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Fulton's Fury

A Predatory Excursion - To Ravage …. Fury
Train Leaves Dallas in the Morning — Chapter Sixteen
Written by Frank Charles aka weinerdawgy

Traveling by train in Texas was always a challenge. Most of the rail lines were not keeping pace with the northern part of the country. Many of the tracks leading to the north were still under construction or being sold to the larger railroads. This was due to terrain, economy, and lack of construction during the Civil War era. Cattle were still driven from Fort Worth along the Western and Chisholm Trails to meet with the trains in Dodge and Kansas City, but business had slowed down compared to past years. The Texas fever spread by the ticks on the longhorn cattle created a ban for many years on drives through Missouri. More difficult trails were used to deliver a diminishing number of cattle to the Kansas rails and on to the east. There was hope for refrigerated box cars to enable transport of raw meat in order to save time and weight as well as do away with the Texas Fever. The longhorns didn’t mind, they were not susceptible to the fever, but the northern rancher’s less resistant breeds along the way were. People also started to figure out that driven longhorn beef was tougher than other breeds and was better suited for processing than being used for select cuts. Some of the well known meat packing companies, such as Armour and Swift, were beginning to move into Fort Worth for this reason. Sarah was able to benefit from these early refrigeration attempts. A special package of frozen porterhouse steaks arrived at the station from the Bard ranch.

Jay Gould had a stifling monopoly on northern Texas railways until financial problems had recently made it possible for the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe to acquire and connect with the Gulf and Colorado, to make one of the early connections to the north with Kansas City and St. Louis. In the past, if you wanted to travel back east, you had to take a stage or change trains many times along the way until you reached St. Louis, which then made connection to the New York Central railways. Bat had some experience with this type of travel and knew the right people to inquire with from his having worked for AT&SF. Lucas also had his rail pass from the Yuma trip which helped. There would be no cost on the first leg of the trip Bat arranged the best route from Dallas to St. Louis, then on to New York. They were set to leave in two days. It would be in the paper if they performed the gun show, but that was not a problem. Will and the ladies already knew how to get back from Dallas to Santa Fe. That was a well established route. Their train left the next morning.

The first shipment of porterhouse steaks was used to celebrate the end of the Dallas visit. Sarah had them cooked to order on the grills of her hotel restaurant. The St. Charles was well known for its great cooking. Sarah bought expensive beef through the years, but local was more often the offering unless there was a special occasion. There had never been anything as succulent as the Bard ranch beef in Sarah’s kitchen and seldom was there a more special occasion. Owen and Turley were treated to the best meals of their lives. A full long table was laid out with enough food for twice as many people. As the evening went on, various guests stopped by to sample the dishes and bid Lucas and Bat farewell. Emma entertained well wishers from the shows. She was due to leave next week for Memphis on her tour. Bat was going to have to trust the theater crew to keep a sharp eye on her for some time to come. Will was charged with returning Aubrey to her family in Santa Fe. Ann looked forward to getting home to her father and home life. Lucas told Will to wait for a telegram and then he expected a full report on what was going on with the ranch projects.

For Ann it was time to begin training for the coming season of riding competitions. She had a new wardrobe and a theatrically trained singing voice, thanks to Emma. She missed her church and friends greatly and wanted to rejoin the choir. She hadn’t been away from her father for this length of a time. Sam was getting on in years and she knew it was important to stay near him. But this was a good test for her and Will to be away on their own for an extended period of time. Ann felt good about being by Will’s side during this difficult time. Will’s new found wealth promised to make his feelings about the ranch business improve. Despite the trouble with Jack Donaldson in Santa Fe and the property in Dallas, they felt blessed to have been on this trip. Their love grew stronger and they had a brighter outlook for the future.

On the next morning, Sarah didn’t bother to fight the tears as she bid Will farewell. They hugged for a long time. “I’m not going to let you out of my sight for very long William. I don’t have time to wait for much longer. You get yourself back here real soon!”

“Yes Ma’am. You have my word, Dallas is still my home and I won’t forget it for one minute. I’ll write you just as soon as we have the next shipment of steaks ready.”

“You do that. Those Porterhouse were great, I never in my days have enjoyed a meal so wonderful.”

