THE RIFLEMAN MEETS SHOTGUN JONES
This is fan fiction just for fun. I have no claims.
September, 1885/New Mexico territory.
"A rider is coming, Pa." Mark McCain says as he drops the load of firewood into the box by the stove.
"Recognize him, son?" Lucas McCain asks as he automatically looks to where his rifle is at the ready. This far from town, you couldn't be too careful when it came to strangers.
"Don't know him, but he's wearing a badge."
"Start on the breakfast dishes and I'll see what he wants."
McCain steps out of their small cabin and watches the approach of the unknown lawman. Lucas recognizes the badge as that of a deputy U.S. marshal, but he doesn't know the man. The stranger is tall, at least as tall as McCain's own 6 foot 6 inches, but he is about a dozen years older and around twenty pounds heavier. He has the weary look of a man who has travelled down too many long, rugged trails.
"Is this the McCain place?"
"That's right. I'm Lucas McCain."
"Then you're just the man I'm looking for." The marshal says as he dismounts. Lucas notes that instead of carrying a six shooter, this man has a stubby, sawed-off shotgun strapped to his leg in a custom made holster. Even the long gun on the man's saddle is a shotgun.
"What can I do for you?"
"Your town marshal recommended you to me as just the man I need to help with a problem I've got. My name is Jones, I'm a deputy United States marshal from out of Colorado, and I'm looking for a wanted man."
Jones hands over a wanted poster and Lucas reads aloud, "'Pierre Beaumont, native of New Orleans, wanted for murder and bank robbery. Reward of 500 dollars.' Sorry Marshal, but I haven't seen the man. You say Micah sent you my way?"
"Yeah, it seems Beaumont was in Northfork yesterday, left around noon headed south."
"Then why come to me?"
"Beaumont is an expert with a rifle. Before he deserted the army with a payroll box, he was the best sharpshooter they had."
"And you don't carry a rifle…?"
"Never have. Truth be told, I'm a lousy shot at long ranges, and only fair at short range. That's why I've always preferred a shotgun. But going up against a man like Beaumont, I realize I need a top notch rifleman. Your friend Marshal Torrance said you were the best in these parts and you have experience working as a lawman."
"I've been a deputy from time to time, and I've ridden with a few posses, but I'm mostly a rancher. This man Beaumont, has he committed any local crimes?"
"No, but five days ago he robbed a bank in Edwardville, Colorado. During the robbery his mask slipped and he gunned down the witnesses – three men and a woman. The men died right away, but the woman lingered for a few hours, just long enough to identify Beaumont as her killer. I've been hard on his heels ever since."
"I'd like to help you Marshal, but I have a ranch to take care of and a son to think of. Surely you can get help from local lawmen as you follow this man's trail."
Jones shakes his head. "He's avoiding most towns, travelling fast and headed for a hideout he has near the Kiowa tribal lands. He married a Kiowa half breed while he was in the army, and if he has to, he can live amongst them out of reach of the law. I have to get him before he slips through my fingers!"
Lucas notes the desperation in the man's voice. "This sounds personal."
"The woman he shot, the one who spent four agonizing hours dying, was my cousin Ruth. So yeah, this is personal."
"Are you planning to arrest the man, or just kill him for revenge?"
Jones shrugs. "I'd prefer to take him alive so that my elderly Uncle and Aunt can watch the hanging of the man who killed their only child, but I'm not married to that idea. What do you say McCain, will you help me? If we get Beaumont, one way or another, the whole reward is yours."
Lucas hesitates. It has been a rough year for the ranch and their finances are low. An extra five hundred dollars would regain the ground lost this year. "Alright Marshal, I can give you a few days of my time. Let me tell my son and I'll be ready to go in half an hour."
It was a long, hot day of hard riding that continued even after dark because there was a full moon. Finally they had to stop for the sake of the horses. They have been travelling cross country rather than following the winding road south, hoping to make up for lost time. There is little water to be found and that is why they have travelled with several extra canteens. It has been a quiet day as neither man is the talkative type, but as they devour beans around a small campfire, Lucas begins to wonder about his travelling companion…
"How long have you been a deputy marshal?"
"Where do you live?"
This time Jones ignores the question. Lucas is about to give up when he thinks of a subject that Jones might want to talk about.
"What was your cousin like?"
