The Rifleman
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Fulton's Fury

Roundup — Chapter Twenty Five
Written by Frank Charles aka weinerdawgy

Vernon was a broken man. His paranoid and weary mind could no longer respond to questioning. Joe kept him in a small room and under observation when he was not with him. They were trying to decide if it was wise to ship him to Dallas. They eventually moved him to a private cell and continued a constant watch. Bat offered their services to escort him by train. Joe thought this would be a good idea but had to wait a few days to decide. A hearing was scheduled to determine his mental competence and if the state of New York wanted the first chance at prosecuting him. Pictures were taken and mailed to Dallas and Fort Worth authorities to prove his existence. They already had Gerald’s statement and full reports from Bat, Lucas, and the NYPD.

Carlson eventually admitted to the ruse while still in New York. Once he was shown the photo album and the Graham fraud evidence he gave up trying to deny any of his crimes. The court ruled him competent and he was extradited to Dallas. Lucas and Bat delivered him to Owen Pollard after a long train ride, stopping only once to view Niagara Falls. It was to be the final outdoors memory of Carlson’s miserable life. He refused to converse with them along the way. They shared hotel rooms and kept him in a prisoner cell on the train when they could. Sarah, Turley, and Owen met them at the Dallas depot. Newspaper reporters were present to take pictures as Carlson came off the train and into police custody. Articles and interviews went on and on while the cases were prepared to prosecute not only Carlson and Renfro, but the still surviving law officers that were responsible for aiding Carlson in his escape. Owen was able to investigate and found enough evidence to convict some of his fellow lawmen. John Beckwith was not implicated in the crimes. He was clever enough not to leave any evidence behind. He was investigated by Owen and declared innocent. Sarah fired him as Primary Lawyer for the Cockrell estate. He was left contemplating an early retirement after that. Many of his clients followed suit and what was left wouldn’t be worth his time. He soon left for New York to visit his son who was doing quite well at the Liberty Theater. No date for a return was present on the sign upon his office door.

The entire Graham empire was impounded. Research for hundreds of ranch titles covering a large area of Texas was required. Quentin Renfro had a huge collection of files. It would take years to straighten it all out. John Templeton looked forward to making things right for a long list of people. The NYPD had a similar task at untangling the New York Graham empire. There never was an R.J. Graham, but his name went far and wide for over ten years. Of course, there were nowhere near enough funds available to pay off the stockholders. Then there were the shareholders of the American Cottonseed Oil Trust to be dealt with. Graham’s share of those properties was called into question but none of them were directly in his ownership. Renfro had this aspect very convoluted in league with a much larger organization in New York. Carlson’s money was greatly involved and it was left in the investment for the time being. As cases progressed the funds were liquidated and used to pay legal costs and to furnish restitution to victims of the fraud.

There were many big names involved with Graham’s interests and the trust. Not all of the activity was considered illegal. There were no repercussions from Carlson’s arrest other than the shoot out that day on the docks. Due to the high profile of some of the Investors it was considered unwise to exact revenge upon Lucas or Bat. Carlson took his chance and lost. His organized crime connections would remember though. They were happy to let Vernon take the fall and remain out of suspicion. What was to become of the many businesses and people employed by them would take a long time to sort out. The fabric mills alone provided a large part of the supply of materials to the garment industry. Union labor was involved in many cases and the city relied upon the revenue as well. New York State could only impound the ownership and allow them to continue business. The one thousand dollars worth of shares bought with Bat and Lucas’s money through Tom Garret were left in Tom’s care. It was a gesture more than a gift, but Tom left them in his portfolio as a reminder not to get involved with questionable investments and underhanded advice.

Sarah quickly developed a proposal to purchase the entire cotton farm. It was going to take a great deal of time for the trials and final decisions concerning the property’s disposition. Her real estate lawyers did manage to get the lease of the Fulton farm voided, which regained control of its future faster than the rest of the land. The state of Texas left the operation of the cotton farm in Sarah’s supervision and paid her a salary for that service. She decided to wait for William and Ann to come back before reviving the idea of giving him the farm. She had William added to her will however, which ensured he would eventually become the owner. It was going to take a long while before William would be asked to testify so the time of their return to Dallas was yet to be determined.