“I will personally see to it that you have all that your heart desires! I love you Sarah, thank you so much for everything. I won’t disappoint you, your gift to me will always be put to good use.”

“I know that William, you are a bright young man and have everything in life to look forward to. We’ll get things done here in due time and I won’t rest until Renfro and whoever else is involved is brought to justice.”

“Neither will I, it is our battle now. We have the best two men on earth to join us. You are never alone, don’t forget that.”

“How can I ever forget one moment of your being here? Now get on that train before it pulls out, I can’t take much more of this good bye stuff!”

Lucas and Aubrey embraced. It was very hard for him to let her go. He promised to come to her ranch on his way back to North Fork, or wherever the path was leading him. The trip to New York could be a long time and potentially dangerous. Lucas and Bat wanted to move fast and be wary of trouble. Aubrey understood and assured Lucas that there was no longer a reason for either of them to feel alone. Their mutual interests and ease of getting along made Lucas desire her company more each day. The travel and time in new surroundings did a great deal to get Aubrey’s mind off of her past tragedy. She hoped her son’s family was happy and that the ranch would be in good shape when she returned. Then she could concentrate on spending an even longer time away with the Rifleman.

Bat and Emma said their goodbyes to Will and the ladies. Nobody wanted to see the visit come to an end. This was only the first round of departure.

Spirit and Flash knew what was going on earlier when they were brought onto the train. Will supervised as they were tied in and given plenty of water and oats. As long as Will was there, Spirit behaved himself. As soon as he left to join everyone for the farewells Spirit got noisy and began kicking the side of the railcar.

“Can’t blame that horse for being restless, he’s been away from home for a long time. I don’t know what I’d do with him if Flash were not nearby. Who would ever think that two stallions could get along?”

“At least you and I aren’t both stallions dear!” Ann hugged Will as everyone had a good laugh.

“I’m glad that you behave my love, I wouldn’t want to have to tie you up!” Will tipped his hat one more time towards Sarah as they boarded the train. Aubrey tore herself away from Lucas and was right behind them. The train whistled one last time and the conductor yelled “All aboard!” Steam bellowed out of the sides of the locomotive and a blasting sound came forth, next was the groan of metal parts starting to move and the rails flexing. The bell rang out and the wheels came to life. Before they knew it, Sarah and her remaining knights of honor were standing on an empty loading dock looking at each other. Sarah could not believe that their magical time together was coming to an end. She did not want to be left alone with her thoughts. One last evening with Bat, Emma, and Lucas would help. A few short weeks ago she was not expecting any of what happened. Now she was blessed with the return of William Fulton, The Masterson and McCain gun show, Emma’s show, and the knowledge about her property that could save her from involvement with one of the worst land frauds of all time. It was much to digest and she had to depend on Bat as somebody she could trust.

“Well Gentlemen, Emma, we are left a much smaller crowd after that departure. I’m going to miss that young man. And it’s not going to be easy to see you guys off tomorrow. I don’t know what you have planned for a last night in town, but I sure would appreciate it if you had dinner with me tonight and we could spend some time talking things over.”

“It would be our pleasure Sarah. We’re going to miss you plenty also. I need to reply to a few telegrams from John Templeton and stop by the gun shop this afternoon. It seems we will not be able to meet with John before we leave. Lucas, I assume you will be free this evening.”

“I have nothing planned. I thought we would do just what we’re talking about. This has been one crazy time of non stop action. I’m looking forward to a relaxing day and a good night’s sleep before getting on that train.”

“Sarah, shall we meet at the hotel at five then?” Bat raised his cane and bowed to her as if she were a Queen.

“That would be great. You guys have a good last day on the town until then. I’ll have something very special prepared and a private table waiting. Turley, I want you to know everything we have in the works. You are to stay right by my side from now on.”

“A very good idea indeed. We must be very careful. I won’t put it past Renfro and his sick little mind to contemplate your demise to solve his problem. I know that is an unsettling thought, and as of right now far fetched, but we shouldn’t take any chances. We’ll be back soon enough and I’m sure that William will do the same.” Bat tipped his hat and motioned to Lucas that they should head for the telegraph office.

