The Rifleman
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Fulton's Fury

Western Influence — Chapter Twenty-Two
Written by Frank Charles aka weinerdawgy

Now that Tom and Gerald had an understanding, although not an honest one, the investigators hoped that Greg’s religious intrusion did not alert Carlson. Tom had his doubts but he hoped that by bringing up his Graham stock purchase to Gerald it would help him think he was on the level. Lucas and Bat continued to watch Gerald for a few more days. Then, at a meeting, Joe Murray decided it was time to involve his NYPD detective staff. Joe felt that there was enough evidence to warrant an investigation. He agreed to hold back with intrusions for the short term, but he wanted his men to be in control to minimize the possibility of escape. This brought on 24 hour a day surveillance of the flat. A nearby window was occupied with 3 shifts of detectives. At the start they simply watched Gerald come and go. He brought in bags of groceries and took out the trash. Lucas was relieved to no longer be part of the surveillance effort. Bat asked if he could join the watch once in a while. Both men knew they shouldn’t risk being seen by Gerald or Carlson unless it had to do with their presence in town for the gun show.

Lucas took a day on his own to walk along the docks and eat more fish. He watched intently as the fishermen labored to unloaded their catch. The more he looked at those huge cod the more he wanted to cast off and try his hand at fishing for them. As he talked with the men he discovered that it was possible to arrange for a day on a boat that was designed for sportsmen. He was directed to a dock where he talked to a man inside a small shop. He informed Lucas of the schedule and costs for the trip. The boat left very early in the morning and usually returned before three o’clock in the afternoon.

The man showed him the type of fishing gear he would need and suggested that he have a good coat and gloves. Lucas learned what he needed to know and told him that he would return soon to make arrangements. He went back to the Fulton Market to buy himself a coat and gloves. He saw an interesting knife that looked like it would be good for cutting up a fish and bait. He bought one for Bat too. Finally, he walked by the candy and had some gift wrapped to mail back to Enid. There was plenty for Mark and his cousins.

Bat received a telegram from Buffalo Bill. They were to be guests at the Wild West show. All Bat had to do was say when. John Browning informed them that he was going to take a trip to Georgia and that William Brighton was coming to the city to meet them. The Winchester sales representative was already back at the New Haven, Connecticut factory and was ready to join them when he was needed. They were agreeable with the idea of performing with Bill’s Wild West, but wondered if the large caliber live rounds would be acceptable at the venue. This was certainly a subject to be considered upon their visit. With this looming in the near future, it made sense for Bat and Lucas to come out of hiding. They wanted to minimize any chance of being seen at Tom’s flat at this point so they moved to the Fifth Avenue Hotel. The new fangled steam powered elevator left an impression on Lucas. He found that he still preferred to walk up stairs, but he enjoyed not having to carry the luggage. Lucas couldn’t get over the extravagant nature of every facet of city life. Having dinner in the huge ballroom was yet another eye opener. Bat enjoyed wearing his original attire and being seen for who he really was. Lucas wore his new suit and he now sported a brand new Stetson cowboy hat. It was time to let it all hang out. Bat was itching to play poker and soon had his wish after dinner.

John Templeton’s telegram said that he thought it was a good idea to set the wheels in motion with a larger investment attempt. He was hopeful that their names and an offer would cause a panic and so maybe no money would have to change hands. He was ready with ten thousand dollars if it was needed. Lucas suggested they ask Will for more, but Tom cautioned him to not get his money involved. John wanted to know when they were to meet so he could increase surveillance on Renfro. Paulie Gusset was back to work on his ranch for the time being.

Lucas wrote a letter to Will describing the visit so far. He explained what they had found but gave little detail to avoid giving up what was about to happen. He mailed the letter and the candy for Mark from a post office a little north of their location to minimize any chance that the message could fall into the wrong hands.

