The Rifleman
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The Battle Within A Young Gun
Written by Frank Charles aka weinerdawgy

Chapter Twenty One — Best Laid Plans

Lucas parted with the others as they went shopping. As he walked down the street towards the saloon with his rifle in hand, he caught the eyes of several people along the way and it made him feel uneasy. This brought back some of his angst from Yuma. The thought crossed his mind that perhaps he should not be so recognizable. And for most of his life, he resisted the thought of carrying a handgun, but that was also on his mind after the subject had just come up. He came to the conclusion that it was not the sharp shooting recognition or his years old rifle wielding reputation that was bothering him. It was Jack, not the law abiding public that was the matter now. But Jack might as well be anybody that had a grudge against him from the past. The furthest thing from his mind was the possibility that Jack would try any gun play with him. A coward wouldn’t dare go up against a man like Lucas, it would mean sure death. And with Masterson present, one would have to be insane to go anywhere near.

These thoughts quickly left Lucas’ mind as he entered the saloon. At a table with Bat was John Browning, one of the most famous men of the gun industry. How was he ever going to speak with Bat about Jack?

“Well, there he is!” Bat stood up and welcomed Lucas. “John Browning, Lucas McCain.”

“A sincere thank you for coming Mister Browning!” Lucas reached out for a firm handshake.

“Why thank you Lucas, I’ve heard so much about you. The pleasure is all mine!”

“I’m honored to be in your presence sir, I’ve followed your career and have been influenced by your designs for a very long time.” Lucas placed his rifle on the table and pushed it towards John. “I imagine you had something to do with this one right here!”

Browning picked up the rifle and gave it a heft. He cocked the lever twice and caught the bullet that sprang from the chamber. “That feels well worn in, moves real free. I see by a few markings that I have handled this rifle when it was made.” He looked over the lever and pushed it from the side to feel any unwanted wear. “I’d say this has some life left in it, but I would have a new bushing installed in the lever pivot before too long. We’ve developed alloys that will hold up much longer now. I realize that we have you to thank for this lever design. I knew the idea came out of the Civil War, but after I heard your story I knew that I had to meet you. We do make these levers by order, but I am convinced that with your backing we can make many more sales.”

“That seems to be the idea sir. I would love to do business with you. I suppose Bat has told you about the interest we received in Yuma. I’m still getting letters asking about how to buy one. My rifle has been reworked in the past, our gunsmith in North Fork orders parts from you.”

“Yes, I suppose he does, yours is an often used weapon I’m sure. We have already received a number of inquiries mentioning your exhibition. We do have the potential to do something very special here.” Browning motioned to a man sitting at a nearby table. He brought over a large wooden case and set it in front of Lucas.

“Open it up Lucas, this one is for you!”

Lucas carefully lifted the lid, knowing what must be inside, and smiled at Browning as he brought out a custom made version of the model 1892 rifle with engraved scroll work and the name “Rifleman” carved into the stock. Even the oversized lever had scroll work on it. Lucas sat there speechless.

“What do you think? It has my mark on it, but no serial number. That ensures it will always be known as yours. If we make more, they will be serialized and with slightly different scroll work. We also plan to make a plain version with only a nameplate so there can be working models in your name.”

“I don’t know what to say, this is a great honor. I love it. You have my permission with no further asking!” Bat looked on with a huge smile on his face.
“Well, let’s wait a while before thinking about that. There is some money to discuss and I want a chance to see you shoot of course. I’ll be in town for a while. There are others I need to meet with while we wait for the exhibition. Do you mind if we put up a sign, provide information, and take orders?”

“Not at all John, what say you Bat?”

“After what I just witnessed? John can take a few shots if he wants to!”

“Now, now, boys, I make them, but I don’t pretend to be a sharp shooter. I think we have a deal. I am sure you will find that we are more than fair with any financial arrangements. We have made deals like this before you know. What we are more interested in is how many public appearances you are willing to make. I realize you have a private life to think of.”

“I have been thinking about this for some time John. My family and friends come first. Many are concerned, as I am, about the potential for trouble whenever guns are involved. As you know, I have a reputation for gun fighting. That means there are a number of men out there that might have me in their sights. So I’m prepared to make quite a few appearances, but I want some security present as we perform. They were great about that in Yuma. Bat is very good at making arrangements and he is a form of security all on his own. But I promised my son that if there was trouble I would quit and come home.”

“I can certainly understand that. I propose to keep the rifle sales deal separate from the sharp shooting events. No doubt one will affect the other if you decide to quit, but I think we both know that there will always be a potential for sales. Your reputation precedes you and we don’t want to place you or Bat in danger for any reason. It would be very bad public relations if anything happens to either one of you.”