As they walked away, Turley looked at Sarah with a smile. “There goes two of the finest men I’ve ever met. I’m not trusting of many people as you well know, but I trust them completely. If you want to stay at home after they leave, I think that would be best. We’ve been at the hotel for too long. I can protect you better at home.”

“I believe you are right. My son thinks that too. I won’t seek public exposure until they come back or the world comes to my doorstep. Even if we are to visit with Beckwith, I want you with me in the room at all times.”

“I agree. That man bothers me, always has. His son ain’t off at no law school back east. He didn’t have enough sense for that. I’ve been wondering about him for a long time. I think he knows too much and was sent away so John can save face.”

“I always wanted to trust John and he has been good to me over the years, but I have given him an easy road to travel until now. We shall enlighten Bat and Lucas about his secret this evening. It may have something to do with our problems for that matter. I feel bad that we haven’t said anything yet.” Sarah walked towards the street and got into her carriage. Turley took the reins and back to the hotel they went. After a noontime nap, Sarah and Turley went to the kitchen and worked with the Chefs to make dinner.

At the telegraph office, Bat received his messages and a sealed letter from John Templeton. He read a list of contact information for investors involved in the Cottonseed Oil Consortium. A reporter from the Fort Worth Gazette furnished him with the names from his research. There was further confirmation that Renfro had been up to no good in his land dealings and John promised to have a complete report before they came back. John also gave Bat the name and address of an old friend in New York that they could trust as a contact so they could communicate in private during the visit. He was going to meet them upon their arrival.

At the gun shop, Bat had George inspect his Colts. Lucas did the same for his pistol and finally made the decision to let him change the bushing in the lever of his original rifle. They met with the Winchester man who was going to stay in Dallas for a while until he heard from Bat on the possibility of a show in New York. Bat also told them to keep the New York plans quiet until further notice. The sales from the show were amazing. George sold more ammunition in two weeks than he usually did in three months. There were over a thousand orders for working model commemorative rifles alone. The engraved collector’s model was very expensive and fewer than one hundred were ordered. There were also quite a few standard rifles and Colt pistols purchased. The proceeds from ticket sales also yielded great profit. George was very grateful for his good fortune and the Winchester man was pleased to give Bat and Lucas some rather fat paychecks. Bat agreed to contact John Browning before attempting to set up a show in New York. This was a potentially big deal and John wanted to be sure Bat would meet with the right people. There was also some planning required and supplies to ship. The time was ripe for the Big Apple. The newspapers were working overtime to spread the news of the Dallas performance. New York was very aware of their exploits. All they had to do was show up and do right.

“Mister Carlson, will you want more tea this evening?”

“No thank you Gerald. I think I’ve had all I need for now. You clean up and take the rest of tonight off. I’m going to bed early, I have some important letters to read.”

“Thank you Mister Carlson. It’s been a good day. I’m glad the stock market has been on the rise of late. We have much to look forward to.”

“Yes we do. I’m hoping this latest letter from Renfro will tell me that we now own the entire farm in Dallas. That would make my day complete.”

“You mean to tell me that you haven’t opened it yet? I wouldn’t be able to wait.”

“I wanted to eat first and let my food digest a little. I’m not much for reading important news on an empty stomach. You take off now, see your friends.”

“Yes sir, I have plenty to keep myself busy tonight. I pray you have some good news and sleep well. Good night sir.”

“Good night Gerald, you are so kind to me. I hope I’m making it up to you in some small way. I know it isn’t easy to be away from home for so long. New York is not as easy going as Dallas.”

“I am fine sir. New York is home to me now. We have been at this a long time. You do plenty for me and I love working for you, always have.”

“That’s my boy. John raised you well and I appreciate it. Now go have a good time and I promise to let you know what’s going on in the morning.”

Gerald Beckwith took off for the theater on Broadway where he was going to meet with some friends for the show. “Coming of Age” was a new play about to debut. Gerald loved the theater and wanted to be part of it one day. His friends thought he had talent to act. His boss knew it. Gerald was good at being a butler and showing up on Vernon’s behalf at various meetings and stock market events. He could forge an R.J. Graham signature as well as anyone. But no one knew him by that name. Gerald had many talents, most of them illegal. In New York, he was known as Graham’s right hand man.