When the day came to meet with Buffalo Bill, Tom escorted them to Madison Square Garden. They were greeted by a man who waited for their arrival. They were taken to Bill’s private tent among the makeshift village maintained by the crew and members of the show. Bat liked what he saw, plenty of characters taking care of their horses and gear. This made Lucas feel good too. He loved the smells of livestock as he walked along the grounds. This reminded both men of their days as scouts. When they got to Bill’s tent they were treated to cool lemonade and firm handshakes. It was a welcome as big as the Wild West. Bat broke out a handful of cheroots and they enjoyed many hours of conversation.

“Bat, old friend! How great to see you! Why it has been almost what, nine years since we last saw each other?”

“Just about, and by the way, thanks for that horse and carriage, we made it back to Dodge in pretty good shape. Billy had a rough time of it with all of that buckshot in his hide. His backend must have stung worse than an attack from a hive of bees!” They both laughed in agreement.

“I think Ben hired you to rescue Billy just to avoid having to listen to him complain all the way back from Ogallala. The Thompsons were always getting into some ridiculous trouble.”

“I hoped they learned not to speak ill of a woman in a saloon! You never know who will take offense. Tucker was a very unhappy man at the time. His hand looked pretty bad. Billy all but shot it off in the fight. He wanted blood and the only way I was going to get Billy from the jail was to break him out. I’m not proud of that little affair.”

“If I recal, you drugged a lawman and spirited off with him. It was a bit of a shock to have you boys show up in North Platte. You looked like a couple of hounds left out in the rain.”

“Sure did. They’d probably still like to get their hands on me back there. Ogallala is one of the towns on my do not return list!”

“Hah, I bet that is a long list, probably got Denver and Tombstone on there by now!”

“I must admit that I approach both towns with caution. But Denver has long been my home base.”

“I’m glad that Denver will still tolerate you Bat!” Bill laughed and looked over at Lucas. “Please forgive our old story, so what do you think of New York Gentleman?”

Lucas answered first. “I think it’s the very jungle of humanity! Every day I see something new and shocking, but I’m learning to get along with it for what it is, not what I expect from it.”

“That’s a good way of putting it. I was shocked upon my first visit here. But, now that the city has grown in recent years, it must be much more unsettling for a cowboy to discover. You’ll either fall in love with it or run like hell. Take some time to let it sink in.”

“I’m still reserving my judgment, but I can tell you that I miss my ranch back in New Mexico.”

“That sounds like a wonderful place, The state of New Mexico has always held me in a trance. I wish I had more time to spend out West, but as you know, we are about to embark on a very historic journey, England awaits! They are preparing a place for us even now.”

“What an adventure that will be! I wonder if they’re ready to witness our way of life?” Lucas saw the look of question in Bill’s eyes.

“We’ll see. I know it will be a new experience for them. They hear so much about our western region and lifestyles. It’s been over seventy years since we last fought each other. Most of the men who saw duty during the revolutionary days are gone now. It’s time for us to do more than trade goods and a cup of tea.”

“I think you’ll do very well Bill. I’ve been reading the paper and saw that you have only a few weeks left. Are you familiar with what Lucas and I have been up to?” Bat was hoping but also realized that Bill was a busy man.

“I read about it in the paper, some sort of a sharp shooting display isn’t it? Probably along the lines of what our Annie does? It must be one hell of a good time!”

“That it is. We’ve just started to see what it would take to pull one off here. We thought we would meet with the master. What is your opinion, would our act work in New York? Perhaps we can start by making an appearance here.”

“I must admit that it’s tempting. Why don’t we see what you think after our show tonight. You should meet Annie and Frank, they’ll be able to tell you how it is.”

“One big question, how would we deal with our large caliber guns and live ammo? We already know that Annie uses a .22 rifle. We use the .44-.40 Winchester rifle and Colt 45 pistols in our show.”