“You are a very wise man John, you have my word that I will act in good faith at all times. I really want to do this and I know Bat does. Thank you for putting me at ease and for this great work of art.”

“You are very welcome Lucas, and thank you for what you have already done for our country and the great territory of New Mexico. I have a good feeling about our dealings and I believe you will be a very happy man once we get things underway. I hope you enjoy your new rifle. I took the liberty of bringing you one more, a working model that you can have as a backup in case anything goes wrong before a show. Bat tells me that you are going to practice soon. I’ve also made arrangements to provide you two with all the ammunition you need. Both rifles have been test fired, but you should break the working model in.” Browning motioned once again and his assistant brought over another rifle in a leather case.

“This is truly remarkable John, you had the faith to bring me both of these rifles before even meeting me. I am forever in your service.”

“I must say that it is the word of an old friend that gave me that faith.” Browning nodded towards Bat.

“Thank you John, I appreciate that. I knew you would hit it off with Lucas.”

“If I only knew that the both of you would team up, what a great idea!”

“By the way John, I’ve been meaning to talk with you about a few cane designs.”

“Bat, let’s take this design stuff one step at a time!”

The three men had a good laugh as they talked of history and guns. John spoke of his new plans for automatic repeating rifles and bullet ejection systems. He suggested that Lucas and Bat could visit the Winchester factory one day and that they should plan to put on a very special event on that occasion. Plans were made for attending Emma’s show and for John to be at the target practice the next day. It was hard for Lucas to get Bat alone for a long time, but finally, John excused himself for a few minutes and left them at the table.

“Bat, I have to tell you about something important. Do you recall Will mentioning a man named Jack Donaldson?”

“Yes, wasn’t he a jilted character from Ann’s past that has given Will a bad time? What of him?”

“He may be trying to spoil things for us. We think he was dogging us on our ride here and last night our room was broken into. Ann has reason to suspect him as the culprit and we have the marshal on the trail of whoever broke into our room.”

“I’m glad that you told me, we’ll have to keep a close eye out.”

“He’s been giving us trouble ever since Will came to North Fork. Ann had her friends keep watch and they saw him buying a large amount of ammunition only a few days ago. And to add to it, I taught Jack to shoot while he worked for me as a boy. So he knows how to handle himself.”

“Lucas, there will always be danger, and this sounds like a very real problem. All we can do is hope he is either caught or stays out of our way. If things get worse, we’ll have to tell John. But for now, let’s have a fun evening. I will speak with the marshal later and make sure there is ample security before, during, and after the show.”

“I hope this all turns out to be nothing, but with Jack, you never know. He has good reason to be embarrassed. It seems a young Ann really jilted him in front of their classmates long ago and he had to endure some terrible shame. I’d hate to see anything ruin our plans, or Will and Ann’s.”

“Yes, I intend on being at their wedding. Both of us have faced greater danger. I’m used to working under the gun, so to speak. We’ll get through it. Here comes John. Let’s talk about something else. So you think a newspaper article might be a good idea then Lucas?

“I believe that it’s the best thing. We can feature the rifle and our dealings with John.”

“Does that sound alright with you John?”

“I am a firm believer in promotions Bat. I am willing to give an interview, and a picture of me presenting the rifle to Lucas would be a very good idea. Can you arrange such a thing?”

“I sure can. I know just about every newspaper owner in the west.”

“And I’m sure they have all done stories about you at one time or another!”

“Well now, I won’t brag, but I have made a wave or two in this ocean of sand.”

“That you have, my friend. I’m really looking forward to seeing Emma perform tonight. I still have trouble imagining you as a married man.

“I don’t blame you for that, but when you meet her you will understand.”

“I’m sure I will. Now Lucas, I am interested to hear some details about your Civil War experience and how your idea for the lever came about.”

Bat’s eyes opened wide at that request, he was all ears. Lucas told of the battle incident where he hurt his hand trying to rapid fire his Henry rifle. John loved the way he had the blacksmith fashion his first lever. It all made perfect sense. John had a way of asking questions that kept Lucas talking for a long time. Bat had most of his curiosity about Lucas satisfied without asking a thing.

After several hours, Sam, Will, and Ann arrived at the saloon. They all had new clothes and both Will and Ann had brand new Derringers tucked away. Will decided it was time to pay tribute to Bat. He wore the Derby and sported one of his canes. He also wore some black slacks and a vest. It was stunning for Bat to see Will looking just like him.

“Well I’ll be! I think I am looking into a mirror! Where ever did you get that hat?”

“It’s a long story, but you know a certain train and conductor. He had this hat see….”

