Meddlesome Trouble (1)
by  Becks


Note:  Once more writing from the heart.  No research or animals were hurt in the process of my first attempt to write a chapter series. Please excuse my mistakes.  



Chapter One

Yup, those two have had their disagreements, but when it comes to taking care of their own, they are the first to take a bullet for one another.

It was early, but waiting was always easier at the saloon.  As they waited for the stage to arrive delivery their two precious cargos, they refreshed themselves with one beer.  Val and Johnny were sitting at their usual corner table. Scott was standing at the bar with a hand from another ranch having a carefree conversation about herding cattle.  The day was gorgeous, the air was breezy and their mood was good.

Val had been waiting for the stage for a different reason and thought it acceptable to wait with his friends.  It was getting closer to their time frame when three vaqueros walked into the saloon.  Johnny and Val immediately glanced at each other.  Scott shifted his stance and whispered something to the hand.  Slapping the man on the shoulder and bidding him farewell, Scott grabbed his beer and started to walk and join his brother. 

One of the vaqueros had a sudden need to get in Scotts way.  Bumping into him and making Scott spill some of the beer on his pants, the stranger threw his arms up and then called Scotts attention to the mishap.  "Oye hombre (man), look at what you have done.  Are you too drunk to take a few steps?  I do not like them smelling of 'cerveza' (beer)." 

Scott took a few steps back.  "Forgive me. I do apologize for my clumsiness."  With that he turned to continue.  "Hey muchacho, you do not just walk away from me."  Johnny had already undone the safety strap on his holster and was readying himself to stand.

Scott noticed this.  "Señor, please, I insist that I buy you and your friends a drink in an effort to avoid any more… misunderstanding.  I am sure a fine caballero such as yourself can forgive a gringo's unsteady walk."  He mentally crossed his fingers because he did not want his brother in any gunfight.

"Muy bien (very well), you are a fancy talker."  He nodded sizing Scott up and down.  "Si, fine.  We will accept your offer."  With that the vaqueros walked over to the bar.

"Miguel, por favor, serve these men anything they want.  I'll pay for their drinks."  Scott offered these instructions as he finally made it to Johnny's table.  He sat and took a deep breath.  "What was that all about?"

"They're up to something.   He was checkin' ya' out, to see if you were a threat to their plan, be careful Boston.  Let me interfere if need be, got it?"  Johnny was on full alert as was Val.

The men drank and gave a signal with their eyes, then started towards the doors. 

Johnny and Val exchanged the same eye signals as well.  Val stood up to walk outside.  Johnny followed. "Come on Boston time to become a threat."

They heard the stage turning the corner.  Val was now leaning against the post.  Johnny stood opposite of him, hat down low and stance ready for anything.  Scott stood a few steps away from Johnny. 

The stage came to a halt right in front of the lancer men.  "Follow my lead Scott. We need to get Murdoch and Teresa inside somewhere safe. 'K?"  He stepped down the boardwalk, approaching the stage.

The stage door opened and Murdoch stepped out.  "Boys!  It is so good to finally arrive."

Johnny was the first to approach his father.  He placed his hand on Murdoch arm.  "Hey there Old Man, glad you're back.  We missed you."  The tone of his voice was very calm.

Murdoch greeted his youngest by responding to the touch by patting his shoulder and smiling at him then he tried to move towards Scott, but Johnny did not realize his grip.  Murdoch stared at him curiously, but Johnny just led him over to Scott and suggested him to take them to Baldomero's and pick up 'their surprise'.  Scott took Johnny place and welcomed Murdoch as he grasped his arm; meanwhile, Johnny quickly carried Teresa off the stage and swung her over next to Murdoch.  "Hey girl missed you.  Heard there is a big surprise at Baldomeros.  Better hurry Scott. We don't want Mrs. Baldomero selling it right from under us.  I'll get the luggage."  He gently guided Teresa over to Scott's other side.

Murdoch immediately knew something was wrong and tried to stop Scott. "Murdoch, sir, let's have a talk about 'your trip' over at the Baldomeros where we don't have too many people around to eaves drop.  We don't want to give away any family business secrets now do we?"  He's eyes told him all he needed to know.

"Sure son, come on honey let's go see what these boys have in store for us.  John, we'll be waiting for you."  He wanted to snatch his son up and drag him with them, but Madrid was in charge now, so he knew better. 

Val stood at attention and on high alert.  Johnny took the luggage down, while scanning the area.  Both had already spotted three of the vaqueros and suspected that most likely there were more, high up, either on a rooftop or somewhere else.  Placing the luggage on the wagon, he leaned in and waited.

