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Fulton’s Foray

A Predatory Excursion - To Ravage …. Fury
The New Deal — Chapter Six
Written by Frank Charles aka weinerdawgy

Sarah paid a visit to her lawyer the very next day to inquire about the transfer of the land. John Beckwith met her with open arms and a warm smile. They exchanged greetings and moved into the back office where they could get comfortable. John was a big man with a huge desk surrounded by shelves full of law books and literature of all kinds. Turley waited in the outer office content to glance over a newspaper.

“What can I do for you Sarah? I don’t believe we have any outstanding issues.”

“John, I know this may sound crazy, but I want to gift the Fulton farmland to a Fulton. It seems that William, the youngest son, has come back to Dallas to find some closure. We have been discussing what I could do for him, something that could help him rebuild his life. The best thing I can imagine is to give him back what was once his home.”

“That seems like a noble offer. If I recall, we thought he may have died in the fire. How is it that he appears now?”

“He and his brother Hank ran away after watching the house burn. They turned to a life of crime and wound up in New Mexico. Hank was killed and William has paid for his crimes. He arrived three days ago and we met the night before last. His story is very compelling and I felt the need to do something for him.”

“I must caution that you are under contract with the R.J. Graham Company, and if I remember correctly, that contract has close to five years left to go. I am sure there must be a clause concerning new ownership.”

“William has no intent on changing the contract or the use of the land. It is the income that I am interested in him benefiting from. He has family and obligations in North Fork, New Mexico. He won’t have time to become involved in the operation.”

“Would you consider simply giving him some money? My initial thought is that it would not be wise to disrupt the current deal.”

“The idea does have merit I am sure. But I also want to consider the long term permanence of his attachment to that land. I only kept it for the possibility of his return and to keep any of Carlson’s family from getting it.”

“I imagine that he already has expectations of becoming the owner by now. We might be able to do this, but it will take some time. We must notify the Graham people and write an addendum to the contract. And of course the deed will also take time. Perhaps you could consider willing the land to him. It could remain in the current ownership indefinitely yet provide him with the income. In any case, I will be more than happy to do as you wish. We do, however, need to keep in mind that the surrounding farmland is virtually useless without the water from this property. It is a huge investment for Graham and we cannot, in good conscience, threaten his ability to depend on this arrangement. And, I might add, there is no guarantee that something won’t go wrong. The water could dry up or the deal could go sour in other ways. The income is not without risk. Then the land could become a liability, especially to a young man starting a family.”

“I have to admit that I have not thought about that. You do bring up some good points. The water has been productive for a long time though, I don’t think it stands to run out any time soon. The cotton market is strong, Graham does a good business. But I suppose things could change.”

“That is correct. What if Graham found another source of water? Irrigation methods do stand to be modernized in the not too distant future. He is bound by the contract, but if he were to go out of business and not be able to pay the lease, well, you could endure that possibility but I don’t think Fulton would want to. Anything can happen and we should be certain that everybody knows the risks and the gains. Right now, the land could be sold to Graham at a tidy profit. That is another thing to consider. Can we meet with Mister Fulton and see what is on his mind? You should go talk with him and then come back here with a more firm idea. It is a big change and should be well thought out.”

“I believe you are right John. My noble side has been quick to leap forward on this and I want to be sure we do it right. In the meantime, I want to transfer a preliminary amount of money to William so he can realize some value in a quicker manner.”

“That we can do. You just let me know an amount and I will take care of it immediately.”

“This may seem like a large amount, but I want him to be comfortable and able to put this sum to work with his ranch. I would like to give him one hundred thousand dollars.”

“That is very generous indeed. Are you sure of this?”

“I have realized more than that from owning the property, and I have more money than my family or I shall ever need. I hope to do more than this for him in due time. He is capable of managing such a sum. You have to understand this man. He has been through a hell like no other. People have been helping him right his ship for a long time now. He wants to be able to reciprocate and gain an equal footing in what he does for a living. Yes, I want to do whatever I can for him. Let’s do this as soon as possible then we shall see what the right thing to do with the land is. Fear not John, I pay you to tell me things like this so I don’t make mistakes. You are worth your weight in gold to me.”