“Ah hah! Bradford! That slickster! Allow me to introduce you all to John Browning.”

Sam was once again mesmerized by one of his favorite characters. Everyone sat down and made conversation until yet another introduction was in order. Micah finally showed up. His stage was just in and Lucas had forgotten to be there to meet him. He understood after hearing about all the excitement and Lucas took him off to the side to explain about Jack. Micah told him that he better let Browning know, so Lucas decided to inform John about the break in at the hotel and about Jack. It was too much to keep from him and he was bound to hear something sooner or later. John understood and agreed to help in any way he could. Micah was already wearing his best clothing and was also checked into the hotel. Everything was set for a great evening of song and laughter.
And that is exactly what took place.

The theater was crowded as usual, there were only two more weeks scheduled for Emma’s show. On most nights, she kept to herself before performing. She considered it bad luck to be in the audience until she was finished. With this venue, her singing was the last act. She also took part in two comedic skits. Santa Fe was a popular tourist and travel stop, so there were always new faces in the audience. Bat escorted the ever increasing group into the front row and there were just enough seats. Micah and Sam did their best to sit next to John Browning as neither one of them wanted to quit talking. But it didn’t take long for the show to start and finally, John could relax.

A well dressed man came on stage first to introduce the acts and give a short monologue. The first act was a male singer with a great baritone voice. He opened the show with “The Star Spangled Banner” which stirred the Americans in a rousing fashion. His next number was an Irish love song. “Mary of My Dreams”. He finished with a faster moving ballad about a soldier at war, “The Cannon’s Cry”. This brought on a vigorous round of applause. Many present had served in battle at one time or another. For an encore he delivered a sampling from the opera “Carmen”. This was very popular and had the audience cheering along at times. The small orchestra played brilliantly.

After a brief pause, the curtain rose to a skit about a man in love with a woman, Emma, who couldn’t get her attention. No matter how hard he tried, Emma would walk right by. His clowning became so ridiculous in his attempts until finally, he quit in exasperation tearing open the front of his tuxedo. He stomped around until he tripped and fell. All of a sudden Emma, thinking he had been accosted, came running to his aid as he lay motionless. Try as she might, he would not revive. Finally, she felt bad for ignoring him before and started to cry. By now, he was starting to come to as he lay in her arms. He was thinking that she must have been rich if she was willing to ignore him before he damaged his fancy clothes. After a kiss, he made a play for her utmost sympathy as she got him up and helped him gather his things. He asked if she could spare buying him a meal as he had not eaten in a very long time, to which she had to admit that she didn’t have any money either and was actually looking for a man to buy her dinner for this evening. Sadly, as they realized that they could be in love with each other, both would have to continue with their cons in order to eat. So she wound assisting him with fixing his tuxedo and both of them went back to their attempts at attracting passers by.
The show went on with a juggling act, a card magician who did some slight of hand with a volunteer from the audience, Emma’s second comedic skit, and then several instrumental pieces from the Orchestra. By this time, Emma had changed into her best evening gown and returned to the stage for the finale. She sang “That Man is Mine”, a love song from a New York stage play, “The Rising of the Moon”, an Irish ballad duet with the baritone singer, and then two popular dancehall numbers that really got the audience involved “A Girl From the Valley”, and “Emma’s Looking For Love”. Lucas looked around and saw how many of the men were getting excited by her antics. Although there were several well built ushers, he understood why Bat wanted to be up front and at most of her performances. She exited the stage to great standing applause. After a brief pause, she came back out for a two part encore of operatic songs from “Die Fledermaus” translated meaning “The Bat”, which left everyone standing to cheer. She enjoyed singing these songs to give an inside reference to her well known husband. An arrangement of flowers was brought to her as she took her final bows and the curtains closed on another great performance.

“Bat! We simply must go backstage!” Came the call from John Browning.
“Exactly what I have in store John!” Bat lead the party off to the side then on to the backstage area. The applause continued for a long time and Emma returned to the stage for a final bow. She came off the stage to find a large group waiting for her.”

“Emma! you were marvelous, absolutely the best voice I have ever heard!” John exclaimed. “I tell you, there is no end to the talent I am here to witness!” He reached out and kissed her hand.

“Emma, allow me to introduce John Browning.” Bat took the opportunity to do this as she was not able to meet him before the show.

“Ann was truly taken by what she had just seen. “Why Emma, I had no idea what a splendid treat we were in for, that was amazing!”

“Thank you all, I am so glad you enjoyed it.” She walked forward to allow the men to kiss her hand and pay their compliments.