Murdoch, Scott and Teresa entered the Baldomeros.  Mr. Baldo had been preparing for a potential shot out, as he had sighted those men riding in.  He instructed his wife to take Teresa to the back of the store and handed Murdoch a rifle.  Closing the doors behind him, "Lock them!" Scott quickly walked over closer to Johnny and Val.  The wait began.

The stagecoach driver had finally removed every piece of luggage and all that remained was a case, big and ready for the taking.  The bank owner was babbling on without the slightest inclination of what was about to conspire.  He was instructing his clerks to carry the case over to the bank vault.  One jumped onto the stage while the other reached up to help carry the case down.  Johnny shrugged his shoulder. 'Leave it to a dumb ass to not show up with armed guards.  Serves them right if their loot gets stolen.'

He glanced over to Val who was signaling him to look up at the hotel's second level window. 'One down, how many more?'  Johnny nodded. 

A vaquero started to make his way towards the clerks, shuffling slowly; the other two separated and positioned themselves between the stagecoach and the bank; Val stepped off the boardwalk and Johnny crossed the street looking up as he strutted.  Reaching the other side, he stepped up onto the boardwalk and placed his hand on his gun's handle.  Looking up ever so slowly, he spotted another shooter. 'Got ya'.'  He whistled to signal Val.  Val casually took two steps out, stretched his neck, glanced up, and spotted the man on the roof.  He stretched out his arms signaling Johnny that he had gotten the message.

Time to rumble.  When the first vaquero reached the clerk, he leaned in and whispered something to him. The look on the clerks face was a clear indication that it might have been. 'Drop the case or die.'

The clerk slowly lowered the case and let loose, but the other clerk held his grip.  One of the other men noticed the delay and he walked up to the second clerk.  He stood real close to him.  Suddenly, the stubborn clerk jerked when a particular motion from the second man forced him to release his hold.  At first that clerk stood still, then he slowly fell to his knees while clutching his side.  The first clerk watched his friend fall face first onto the dirt and then took off running.

The man knelt down and wiped his large knife on the dead mans shirt. "Pendejo, should 'a done what was expected. Vamos (come on) Jesus, grab the case, rapido(quickly)." Jesus did just that, while the other pulled out his gun to guard him. 

Upset at the delay, the third vaquero headed towards the bank. It seems that the five vaqueros felt it necessary to not only steal the case and it's contents, but they intended to rob the bank as well.

Once more the banker had no idea of what was transpiring.  He was in a hurry to open the bank and get the case in the vault.

The first two vaqueros were now fast pacing their way to the bank.  Val ran up to the clerk lying on the ground.  Johnny had his back.  Val checked his pulse and bowed. "Damn kid."

Keeping his face down to appear like a bystander.  He made his way to the side of the building heading to the bank through the back alley.  Pulling his gun, he quietly snuck up behind the man that was about to make his way into the bank. 

"Hombre, I really do suggest that you drop that gun of yours or your guts are gonna be decorating this here street your standing on.  Get my meaning, Senor?"  Val told the banker to get inside and lock himself up.

They stood there,  "Tu y quien, carbon? (you and who else) Do you think you can stop us now?  You seem to be… let's say, out numbered, Cherife!"  He turned his body boldly facing Val.  "Andale (come on), shoot it you dare."  He smiled knowing that two sharp shooters were waiting for his signal. The vaquero pointed his gun at Val.  Val just smiled at him fixing his eyes into a menacing stare.  "Oh, I dare." and he shot.  The man fell forward and down as he started to decorate the street."   All hell broke loose.

Val ran for cover then he saw a flash of silver studded pants run past him and heard more shooting.  Val turned, shot towards the roof.  Johnny slanted his body, shot towards the window of the hotel, not stopping his stride; he turned, aimed and fired again at the man carrying the case. Down went Jesus, while his partner ran behind the buildings.

Val yelled at Johnny, "Go after him!"  His friend disappeared from sight. 

Scott was now standing next to Val.  "What the hell was that all about?" His sights on the bank, he noticed the bankers bulged eyed expression smeared against the window looking out. "Dumb-ass!"

Kicking the dead man, Val placed his hands on his waist. "Damn fools thought they'd have easy pickin' in my town."   He signaled his deputy over.  "Go check on the other shooters."

Scott turned his attention back to Val. "Val, where's Johnny?  I don't see him anywhere.  Val?"  Val was searching with his eyes in the direction of the alley.  "Last I saw of him, he was aiming that way after one of them hombres.  Com' on let's go find 'em."