After a week of providing interviews and filling out police reports, Lucas wanted to go home. Bat and Lucas went for a visit to the White Elephant to see how Luke Short was doing and to renew their supply of cheroots. Luke set up a regular shipment of the cigars to the McCain ranch. They played poker and had a great time telling stories. But Lucas was tired of telling stories. He was much better at being part of them. There was a great sense of relief on all of their parts after a long and tormenting spring. Summer was about to start and ranch work would become a high priority. Lucas looked forward to sharing his ranch with Bat. Over the time they developed a closeness that would never end. Besides that, Lucas wanted Bat along to tell most of the stories once they made it to North Fork! They shipped most of their luggage ahead to North Fork so they could travel light. Once again it was hard to say goodbye to Sarah.

On a warm sunny afternoon near Santa Fe, Aubrey walked out in front of her house to see two horses kicking up dust on the distant horizon. Before she knew it she found herself in the arms of Lucas McCain. Their embrace lasted a very long time. They shared an endless kiss as those in love are known to do after a long separation. Bat led their new horses into the barn so Aubrey and Lucas could have time alone.

“Oh Lucas! It seems as if you were never coming back. I’ve missed you so much. Please don’t leave me so long ever again!”

“It wasn’t easy to be away. I thought of you constantly. I want us to be together from now on.” They kissed again and wouldn’t let go.”

Finally, Aubrey released the embrace and let her hands run down Lucas’ chest and then grabbed his arms. “Are we going to make it Lucas? I know I’m in love with you.

What did you feel while you were away?”

“It was very difficult for me during the train ride. I had become so used to you being with me and it hit me hard once we were apart. Bat and I kept ourselves busy though. He went a long way to keep my emotions in check while we got used to our being alone together. We both have our ways but we didn’t clash too much. I have to say it was a great adventure, but it was also dangerous. I’m fortunate to return. But the number one thing is coming home. I love you Aubrey. I feel as though God brought us together for a very good reason. I know that I want to be with you from now on. If you can make some changes in your life so can I. There are many things changing in North Fork. I need to go home and find out what the future holds. Are you willing to go with me?

“I sure am! My son has this ranch doing well. He wants to see me happy and he likes you. His family needs the space to grow and my work here is done. We can always visit when the times are right. Let’s go home to North Fork!”

“Aubrey, you make me very happy. I pray I can do the same for you. If I learned one thing on this long trip it’s that home is where the heart is. As long as our hearts are together we are at home!” Lucas kissed her again and they walked hand in hand to the barn to join Bat.

“You ready to go home Bat?” Aubrey smiled and walked up to hug him.

“We just got here! I want food!” They laughed and finished the horse chores together.

“I’ve got some home aged steaks and plenty of fixin’s. I’ve been planning this meal for a long time. And I want to hear all about your trip. Don’t leave out a single detail!”

Aubrey led them into the house and sat them in overstuffed leather chairs. “OK, who goes first? Tell me what New York is like!”

“Uh….. Bat….. you go first. I need to take a drink.”

Bat looked up at the ceiling and then smiled at Aubrey. “You see my dear, we’ve been telling our story to so many lawyers and police, Sarah, Luke Short, and the newspapers! Let me tell you about the newspapers!” Once he got to talking it was like water flowing over Niagara Falls. Aubrey kept the drinks coming and eventually the conversation moved to the dinner table.

Aubrey had been preparing to leave the entire time they were in New York. It took one day and they were off to North Fork on a three day ride. She made food for camping and it required two pack horses to carry her things. They took their time enjoying the scenery so they wouldn’t be tired upon arrival. It was Bat’s turn to be the odd man for a while. He was used to it though and Emma was due to join him in a few weeks. On the final night of the trip home Aubrey served the rest of her homemade food and an apple pie. It was their last chance to reflect on the adventure.

“Bat, before we get to North Fork, I want to thank you for everything. I can’t imagine surviving it all without you. I’ve learned so much since we met in Yuma. Just as much as anyone else along your trail, I owe you my life.”

“Thank you Lucas. The same goes your way. We work well together. I hope we can do more of the same. Now that we have conquered New York City, I think we can do our show anywhere, and they are expecting us to.”

“I think we owe New York a return visit, this time with the ladies. What a time we could have!”

“Yes! New York is an intriguing place, I feel as though we only scratched the surface. There’s so much left to discover. Maybe I will retire there one day, you never know where adventure will lead.”

“I think I’ll retire in the country, North Fork’s my kind of place. But I’m in for the visiting part. I’m always going to want another crack at those big fish!”

“I think you must have been a sailor in a different life. I’d rather be the captain of a prairie schooner. But I’ll say this much, those sea dogs are a burly bunch and just as close knit as any team I ever saw.”