“Thank you Sarah, I know how you must feel considering what you went through over the loss of your friends and the trial. We have had a great relationship over the years We’ll be able to take care of this. I’ll start looking into the details, you go talk to Fulton and bring him to me in a couple of days.”

“That is great. One last thing, we don’t want any of this leaking out to the press just yet. There are privacy issues and his friends have some mild security concerns.”

“May I ask, just who are his friends?”

“Does the name Bat Masterson mean anything to you? How about Lucas McCain?”

“Who doesn’t know of Masterson, it figures he would be involved in this. Isn’t McCain the Rifleman?”

“That is right. He is the one who is taking William on as if he were his son.”

“Well, I have heard of those two being involved with Winchester and a recent gun show in Santa Fe. The paper did run a story about them and a possible show here. I suppose Fulton is in good company. He won’t be able to avoid publicity for long. Those vultures over at the Times are ruthless when it comes to ferreting out the happenings as you well know!”

“Yes, and I believe Bat and Lucas have been seen enough in two days time. Something about the gun show is bound to surface soon. Also, Bat is married to Emma Walters, who is due to start her theater show in less than one week. The only real concern is that William doesn’t want to cause a stir over his return. There are only a few aware of who he is or what is going on. I know it will make a good story, all they want is some time to let the details settle out. I think that is only fair.”

“I agree. Once the Fulton story breaks, some bad memories will be rehashed. I won’t even contact Graham until we know what you want to do. Just the deed changing hands could trigger interest. Deeds are a matter of public record, clerks and officials watch that kind of thing. The name Fulton will raise eyebrows right away.”

“I think they realize that. We are not in a hurry. Please make that money a cash advance in my name. I will give it to William so he can deposit it in private. We may decide to have most of it wired to North Fork. Why does everything have to be so complicated? I want this to be a joyful thing for William, a healing thing. If those newspaper people ruin this in any way……”

“Now Sarah, I know you have your opinions about the press. Just don’t go off on them unless you have to. Neither of us needs the headache, I know you have had your problems in the past.”

“Darn right I have! They don’t ever want to tangle with me again after that last time.

I don’t even want to talk about it. Bat did say that if they come around, he will attempt to distract them with an article about the upcoming gun show. He would rather size things up before beginning the publicity, but he knows what he is doing, he has been a news man himself.”

“I have read some of his articles. He is of a rare breed and of many interests. He gets involved with things at the drop of a hat….. a derby hat that is. First off, he is a gambler of the grandest order. A lawman second, and anything else he needs to be third. And damn good at it from what I hear. See if you can bring him here with Fulton, that should spice things up!”

“If William wants them to be there, I am willing. I’ll go speak with him this afternoon. Be ready for Lucas and maybe a few women to join them.”

“I have nothing to hide if you don’t. I’d love to meet them all. It can be better that way. No secrets and no hidden objectives. But you think about that. Maybe we can have lunch here in the front office.”

“That is a good idea, I’ll have it catered. This can be a wonderful thing. Let us try not to enable the legal profession to tangle this up John. The law can deal with good things sometimes, can’t it?”

“I find those times to be rare. Few ever like to deal with the law, unless they happen to be Bat Masterson! I don’t foresee any problems Sarah. I just want you to be careful and let me understand the implications before you promise anything.”

“Well, I came here just now, didn’t I?”

“You sure did, and I love you for it! Now, let us go about our business and we shall meet back here in two days. Is that enough time?”

“I am sure it is. Contact me if you need anything, I will be at the hotel unless I am out shopping with the ladies.”

“I’ll be around as well, any questions, just come on by.”

“Thank you John. It makes me feel good to know you are keeping an eye on me!”

“Any time Sarah. I am thankful that you keep me busy. I enjoy being there for you!” John stood up and walked with Sarah out to the front room. “Good morning Turley, you’re looking good.”

“Morning John, I feel good too. How’s that kid of yours’?”

“Gerald? Oh he’s back east at law school, you won’t be seeing him any time soon.”

“I know he’ll do real well back there. You take care now John, I’ll be seeing you.”

Turley tipped his Stetson and gave John a big grin. “Back to the hotel Mrs. Cockrell?”