Jones stares into the fire and a brief smile crosses his face as fond memories come back to him. "She was a handsome woman despite spinsterhood and approaching middle age. Several men asked her to marry, but none of them seemed to suit her. Ruth liked working at the bank as a teller, liked going to dances and parties even though she wasn't one of those silly women who flirt all of the time, and most of all, she just enjoyed her life as simple and plain as it was. Ruth shared a house with her best friend Emily, the local school teacher, and those two ladies were happily headed toward a lifetime of peaceful friendship. That was cut off by a .44 caliber bullet in Ruth's gut."
Jones nods, fighting to control his emotions. "Get some rest. We leave in four hours."
The next day starts well before sunrise and now they are on the road south, having made up for a lot of lost time. Lucas expresses his concern that Beaumont might be waiting in ambush somewhere up ahead, but Jones dismisses the idea. He is certain their fleeing prey is headed for the Kiowa nation as fast as he can travel. By late afternoon they have reached the small town of Sagittarius, and to Lucas' surprise, Jones says they will stop for the night. They check into the town's only hotel, have a mediocre meal in the dining room and even play a couple of games of chess on a board Jones carries with him as he travels.
"You know, for a man who was in such huge hurry, you sure have relaxed."
"I was hoping we could catch Beaumont before he got this far, but he won the race. His wife, Eve, lives somewhere between here and the Kiowa lands. Being a half breed, she splits her time between the two. Problem is, few people know where Eve holds up, other than her cabin is somewhere west of here."
"But she comes into town sometimes?"
"A few times a year for supplies. Beaumont has…well, I wouldn't call them friends. 'Associates' that he does business with on occasion. If we can find one of them and persuade him to help, we still might get to Beaumont before he is out of our reach."
Sagittarius is the kind of town that has one of everything: one hotel, one livery stable, one general store but there are eighteen saloons. Lucas and Jones travel from one to another looking over the customers and occasionally asking questions about the local half breed woman, Eve Beaumont. Lucas notices that in every saloon they enter, someone always recognizes Deputy Marshal Jones. There are frequent, urgent whispers about 'Shotgun Jones', who has quite a reputation amongst the kind of men who choose to live so close to the border with Indian lands. As they walk between saloons, Lucas asks...
"Do you really go by the name, 'Shotgun'?"
Jones shrugs. "It's a nickname I picked up years ago and I've never objected to it because it seemed better than my given name."
With a grimmace he replies, "Tippecanoe."
Lucas can't help but chuckle, "Tippecanoe?"
"I was born the year William Henry Harrison was elected president, and that was his nickname. I guess my folks thought it was patriotic, but it never set well with me. 'Shotgun' may not be a great nickname, but I'll take it over what I was given."
They enter the next saloon and once again the hasty whispers go around the room. Several bar patrons turn away and a few look for a rear exit, but the bartender extends a loud greeting...
"Shotgun Jones, you old badge man, I can't believe it's you!"
Jones smiles. "Lefty Ryan? I heard you were dead."
"Nah, just a rumor friends spread to throw old enemies off my trail. Dang Shotgun, I haven't seen you in ten years - not since you, me and poor ol' Trooper took on the Hadley gang. That shoot out was the longest half hour of my life."
"Lefty, the shoot out didn't last more than three minutes."
"Three? Huh, I guess over the years I've been stretching the time with each retelling. What brings you to a town like this, Shotgun?"
Jones drops the wanted poster on the bar. "Know anyone who rides with this man?"
Lefty glances over to a far corner and Jones nods. He leads Lucas over to a couple of men who were clearly hoping to go unnoticed...
"McCain, meet the Harper brothers, Rob and Bob. Both are wanted men, but for fairly petty crimes. Rob there is the 'smart' one of the pair. You can tell by the fact he doesn't limp, unlike his brother Bob who shot off his own big toe practicing his fast draw!"
Lucas looks the two brothers over and is reminded of a couple of cornered rats. The one identified as Bob looks like he wants to run, but the other one all but snarls as he responds...
"What the hell do you want with us, Jones?"
"Well Rob, I'm looking for your old friend Pierre Beaumont, but I'd settle for knowing where his wife's cabin is hid."
"I haven't seen Pierre in years, and I got no idea where any of his wives live."
"He had three scattered about, the last I heard."
"This one is Eve, part Kiowa, lives in these parts."
"Like I said, no idea."
"How about you, Bob? Tell me what I want to know and I won't have to run you in for...let's see now, it was petty theft, vandalism, and being a Peeping Tom?"
Several men in the saloon laugh at the charges Bob Harper is facing, damaging the reputation he wants for being a true desperado. (Lucas realizes Jones is goading the man and guesses the Harper brothers face far more serious charges.)