“You should have seen how they jumped right in and helped me when I made my move on Carlson’s men. They were sharp alright. And Orly gave me some valuable lessons on seamanship. I want to get there again before long.”

“I have a feeling you will Lucas. I promised Jim we would come back soon and make him part of a bigger show.”

“We did kind of leave them unfulfilled, didn’t we?”

“Yes, it was not all the way we intended, but we had pressing business to attend to, Tom and Joe understand. But now we have good friends there and we know how to act, so next time will be a great success!”

“We’ve been a great success from the start Bat. Long ago I knew I had to visit Simon Battle. His transformation affected me early on in North Fork and even more in Yuma. Meeting you has changed all of our lives. And what you have done for Will is priceless.”

“Young Fulton is a mighty man, he’s always been. All Will needed was for something good to happen for him. I could see that right off. He’s been as a son to both you and Sam. And I’m thankful to think that way about him as well.”

“I try to think of him as my little brother, it kind of keeps things even between us. But the fatherly thing applies, I won’t argue that. I’m too far gone in that department over Mark, so I tend to think that way with many I run across. You’re my brother Bat, young or old, we really do think alike now. I learned what that’s about from you.”

“We have performed well as a team my friend. As a lawman, I have worked with many, from Hickok to Earp. None of them have what you have. Sure, we all know how to back each other with a gun and times will always come when that is needed. But I never have to wonder about you Lucas. I always know you are there. You’re having been a soldier in hard times makes you tough as nails and soft as cotton. Now you know how to talk your way through just about anything. Mark gave you the responsibility as a father to hone your sense of right and wrong. It’s a complete form of trust and a rare thing.”

“Before this mutual admiration party can go any further gentlemen, I insist you eat this pie!” Aubrey reached around from behind to hug Lucas after handing them their dessert. “I thought you guys were really something when we first met in Santa Fe, but now I can see that I’ll have to put up with both of you from now on! I wonder what else I’m letting myself in for with this hunk?”

“Well my dear, if you think this is something, wait until you spend time in North Fork. There’s an entire town full of characters I consider family. You’ve already met Sam and Micah. I have a whole lot more friends where they come from.”

Aubrey smiled longingly. “And the family keeps growing. Bat, I know you’ve left a trail of broken hearts.”

“And bankrupt gamblers I might add!”

“Yes, and a trail of angry bankrupt gamblers!” Aubrey got up to pour more coffee.”

“I guess you can say that some of them were angry, but others were glad, when I left town!”

“I think you’ve changed since then Mister Masterson. Emma has you wrapped around her finger in ways that you don’t yet realize. Ann and I treasured the time we spent with her. You better stick by Emma and settle down!”

“That is foremost on my mind my lady. But we are both show people and must fulfill our destiny. The day will surely come when we’re both ready to get off the road. And I won’t keep your Lucas from you for long. I can see adventure for all of us in the future. Just think of Emma on stage, Broadway, here we come!”

“Now you just settle down Mastermind! We have much to do in North Fork first!”

“Fear not dear Aubrey. I’m looking forward to a nice long visit and plenty of hard work doing chores! Right Lucas?”

“You betcha Bat! We got lots of chores to do. And from what I understand, many more stalls, so poop is high on the list! I hope you can shovel as well as you can talk!”

“I have a feeling I’ll be wanting one of them fancy horseless carriages before this is over!”

“I wonder what will become of the Wild West show? Cody sure was a great guy. I’m not one bit envious that you knew him Bat. It just got to a point that it exasperated me after so long. I respect your legend and all the history behind your deeds. It’s something to celebrate and forgive me for my being irritated back there.”

“Think nothing of it brother Lucas. I understand. And remember that I’m going to experience a similar thing as I visit your home and friends.”

“I’ll keep that in mind, but I only know ranchers and blacksmiths, teachers and storekeepers. Everyone in North Fork will know who you are!”

“Comes with the territory I guess. But many across this land know who you are too. We’re both in the public eye from here on out. What’s becoming of the Wild West? It’s evolving from real life to the stage. Bill is now taking it to foreign shores. We have become more than a way of life.”

“I suppose that’s what a legend is. Something the modern crowd seeks to know about while they’re creating a new legend of their own. I wonder what people will think of New Yorkers a hundred years from now?” Lucas picked up a stick and held it into the fire to play with the coals.

