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

Chapter Twenty Two — Take Aim

The first day at the shooting range had everyone ready for action and well relaxed from the night before. Aubry and her son came to watch and Josh showed up with a wagon load of empty bottles, old decks of cards, and a few boxes full of shot glasses. John Browning was very happy with what he saw. Of course, he had seen plenty of shooting in his day, and some of the best in the world had performed for him. But this was different. It was born from real experience and used broken glass to great visual effect. Bat already had some copper coins made to practice with. He didn’t enjoy shooting at the iron slugs they made in Yuma. Since the good doctor, Simon Battle, would not be able to join them, Lucas obtained permission from the marshal and Will took his place in parts of the show. It was still his place to toss the coins for Bat and Lucas. Josh was happy to take on the duties of placing the glass targets and cards.

A new twist was suggested by Browning. They placed a holding fixture to position the card sideways and attempted to split it at the edge. This was a very difficult trick that Browning had seen in shows before. They started at ten feet to get a feel for the accuracy required. At twenty feet it became a bit harder and Bat decided this was going to take some time to perfect. Lucas was able to aim and do rather well at it though and moved on to thirty feet before the afternoon came to a close. Bat liked the idea and felt challenged to be able to do this with his pistol. Lucas tried to get him to do it with his rifle, but Bat would not give in.
Finally, Browning asked if his assistant could give it a try.

William Brighton was a seasoned marksman who could shoot any gun with ultimate accuracy. He worked in gun shows in his earlier days and, after meeting John Browning, became his employee. He was John’s right hand man so to speak. He took out his favorite rifle and asked Josh to place the fixture at fifty feet. After a few warm up shots at some bottles, William took aim and ripped the first card right in half. Bat was stunned at the expert marksman’s confidence and asked to see that again. After hitting ten cards in a row, William stood back and smiled, looking over at Lucas. Lucas took a few shots and hit on the third attempt.

“That’s quite a talent you have there my friend. I am humbled by your skill.” Lucas shook William’s hand and nodded at John.

“Thank you Lucas, I have done this many times. Don’t feel bad. It took me plenty of practice and many bullets to know this trick.”

Bat was very impressed. “What trick is that? All I saw was an amazing eye on a practically non-existing target!”

“The only trick to it is knowing my rifle and not breathing in as I squeeze ever so gently on the trigger. You see, I sight in so many rifles back at the factory that it becomes second nature. Where you know only a few weapons, I have to be able to adjust to any gun or rifle. I practice all the time.”

“That is a very valuable skill. Most of the time, I suppose we are used to drawing quick and hitting a moving target. I’m not usually thinking about my breathing when I draw my pistol, although I know of the importance. And I need to practice with my rifle more before trying any distance with this trick.” Bat seemed humbled and Lucas enjoyed the display. They decided to call it a day and William agreed to work with them as much as they wanted. His experience with gun shows would prove to be a great help and it didn’t take long before they offered to let him be part of the demonstration. He was intrigued with the idea but asked to discuss this with his boss before giving an answer.

Jack looked down from his perch at the church bell. He didn’t need to hear the conversation as he witnessed Brighton’s shooting. He kept a close eye out for anybody that could ruin his hiding place, but all was quiet. He watched Ann as she stood by her father and kept her eye on Will. Whenever he saw her, his mind would race with anger. In North fork, all he could do was say something awful and make a fool out of himself. From his hiding place now, he could just stew and think terrible thoughts about what he would do to Will Fulton. Jealousy is a merciless affliction and revenge masquerades as the cure. Jack was in deep denial from reality. He never did have good control over his emotions. He left the roof of the church and quietly slipped into the street riding with his hat low over his face. He passed by the gun range unnoticed by the objects of his rage.

Will and Ann walked about town in the early evening, taking in the sights. Because the marshal told them about the bent nail in the hoof marks left by the robber, they made a practice of looking at the various impressions in the street as they walked.

“I wonder if that really was Jack. He has me so worried that I would think it was him no matter what happens.” Ann commented.

“I don’t blame you my dear. I won’t rest until this is over and we know where he is here or once we get home. I keep expecting to see that bent nail mark every time I look down.”

“It is not that uncommon of a thing Will. There may be many horses leaving that kind of track. One thing to keep in mind is that if it is Jack, he probably wouldn’t notice it. He never did respect his horses and I imagine he would wait until the poor thing pulls up lame before even looking at its hooves. I wish we knew what horse he was riding, but he could have any one from his father’s stable.”
“Maybe more than one. I won’t waste much of my time looking at hoof prints, but it’s at least a chance at spotting him.”

“He has every right to come here and even be at the show. I so wish we didn’t have to think about this. When we get back, I’m going to put an end to this once and for all.”

“Now Ann, I won’t have you placing yourself in danger.” Will put his arm around her and they walked on quietly.

Suddenly, Ann saw what she thought could be Jack, as a man walked out of a small saloon. He had the right look and height. They froze a few steps away as the man walked in front of them down the street. They followed him at a distance and tried to not be noticed. Finally, he looked back towards them and they could see that it wasn’t Jack.

