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

Chapter Eight — The Gateway Country
 
After finding a hotel, Lucas and Will decided to take a walk around town since the heat made it unbearable in the room. Perhaps a few shots of whiskey added to the beers from the railroad conductor would help them sleep, so they found themselves visiting the various saloons. They still had slight hope that maybe, just maybe, Bat Masterson could be spotted. They started out simply walking into each place, buying a shot, then looking around for anyone wearing a derby hat. Sam showed them a picture from an old newspaper several weeks ago but the printing didn’t have much detail, only a mustache and the derby hat. After the third saloon, Will got up the nerve to ask the bartender if he knew anything about Masterson. This was met with suspicion. More often than not, that was what someone looking for trouble would ask, or at times it was a cowboy with money burning a hole in his pocket wanting to play poker. Neither Lucas nor Will had a gun. Finally, Lucas showed the man his honorary sheriff badge that he rarely ever took out of his pocket. He assured him that he only wanted to meet his hero.

“It’s still early, but he should be in town. He frequents the Sonoran Gateway, a rather large saloon with a casino inside, it’s about four blocks down the street on the other side from here. You can’t miss it.

“Thanks friend, it makes my day to meet good people.” Will reached across the bar and shook his hand. Lucas tossed a few coins extra to tip for the shot and information.

“I bet we’re going to find him Lucas. Everything else has worked out today.”
“I won’t be surprised. Let’s hold off asking about him when we get there, I’ll stake you in a small poker game if things look good. We can ask about him once we gain some trust.”

“That badge is sure a good ice breaker, you should wear it once in a while.” Will chuckled.

“You know better than that Young Gun, maybe you’d like Masterson to be looking for you!”
 
“Hey now, that’s not so funny. And don’t go giving him any ideas if we do find him.”

“Well, you won’t have far to go, I hear the Yuma Territorial Prison is a nice place to stay. I’d wager Bat knows all about it.”

“I don’t want to know a thing, it’s too close already, I can smell it from here!”
Both men laughed and made their way down the street. Loud music soon filled the night air. They walked into the Gateway and bought a drink at the bar. Before they could turn around to scan the room they heard the name loud and clear.
“Masterson! You can’t possibly have that card!” Lucas and Will spun around and sure enough, at a back wall table sat a huge barrel-chested man, derby hat and all. The chairs scuffled against the floor and a sour loser was about to meet his maker if he didn’t watch out. Bat stood up with his cane in his left hand and motioned for his opponent to leave. They exchanged dirty looks, but the man knew better than to tangle with the Marshall. “I’ll get you back someday Masterson, nobody is that lucky or that good.”

“I told you to move on, I won fair and square, my associates will back me up on that.  I don’t have to cheat to beat amateurs. Now get out!"

Will could see the shiny pistol gleaming from Bat’s belt. His right hand was flexing, ready to draw. It didn’t take long for the man to think better and walk away. Will got to see what a reputation was good for. He felt his heart pounding from the excitement, not to mention the liquor in his belly. Lucas watched with great intensity as Bat sat back down and began to laugh with his companions.
“Well, here goes Young Gun, we’re about to meet the man!” Lucas walked over to the table and introduced himself. “Do you mind if I sit in for a few hands?”
“Mister McCain, you are very welcome at this table. A friend of mine asked me to look out for you. Sit down. And your friend can pull up a chair as well.”

“Don’t tell me you know Simon Battle!” Lucas looked stunned.

“That would be correct, Rifleman!” Bat laughed, “Doctor Simon Battle is a very good friend of mine! Only the greatest, and most revered physician in the Arizona Territory. And I might add, almost as fast as I am with a gun.”

“Why I’ll be, fate has drawn us together from the start of our travels, it’s a great pleasure to meet you Marshall. We knew you might be in town from talking to a conductor on the train this afternoon.” Lucas took out his billfold and placed a hundred dollars on the table.

“That would be one Bradford J. Billings of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe! He knows me better than I know myself. In fact, he knows Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and every other character from Texas to California. I’d wager he even knows who you are.”

“You have me there. It took him a few minutes and a hint or two, but he came up with “Rifleman” as sure as I’m sitting here.”

“Let me guess, you gave him your last cigar and he offered you some ice cold beer.” Bat waved to the bartender, making a “V” shape with his fingers. In moments they had a full whiskey bottle and cigars. “On me travelers, welcome to Yuma, Gateway to the west!”

Lucas raised a toast to their new found friend and hero. “To the man who won the west, one poker hand at a time!” Lucas grinned and tipped his hat as they all had a good laugh.

“I’ve got some good news for you McCain, you won’t have to get up and leave early tomorrow, Simon is in town working at the prison hospital. They gave him a lab and a full staff to research virus infections. I had dinner with him last night. He would have eventually found you, if you hadn’t come along here tonight.”
“That’s great! Will exclaimed, a dream come true after that hot train ride.”
“You guys must be living good to have all this luck, I’m not sure I want to gamble with fate charmed gentlemen, what do you say we keep it low stakes and tell stories, get to know each other?”

Lucas took half of his money and shoved it over to Will. “Here ya go, make it last.”

“Thanks boss, you’re the best!” Will was a little intimidated at taking the money, but Lucas smiled at him and motioned to Bat for the deck of cards.