“Yes, I need to speak with William. Thank you Turly.” Sarah was helped into her two horse carriage and down the street they went. She was just a little mad at herself for being anxious in offering Will the land. She knew better than to do things like that before speaking with Beckwith. Perhaps she was getting softer in her later years. It had been a long wait for her and Will was too important. The memory of the trial and hanging came back to her on the way. Carlson was a most unpleasant man, especially when his life was at stake. Beckwith helped her through that difficult time. He followed the trial and knew the attorneys involved. Sarah believed that she would not have endured without his council.

Sarah had to wait several hours for Will to return. The men went for a walk to the marshal’s office and then to the gun range for a brief practice session. The ladies took the opportunity to shop as usual. They left word at the front desk that they would be back in the early afternoon for lunch. Thoughts of the trial continued to bother Sarah, she couldn’t get the smug look of Carlson’s face as he received his death sentence out of her mind. After the intense court battle, she thought that he should have been more in shock. He seemed arrogant and determined. What was that all about? She shook off the bad memories and readied herself to go to the dining room. Turley was in the room next to hers. Both of them usually kept rooms on the second floor of the hotel. Sarah knocked on his door and told him that she was ready to go to lunch. They walked together down the stairs and through the lobby. Right away they saw Will, Bat, and Lucas at a table with beers in hand.

“Well hello Sarah!” Bat exclaimed. “And how are you this fine afternoon?” Bat reached out and kissed her hand.

“I am well, did you guys have a good time this morning?”

“We shot up the police target range alright, I had fun!” Will answered.

Lucas smiled and lifted his hat. “This young gun has too much fun sometimes Ma’am. I’m beginning to think he’s been off the ranch too long!”

“That is kind of how I feel right now as well gentlemen. I went to see my lawyer today. He informed me of some contingencies that may require us to rethink our plan to gift the farm back to William.” Sarah looked into Will’s eyes and saw his smile turn to concern.

“Is it that bad?” Will asked

“It is not that, it just might take longer than I thought it would. There are contracts, deeds, and the possibility of publicity to consider. I did, however, arrange to advance you some money to get things started. How does this sound? Sarah handed Will a piece of paper. Will’s eyes opened a mile wide. Lucas and Bat sat in anticipation as they knew very little of this plan as of yet. “I hope that doesn’t startle you.”

“Startle me! My God, I don’t know what to do with that many zeros! Sarah, you don’t have to be that generous!” Will handed the paper over to Lucas who then showed it to Bat.

“This is just the start William. I intend to do much more in time.” Sarah looked over at Bat who was wrinkling his brow in deep contemplation. Lucas was straight faced and still looking at Will.

“I can only say thank you at this point. I have never expected to see that much money at one time. I hope you like porterhouse steaks!”

“That I do William. I would like all of you to accompany me to the lawyer’s office the day after tomorrow. I am catering a lunch there and we shall get a lesson in land management from my good friend, John Beckwith. I have been with him for many years and I trust he will guide us through the proper methods of making you the owner or beneficiary of the farm. I say that because simply giving you that land may be more complicated than we expect. John informs me that willing it to you may be in order. You would still collect income during this time, but it might be better for all of us if I retain ownership. Another option is to sell the land to Graham, get you one large sum of money, and be done with the place altogether. But I wouldn’t want to do that unless you decide that is what you want. I only want to protect you from problems should they arise. Suppose the deal goes bad somehow. I could survive that financially where you may not. You should consider this carefully because I cannot promise you that it won’t happen.”

“I believe that is much to consider, good lord! I don’t want to cause you any worry. And I certainly don’t expect you to go through any great expense over me or the land.” Will looked towards Lucas and Bat.

“That’s a lot to think on Will old boy! We better hear the whole story from that lawyer before making any decisions.” Lucas piped up. “You haven’t mentioned any of this to us Will, such a remarkable gesture you are making Sarah. Are you sure about all of this?”

“Yes I am. The money is not difficult for me to give. I am sure that you can see how that might be. I have had the land for ten years and it has paid me well. I have many other holdings in this town. I want to make sure that William is well taken care of, even after I am gone.”

“That is very generous of you Sarah. It does pay to ask the right questions and let a lawyer go through the proper channels of course. We took precautions in even letting the law know that Will was in town. I for one look forward to meeting with your lawyer.” Bat studied Sarah for a moment. “Do you want us to know about all of this William?”