“I think they will say it was terribly primitive in New York a hundred years from now. They’ll have bigger buildings, more trains, longer bridges, and who knows what will happen if they build more horseless carriages?”

“One thing I’m sure they will have is plenty of outlaws! And just imagine the police department!”

“I hope we have something more to say about that before we’re through brother!” Bat joined Lucas at stirring the coals.

“I can see where Annie Oakley will go far into the future. I’ve never met a gal that can handle an audience so well, let alone a gun. Although Emma does come to mind. Have you ever shown her how to shoot Bat?”

“Yes, she can do it if she has to. She hasn’t felt the need to carry, but I have one for her to keep nearby. I mostly want her able to shoot my gun if an emergency should arise. There hasn’t been any real need since that man back in Denver. And I do respect her savvy with an audience. She has a very quick wit and I think she could do well on the stage in New York. You never know!”

“I look forward to that day and hope to be there to see it.”

“We sure do have plenty to look forward to Lucas. I’m getting full on this pie and we better get to sleep before too long. The apple pie was very good my dear, thanks for feeding us so well on this ride. I’ve enjoyed every moment!”

“Your welcome Bat. I’m really looking forward to more good times ahead. You two need your rest and we have a big day when we get home tomorrow.

Ann was giving Flash a work out in preparation for a coming competition. They were in a nearby pasture when the Santa Fe travelers rode up to the hitching post. The Bard ranch horse community had new friends to get acquainted with. The chatter started right away. Lucas could hear Razor as he ran across the pasture ahead of the other horses.

“Lucas!!!!!! Lucas!!!!!! We’ve been waiting so long. Bat! Aubrey! Welcome to the Bard Ranch! Ann rode up on Flash and hopped off with joy. She hugged everybody and before long some of the hands showed up to greet them. Razor came to the fence and Lucas ran over to hug his best friend. “Sam’s over at your place, they’re putting the final touches on the new lodge.”

“I can hardly wait to see it. What’s that hammering I hear in the distance?”

“I’m not supposed to tell you yet. But I think you can figure that out.” Ann led Bat and Aubrey into the house. “You can ride Razor over and see for yourself though.”

Lucas led Razor to the stalls and got him ready. They took off into the woods behind the main house and found Will pounding nails on a brand new log home big enough for an entire family.

“Lucas! How do you like it?” Will jumped down from a ladder and ran up to greet him.

“It’s beyond my wildest dream! And Sam must be crazy about it too.” Lucas hugged Will and they walked to join Razor with Spirit. “We have a lot to talk about Will.”

“I know. I’ve been wondering about you guys for a long time. The telegrams told me enough, but I need to hear about it straight from you.”

“We’ll have plenty of time for that. We should join the others and go see Sam at the new lodge. Ann told me about it. I don’t want to leave them alone for too long.”

“Did Aubrey come with you?” Will gave him an expecting glare.

“You betcha she did! I have a feeling about that woman!” Lucas returned the glare. “And what about you and Ann? Is the wedding date set?”

“It’s next month big brother. We wanted to be sure of what you were up to before we made an announcement. I guess we can go ahead now.”

“I suppose you can! And I think Aubrey and I may be right behind you. I want to give her some time to get used to things around here first. And Mark will have to come home soon to meet her. Come to think of it, I haven’t heard back from him in a while. I wonder what he’s been up to?”

“We’ll just have to insist that he comes home soon then! I tell ya Lucas, this place is going to be busy. We got a lot of irons in the fire.”

“I’m looking forward to it. I need to get to work, put my feet down on some home turf. It’s been a long time since we first let out of here on that ride to Santa Fe. I need to get some cattle back in my blood and work up a real sweat.”

“You’ve come to the right place! And if I never said it before, thank you Lucas! My life is more than I ever thought it could be. I see clear sailing ahead from now on. And to think that less than a year ago I was rotting in the Santa Fe prison. This house is only a start my friend.

“We have great times ahead little brother. And now guess who’s rotting in prison?”

“Vernon Carlson and Quentin Renfro it is my privilege to say!”

“It’s all over Will. No more light of day for those old devils.”

“I have to ask, what was it like when you first looked into Vernon’s eyes? I sure wish I could have been there!”

“I was mostly in shock. We thought he was long gone. I was on that boat for a last fishing trip before coming home. They were trying to get Vernon on a passing ship to Mexico. When I realized it was him I had to do some fast thinking. They had the Captain under threat and were armed. It was my luck to hook a big fish and be able to make my way over and stumble into them. I got the draw and the boat’s crew jumped in to help me. That’s when I looked Vernon in the eyes for the first time. If I had to say what that was like, I guess I finally felt like you. Now I understand what your pain has done to you. The danger never bothered me. All I wanted was to make things right for everyone that he’s hurt. I don’t call that revenge.”