They walked right by him and on their way. It was clear that just the thought of Jack unnerved them. Will didn’t like carrying the Derringer either. Santa Fe wasn’t the town he needed to get into trouble with. They agreed that Ann would keep hers and Will would only carry his if it was really needed. If they could tell when that would be!

The next day’s practice brought more of a crowd and William Brighton spent most of the morning showing each man some of the finer points of professional target shooting. There were other men wanting to try their hand at the card trick and various shots, so Bat encouraged them to join in and everyone had a great time. The marshal stopped by at one point and gave it a try. To his benefit, he was able to show his skills at the quick draw and he split a few cards at thirty feet with a rifle. The town was used to seeing him practice on a regular basis and it was no surprise for him to do well. His familiarity and ability to visit around town helped to spread the word about the gun show.

Bat, Lucas, and John took some time off to visit the newspaper office. They made decisions about the advertising and posed for photos. The photographer followed them back to the range and took pictures there as well. The soon to be famed photo of John Browning presenting Lucas with his fancy model 1892 rifle was on the front page of the next day’s edition. The headline read, “Civil War Hero Lucas McCain Honored by Winchester Rifle Company”. The article gave a brief history of Lucas’ war exploits and ranching career. The story of meeting Bat Masterson and Simon Battle as well as the Yuma show was covered. The contact with John Browning was the finishing touch. The gun show was also announced for the coming Sunday. This gave them four days to polish up and make ready. By this time, most of the town’s people knew what was going on, so a good sized crowd was assured. Posters were put up around town over night and special effort was made to see that the paper got out to the small towns and ranches on the outskirts. Bat sent out a number of telegrams to his friends that he knew could pass on the word and write articles. Many of them were already talking and waiting to hear from him. The more important stories were the ones to be written after the show. This would lay the foundation for a successful tour in the future. John Browning already had similar irons in the fire.

By the late afternoon, Brighton had Lucas hitting just about every card at fifty feet. Lucas also gave Brighton some lessons at handling his style of rifle and quick draws. They placed the cards facing the marksman at fifty feet, most of the shot glasses were reserved for the actual stunts. Lucas demonstrated how to twirl the rifle in his familiar roundhouse fashion without catching his fingers on the mechanism. His huge gloved hands made a sturdy spindle for the rotating 1892. Brighton grasped the backup 1892 in his hands and spun it slowly around, he had tried this maneuver in the past. He could spin a pistol real well, so the action was not unfamiliar to him. He had to warm up to the feel of it, but after a few tries he was spinning it well. Lucas then turned around and let the bullets fly hitting ten cards in a row. This brought on cheers from the crowd, they had been waiting a long time to see this. Once the cards were replaced, Brighton spun his rifle and turned to shoot, hitting eight out of ten. He didn’t have the quickness of Lucas, but everyone could tell he would soon learn that too. He also had the advantage of having test fired the rifle at the plant. John Browning looked on with great joy as his man was interacting well with McCain. The lack of ego was most impressive to him. This is exactly what he wanted to see in Lucas. The action itself was the real salesman.

Next, they switched rifles and tried it again. This time Brighton was a little faster and hit nine out of ten cards. Lucas could feel the tighter mechanism and shot just a little slower to get a feel for the new rifle. He missed three cards. The rifle did not feel anywhere near as good in his hands as his original. Brighton motioned to him to try it again. Lucas reloaded and Josh set up some more cards. This time, he hit nine out of ten. Lucas stood still and took aim. He put several bullets into the tenth card to get a better idea where this gun would hit. He asked Josh to put up some bottles further back. This amplified the difference and he was better able to see what he needed to do. The new rifle did hit a little to the left from the sight. He was used to his sight which was dead on. He asked Brighton if the sight could be adjusted to match. This could be done, and he took the rifle over to his tools and gave it a few minutes worth of fixing. They worked back and forth with the rifles until Lucas felt happy with the aim on both. It would take a few weeks of heavy use before the new rifle felt broken in for rapid firing. Each day would bring it closer to being ready for use in the show. Both men agreed that the original rifle would be refitted someday later on when the new rifle felt identical in Lucas’ hands.

Jack was, of course, watching all of this practice transpire. He spent most of the time near the back of the ever growing group of onlookers. His dark hair and Mexican garb made a great disguise and he grew confident of his ability to blend into the crowd. He only went up to the top of the church late in the day to see how things looked. Once most of the people left the gun range, he went back to his horse and brought out his Winchester rifle. He could see that several men were still there trying to hit the cards sideways. He also saw that several of the bottles were left at the one hundred foot rail. The sun was getting low in the sky and there was no glare from the glass. He couldn’t help himself and decided to give it a try. He timed his shot with the firing of the others at the range and hit one of the bottles. The men were startled, but figured one of them had hit it. This was a good test for Jack to see if anyone would notice his rifle noise from the top of the church. He waited for ten minutes and nothing happened. The day full of gunfire had everyone’s senses dulled to the noise. He tried it again with the same result. Not even the men at the range took notice. Jack was pleased at his marksmanship. He wondered just how far from the target he was. He got down from the roof and put his rifle away. After a brief time of waiting, he went back out to the front and walked off the distance from the church to the range. He stepped off three hundred and seventy three feet and added another one hundred and fifty for the entrance and range distance, which meant his shot had to be over five hundred feet. His practice sessions in the mountains paid off well. Jack walked around the street and then back to his horse behind the church. He bought himself dinner in a small cantina outside of town. Ideas of how to disrupt the show were dancing in his head.