Vernon Carlson got settled at his desk to read through his mail. First, he opened the letter from Quentin Renfro. He did not like what it said. The explanation was clear enough. Resistance to the partnership plan meant that hope was dwindling for complete ownership. Another plan might have to be thought of. Vernon did not want to wait another five years, he didn’t want to wait another month. He slammed his fist against the desk and burned the letter as always. His worst nightmare was for William Fulton to resurface. Now the name of Bat Masterson made him very nervous. He had heard of Lucas McCain also from the newspaper, but why did Masterson become involved with William Fulton? He shuddered to think of what could happen next. He hated the R.J. Graham identity. The business depended on it for over ten years. Rarely had anyone wanted to meet him or even cared who he was as long as the checks arrived on time. But it always unsettled him to think about when business required his presence. Ebb took care of those times in the past, he was a master of deceit. Now he had to worry about some old cowpoke to cover things up. He knew that eventually Gusset would have to come to New York and he hoped that there was enough time for him to learn to play his part in the real theater of big business.

The last night in Dallas started out cool and cloudy. Spring was very close now and thunder storms were always a threat. If only that water would come later in the year. And the occasional tornado could be done without completely. It had been since 1856 when the last major tornado hit the Dallas area at Cedar Hill. The dark skies and lightening were described as a storm from hell. Stories of such events across Texas were frequent though and nobody looked forward to the time when one had to watch the sky. When the storms persisted, which was rare, the Trinity River would overflow and flood the low lying farm land and a good deal of town. This had not happened in sixteen years, so not many had that possibility on their minds. There was no looming danger at this time, but anytime thunder could be heard, pulses would rise and locals kept an eye on the above. Bat was aware of the history and had come close to a few tornadoes in his time. Sarah was well aware of the danger, so it became a topic of conversation before dinner.

“It is still too early in the year, but I keep it in mind whenever the rain falls. I am more afraid of a flood than the winds, but let me tell you, nothing compares to the sound when one of those devil winds whip up. Not even the roar of a locomotive can come close.”

“Lucas was intrigued by the subject. “I’ve seen my share in Oklahoma long ago, it struck fear in everyone’s heart in an instant. They seem to come in the middle months and give no warning. I’ve seen barns explode in the distance and cattle that had been picked up and thrown for miles. I can’t think of anything more terrifying than a twister.”

“Well Texas is known for them, and right on up past Oklahoma. Only the floods bring more damage, but they have not come in years either. We hoped that the Trinity would flow to the sea and there is often talk of making parts of it a canal, but it is either feast or famine here, more often famine. We go from freezing this time of year to the worst heat imaginable by late spring. Summer is not a fun time if you can’t get cool. But that is when the cotton starts coming in. So you know when the work must be done. The heat gets to me worse every year. This old woman needs to find a cooler kitchen to cook these steaks. I hope you don’t mind if I serve some more of that wonderful beef!”

“I can’t say as I ever turned down a steak from the Bard ranch!” Lucas laughed.

“I’m very interested to visit there one day, maybe for a wedding.” Bat added.

“I can see everyone is hopeful for that joyous occasion!” Sarah had the same feeling.

“So much has happened for William, I hope he is really ready for marriage.” Lucas cautioned.

“He is a staunch young man, I say he and Ann are mature beyond their years and more ready than most. If you think of all Will has been through then you must know that he has a lot to make up for and I don’t blame him for knowing what he wants.” Sarah turned from the table and started for the kitchen.

“You are right Sarah.” Lucas said loudly. “I’m still in shock over that boy’s ability to handle so much excitement.”

“Can’t avoid it in our line of fire, aye Lucas?” Bat added.

“You bet, he not only has to keep up with his crazy life, he’s hanging out with us barnstorming gunslingers! And this land baroness and gourmet cook. Not to mention Emma our actress extraordinaire!”

“Thank you Lucas, I am sure we all have our effect on poor William. I am glad that we can be there for him. He deserves to be pampered. And what about you Lucas? What are your plans with Aubrey? She loves you. I hope you realize that.”Emma gave Lucas a stern look.