"Th-that ain't funny, Marshal. I never..."
"Oh, and I forgot, there was a charge of lewd behavior. Something about you being naked in a public fountain while pleasuring yourself?"
This time the laughter is loud and sustained. Blushing furiously, Bob Harper swings for Jones' jawline, but the deputy marshal easily blocks the blow and punches Bob in the guts. Bob drops to his knees and begins to puke.
"That's assault on a federal officer. Take him, McCain."
"No one treats my brother like that." Rob Harper shouts as he backs away, his gun hand dropping to his revolver.
Jones shakes his head. "Rob...don't be a fool. This ain't worth dying over."
"I'm the fastest man in this county. There's no way you can draw that shotgun faster than my Colt."
Lucas, who has taken hold of Bob, is blocked from helping by the prisoner. It doesn't matter. Rob Harper draws his gun with all of the speed he boasted of, but the sawed off shotgun of Jones turns on a swivel rather than being drawn. The double blast throws Rob back ten feet to the wall and the man dies before his body completes sagging to the floor.
Dawn the next morning finds Lucas and Jones on an old Indian trail headed west. Hands tied to his saddle is Bob Harper as he reluctantly leads the two lawmen.
"How far is it to this cabin?" Lucas asks.
Bob replies, "It's twenty miles to the Kiowa lands, and Eve lives about halfway there. The Beaumonts have the only water between us and the Indians, and it's all open country. If you've heard about how good a shot Pierre is..."
"We've heard." Jones replies.
"Then you know he can pick off any rider that approaches from a good five or six hundred yards away. There's no sneaking up on this place, Marshal."
"Worried about us, Bob?"
"I just want to be sure you keep your word, Marshal. You killed my brother, and I'm the last of the Harper men. I got a mother and sister I need to take care of. Remember Marshal, you said you would let me go if I got you to the Beaumont cabin."
"I remember, Bob. I also recall your mother runs a bordello in Santa Fe, and your sister owns a gambling hall in Denver. You and your brother have been sponging off of them for years, so spare me the sad story of how you need to care for your womenfolk."
Bob Harper goes silent after that and the three men travel a half dozen miles before stopping for water. McCain and Jones replenish themselves and their horses, but Jones denies the prisoner and his horse any water from their canteens.
Bob protests, "This ain't fair! How long do you think me and my horse can last in this desert heat without water?"
Jones replies, "Long enough to get us to the cabin. This way you won't get it into your head to try to run off. When we get where we're going, then you can have all the water you want. McCain, are you ready to do your part?"
Lucas pulls his rifle from its' scabbard and nods. "I reckon we're going to find out if I'm a better shot than this Beaumont fellow."
"Keep your eyes open. The closer we get to the cabin, the more likely we will be meeting an ambush."
The three men start out again, Bob Harper still in the lead. They ride another couple of miles and just as they turn a corner of the trail a shot rings out. Somewhere up ahead, hundreds of yards away, Pierre Beaumont has made his presence known and Bob slumps over in his saddle. Jones grabs the reins of the prisoner's horse and the three of them make a mad dash for some rocks they have just passed. There is a second shot, but the fast moving men make for poor targets. Lucas gets to the rocks first, sees the lingering smoke from Beaumont's rifle and shoots a couple of times in that general direction. Meanwhile, Jones cuts the ropes that tied Bob Harper to his saddle and lowers the body to the ground. He confirms that Bob is dead and then joins McCain...
"Do you see him?"
"He's somewhere in the rocks up there off to the left. Harper...?"
"Is this why you had him in the lead?"
Jones nods. "I figured between the three of us, the one Beaumont would shoot first is any man who betrayed him. Damn, he really is as good as they say - that shot must have been six hundred yards. I wonder why he isn't shooting again?"
"I put a couple of bullets pretty close to his location. He realizes he's facing another skilled rifleman and is biding his time. If either of us gets careless and shows himself, the other one will get the shot."
"We could be here all day, and I'm not a patient man."
"Feel free to step out into the open. I'll get Beaumont after he shoots you."
"No thanks. Staying here is playing the game he wants. We'll ride back the way we came and take the long way around. With us gone, he will have to go back to his cabin to get his woman before heading for the Kiowa lands. We can come up on him from the southwest - at least that way the sun will be in his eyes."
"Even so, we will be riding into his gunsight. I don't like those odds."
"I always try to have a trick up my sleeve."
An hour later Jones and McCain, still leading the spare horse, cautiously approach the Beaumont place. They stop a quarter mile away...
"This is it. We can't get closer from any direction without being seen." McCain states.