“One of the reasons Annie uses a .22 is for audience safety. It keeps her fatigue factor low and allows her to rapid fire easily. Her shot gun is not so dangerous and she is very careful with her handguns. We use blanks for most of our other acts. I shoot the glass balls with live rounds though. I’m not sure the Garden is an appropriate setting for what you must be accustomed to doing. But maybe we can change some things and have you give a brief demonstration without the more dangerous open target shooting. I think it would be marvelous for you guys to make an appearance before we leave. It could be good publicity if you decide to put on your own show later. But I will warn you that Annie is a hard act to follow, you can ask Lillian Smith. She’s a great shot and an outgoing fun gal, but Annie has their hearts in the palm of her hand.”

“I bet she does. There’s no intention of ever competing with her!” Bat looked over to Lucas for approval. “We talked with Joe Murray of the NYPD. He told us of a military range nearby that would be better for an outdoor show. But we’re not sure that it would be wise to hold a public event there. We also know that Annie does some of the tricks we’ve been performing. Splitting the cards is one of them.”

“Yes, that little sure shot is really something. I can’t understand how she can be so fast and accurate. A .22 round gives so little room for error, so to split the card and then plug it five more times before it hits the ground is magic to me.”

“Lucas’s eyes opened wide. “Five more times you say? That’s incredible! It took me some practice just to be able to split them with the rifle at all! I can do a spin around and split ten in a row but I never tried to hit the falling pieces. Just to split them took me many lessons from an expert. Have you heard of William Brighton?”

“Oh yes, he’s a great marksman. John Browning has a good man there. I ran into him on the road a few years ago. We do a great deal of business with Winchester as you might imagine.”

“We are connected to them as well. John was good enough to visit us in Santa Fe a few months ago. He brought William with him. He will be here soon in fact. But John is about to go on a trip to Georgia of all places.”

“What’s in Georgia? I wonder if he’s going on a mission? He better watch out, they might not welcome Mormons there.”

“John is a very smart man, he’ll know to be careful. He must have a compelling reason or he wouldn’t miss our show.” Bat hadn’t thought about John going on a mission, but it did make sense. “He’ll be a long way from Utah to say the least.”

The men traded stories up to about an hour before show time. Bill liked to walk the grounds and be available to his crew if there was anything that needed attention. Lucas was all eyes as he followed along enjoying the sights and sounds. Bill introduced them to many of the performers along the way. Everyone was happy and ready to go. They decided it was best to meet Annie Oakley afterwards. They were shown to their seats in Bill’s private guest area and before they knew it the spectacle was underway.

The opening parade was an awesome sight. Tom had seen this several times before but it was still a thrill to witness the many horses, wagons, livestock and authentically attired performers. With Circuslike precision the various characters rode or marched along showing off their costumes and skills. Vaqueros and cowboys herded cattle and twirled their ropes while Cossacks and Arabians whirled their swords. A band of Indians and a cavalry unit were included. There were animals and representatives from cultures around the world. Then they took their places to begin the featured acts. An orator stood upon a platform to announce the acts and provide commentary. “The Cowboy Band” kept the music coming which gave each act an effective back round.

It was early in the show when Annie Oakley came out to present her shooting skills assisted by her husband, Frank Butler. A whirlwind of excitement erupted as the bullets began to fly. There was a table with various weapons at the ready. Annie shot a cigarette from Frank’s lips, which was an audience favorite. Then he tossed glass balls and clay pigeons for her to shatter as she jumped over the table and moved around for effect. There were various barriers for safety, Bat knew they would need something more substantial. Lucas took particular interest in the over the shoulder mirror shot and was likewise amazed by the card splitting. After ten minutes the targets were spent, Annie worked fast. She ended the act with a little jig dance and kicked up her heels. Bat and Lucas were breathless. They were in fact humbled by what they had just witnessed. Now they knew what the excitement was about. As far as Lucas was concerned, spitting lead had never been so amazingly demonstrated. Annie was a huge hit with every audience. Her antics brought on cheers and she blew kisses in every direction to end the act.