They both started their stride when they heard a gun shot.  Now running, they came to an abrupt halt when they saw Johnny walking out of the alley. They sighed. "Thank God." Scott turned when he heard his father running towards them.  "Is everyone OK?"  Murdoch was out of breath.

The three men looked at Johnny as they noticed him raise a right bloody hand, place it on the wall he was now leaning heavily against it.  Then he started to slide down, slow.

"God NO, Johnny."  Murdoch ran to his son's aid.  "Scott, go get Sam and hurry."  Scott wanted desperately to run to his brother, but obeyed and took off faster than a jackrabbit running from an eagle.

Reaching Johnny, Murdoch wrapped his arms around him offering some support.  "Son, son?  Please…  "  Johnny looked up at him.  "Hey Murdoch, welcome home."  And he was out.


Chapter Two

"Johnny, John… come on son.  Johnny Lancer, wake up."  Feeling a light pat on his cheek, Johnny started to flutter his eyes open.  "He shouldn't have lost consciousness over this.  Come on Johnny.  You're fine, let's get those eyes open."  Sam patted his cheek once more.

"Ok, Ok… their open. Quit slapping me, will ya'." He barely had his eyes open, just a fraction.  "Um, my head hurts.  What hit me a… a bull?"  He closed his eyes again.

"No Johnny there weren't no bull in the alley." Val responded. "But I would like ta' know what hit ya'.  Doc, I thought it was only the knife wound?"  Val questioned the doc.

"Relax Johnny, let me take a look at your head.  I don't see any blood."  He moved his hands gently around Johnny skull.  "Ooh, here it is a big size lump is starting to develop behind your left ear.  Bet that hurts, huh?"  Doc turned Johnny's head to examine it more carefully.  "I missed it with all that hair covering it and you're lucky the blow did not cut open. Here let me take a better look."  He poked and Johnny grimaced at the touch.  "Yes sir, any harder Johnny my boy and you would have been bleeding all over your favorite shirt."

"Hey doc, ya' trying to get me to pass out again.  Careful there, it hurts like the dickens."  Johnny flinched. "One thing I know for sure is that it was more than one blow.  It felt like they hit me twice.  The first one just disoriented me, but the second one almost had me taking a dive to the ground.  I managed to steady myself a bit, for a while anyway. At least enough to get me to the street."

"Wanna tell me what you 'member, amigo."  Val leaned in real close to Johnny's head to look at the bump.

"Wanna tell me why you're so damn close to me.  Last I heard you were the Sheriff not a doctor."  He waved him away.  "And I need to think about it for a bit.  It's kind of fuzzy."  He tried to get up.  "OK, guess I'll just lay here some more."

"Take it easy son.  Sam put some careful stitching when he sewed up your side and now with that lump, we don’t' want you falling over.  Just relax and get your bearing."  Murdoch rested his hand on Johnny's shoulder.

"Hum, 'K."  He placed his hand on his forehead. "Val?"  He inquired. 

"Yeah, bud? Val stayed close to his amigo.

"Val, I think there might have been more than five vaqueros."  He paused and traced his stitches. "I remember coming across the man I was chasing as he was mounted on his horse, but then I felt a sharp pain on my side."  He paused to catch his breath. "When I turned I could 'a sworn it was an Indian with a very big knife.  I hit him good, Val, that's when I got hit."  He shifted attempting to get up. 

"Hold still Johnny.  I'll help ya'." Val reached over to assist him.  "There, better?"

"Yeah, thanks. I'll just sit here until the room stops spinning. Give' me a minute will ya'?"  He sat trying to control the nausea.  Murdoch had the basin ready.  "I'm ready John, should you need to… "

"Yeah Murdoch, 'preciate it.  'M good, for now." He was controlling his breathing. 

"Amigo, did you shot and hit one of them hombres?"  Val wanted more information and was trying to get his friends attention away from the nausea.

"No… no I didn't, but…  I did hear a shot.  Thought it was you at first."  He frowns and shifted his head to the left.  "Ok.  Give me a sec."   His eyes were now open.  He was trying to remember.

"You know, there was someone else.  Only it wasn't a man." They stared at him questionably.  "Amigo, are you OK?"  Val doubted he heard right.

"Yeah Val. I am OK.  I heard the shot as I was trying to regain my balance, I glance over to where the shot rang out and I swear I saw a skirt disappearing down the other side of the building."  He looked at Val.

They had a doubtful expression on their faces now.  "I ain't crazy!  Oh, shit. Shouldn't 'a shouted."  He closed his eyes.  "I know what I saw." He murmured this time.