Lucas met Aubry for dinner in the evening for their first time alone. It was a very special occasion for both of them. They found a nice place away from the busy hotel and enjoyed a pleasant meal. They had many things in common, especially ranching. Aubry knew cattle well and she loved what Lucas and Sam were up to in their partnership. Aubry grew up near Santa Fe and had been through Oklahoma with her husband in their early days. She explained that her son could run the ranch on his own if need be, but she found it comforting to remain working to this point. Her husband was yet another Civil War veteran who came to New Mexico to find a better life. They met in Santa Fe and were soon married. From that day, until his death, they lived an ideal ranching life. Lucas was very moved by her story and opened up to her about Margaret and having to raise Mark alone. By the time he finished Aubry knew that Lucas could be a good catch. She smiled and encouraged him to have some more wine.

“Lucas, I am so happy that we have come together. I find you most reassuring to be with after grieving for so long. I know I need to change that. Do you suppose we can have some more time together?”

“I would be very honored if you would like to visit with us in North Fork. And I would love to see your ranch before we are through in Santa Fe. But you do understand that I am set to do some traveling with this show in the near future.”

“Yes I do. And I wouldn’t assume that we could plan any further than the visits at this point. But I want you to consider that we could be a very good team in the future.”

“That thought has already crossed my mind. I had a feeling when I decided to ask you to dance. Something about your smile just captures me. There are so many things changing in my life of late though. I hope you can appreciate that I am still getting used to a lot of this. We should take some time before becoming serious.”
“I am not any different Lucas. I never thought that I would be in a position to ever meet another man. My husband and I were very close. I’ll be honest with you, I miss William more all the time. I may never get over his loss. I can’t promise you that same devotion.”

“I have to tell you the same thing. Margaret will always be number one in my heart. That is the reason why I haven’t been able to remarry after all of these years. I understand too well the heartbreak of an unexpected loss. But I do feel for you greatly. We can be good for each other if we are willing to be patient and take time to be sure. I’ll also tell you that the loneliness never gets better. The only thing that drove me on was my son.”

I’m very fortunate to have my son, he’s held me together so far. Daniel is very strong and devoted to the family way. I wouldn’t have made it without him and he looks out for me like a hawk.”

“I hope he can accept me if we decide to become serious.” We haven’t said much to each other at this point.”

“He will warm up to you, I’m sure of that. And what of your Mark? How does he feel about such things?”

Lucas couldn’t help but grin and chuckled a bit. “Heh heh, you only have to meet him for two minutes before you would know that answer! We only spoke on that subject several weeks ago. He has tried to pair me up many times over the years. He was always anxious for me to find a new love. It took me a long time to calm him down on this subject and I’m still not sure it has worked!”

“I see. I expect that an only son would be that way, especially with such a handsome father! Keep in mind that Daniel is also an only child. He is married and has two children of his own. He will understand how we feel. He hasn’t had that long to get used to his father being gone and it’s not much of an issue between us that I should find somebody new. But if this can work, it would free him to raise his family on the ranch without me watching over him the entire time. I can feel good about this from the start Lucas, maybe we were meant to be together somehow, things like this do happen you know.”

“Yes, I have seen the very thing happen between Will and Ann. I don’t have it in me to pursue a new love or compete for someone’s affection. But I do have it in me to love a woman who is ready and willing. Do you think you can be that woman?”
“I believe that I can be. There is no other that I am beholding to. I would never put anyone through those childish games. Are you willing to be the same for me?”
“Yes, I believe that I am. I had a long Chat with Margaret over Christmas. It was the first time that I went to her grave since I left Oklahoma. I felt something change in my mind that day. I want to love again.

“Well then, Lucas McCain, I am encouraged. I know it will take some time for the both of us to make any decisions. I want you to know that you can count on me. If things look good, I would even travel some with you. It could be a wonderful time.”

“I will give that some thought. I don’t exactly know what all of that would entail. I am making some commitments with the Winchester people after this show. But whatever that means, it won’t tie me down forever. I think we will have plenty of time to be together. I’d love for you to meet Mark someday. All of my clan will be very excited if they discover we are a pair. I hope you can handle that aspect. There are many back home that have wanted this to happen for me, but they are all great people and will love you endlessly.”

“I think that would be wonderful. I would enjoy meeting new people and getting out of this town for a while. I love Santa Fe, but it has been a very long time since I have traveled. So know that I am very receptive to that idea.”
“Very good then Aubry Canton we have a plan.” Lucas held up his wine glass and they drank to their new found love.

Battle Within A Young Gun - Chapter 23 — Ready, Aim, Fire!

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

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