“I don’t know what I’ll feel like if I have to see him again. I meant what I said at the gravesite though. I don’t want revenge. But I do want him to pay. I want all of us to get past this trouble and be happy.”

“I couldn’t say much in a telegram, we were doing our best to get him. I’ll say they have all they need to put him and Renfro away for good. They may not hang them because it will take a long time to clear up everything they were involved in. They’ll need to question them endlessly. That may be worse than death, having to think about it for years to come. Give it some time. When Sarah and the courts are ready, we’ll go back and do it over the right way. You will have your family’s farm back and so much more! We’ll have an empire stretching from North Fork to Dallas and beyond.”

“Kind of makes life worth living, don’t it?!” Will slapped Lucas on the back. After a brief tour of the log home, they went back to the main house, gathered with the others and rode to the McCain Ranch.

Will brought them to the lodge. As he opened the door he stopped Lucas, who was already in shock at the sight of the new buildings on his property. “I hope you are ready for this Boss!” The door opened to Sam and some hands shooting pool and having beers at a saloon quality bar.

“Lucas! Welcome home!” Sam laid his cue down on the table and hugged his partner. Walt Donaldson joined in and the stories began to flow as did the beer. Before long Bat had a full on poker game underway and Lucas was shooting pool with Will.

Sam was working on a decanter and talking to Aubrey and Ann. The party raged late into the night. There wasn’t any reason to stop as this was as much their home as anyplace on the ranch. They went on a tour of the renovated house and new stables. The corals were new wood and larger than before. Lucas almost came to tears as he walked into his newly painted house. It didn’t quite look the same but it still had the feel of home. It had never been so clean and every window and doorway was perfect. He went out to the chicken coup and found out that Will had enlarged it and made it like new.

“We’re going to need a bunch more eggs now Lucas, we got a whole bunkhouse to feed!” Will showed him around inside.

Lucas took Aubrey into his arms and they stood on the front porch. He turned around to say a few words to his friends gathered around. “You’ve done a great thing here. I’m honored to have all of you as family! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. This renews my life and gives all of us a way to live a dream. It belongs to all of us, we are truly one big happy family!”

Everyone cheered. “Come along now, let’s go back to the games and leave these two alone for a spell.” Will put his arms around Ann and Sam as they went back to the lodge.

Lucas and Aubrey sat silent together watching the moon and stars to the sounds of billiard balls and laughter.

“This is music to my ears Aubrey. A year ago when Mark left for Enid I was the loneliest man on earth. Trying to work and sleep alone here was one of the toughest things I ever had to face. It seemed like a risk to get Will out of prison and bring him here. Sam and I were wondering what was going to happen. He was so darn worried over his daughter and the ranch. But I knew it was the right thing to do. Will is the inspiration to make this wonderful place happen. Without him, I would have sold this ranch and probably moved to Enid. Now my son has something to look forward to when he comes home, we can have a new life together, and Will has his life back in order and everything to look forward to.”

“I love you Lucas. I can see that you are an inspiration. You think of all of these people above yourself. And you take it as it comes with the grace of an angel. I’m proud to know you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”

“And I want to spend the rest of my life with you Aubrey. It has long been my prayer that I could feel right about a woman again in my life. That’s what was torturing me without my knowing it. When Mark first left, those feelings took over. I was so wrapped up over him that I neglected to think of myself or anyone else. It took his leaving to make me realize just how much I need to be part of a family.”

“We just might want to be alone together one day. It may not be possible here.”

“I have that covered my dear. When I rode into the woods on Razor earlier, it was to see our new log home, our private place. We’ll go there tomorrow.”

“I can hardly wait. You had this all planned from the start, didn’t you!”

“I didn’t know who or when, but I was praying we would meet. Remember when we first laid eyes on each other that night in Santa Fe?”

“Of course, I couldn’t help myself.”

“Neither could I. Normally I’m shy about such things, but that very moment I knew you were the one. Something took hold and I was drawn to you. I haven’t lost that feeling since.”

“Me either Lucas. I know we’re right for each other and things really can happen because they’re meant to be. I feel at home right here. And I always will when I’m with The Rifleman!”

Fulton’s Foray — Dear Pa

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

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