"Which way did the 'skirt' disappear ta'?"  Val continued the inquiring.

"Behind the building…  the seamstresses shop."  He started to stand.  "Could have been her Val."  They helped him stand.  "Thanks.  I'm fine now.  Don't feel like puking anymore and the room is now still."  He took a few steps.

"I still want you to take it easy John.  You know getting hit in the head can have after affects, got it?"  Doc instructed.

"Yeah, yeah doc. I got it.  Been getting it from you for a while now.  Thanks. Val do you need me to go to your office?"

"No buddy, you go home and rest.  I'll be asking around.  Maybe I can find that 'skirt' and she can shed some light on the two that got away."  Val gently patted him on the back.  "If I need some more information I'll ride over to the ranch.  And Johnny thanks for your help.  Sorry ya' got hurt."

"Hey Val.  I'd do it again.  You know I got your back, compadre."  He started to walk.  His family next to him for support, "Johnny, Teresa is waiting outside on the wagon over so you can ride in the back."  Scott held his arm and guided him to the door.

"No, I ain't riding on a wagon.  Where's Barranca?"  He huffed. 

Murdoch was quick and helped steady Johnny's staggering walk. "No son you 'ain't' riding on Barranca and you are riding in the wagon!"

"Sorry little brother, but father and Sam know best."  Scott just grinned at his brother facial expression.

"See ya' later doc.  I need to go home now… in the wagon."  He winked his eye at the man who has saved his life more than once.


Chapter Three

Johnny wanted to remember the details of the get away or the woman he thought he saw.  'Skirt, who are you?'  He lay in the back of the wagon and closed his eyes for a moment to avoid the nausea from returning.  The wagon had trailed out some when he opened them and saw a figure standing in the middle of the street.  It was too far to make out the face, but the figure was that of a woman.  "Skirt!"

He couldn't move fast enough to ask Murdoch to stop.  His attempt caused a wave of dizziness followed by a sharp pain behind his ear.  All he could do was to lie back down and close his eyes. 'Next time Skirt, not now, but I'll find you.'

She stood there smiling as the wagon drove out. She did manage to see Johnny lost effort to stop the wagon.  Shaking her head ever so slightly, she turned and disappeared, once more.  "Till next time Johnny Madrid. Till next time."


Chapter Four

"Now ma'am.  I ain't saying that you were a part of the attempted robbery.  All's I wanna know is if you happen'd to be outside, in the back of your shop, and maybe saw somethin'." Val kept running his hand through his hair trying to control his temper with the seamstress.

She was very appalled.  "I really do not understand why you find it necessary to harass me over something that I had no part of.  Really sheriff, don't you have some clumsy scoundrel to arrest instead of standing here wasting mine time.  Do I look like a criminal that would stoop to robbery?  Well I like to inform you that I, unlike you, have deadlines to meet.  The mayor's wife is waiting for her dress and the Baldomero's expect me to sew two dresses for their store.  I also have to finish some curtains for the Andrews.  Can't see how I could have possibly had time to be in the back alley, robbing or shooting Johnny Lancer no doubt, and wasting my time, as I am now doing so by listening to your false accusation.  Imagine me hiding and abetting some criminals. Go ahead sheriff, look… go ahead look inside my shop.  I don't hide harden criminals.  Oh my God!  Do you think that I have the habit of hiding strange men in my shop?  SHERIFF, how dare you think of me as that kind of woman?  Well, rest assure that I will complain to the mayor about your insolence and disrespectful…  "

Val just nodded at every false statement and then took in a deep breath.  "LADY, PLEASE SHUT UP!"  He gave her a look of death.  "I ain't accusing you of anythin' except maybe being a pain in the ass.  Now excuse me I have to finish my duties as a sheriff!"  He waved his fist and pointed a finger at her. "And you're damn lucky I don't arrest ya' for disturbing MY peace!"  He turned and walked off, mumbling insults and cuss words.

All he heard was,  "WELL, I NEVER!" 

"Yeah, I bet your ain't never… "  He walked into the saloon.  "Miguel I need a double."

"Having fun there, Val?"  He heard a chuckle.  Turning around he saw Scott standing at the door.

"What the hell are you doing here Scott? Ain't ya' suppose to be tending to your brother?"

"Well on the way to the ranch, we were discussing the events that unfolded and we both agreed that it be best if I came back to assist you."  Scott nodded at him and tipped his hat.

"Yeah and just how ya' gonna help out Scott."  He went to sit.  "Are you going to draw me a reenactment?"

