right? Then who is it that you know?”

“Marshal Owen Pollard, how’s that?”

“I guess anyone could know that name, give another.”

“Sarah Cockrell! That better be enough, I’m not going to fool around much longer.”

“Alright now, I can see that you know what you are talking about. I don’t figure it’s wise to be messing with the likes of Bat Masterson and Lucas McCain any more than we have to. Put your rifles down boys, say hello to a real cowboy and one of the best shots ever known.” Davey cracked a big smile and set his rifle down then sat in a chair on the porch. “You can go McCain, we just get a might bored out here, I hope you can understand. We weren’t out to hurt anyone. Where’s your family?”

“Not far from where your boys found us. Say, your names wouldn’t be Graham would it?” Lucas still had his rifle ready.

“Now put that rifle down, you ain’t got to be fearin’ us no more. We ain’t no Grahams neither, just work for him. We’s just hands keeping an eye on things. We don’t even know Graham, he has a foreman that looks in on us once in a while. Others visit when the plantin’ and harvestin’ comes.”

Alright, I’ll be on my way then. I’m even sorry that we caused you boys any concern. My good friend Bat Masterson happens to know Sarah and she said we could come out here and have us a picnic, maybe we should have come and told you that before we went out there.”

“That would have been a better way of saying hello I reckon. I don’t even know Sarah Cockrell, just know of her. I hope you won’t cause us no trouble over this, sorry my boys got a little out of hand, no harm anyhow.”

“Well, I’m alright, as long as the ladies didn’t get hurt or wet. We were just getting ready to head back to avoid the coming storm.”

“Yup, figures to be a big one. I hope I didn’t delay you too long, get yourself goin’ now, I hope they waited for ya. I can see those clouds movin’ in fast, winds pickin’ up too. Please accept my apologies McCain, maybe we’ll see ya at that shootin’ match ya’ll gonna have. I’d like to see that!”

“Just ask for me Davey, I’ll remember ya. Wish we could have met under better circumstances.” Lucas mounted then looked down at Billy. “You boys best size up the men you chose to fool around with before trying to act like men yourselves!”

“Yes sir! Sorry Mister McCain. Ya’ll come back now, meadow’s always waiting for ya!

Lucas took off quick and made it back to the meadow to find Will and the ladies coming out of the trees. They talked for a few minutes as Lucas told them the brief story and then they rode fast into the oncoming clouds. They didn’t have any rain gear to speak of, just sweaters for the girls and a couple of blankets. About two miles outside of town the rain started to fall. The wind driven water built up fast and the horses couldn’t go very fast in the mud. Ann didn’t want to risk hurting Flash or Spirit, so they arrived at the hotel soaked to the bones. Lucas was not happy about this, but he didn’t want to make trouble either. He and Will took the horses back to the livery while the ladies went to their room to clean up and get warm. It was getting on towards supper when they finally met Bat and Emma downstairs.

Bat had some good news. The telegraph reply came in and they had an appointment to be in Fort Worth on Tuesday morning to meet with Quentin D. Renfro. Bat was able to meet with Beckwith that afternoon. They had a good time discussing stories from the early frontier days and some of the characters that John enjoyed hearing about. History was a favorite subject for John, as with most lawyers. Bat had plenty of experiences to share. From the telegraph, Bat was able to find out that Graham was in New York and not available for the meeting. He was not alarmed by this, figuring that Renfro was probably the front man for the operation and the best one to deal with. It was an easier time for John than the lunch before. He was able to relax and engage Bat with more pleasant conversation. Both men came away feeling better about each other. John tried to assure him that William stood to profit greatly from whatever deal was made. They also talked about the target shooting business. Bat went by the Herald newspaper office before meeting with John. John told Bat about the troubles with the reporters in the past, especially during the Fulton murder trial. But he also knew that they needed to advertise. They had to make their presence known sooner or later. News from the Santa Fe show was already around town. The reporters were now alerted to the gun show and that Lucas and Bat were in town.

Sarah came to join them at dinner and they made plans to travel together on Monday morning in the four horse carriage with Turley along for good measure. Ann, Aubrey, and Emma decided to stay in Dallas and let the men handle things on their own for once. Emma had to stay for the theater anyhow. This gave them the weekend to relax and watch Emma perform for the Saturday Debut. John Beckwith would be along for the performance and the trip to Fort Worth as well. Sarah wanted it that way. John did not.

Fulton’s Foray — Hell's Half Acre

This is a story based on the TV series The Rifleman
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