“Of course I do! I was just waiting for the right time to bring it up. I need for you guys to help me with this decision. I’m mostly concerned with Sarah’s well being right now. You have my permission to head up the discussion Bat, no doubt.”

“It would be my pleasure William. But I will also warn you that if things get too complicated or out of my league, it may be that I should help you find a good lawyer.”

“I understand. I didn’t expect it to be easy or that it would happen in the first place. And I only want this to work out for all of our sakes Lucas. I want so much to be a part of the success of the ranch.”

“This is important to all of you. I suggest that you take tomorrow to let this settle and we can talk more later. Right now, I am hungry and I think I see some well dressed ladies approaching.” Sarah and the men stood up to greet the shoppers.

John Beckwith spent the afternoon at his desk looking over a copy of the farm deed and lease contract. It was all there in plain language. Graham had water rights for fifteen years. If it became necessary to change the ownership Graham had first rights to purchase. If Sarah should pass on, the land would also become his and current market value would go to Sarah’s family. This was all standard when a client such as Graham would make a substantial investment that was dependant on something like a lease. Sarah was busy with her many projects at the time and was unaware of these details. The lease didn’t come into play right away and she was happy to simply gain control of the Fulton land at the time. Beckwith came to the conclusion that they should either offer to sell the property to Graham or wait for five years. Could Sarah have it in her will that William would receive the proceeds should she pass before the contract was up? This was something he felt could be easily arranged. He placed the paperwork into his desk drawer and locked it. He reached to a shelf behind his desk to retrieve his decanter and a shot glass.

The next morning found William, Bat, and Lucas at the courthouse to examine the deed and lease contract. Bat had only glanced over it the last time he was there. They discovered the same thing that Beckwith did. Will was not disappointed, but it did take away from the initial excitement he experienced. Bat looked over the signatures on the contract. He wrote the names down along with the major points of the agreement for further reference. The men then went to a directory for licensed lawyers to confirm each of the names. He was particularly interested in who represented Graham. Beckwith’s name was not present on the contract, Sarah had various attorneys involved in her real estate dealings in those days. Graham was represented by a Quentin D. Renfro of Fort Worth, Texas.

“Now, if we can find out some back round on the Graham side of things, we may be able to know just who we are dealing with. I’m going to send a telegram to Fort Worth and place an inquiry with the courthouse there. Maybe the marshal knows about him as well. He is not listed as having practiced in Dallas.”

“Is that a bad sign Bat?” Will asked.

“Not really, but I do think it best to find out what we can to be safe. I just want to know that he is legitimate. We may have to deal with him one day. We can ask Beckwith what he thinks as well. I like to have all the cards I can when I play this game.”

“I like the way you think Bat. I wish I had you around when I bought my ranch.” Lucas commented.

“More often than not, the rats come out of the woodwork when land changes hands. I don’t want any last minute surprises if we get into negotiations with these Graham people, whoever they are.”

“Do you suspect something?” Will asked.

“Not yet. But let us observe the body language and who might get worked up over this. I want to examine some similar deeds and property values so we have an idea what the land is worth. I don’t expect the Graham people will want to pay full price. Perhaps they will claim to need more of a notice in order to reply to this deal. If you wind up having to wait for five years for the contract to run out, that might not be a bad tactic. The idea is to not let Graham tie this up in court. Beckwith should know what to do and I want to be aware of what to expect beforehand.”

What do we do next? What land can we compare the farm with?” Will was beginning to become intrigued with the idea of investigating.

“We can look at recent land sales and those in the past. If there are enough properties sold in recent time, we can have a basis for setting a price on the farm.”

“I’m not sure about wanting to sell it. Maybe waiting is a better way to go.”

“I might be inclined to agree with you. But let us see what we can find. I also want to get today’s newspaper and see what is for sale currently.”

Bat went back to the property deeds and sales records. He patiently looked for the best examples and wrote down the details. He also looked back on the previous sales of the Fulton property. It had been considered wild land before the Fulton’s bought their parcel. He saw the sales records for the surrounding property and how each one fell in succession to Carlson. It was only too obvious what he had been up to. Six months after the date of the Carlson trial and hanging, they were all sold as one to Graham. Everything seemed to check out. Bat wrote down more names of lawyers from the Carlson records as well as other details. This took some time. Will and Lucas helped by reading the names and details to Bat as he wrote. Suddenly, Lucas stood up and tipped his hat back.