As the show carried on, they raced horses and performed rodeo skills. A Pony Express ride was demonstrated and a covered wagon rode along the western trail. There was a stage coach attacked by Indians and a train robbery that kept the audience on the edge of their seats. This was a sample of many things that Bat and Lucas knew from their real life experience. The Indians performed their native dance and a popular foot race. Next came Lillian Smith to demonstrate her target skills. She had a different act than Annie and was a very skilled sharpshooter. She played to the crowd as more of a rowdy cowgirl. The show wrapped up with Buffalo Bill riding out and greeting the crowd, he did a bit of target shooting of his own by shattering glass balls while riding his horse. It may have looked easy, but Bat and Lucas knew otherwise. They hadn’t considered trying that. Lucas had such a great time. He wanted to jump out and join them through most of the show.

Afterwards, they were able to meet Frank and Annie. Bill took them to their tent and gave introductions.

“How’s it going Li’l Missie?” Bill walked in slowly. Got somebody here want’s to meet you.” Annie was already busy cleaning her guns.

“Why bring them on Colonel, who ya got?

“None other than Bat Masterson and Lucas McCain! They’ve been up to some trick shooting of their own. I figured you could trade secrets and enjoy swapping stories.”

“That would be great! I know Frank would love to meet them. Frank!….. get on over here…. Look who wants to meet us!”

“Why Bat Masterson! Heard plenty about you of course, what a pleasure.” Frank gave the three men a firm handshake. You all sit down, you too Bill, we got chairs. What an honor. Lucas McCain, you’ve been making a name for yourself oh my! We’ve read about you guys in the Times, a great story.”

“The pleasure is all ours Frank, Annie. I have to say that I’ve read plenty about you two while we were on the train. We picked up recent issues of the Times along the way. They love to write about this entire show don’t they?” Lucas felt very much at ease speaking to them.

“Yup, we manage to keep a private life on rare occasions, but they seem to find something to say about us no matter what we do. That’s one thing about being popular, privacy becomes something very precious. They’ll do the same thing to you. I know Bat must be used to it.”

“Sure am Frank, they have been on my heels for years. I keep moving though. One reason we are doing this show is to bring the truth out in our stories. We don’t want the Wild West to get too wild in their imaginations.” Bat rapped his cane on the floor to drive home his point.

“You know Bat, we are in the business of telling those stories, the fans want those stories, it’s what makes the sale.” Bill replied quickly

“I understand that Bill. But lawmen have reputations to uphold and Lucas and I know from experience that a name and a gun can spell trouble. We’ve faced those barrels and want people to know that we can shoot back for real. But I also know that this is a fading image for many in the cities. They need the legends to be entertained, I could see that.”

“Mister Masterson, Perhaps I can put it into perspective for you.” Annie spoke up. “We have been to many places in this country, both the cities and the cow towns. I find that most people today have no concept of hunting or a real gunfight unless they have the rare opportunity to face an outlaw. The trains and modern police have all but eliminated the danger for the average person. So when they see me fire my rifle, it can be the first real shooting they have ever seen. I have been known to give lessons to help keep the skill alive. I realize that there are still bad guys out there and you marshals must face them with force, but the days of the pioneer and the Indian attacks are mostly over. We try to keep the legends alive and give the fans a thrill, even if we have to add some adventure to a story. And I come from hard times. I needed my guns to hunt and survive. My skills are not just from target practice. I had to hit critters on the run same as you two I bet!”

“I appreciate that and we are here to learn from you my dear, right Lucas?”

“I have seen plenty already, thank you for the lesson Annie. I’m always humble in your presence!”

“Why thank you Lucas McCain. I can tell you have been there and back again. I’d love to take target practice with you boys, I hope we can find some time.”

“That would be a dream come true Ma’am. I’m sure Bat would be most honored as well. Where can we shoot our 45’s safely?” Lucas gave Annie a huge smile.