"No, but if you feel that is what you need then I guess I could, but I must warn you that I am not the artistic one in the family.  Johnny is.  I could request it of him."  He smiled at Val frustrated level.

"Damn Scott. I ain't found that "skirt" Johnny mentioned."  He glared at the door.  "I did however come real close ta' shooting my first woman."  He drank his beer.  "I looked over the area Johnny was stabbed.  I found some more blood."

"Well, Johnny did bleed some."  Scott was baffled. "So it is most likely that there be blood."

"Alright smarty pants.  I mean someone else's blood."  He shook his head. 

"And how did you arrive at the conclusion that the blood was someone else's?"  Scott was not aggravating the hell out of Val.

"Look, did ya' come here to piss me off or ta' help?"  Val stood up.  "Come on.  Let's go look and sort this out."  They walked out and headed to the alley where Johnny was hurt.

Scott saw the area Val was referring to.  "Yup, I might have to agree with you on this one Val."  He started to walk towards an open area leading further back.

"Well, what do you think Harvard?"  Val knelt down by a spot of blood looking up at Scott.

Scott slanted his head and just ignored Val's 'Harvard' comment, but he did think of it. 'Great, first I get called 'Boston' from Johnny and now 'Harvard' from Val.  Didn't think getting an education from a prestige area was going to be a nuisances.'

He just removed his hat and wiped his brows with his sleeve.  "One definitely got shot.  The blood stops here where's there are hoof prints."  He looked over to the open area.

"Yup, the trail leads south away from town.  Followed it some, then I stopped." Val stood up and scratched his head.  "Well at least we agree that one of 'em got shot. Ya' up to some tracking Scott?"

They walked back toward their horses without realizing that someone was eavesdropping. The skirt just ruffled her way out of sight.  'Time to change into my riding outfit and go visit a friend.'


Chapter Five

"I'm not going to bed!  There ain't nothing wrong other than some stitches and a bump on the head."  He stood his ground, right by the front door, arms crossed, waiting to see what his old man would do next.

"I give up son.  You win this time, but… " He stared right into his eyes, hard.

'Oh, shit, here comes the but.' Johnny stared right back, just as hard.

"YOU ARE NOT LEAVING THIS HOUSE!"  With that he turned and went into the Great room and sat behind his desk.

"FINE… I AM NOT LEAVING THIS HOUSE!"  With that Johnny turned and went into the kitchen.  'Ok, I am not leaving the house.  What a dumb ass.  Now what?'

Teresa walked in behind Johnny and saw him standing there arms crossed staring down to at the floor.  "Johnny?  Want to help me unpack some things I bought for the house? I got you a present."

He didn't move. "A present huh.  Big or little?"  He turned on his heel with a grin that made Teresa's heart skip a beat.  "Oh, you'll see.  Come on."

While he watched her unpack, he walked around fumbling with little trinkets she had on her dresser.  "Guess I am under house arrest.  I need to figure out a way to go help Val and Scott."  He played with a figurine.  "Girls really like this stuff, huh?"  He held it up, squinted his eyes and studied it a bit, then placed it back down.  'I just don't get women and their things.'

"Here you go Johnny."  He turned and closed his eyes to the surprise.  "OK, let me have it."  He reached out his hands.  "Uu-whee, soft to the touch, light and smells good. You sure do know my taste little lady."  He went to kiss her cheek.  "The way I get into trouble, I really need more shirts, but this one here is a real beaut.  Think I'll save it for a very special occasion."  His drawl was soothing and kind.  "Thanks T."

"Yes. well I figured I'd help us both out.  It sure beats me pricking my finger every time I try to mend your torn shirts." 

"You are the best." He hugged her.  "Guess I'd better go down and discuss my house arrest situation with Murdoch, unless you really need me to help you unpack your girlie things."  Grinning and lifting his eyebrows, he looked at one of her lingerie in the suitcase.

She threw one of her blouses at him as he swayed his hips and danced he way out of her room, holding his new shirt up in front of his chest, laughing.

Murdoch was not in the great room.  'Guess he's in his room unpacking as well.'

Johnny went to his father's room.  Sure enough there he was slowly unpacking as if deep in thought. Johnny knocked and waited. 

"Johnny, please come in. What can I do for you son?"  He continued to fold his clothes.

"Need help there, Murdoch?"  He picked up a pair of pants. 'Damn they're long and big.'  He held them up to his body and placed them under up his chin.  He moved his head back and forth amused at the size of his father's pants.  When he looked up, he noticed his father had a huge grin. 

"Want to try them on?"  Murdoch mused and continued to put his clothes away. Johnny handed him the pants then jumped on the bed, which caused him to grimace at the pain on his side.

