Beginning to feel
desperate, Scott walked over to the pitcher of water on the chest nearby.
Carrying it back, he started to pour a thin stream onto the disheveled
black hair of his sibling. Seeing that the water was nearly ice cold, the
young man immediately sat up shouting in anger, but his sapphire eyes remained
As the water trickled
down across Johnny's cheekbones, Scott flung a towel in the other man's
face. "Johnny, I'm sorry I had to do that, but. . . ."
hands grabbed Scott by the collar. "You are a dead man, Boston. My head
hurts like hell and you come in here and try to drown me?"
"Sounds like you
must have had a good time at Val's birthday party last night," remarked
Scott in a cheerful tone.
"Ooooh, I think I'm
the one who's dead. How can anyone survive with a head like mine?" replied
the suffering man.
"You're going to
be suffering more if you don't collect Barranca and head up to the sawmill!"
"I don't have to go there, the buzzing's already in my head!" Sinking back down on the slightly wet pillow, Johnny tried to return to his painless oblivion.
"Johnny, do you want
me to go up to the sawmill for you? I guess we can trade jobs for the day."
The dark mop nodded
slightly, then a groan was heard, followed by a pathetic whisper, "Bless
you, Brother. You've saved my life."
"Okay but just remember
you owe me one. Murdoch will be back by noon so you'd better get up by
then and ready to help with the books."
"Sure, we were going
to do some accounting today--lots and lots of tiny little numbers in tiny
Johnny Madrid wrapped his slightly soggy pillow around his head and moaned dramatically.
Knowing that Teresa
would keep an eye on his brother, Scott headed out to the stable to collect
his horse. Then, he set off at a brisk trot.
An hour later Teresa
brought in a cup of steaming coffee to put down on the table beside the
bed. "Johnny, here's some coffee for you. Murdoch will be here in three
A muffled grunt was
her only answer.
After another hour
had passed, the brown-haired girl returned with another fresh cup of coffee
to replace the previous one. She thwacked the man in the bed with an extra
pillow. "Johnny! Murdoch will be here in two hours!"
This time there wasn't even a grunt.
At 11:00 AM, Teresa
made her last effort, She carried in a piece of freshly baked chocolate
cake and waved it under Madrid's nose. When the eyes didn't open and the
body didn't move, Teresa knew that she would have to tell Murdoch Lancer
that his younger son had sadly passed away.
Promptly at noon,
the tall rancher dismounted from his horse, walked into the kitchen and
inquired about the whereabouts of his sons. In a perfectly calm voice,
Teresa informed him that his older son had left for the sawmill. Seeing
the look of puzzlement on his lined face, the girl merely informed him
that there appeared to be a dead body in Johnny's bed--if her guardian
cared to check it out.
Scowling with displeasure,
the patriarch moved down the hall to his son's bedroom. As Teresa had said,
Johnny could have been mistaken for a sorry corpse had there not been echoes
of snores emerging from his lips. Standing there seething with anger, Murdoch
debated on which punishment he should inflict first. He had warned his
dark-haired son not to get stinking drunk at Val's party--and it was more
than obvious that he had disobeyed.
Suddenly, the snoring
took on a different tone as two bleary eyes opened and took in the tall
figure standing at the end of his bed. For one brief instant, Johnny devoutly
wished he had his gun at hand, but sadly he was defenseless and unprepared
to meet the wrath of an irate Scot.
However, the voice
which caressed his ear was not one of anger but of concern. "Teresa tells
me that you're a bit under the weather, John. How sad!"
Johnny blinked. His
eyes tried to focus on the big man. Yes, it actually was his father. "Uh,
I'm sorry. I guess I had too much whiskey last night."
Murdoch moved closer and then actually sat on Johnny's bed. "You should give up that rotgut and stick to a real man's drink--scotch. Now, why don't you drink some hot coffee and then go take a hot bath to sweat out some of the alcohol? Then we can talk."
The fearless gunfighter
"Yes. I'll tell you
about the time Jacob Cobb and I went on a three-day drunk. Oh no, maybe
I'd better skip that one. That was just after your mother left."
Johnny frowned. "Yeah,
I don't feel much like talkin' 'bout my mother."
"Oh, I understand.
Your stomach must be queasy. Maybe Teresa has some fresh biscuits. Those
will help. I'll go get them and the coffee. You just lie there and relax."
Johnny Madrid lay
there waiting for his father's return which did not take long. Carrying
in a tray with a mug of coffee and several biscuits, Murdoch deposited
them on Johnny's lap. "Eat up, Son. You need to keep up your strength."
For the next hour Murdoch kept up a running account of the times he had consumed too much hair of the dog. He had gently chided himself for his fondness for the potent beverage of his homeland. Since Johnny had never even seen his father indulge in more than a snifter of brandy, he could not imagine his father under the table.
At the end of the
hour, Murdoch encouraged his son to rise and take a long hot bath which
would prepare him to concentrate on the ranch books. Johnny had done so
and then returned, hair still damp from the bath. Telling his son to sit
in the chair at the desk, Murdoch had confidently smiled and then left
him to the books--all ten of them.
By dinnertime, the
gunfighter had made a dent in the tomes, but there was still much to be
done when Scott walked into the hacienda. The slender young man sagged
with fatigue, but he made an effort to smile when he saw his brother working
away. "Having fun, Brother?"
"Sure am, Boston.
Now, I can see why your grandfather is so fond of these things."
"Good. Maybe Murdoch will let you do them all the time?"
The look in the sapphire
eyes was priceless.
"Maybe Murdoch will
let him do what?"
The two brothers
glanced up at their father. "Johnny seems to like working with all those
Madrid growled, "I
only like certain types of figures!"
Murdoch focused on
the blond man. "I think you've got a good idea there, Scott. For the next
couple of months, at least, we'll make Johnny in charge of the books."
"Gee thanks, Boston!"
remarked the newly appointed accountant.
"No problem, Johnny.
Now, I think I'll go get cleaned up before dinner. Oh, by the way, Murdoch,
that cat that has been after the cattle is dead. I buried him near the
"Good. He's cost
us enough beeves. Well, go get cleaned up. Dinner will be ready in fifteen
minutes. Johnny, why don't you take a break now? You can continue after
"Did you say something, Brother?"
"Oh, go soak your
The blond walked
into his room, stripped off his shirt and began to clean the claw marks
that trailed down his arm. Coating them with salve, he then wrapped a bandage
around the area before putting on a clean shirt. It had been just another
eventful day at Lancer.