“We have our own set up for what we do, but maybe we can find a better place.”

“Tom, do you suppose Joe would let us use the police range?” Bat looked over with expecting eyes.

“I don’t think he’d mind, but we better be quick about it before word spreads around the precinct. Might get crowded if those boys get wind of it.”

“We are going to arrange this Annie, Joe will get us a time. You alright with this Frank?”

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world Bat! I can just see us all there right now. We like to practice often and I bet you guys haven’t had much of chance since you’ve arrived!

“That’s the case indeed. We’ll ask tomorrow and make it in the morning hours if that’s alright with you.”

“Yes, I’d like that. I’ll break out my big guns too! I probably won’t be able to fire them where we’re going. England may not be ready for our brand of shootin’! Right Colonel?”

“I’d say we best stick to our show guns to start out Missie. I’ve heard they like to hunt foxes more than clay pigeons over there!” Everyone laughed. “I think there’s a great time ahead of us my friends, and it has been my pleasure having you men at our show this evening. Once we have this target practice I think we will know if you’ll want to be guests in our brand of the Wild West.”

They continued to visit late into the night sharing their experiences. Bill did his best to let the others hold the floor but his propensity for story telling eventually won out. Annie could tell that Lucas was a better listener and tried to talk with him more than the others. By the end of the evening they realized that Lucas and Bat did have a right to have their true story told. There was little they could add to spice it up anyhow.

On the next day they met with Joe and arranged for a time at the target range for that coming Saturday morning, early. Joe promised to keep it a secret but couldn’t guarantee absolute privacy. That was agreeable, it was impossible to know. Saturdays at the range were sometimes busy as officers had more time for training and practice. Joe was well aware of Annie and very enthused for the weekend to roll around. Next, they spoke of the Carlson surveillance. Joe had some news.

“My investigators, I’m afraid the time to move on Carlson is coming soon. We have seen a few concerning developments. First of all, a very big man has been observed coming and going from the flat. He carries a briefcase and we have followed him back to an office in the financial district. This office belongs to a stock broker who is known for representing some very big names. Not always legal big names, I guess I don’t have to tell you. His frequency of visiting has gone up in the short time we have been watching. We believe that Carlson may be planning his escape and making some moves to liquidate enough funds to do so. It’s possible that he saw Tom’s name on a stock report and, as we know, Tom brought the subject up with Gerald in an attempt to ease him about his suspicions. Gerald seems to be on the level as far as his behavior has indicated. He’s very busy with his theater rehearsals and performances. He hasn’t missed a day or gone anywhere else. Maybe he knows he’s being watched, hard to tell. Secondly, we have seen wood planks that could be used for making crates being taken inside by several men with carpenter tools. This is the real reason we think escape. He must be packing to travel. If we see anything of size leave we are going to both follow the crates and apprehend Carlson. All we have to do is take him for questioning to start. We don’t know what name he might be using, he has never left the flat in all of this time. Gerald does all of the work.”

“What about nabbing the carrier to see what names are on the paperwork?” Lucas asked.

“We would have to have a warrant for one thing and once we do that, the cat is out of the bag. He is too big for a staged mugging and probably carries a gun. I think it better that we keep him under watch for now. We know where he’s coming from and they probably have ties with organized crime. If we are to take Carlson proper, we must watch our step.”

“We are thinking to make another investment in our real names to hopefully set this escape attempt in motion. If we can make a positive identification then just his being Vernon Carlson is enough to arrest him and extradite him back to Dallas. John Templeton has Quentin Renfro under surveillance as well and we think he’ll run too. He is a clever rat though. We may not catch him liquidating in a hurry. He’s probably been doing that for years with the money he’s been laundering.” Bat’s anger was rising to the top.

“When do you propose to make this investment?”