Jones nods his agreement as he takes out a pair of binoclulars and studies the small house in the distance. It is made of white washed adobe with a red tile roof. To the north side of the house is a small corral, providing some shade for the three horses. Also along the north wall of the house is a large watering trough, and the spare horse gets a whiff of the scent and becomes restless.
McCain advises, "Hold him tight. He hasn't had naything to drink all day and if he gets the chance he will make a run for that water."
"I'm counting on it."
Jones removes from his saddlebag a dozen sticks of dynamite and ties them together in a bundle.
"Dynamite?" McCain asks in surprise.
"It comes in handy more often than you'd think."
Jones ties the dynamite to the saddle of the spare horse and attaches a very long fuse...
McCain gets the idea and protests, "You're planning to send that horse with the dynamite to the house? His wife is there. They might even have kids!"
"McCain, you see the reality of this situation. If we wait, Beaumont will slip away under the cover of darkness and we will never get him. If we approach the house, he will shoot us down. We need to get him to panic - to step out where you can get a clear shot."
Before Lucas can make a further protest, Jones lights the fuse and gives the horse a slap on the rump. With a brief whinny the horse immediately begins a run for the water in the distance...
In the small adobe structure, Pierre watches nervously, moving from window to window while wondering from which direction the lawmen will make their approach. He hears the sound of the horse and goes to the south window, but he hesitates when he sees the animal is riderless. One of the lawmen's horses has got away from them and is headed for the watering trough next to the house. Good - he can always use another horse, and now he knows from which direction the law is coming. Pierre takes aim down the sights of his rifle, waiting for the slightest bit of movement. Almost too late he notices out of the corner of his eye the bundle of dynamite with the burning fuse... Pierre glances over his shoulder and sees his wife holding their three year old daughter. That much dynamite will bring down the house on them!
Pierre runs to the door and throws it open. Too late to shoot the horse, it is already at the corral and is trying to reach the water through the rails of the fence. He has to get to the dynamite and throw it far away. Pierre manages two steps before the sound of the rifle reaches his ears, but already his body is spinning around from the impact of the bullet in his shoulder. Pierre drops to the ground and hears the scream of his wife, followed by the sound of rapidly approaching horses...
Jones and McCain arrive on the scene at the same time and quickly dismount. Jones, his shotgun at the ready, carefully approaches Pierre. Eve Beaumont starts toward her husband, but Jones warns her off with a motion. She returns to her daughter, who clutches a rag doll tightly while looking upon the scene with wide eyed curiosity.
"A clean shot through the right shoulder. Great shooting, McCain. With luck, this bad man will face the hangman's noose."
"Jones, the dynamite!"
Jones chuckles and goes to the horse that is still trying to reach the water on the other side of the corral fence. The marshal removes the bundle of dynamite - the burning fuse is now down to only a couple of inches. Jones removes the fuse and tosses it aside.
"Relax, McCain. I never attached a blasting cap. The fuse would have just burned itself out, and there would never have been an explosion."
Lucas breathes a sigh of relief, glad that his travelling companion isn't quite as recklessly dangerous as he feared, glad that they were able to get Beaumont without killing him, and very glad that he can soon return home to his son. McCain's thoughts are interrupted by the sound of crying from the little girl who has finally realized her daddy is hurt...
"A fine meal, Mark. You're getting to be almost as good of a cook as me."
McCain's teenage son grins in appreciation of the compliment. "It sure is good to have you home, Pa."
"And it's good to be back."
"Too bad Marshal Jones couldn't stay for supper. I was hoping to hear a few stories from him about all he has done. While you were gone, Micah told me about the reputation of 'Shotgun Jones'."
"He was in a hurry to get his prisoner back to Colorado. Besides, a man like Jones isn't the type to sit around and brag. It goes against his nature."
"What did you think of the marshal, Pa?"
Lucas hesitates a moment. "A hard man who lives a hard life. He's the type who will find change difficult to take, but if he lives long enough, it will be forced on him. That's the way it is as you start to get old and the world you knew fades away."
"He sure didn't understand why you decided to send that reward money to Beaumont's wife."
"Do you, Mark?"
Mark nods. "We had a rough year, but we're still doing okay. I guess knowing Beaumont is going to hang and will leave behind a wife and young daughter reminded you of when Ma died and I wasn't much older than the Beaumont's little girl. I think you did the right thing, Pa."
Lucas smiles. "Thank you, son."
"For what, Pa?"
"For growing into the kind of man I will always be proud of."