“Oh, I have plans for that cowgirl, let me tell you. We’ve only known each other for a short time, but I’m very much in love with her. This brief time away will give us a chance to be sure. I’m hoping to bring her home with me on the way back from New York.”

“That is wonderful. She has talked about that when us girls get together. I’m very happy for you two. It can be a match made in heaven.” Emma looked up and smiled at the ceiling.

“Thank you Emma. I hope you and Bat can come to the ranch soon too. I’m thinking to have a big gathering in June. That might just be a perfect time for a wedding.”

“Or two.” Emma looked over at Bat to see the expression on his face.

“Hey, what did I say? Lucas getting hitched? I’m all for it. June is a good time. We should have plenty of show time under our belts by then and in need of a rest.”

“Who said anything about rest? You know better than that you cattleman!” Lucas got a glare from Bat.

“I’m a gambler and master detective these days, haven’t you noticed?”

“I suppose so. But if I can get a few hours a day worth of chores out of you when we get to North Fork, all the better. Can’t have you getting’ lazy eating all of this fancy food.”

“I see where this is leading. I do like my whiskey, wine, and beef, potatoes too!”

“We better find a way to get some exercise when we’re on the road. I have taken to walking when I get the chance. That and riding have given us plenty of late. But nothing’s like life on the ranch!”

“I’ve been a very active person for most of my life, ranching included, but I do admit to slowing down as I appraoch my later years. I bet you were a good bit more industrious before you began to show your age.”

“That’s very true. My only hope is that we can still move by the time we get off the train in New York. I was plenty stiff from the rides to Yuma and to here. I don’t want to wind up a cripple from sitting for too long.”

“Perhaps we can play some poker along the way to keep limbered up!”

“Oh, I’ve heard about you and poker games on a train. I might wind up running from you!”

“And I might wind up chasing you!” Both men laughed loudly as Sarah started bringing in the food. Emma got up and helped then Turley came along with several more bottles of wine. They had a great time eating and joking, going over what happened during the visit and what was planned for the future. Finally the meal was finished and only some wine and pecan pie remained. The subject of Vernon Carlson came up several times during the evening, but this time was more serious.

“Bat, I have to tell you and Lucas about Beckwith and Carlson. Turley and I have figured out something from what we have known all along about John.”

“I see, we have been without his assistance since our early meetings. I do strongly suspect he is connected to this case.”

“Well, it goes like this. John’s son, Gerald, is about twenty eight years old now. When he was a boy here in Dallas, he was known to most of us as not a very bright student. You can ask Turley, his boy is the same age and knew him well. When the Fultons were murdered it was also time for the boys to graduate from school. William was close to that same age also. I didn’t want to drag this old memory up or torment John with it. You see, Gerald would run errands and messages for many of us and I even helped him get a good horse much like William. He got to know just about everybody in town that was worth bringing a message to or that needed some small thing done for them. John was well known with his law practice and it was a bit of an embarrassment to him when Gerald didn’t turn out to be the next great law student. John sent him away to a boarding school about the time of the murder trial and we haven’t seen him since. When you all first got here, Turley asked John about Gerald. He told him that he was back east at law school and that we wouldn’t be seeing him around any time soon. That struck us strange, but not until Turley spoke with his son recently about it did we make a connection with the Carlson case. Turley, perhaps you can take it from here.” Sarah took a deep breath and poured another glass of wine.

“Surely, well my son, Todd, was close friends with Gerald until he was sent away. We spoke about this after I became aware of our dealings and he informed me that Gerald had taken a liking to Vernon a few years before the murders. He would run messages for him quite often, sometimes help around his farm, things like that. He did this for many of the neighbors, but Todd pointed out that Gerald spent more and more time with Vernon. This tells me that he must have known something by the time of the trial. It was just about that time that John sent him away. Now, where he may be currently is a mystery, but it doesn’t figure that he could be going to law school. What did Gerald know? I can think of many things that would be sensitive, but how about the fact that John Beckwith was working for Vernon Carlson and was probably involved with Quentin Renfro also? Of course the murder comes to mind. That’s how I have it figured. After that, anything could be the case. I think it went as far as John was keeping Sarah pacified during the trial to avoid any suspicions all the way until now. As long as he kept her and anyone else from paying close attention, it must have been easier for them to let the trial go however it must, then take Vernon away from the jail and put some poor soul in his place to hang. Rich people just don’t go down without a fight. Vernon was big enough to buy his way out of trouble. I think if you are able to find Gerald, you will also find Carlson. If he is still living, Gerald would most assuredly be by his side.”