Murdoch caught the reaction.  "John?"  He waited.

"I'm alright.  Just tend to forget that I got hurt."  He laid back placing his hands behind his head and once more contorted at the pain when he touched the lump.

'Oh hell, I give up. Home it is.'  He closed his eyes started wondering about Val and Scott and 'Skirt'.

Murdoch quietly kept arranging his items.  When he finished, he glanced over to his bed and noticed that his son had fallen asleep.  'Thank God.'  He covered him with a blanket and then decided to sit and read a book in order to monitor Johnny for any ill effects the head wound might have caused.


Chapter Six

Scott dismounted his horse and stepped up to examine some tracks on the ground.  He picked up some dirt and moved it around his fingers.  On one knee, he looked up trying to figure out which way those vaqueros had gone.  Just as he was getting ready to stand, Val, who was hunched over right behind him, startled him.

"So tell me white man, which way did they go?  What did the dirt tell you?"

Val laughed and stood up.

"Guess they're heading south west."  Scott went to mount his horse.  "Come Ole Wiseass.  Follow me." He chuckled a bit.  "They might be heading towards Lancer, only they seem to be taking the long way."

Val was now concerned.  "Might want to finish what they started.  I don't like it Scott.  We'd better high tail it fast and get a jump on them."

Meanwhile, another rider was one step ahead of them.  She was nearing her destination.  Stopping her horse, she sat there looking down on the valley.  "Beautiful place.  He is one lucky SOB."  She moved on. 

Riding under the Lancer arch she steadied her ride.  Eyes were on her as she drew closer to the hacienda.  Murdoch had now moved into the Great room after making sure that Johnny was not under any stress.  Cip walked in.  "Señor a rider approaches, a female rider."  He headed out with Murdoch in tow.

They stood under the porch watching her approach.  "Gentlemen."  She dismounted.


Chapter Seven

"Good evening Ma'am.  Is there anything we can help you out with?"  Murdoch was being his usual polite self.

"Well… " She dusted herself off.  "Yes you can Mr. Lancer.  I am here to see one of your sons."  She walked up closer and smiled.  "Johnny, is he home?"

"May I inquire as to the nature of your visit with my son, Miss…?"  Murdoch was apprehensive.

"It's a personal matter Mr. Lancer.  Once I finish my visit with him, he may share it with you if he pleases.  Now, sir, is he home or not?"  She seemed bothered by his nosy attitude.

Well, Miss…" Murdoch waited to see if she'd provide him with a name; she didn't.  "My son had an accident in town earlier and is now resting per doctors order.  I will not be waking him up."  He firmly stated.

Now she was getting upset and placed her hands on her waist, looked down and thought for a few seconds before talking.  "Look here Mr. Lancer, I know he was injured and the how.  As a matter of fact, I was there when it happened."  She glared at him, waiting.

It dawn on him who she was. "So you're the  'skirt' he saw leaving."  He took a deep breath.  "Thank you for intervening on my sons behalf.  Your shot saved his life.  Please come in and make yourself comfortable while we… visit a bit."  He motioned her to enter the house.  "Cip, please take her horse to the barn for a rest."

She hesitated at first, but followed him in.  She stood in the entry hall and took a good look around.  Murdoch led her to the Great room and offered her a seat and a drink.

She sat in front of the huge desk and took in the size of the hacienda and the luxurious furniture.  She was in awe. 'Damn lucky SOB.  Don't know if I can go through it now.  He might have changed with all of this…'  She looked around some more.  Her indecisiveness made her want to get up and leave, but Murdoch walked in with a cup of coffee for her. 

"Now Miss…" He tried once more to get a name and waited as he handed her the cup.

"Oh, forgive me Mr. Lancer.  My name is Carissa, Cari Garcia."  She took the coffee cup.

"Well, Ms. Garcia, again I want to thank you for helping Johnny out.  Have you known him long?"  He sat in the chair next to her.

'Persistent old man, isn't he.'  She smiled.  "Actually, I don't know him at all, but someone I care about does."  She drank her coffee.

Murdoch shifted in his chair.  'No doubt, a person from his past, this could mean trouble.'

"Well is there anything else I can get for you Ms. Garcia?" 

"Mr. Lancer, please call me Cari.  Thank you, but I do not need anything else.  You've been kind."  She felt anxious.  They heard some noise coming from the stairs.

"OK, Murdoch, I guess you can tell me 'I told you so'.  Go on let me have it.  I gotta admit, I feel better, some."  Johnny walked into the Great room buttoning his shirt and stretching his neck. 