“Look at this Bat! Quentin D. Renfro. Wasn’t he representing Graham?”

“Yes, what did you find?”

“Well, his name is on a deed of Carlson’s. Only one so far, an early one. Most of the others have Ronald F. Morgan on them.”

“This is significant. Good eye Lucas! I wonder what is going on now. We must find out more about Graham. I think we should go talk with the marshal. I’ll send that telegram to Fort Worth on the way.

“Owen, we need to find out who this R.J. Graham is. How did he come to purchase the Carlson land? If things were that bad for water, what interest would there be?”

“Some big questions there, let me see. Have you asked Sarah about this?”

“Not yet. We are going to meet her lawyer tomorrow concerning the transfer of the Fulton Farm to Will. We took it upon ourselves to do some investigating on the history of the deeds at the courthouse.” Bat did not want to let it be known that they found the name of that lawyer on an early Carlson deed yet.

“I see, and you found very little about Graham then. I don’t really know that much about it. I know that Sarah gained control over the Fulton farm, placing the missing person report on William had to do with that. I can only imagine there might be some newspaper articles on this subject. I guess you want to be careful about going near their office. The library might have it in the archives though. I can check for any records of them in our files, I’ll be right back.”

Owen returned after a short time away. There weren’t any such records. R.J. Graham had no other dealings with the law other than to purchase the land and have it recorded at the courthouse and then to file for a business license. “Nothing there Bat, my suggestions are to search at the library and maybe try to contact them directly. But that will take more time than you have before seeing that lawyer.”

“Yes, we can wait. The library is the best place for us to spend some time today. There may be nothing to find out for that matter, just doing our homework.”

“Alright, I’ll see what I can find out if you ask me to, but I don’t want to raise any flags. You best keep to yourselves with what you’re up to for now.”

“Thanks Owen, your help is greatly appreciated. That rifle should be here any day now. I can’t wait to see you at the range with it.”

“I’m looking forward to that! We sure had a good time the other day, gonna do it again soon I hope.”

“Yes we will, unless something urgent comes up!” Bat chuckled and got to his feet with the others to exit. “And by the way Owen, we’ll probably like to have you as part of the show!”

“Do you really mean that? I just love target shooting.”

“We have had the pleasure with others, you are expected to take part! And beware, we have some mighty tricky stunts for you to attempt.”

“I’m there boys! Hot Damn!” Owen got up and walked out with them. It was time for him to take his afternoon walk. “You guys be careful and best of luck with that lawyer.”

“Thanks Owen, luck and the law seldom come together, but we are hopeful.”

“I know what you mean. Sometimes we get lucky on our end. A bullet will miss us or we might stumble on evidence. But after that, the law becomes tough to fool.”

“I enjoy luck from that perspective, that’s why we are all still drawing air!”

“I can’t argue with ya there Bat. And to what do you attribute those cards that you drew the other night? Can’t all be luck!”

“My dear marshal, there is no such thing as luck in cards, only probability. And I’m probably going to be playing again tonight. See ya there!”

“I hope I can afford to be there! See ya guys.” Owen walked off in the opposite direction as the investigators went to the library.

Deep into the library basement the three men waded through a mountain of newspaper. There were articles on the murder and the trial. Will read over some of them with eager eyes. Once they had those dates located, Bat was able to start searching the public announcements for land purchase notifications. He found one about Sarah’s claim on the farm. That seemed proper and within the right time frame. He went on for several months and there it was, Robert J. Graham Agricultural Company of Dallas Texas. The purchase of the entire Carlson property at one time. The seller was recorded as Dallas County, impounded from Vernon Carlson. On the Graham behalf was Quentin D. Renfro. There didn’t seem to be anything illegal so far, but why did Renfro show up on that early Carlson deed? Bat decided to keep this morsel of information under wraps as his hole card for now. He would ask Sarah’s lawyer about these men at the meeting tomorrow.

Fulton’s Foray — Lunchtime

This is a story based on the TV series The Rifleman
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