“That is amazing. There is always some hidden tidbit of seemingly innocent information dangling before us. I can appreciate how it was difficult for you to come forward with this. I want you to tell me right now that there are no more dark secrets that you are holding in reserve.”

“Sarah had a troubled look on her face. “I promise Bat, I didn’t know how important this might be until Turley told me about the talk he had with his son. Before we got started with this trouble, I didn’t have a clue that John could have anything to do with Carlson or Renfro. I still want to think that he wouldn’t have wanted to hurt me until Carlson got ugly. So I let him off easy by allowing him to disappear from this case. That too may have been a mistake, but I thank God you are here now. Please don’t get mad with me Bat, Lucas.”

“I am not mad with you Sarah. It is never easy with trouble like this. People are complicated and their feelings overrule their practical side. I could tell there was something wrong with John from the start. Nervous people cannot help but show their hand. I see it all the time in poker and I usually see it rather quick during an investigation. Crooks are seldom smart enough to hide the look on their faces and if they can, they keep a straight face too well. Quentin Renfro, he is a sharp old boy. I’m being very careful with him. I can only hope he isn’t reading me at times. If I wasn’t so stone faced at poker I wouldn’t last two seconds with Quentin. He may be enjoying this more than we know, but we are going to get him, I promise you. Now, it is a short order, but can anyone get me a picture of Gerald? I have seen Carlson’s face plenty in the newspaper archives. We are going to lay low when we first get to New York and see what we can flush out prowling around the city. I don’t want any mention as to where we have gone. Avoid contact with Renfro as long as you can. If you must, tell them we are on the road back to North Fork and God only knows from there. If we make a move to do the show or the press starts talking once we are spotted, so be it. We simply decided to go to New York on suggestion of John Browning.”

“Thank you for understanding Bat. John will not hear a word from me and even if they see you leaving on the train, the story still works. Turley, do you think your son would have a picture of Gerald?”

“I’m on my way to his house right now to find out. I’ll be back within the hour one way or the other. If not, I’ll see what I can do and mail it on to you later.”

“Very good. The name may be enough, but who knows what is going on. I have an idea that the real R. J. Graham is a scared old man hiding somewhere in New York City this very moment. And Gerald is there with him. We know how to check rosters at law schools, but I think that is a dead end before we even start. I’m going to look for R.J. and what do you want to bet me there is a trail?”

“I’m not going against you on that bet, I hope we find him. Knock him off the top of the totem pole and the rest will burn to the ground.” Lucas was kind of excited with the prospect of having a scent to follow. It was a long time ago since he was set out on a manhunt. Micah was good at getting him involved in things like that back when.

Turley returned in less than an hour. His son lived close by in town and was home with his family. “I got something, maybe not the best, but here it is.” The paper was fragmenting, but the black and white photography of the day was good enough. An eighteen year old Gerald stood next to Todd in front of the Beckwith office. The sign on the door had not changed in all of this time.

“This is very good Turley! Thank you. He shouldn’t look too much different after ten years.” Bat placed the photo between two sheets of hotel stationery while Sarah got him something heavier to protect it. “I would put this in my pocket, but I think it wouldn’t survive a day. I will see if I can get it reproduced in New York.”

Sarah was sad to see the evening come to a close. She couldn’t stop apologizing and Bat couldn’t put her to ease about it. He told Turley to keep her out of sight for as long as possible. Bat insisted that they leave in the morning without a crowd to see them off. It was best to not draw any attention. Bat made sure that Turley knew how to contact John Templeton and the man they were to meet in New York. He could also contact them through Owen Pollard. It was difficult for Sarah, but she understood. Goodbyes were not any easier in a private dining room. Sarah cried profusely even though she was normally a very tough woman.

Fulton’s Foray — New York Bound

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

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