Murdoch stood as his son entered the room.  "John, you have a visitor."  He signaled with his hand toward Cari, who stood up next to him.

Johnny stood there looking at the girl.  Not recognizing her, he looked over to Murdoch.  "Yeah, a guest huh.  Does this guest have a name?"  He started to walk up to them not removing his sights from her.

"Yes, son, this is Carissa Garcia.  I am sorry, but I don't now anymore about her, only that she came to see you.  So with that, if you'll excuse me, I'll go to the kitchen to see about dinner.  Miss…I mean Cari." He nodded and started to leave.

Johnny walked closer and stood a few feet from her, expressionless, he waited for her to speak.

"Johnny, I need to tell deliver a message."  She squinted at his expressionless face. " The message is from someone you know."  Still no response from him, she started to get fidgeting.  "Look, maybe this was a mistake.  I should just leave you and your comfortable new home.  We'll figure it out.  Sorry!"  She started to walk when he stepped in front of her to block her way.

"Sit…  please."  He bowed his head.  "A friend?"  He looked at her.

"Yes, a friend who saved your life once and now needs your help."  She sat and whispered.  "We, I, just didn't expect… to see that you had found such good fortune, here at Lancer and…well, he would never want you to jeopardize what you've have here.  So I have decided it is best if I just leave and tell him I did not find you."  She started to stand.

"Sit… please."  He sat next to her.  "Why don't you just tell me what you came here to say and I'll decide if it is worth my interest to help.  Regardless of my good fortune, I tend to help out my friends, my real friends." He just nodded his head.

Murdoch entered the room.  "Son, I am sorry for interrupting, but dinner is ready.  Cari you will be joining us am sure."  He stood there with concern on his face.

"Oh no Mr. Lancer, I don't…"  Johnny interrupted her.  "Yeah Murdoch, she'll be joining us and she'll probably be staying the night."  He handed her his hand to guide her up to the dinning table.

"Fine, Johnny.  I'll tell Teresa to fix up the guest room and then…" They heard some horses and walked to the door.  Stepping out, they saw that it was Val and Scott. They all walked out to greet them.

"Hey Boston, you OK?"  Johnny noticed a strange expression on his big brother.

"Yeah, little brother.  We're fine.  Can we take our conversation inside?"  He dismounted and looked around.  Val just followed them in.


Chapter Eight

'Ok, the door is shut and everyone is inside, safe.'  Scott released a strong breath.  "M-m-m-m, smells good, huh, Val?"  He walked over to the dinning table.  "Guess we made it in time for dinner Val.  Let's go wash up."  He tilted his head towards the kitchen.

"Ah, sure Scott.  Let's go wash up together, in the kitchen, together, because we sure are dirty!  Be right back, Mr. Lancer, Johnny and ma'am."  Val just followed Scott out.

"I am guessing that they have something very important to tell us, but need to get their story straight."  Johnny just slanted his head and looked at Murdoch.

"We'll see son, this day is just getting better.  Good reason to sit and eat before I pass out from all this stress."  He sat and waited.

Scott and Val walked back in and took their spot.  Scott looked at Cari.  "Johnny are you going to introduce us to your guest?" Introductions were made and dinner was finally started.

Dinnertime went by quiet and fast.  Nobody wanted to talk about what was on his or her mind, yet.  Scott wanted to discuss the problem with Murdoch and Johnny immediately, but not in front of Teresa and Cari.  He needed to formulate a plan of action to protect Johnny from the two remaining outlaws, but he did not want to scare the girls.

Johnny would share his information, if he knew anything, but decided to talk to Cari alone, later.  He was more anxious to hear from Val and Scott.

Finally, after dinner and a drink in the Great room, Teresa was in tune with the men needing to be left alone.  She asked Cari to join her in her quarters to talk about girl things.  Cari was hesitant, but was also aware that the men had some other business to tend to, so she agreed and went with Teresa.

"Ok, brother, get is said.  What's the problem?"  He walked up to Val and patted him on the shoulder, then turned to face Scott.

"It seems our fugitives are on their way to Lancer.  We can only assume that they want to finish what they started."  Scott looked at his brother, who just looked down and shook his head.  Murdoch on the other hand started to pace the room. 

"Are you sure Scott?  Val?"  Murdoch asked as his temper was rising.

"Now Mr. Lancer, we ain't sure about anything except dying."  He regretted his choice of words. "I mean, we can only assume cuz we saw their horse print heading this way.  They seemed ta' be taking the long way, but I'd bet my dollar, that they want revenge."