She needed to do this for the benefit of the others looking on as well as the Masterson entourage close by. Before they knew it, other people had gathered and it became quite a crowd. Lucas took note of how this went on knowing that soon he would be in a similar position, but without the kissing. He contemplated what security could do about safety in an even larger crowd. Santa Fe was close to home and it would be easy for the wrong person to approach him unnoticed. He shook off the thoughts as best he could and kept a smile on his face as people started to clear away and talk among themselves. Bat walked Emma to her dressing room and they all waited for her to freshen up for dinner. There was still much more enjoyment in store for this glorious evening.

Lucas looked on as Will and Ann danced after dinner. He thought about how great it would be to see Mark this happy one day. Bat and Emma joined the dance a few times as well, which left Sam and Micah to keep John engaged in conversation. After a brief talk, it was easy for Lucas to look off into the distance and remain quiet. It didn’t take long before his eyes met with a beautiful woman sitting at a nearby table. She was very well dressed and alone. Lucas waited a few minutes to see if anyone came back to be with her. He had watched enough dancing and decided it was high time that he took part. As he rose to walk over, she perked up and kept her eyes on him. When it became obvious that he was coming her way, she stood up and offered her hand.

“Allow me to ask you for the next dance. My name is Lucas McCain.”

“Why thank you Lucas, my name is Aubry Canton. I would be delighted.”

This eased Lucas and they seemed enchanted from the beginning. They danced at first without saying a word. Will and Ann moved toward them and were all smiles. Lucas had to say something finally.

“They are with me, two of the finest people I know.”

“I noticed your rather large group all evening. You are quite a popular guy from what I have seen.”

“Well now, it’s not like me to want to be popular, but yes, we are having a big evening with some well known guests.”

“I also noticed you in the front row at the show this evening. You do keep rather good company. I’m impressed, Bat Masterson no less!”

“Thank you, Aubry, I am blessed to have great friends.”

“Are you in town for pleasure only or for business?”

“A little of both, I am a rancher by trade, but we have some unique business going on here in town. I’d be happy to tell you all about it after the dance. Will you join me for a drink?”

“I would be honored Lucas. I find you very interesting indeed.”

“And the same goes for me. May I ask, are you alone?”

“I am with my son and his wife, and a couple of friends. I am a widow." My husband, William Canton, died several years ago. We can speak of such things later. I’m so very happy to meet you Lucas McCain.”

“And I am honored to meet you Aubry Canton. I’m also alone, I lost my wife many years ago. Lucas gazed into her eyes and forgot all about his problems with Jack and guns. The music ended and Lucas brought her over to make introductions.
It was hard for his close friends to not get excited by this development as they had not seen Lucas interested in a woman for a very long time. But they managed to contain themselves. Aubry was very well accepted. She motioned for the rest of her table to come over and she introduced her family and friends. There was just enough room for everyone to get their chairs around and form a big circle. It was as if two neighboring galaxies had just collided.

Lucas and Aubry got up for another dance, then managed to disappear for a few minutes of private conversation. Lucas learned that Aubry owned a nearby cattle ranch and her son managed it. Her husband died in a tragic gunfight almost two years ago as he was a victim of a trail robbery. She was doing her best to cope with her grief by keeping busy at the ranch. Several local men had shown interest in her, but she was not ready or very interested in any of them. Once Lucas told her his story she was very attracted to him. They agreed to see each other some more while Lucas was in town. They went back to the group and finished a great evening with new found friends.

Jack was deep into the mountains at his camp, hoping to not be found. He assumed that there might be someone on his trail. He hadn’t done anything too bad though and the lawmen gave up on his whereabouts soon after that river crossing found the night before. All that really mattered was that he made everyone nervous for now. His next idea was a bit risky and he took more thought to plan it.
The next morning, he rode his pack horse into town wearing a Mexican hat and clothing. He snooped around and studied the buildings near the plaza. While he was walking nearby the gun range, he stopped to watch Lucas and Bat practice. He knew everyone there except Browning, but he could assume that’s who he was from the rumors back in North Fork. He looked back to see if he could find a building with a suitable vantage point towards the gun range. There was a church with a bell built into the front façade that would be just right for him to spy from. He walked right up to the range and joined the onlookers for a while. He heard the talk of the coming event and learned just what was going to happen. The church was also in good line with where the show was to take place. He climbed onto the top of the building from the rear and learned the surroundings. It seemed perfect. On his way back he planned his escape routes, noting places he could ride along the creek. It was all too easy in his mind. He was able to walk right up to them and not be noticed. He got back to his mountain camp in plenty of time before dark. His riding horse was loose nearby, trained to not wander far as he grazed. He went to bed content that his plan could work. He would get back at those who fueled his selfish misery.

Battle Within A Young Gun - Chapter 22 — Take Aim

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

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