“Very soon, but with your approval of course. We found a connection to the American Cotton Oil Trust and Graham. Renfro knows of my interest because I asked questions about the oil when we met. So it wouldn’t be a surprise if he heard we were here and asking around. What would happen, we think, is that Carlson will get spooked enough to move. He has much more to lose. He’s been living in fear of this for ten years. Gerald’s been with him all of this time. But we don’t know if he is aware of Carlson’s murder conviction. He may only think that he has moved to New York and perhaps is criminal in his business practices. So we have been careful not to endanger his acting career so far. We would prefer to leave him out of it if he is not directly involved.”

“That depends on a number of factors, but if he were to check out and not cause any trouble there would be no reason to arrest him. It could come into play that he would have to be a witness.” Joe wasn’t so concerned about Gerald’s safety. He knew that he was most likely involved in the crime. A big bust like this could be a great feather in his cap.

Bat was agreeable so far. “Alright then, we’ll make the investment inquiry this coming Monday. Our presence in town is well known at the Fifth Avenue Hotel by now. Once we determine that we will appear at the Wild West show that will be in the paper. We are sure to get the necessary attention. Once Carlson knows we are here and responds to our publicity and inquiry, I just know he will try to run!”

“I’m hoping this goes down in a safe fashion. Carlson may get cornered and decide to fight even if he is an old man. He probably has some help, so be careful. Now, I’m really looking forward to this target practice. As soon as you know they are in for it, get back to me so I can better prepare on this end.”

“You got it Joe! And even if it does get some attention, that’s OK. We want them to know we are here. Spook and Run is the name of the game now.

On Saturday morning a small group gathered at the police range. Lucas gave everyone a demonstration to remember then let them take turns with a working model of his rifle. Annie loved to shoot the powerful Winchester .44-.40. She was careful but was able to spin it around and rapid fire. Bat was astonished at Annie’s skills and made no attempt to show off. They didn’t have shot glasses so paper targets and playing cards were the popular victims. Annie let them fire her .22 rifle which felt so strange and lightweight. They could barely feel the recoil and Lucas had a hard time with his large hands. Annie gave them a few pointers on how to hit the playing cards. She had such keen eyesight and a sure sense of where her rifle would hit. She used the sights and cocked the rifle very fast. Lucas had a similar confidence with his rifle but did not use his sights except for long range targets. Annie had little feel for his from the hip rapid fire technique so Lucas had something to share. Frank and Bat took turns with their 45’s. Frank was intrigued with Bat’s custom short barrel and the speed of his draw. He was very capable with his standard length Colt and both men hit the targets with ease. Joe Murray and a few of the other men present tried their hand at the card splitting trick. Most used their .32 caliber Colt revolvers. Annie made this a very popular trick and many officers had tried it in the past. Only a few cards were actually split though with these short barreled handguns. Annie produced her Smith Wesson .32 and gave them a lesson on how to hold a handgun and pull the trigger without disrupting the aim. She explained that most people get used to sighting to a larger area on a target and that did not produce the precision necessary to split a card. Her grip was relaxed and she pulled the trigger without as much as a jitter from the barrel of the gun. The card had no chance. The men were amazed and began examining how they held their guns.

Frank threw clay pigeons while Annie shattered them with her shotgun. Everyone was amazed at her skill. This was a popular target and the officers were very good with their shotguns as well. Bat and Lucas tried their hand at this and agreed that it was much different than what they knew how to do. Bat found the recoil uncomfortable on his shoulder which was sore already. Lucas could feel the strain in his trigger hand and decided that the shotgun was not for him. So Lucas took his rifle and asked Frank to give the pigeons a harder toss. They were much bigger than the coins he was used to and he hit every one of them with ease. Bat did the same thing with his pistol.

Annie closed out the action by hitting a falling half of a card several times before it landed on the ground. It wasn’t five times as the stories told, but to hit it at all seemed a miracle. Lucas didn’t even try with his rifle. When the shooting was over, Bill brought up the subject of Lucas and Bat performing in the show.