“What do you say we start out with some simple 5 card draw, then we can see how we stand after a few hands.” Lucas shuffled the cards with a nice touch. Will was shocked as he didn’t do anything like that on the train. Bat watched every move as was his habit, he could tell Lucas was a very capable card player and that Will was easily read by his facial expressions.

The story telling and card play lasted well into the night. Will didn’t have any comparable stories to tell, so he sat back and enjoyed the show. Lucas knew many of Bat’s experiences from his talking with Sam and Bat knew some about Lucas from Simon. Both men started to tell a story and the other would finish it. Lucas was impressed by Masterson’s detailed memory and knowledge about so many things. They both fought in Indian wars and served as Army scouts. Bat was involved in the cattle business and was foreman on many a drive. They related very well about the law, although Lucas couldn’t keep up with Bat on that subject. Finally, Bat got to talking about his more recent ventures, marriage and The Palace Theater.

“You know Lucas, I never thought I would want to settle down. I’ve had travelin’ fever for so long now, even after marrying I find myself having to come down here to Arizona to get a taste of the wild side. And gambling isn’t really what I’m after, it’s all the great friends I have scattered about. If I want to gamble, I can get that near home, I own part of a theater in Denver, The Palace, and I ran the Denver Exchange in Creede. But a devastating fire and a drop in silver price put an end to that action. My wife, bless her heart, is an actress, Emma Walters. I met her at The Palace. She has to travel for her work, so it’s good for both of us. When the theater brings her out this way, I go to whatever town she is in and we have a great time meeting away from home. Now that I hear so much about how you left your wild ways to provide a good life for your son, I feel humbled, you have a lot to be proud of. And from what I heard before, you handle yourself very well when trouble comes your way. I really admire that.”

“Why thank you Bat. Coming from you, I can receive no higher compliment. I have to say that I envy you all those wild times and adventure. It must be satisfying to look back on, to see all those lives you have affected, the justice of it all. I have to say that I admire that just as much. I guess you can say that we both wind up having other’s well being in mind over our own. That is the common thread I feel here. It’s an instinct you get from being a soldier, one that’s lucky enough to survive. Once I had that experience I could never stand to see a malcontent win out, it’s been second nature to me for a long time.”

“I know exactly what you mean Lucas. You take our friend, Simon Battle. Now I know some about you two, and most of it isn’t pretty. But let me tell you, that man has changed his ways and really done some good in this world. He’s doctored all around these parts, small mining towns, Indian villages, the many settlers that pass through, even the prison. He lost his wife to the fever also. You two have a lot in common if you ask me. And wouldn’t you know it, speak of the man and here he comes!

Simon walked through the swinging doors just as Bat was making his comment. He was strong and tall as ever, looking like the years had no effect on him. Bat, Lucas and the rest at the table stood up as he approached. “I thought I better check in here first. It figures McCain would wind up at this table without my guidance! Lucas and Simon shook hands for a second time in their lives, and this time it turned into a hug.

“You look great Simon, and from what I hear you’re doing even better than you look!”

“That’s right Lucas. I told you in North Fork I was going to do some good with the rest of my life. I was doing it then, and I’m doing it now. Simon replied jokingly.

“I’ll say you are, Bat told me all about it. You found a cure for the fever. That’s really something!”

“That’s the truth alright. Too many died from that terrible curse. I know we both suffered the same loss. Now look at us, out on the town with a famous Lawman! Who would have ever thought?”

“I’ll never get over it Simon, but I’m very thankful for our run in at the Doc’s office. It changed my life. And I’m thankful for this trip, it’s brought me to take part in two mighty legends. The years have been kind to you.”

“And you too. So, who is this fine young man with you?”

“This is Will Fulton, he’s one of the best ranch hands I’ve ever known.”

“I’m pleased Fulton, a friend of McCain’s is a friend of mine. Welcome to the Wild West!  I imagine you have all lost your money to old Bat here, let me buy us a couple of rounds. Then we can go over to my place here in town. I can give you a cooler place to sleep than that oven they call a hotel.”

“Simon, you got yourself a couple of grateful house guests. After the long rail and desert heat, we were prepared to sleep right here at the table rather than that hotel. We’ll have to get our gear and check out.”

“My wagon’s right outside I’ll take you there later. Now let’s get those drinks. Bat, you old codger, I don’t even want to know how you all wound up here right now, but I’m sure it’s quite a story. Thanks for keeping my guests entertained. I worked it out so I could have some time off while Lucas is here. You’re welcome to join us. I want to hear you two tell some of those tales.”

“Well now, I haven’t had such an exciting offer since a poker game I once sat in on over Tombstone way. But I’ll leave that story for Earp. I’d be delighted to join in on the fun.”

“Good, that’s settled. Now who’s dealing, we have time for a few friendly hands before we go, where’s my cigar?” Simon sat down and the drinks were served.
As it turned out, it was Will who won most of the money. Bat and Lucas were too busy doing all the talking. When the dealing was done, Will counted up a hundred and twenty three dollars. “Ok legends of the west, my turn to buy a round!”

“I had you sized up wrong Fulton, you’re no ranch hand. You must be a card sharp. It’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for Simon, keep an eye on this one! Bat tipped his Derby towards Will.

Battle Within A Young Gun - Chapter 9 — Gun Play

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

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