“I’ll tell you boys what…. I have given this some thought and I want very much for you to make an appearance. I want it to be separate from Annie or Lillian though. I want them to remain in their own element for the fans sake. I know many would want to see you all compete somehow, but that is not a point I want to make. You men have expressed your desire to set your record straight and I respect that. I think you can see how we feel about leaving some mystery and legend in our performances. You guys are the real deal and I want that to show. If we do this right, you will be well rewarded with publicity. So shoot some shot glasses in rapid fire, split the cards, and you can even have some glass balls for effect rather than liquor bottles. I would enjoy seeing you shoot the coins as they are tossed, but that is a little too risky in close quarters. I talked to the crew and they assure me that what you are to do is safe and that we can put up some heavier barriers. Is that acceptable Gentlemen?”

“Most assuredly Bill!” Bat was eager for this opportunity. “I promise to keep the legend talk to a minimum as well. It’s best if we speak of that in interviews afterwards and when we perform on our own. What do you think Lucas?”

“I’m all in. I hope we can give it a try before the show. I would want to know that I’m going to be safe if I do my spin around card split.”

“We’ll work with you both to design the barriers and see if your rapid firing can be safe in the arena. I think it will be a great experience.

“Bill, we feel the need to give something back. We want you to have a custom engraved Winchester Rifle, the Lucas McCain Commemorative. We will have Winchester deliver several of these. Annie and Frank get one too! And I think we should give one to Lillian also.”

“That is very generous Bat…. Lucas, thank you! I’ll treasure it as I do all of my gun collection. We’ll be sure to let the Winchester people have a booth at the show. We’ll put the rifle on display too. I know you will enjoy performing with us Gentlemen. We’ll schedule the show for Thursday so the newspapers can have a few days to spread the word. The shows are sold out as it is, but I think we can squeeze a few more in!”

“We can’t thank you enough Bill! This is wonderful. I think this will be better than any show we could do on our own.” Bat glanced over to see Lucas with a big smile.

“I know this town is going to miss the Wild West once you leave for England. Perhaps one day we can do our own show here. But this is one great honor sir, and I know my son, Mark, will love hearing about this. He would just burst if he ever got a chance to see what is happening!” Lucas tipped his Stetson and Bill did the same.

“Right proud to have you as part of the Wild West Lucas, both of you are our honored guests and it’s a pleasure to have you become part of us. Now, I’m inviting all of you men and your families to the Gardens for a huge feed. We have sides of beef prepared in the Western tradition and some real special dishes made by our friends from overseas and south of the border. And everyone has a seat at the show this evening to boot.!” Bill gave them special pass cards to get in. “Come early now, food should be ready around three o’clock.”

“Look at this Gerald! I knew it had to be. Bat Masterson and Lucas McCain are in town. Says here in Sunday’s paper that they are going to appear at Cody’s Wild West on Thursday. This has to be trouble. I’m not going to sit still on this. Quentin warned me, now they are here.”

“This is concerning. I don’t want to see our arrangement come to an end Vernon. What can I do?”

“All I want you to do is move out and let me handle this in my own way. I don’t want you getting into trouble. You have so much life ahead of you.”

“We don’t know if they even have a clue about you. Please don’t panic over this.”

“I can’t afford to take a chance. Tom Garret is too much of a coincidence and he knows where you are. It had to be one of them at the door too. They know I’m here and my life is at stake. Like I told you before, I’m tired of this, I want to go. I’m almost finished packing as it is. The crates can go to Mexico ahead of me and I can disappear without a trace.”

“I don’t like this. Are you sure that you can handle the stress of traveling? That’s a long boat ride you are contemplating.”

“It’s better than by land. I’ll be fine. Now, I want you to tell anyone that cares that you had to quit your job to make yourself available for your new theater assignment. I insisted that you concentrate on this alone. Once that is settled and you are comfortable at your flat, I will have some men take the crates away. I may go before they do. I’m sure they’re already watching us as it is. This is for the best Gerald. A little sooner than I had hoped for, but it was going to happen anyhow. We can spend another day or so together, finish packing and such, but then I want you to go. They’ll be busy with the Wild West show. Who knows what is going to go down after that. I have a plan for escape. Some of the guys are helping me already. I don’t want you to know the details in case they try to take you in. I know you can act well, but it is much better this way. Forget all that we have done here. Look ahead for yourself and you will make it, I know you can. Let this old man make his final run. I’ve had more than I ever expected by coming to New York. Here’s some cash drawn out for you. Keep it put away, it’s off the books and I don’t want you banking it any time soon. Your father and I will keep in touch and there’s enough money for everyone to last ten lifetimes. If you want to come to Mexico in the future, we can work that out. But I think you’re still in for a wild ride in New York.”

“You seem to be settled on this Vernon. I do understand. But I don’t have to like it. It won’t feel right to succeed from this play. I can’t stand it if Tom has betrayed me. I want to believe him, but how can I?”

“We have taken what we wanted all along Gerald. Take this too. It is a great chance. The Liberty Theater is big time. You will become well known. You won’t have to take after that. You will earn your way and become a great man. I’ll read about you in the Times.”

“I hope you are right. For your sake I hope you are right. I’m going to get some rest, it’s been a long day.

The lights went out on Saturday night. Gerald had too much on his mind to sleep well. He knew Vernon was going to run, but this was the last nail. He was going to be on his own. That is, if he wasn’t in jail. He came to realize though that his life has been centered around Carlson and his crimes for far too long. If he was going to get away it had to be now.

Will couldn’t believe his eyes as he read the letter. He sat down as Ann came out to the porch from inside the house.

“What’s wrong dear? You look so concerned.”

“I got a letter from Lucas today. They think they may have found Vernon Carlson. They found Gerald Beckwith, John Beckwith’s son. It seems that he grew up running errands for his father and Carlson in Dallas. He must have joined him in New York long ago.”

“Oh my! William, I’m so sorry.”

“Somehow, as we learned of the fraud, I knew right away that this would be the case. You can’t trust the legal system when big money is involved. That man was so evil while he was harassing my parents.” Will looked down and kicked at the boards of the porch.

“But the good news is that we can prove the fraud and put an end to this nasty business.”

“It’s still not been proven, but yes, I imagine this could go a long way to ending the ordeal. They also say that Graham is connected to the cotton oil business. He told us many lies that day.”

“Did they give you any idea how much longer they would be? Maybe we should plan to return to Dallas soon.”

“Not yet, the police are involved now, they’re keeping the suspects under watch. We should prepare to travel though, you’re right.” Will stood up and hugged Ann. “This business in Dallas is not going to run our lives, I won’t let it. My heart is here with you and all that we have with your father and Lucas. He better not get hurt in New York. It’s hard not being there with him.”

“You know that man is so brave and smart. My father says that Lucas can handle anything. I wouldn’t bet against him even if the entire city of New York was against him!”

“I’m with ya honey. My big brother is a mighty strong force for justice. And he’s surviving travel with Bat Masterson at the same time! He mentioned that they were going to see Buffalo Bill’s Wild West at Madison Square Gardens. Can you imagine that?”

“I hope he gets to meet Annie Oakley! She’s my hero!”

“You’ve never said anything about her!”

“All cowgirls know who she is. Maybe we’ll get to see her one day. I’ll show her a thing or two about sharpshootin’!” Ann and Will laughed with the knowledge that perhaps she was right.

“I’ve got my own Annie, don’t need no other!” Will hugged her even tighter. “Were almost finished with the lodge and the new house will surely be ready by the time Lucas returns. I can hardly wait for the day.”

“I love you Will”

“I love you Ann. Let’s go see what your father’s up to, he should be just about finished with the new house for the day.

Fulton’s Foray — Show Me the Money

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

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