"Yes, you are right.  That was to have been a big heist if they had succeeded.  I can see how they might want revenge."  He stopped his pacing and rubbed his chin.

"Johnny, I don't want you near any window or going outside."  He looked hard at Johnny.

"Murdoch, I don’t'…."  He was stopped cold by his father words. 

"Son, I just got home after two long weeks of traveling.  I see you get hurt, get the hell scared out of me, I watched you sleep checking for any delayed signs of your head injury.  I welcome a stranger in to our house because she needs to talk to you about something that she can't share; something I fear is trouble from your past.  So now I am asking your, please, please John, be kind to your old man's heart and listen to me on this one, please!"

He walked up to Johnny and held his shoulders tight.  Then came the icing on the cake.  "I just got you and I don't care to loose you, ever again."

Johnny slumped.  "Don’t worry.  I'll listen to ya'."  He sighed. 'Damn, he got me good.  Now what Madrid.'

Scott spoke up.  "Now what about this girl, Cari? Johnny care to share some information with us about her?"

"Honestly brother, I don't know much about her other that she or a 'friend' of mine needs my help."  He shrugged.  "I haven't had time to talk to her about who or what it is I am suppose to help with."  He walked over to the couch and sat as his side started to ache.

"Are you OK son?"  Murdoch noticed the slanted walk.  Johnny just nodded his head.

"Well, maybe I can shed some light on one mystery regarding what happened in town today."  Murdoch lifted his eyebrows and now all eyes were on him.

"It seems that Cari is your 'skirt' as you call her Johnny."  He smiled.

"Oh, yeah?  Won't you know it."  He just chuckled.  "Guess she saved my life as well.  More debts to pay."

The three men were surprised at his last remark.  "More debts?  Johnny…. I hope you don't have plans to ride out with her any time soon?  Scott inquired.

"No, no brother.  I don't even know where I'd be riding out.  No, I intend to take care of one problem at a time.  I'll just start here at home with them vaqueros."  He looked towards the French doors.

"We'll start here at home, brother and don’t ever forget that."  Scott walked over to the liquors cabinet.  "Val, how's about a drink to keep us on our toes?"

"Ain't ever turned down a free drink Scott, but my toes don't need any liquoring up right now, but thanks anyway."  He went to sit next to his amigo.  "Guess we'll be bunk buddies for the night eh, amigo?"  He patted him on the knee.

"Get some rest Val, I've already had my shut eye for the day.  I'll keep the first watch then I'll go call on the next one to take over."  He waved him off.

"Murdoch, we need to alert Cip and the men.  I'll go out and tell him to post a few more men around the area."  Scott turned and headed out.

As he opened the door, a large fist slamming down on his face, real hard, surprised him.  Scott fell down, flat, remotely aware of his dismay.


Chapter Nine

Murdoch, who was the only one standing attempted to run to his desk to get his gun, when he felt a sharp object being pushed against his ribs.  "Go ahead old timer.  Let me slice you up like I did there to you son."  Murdoch stopped dead in his track when he realized that one of the French doors was open.

Both Johnny and Val stood, frustrated at their ineptness to let thing wait too long.  Johnny mind was whirling from his brother to his father to the girls. He needed to do something and fast in order to avoid anyone else getting injured.

"How can we help you two out?" He spoke up getting the attention of the vaquero at the front door. 

"Well, it seems there's this… 'menso' (dummy), who was did not know to mind his own business.  And because of him we did not line our pockets with some 'dinero' (money)."  Stepping over Scott's body, he moved in slowly with a glare that could make a coyote shiver.  "I aim on getting his ass taken care of so he won't be stickin' his 'nariz' (nose) in business that don't involve him."

Johnny slanted slightly and tilted his head, smiling he commented.  "Well, the way I see it, this here man, the meddling one, was only doing his job."  He looked over to Val.  "Weren't you Val?  See, he's the sheriff of the town you were robbing and last I heard, it's the sheriff job to stop any unlawful dealings and you were being unlawful."  He nodded reassuringly.

The vaquero's frown became more intense.  "Amigo, no sea pendejo'. (friend don't be stupid)  You know damn well who this 'idiota' is.  You have the wound to prove it."  He walked over to Johnny and jabbed him hard on his wounded area.

Johnny just tightens his fist in pain, closed is eyes and inhaled.  "Oh, you meant me, so I am a meddling fool, if you say."  He turned his to look directly in the vaqueros eyes.

"I'd do it again!"

The vaqueros did not like Johnny's tone and he struck him harder this time causing Johnny to bend over. He barely caught himself on the side of the couch.  Val got angry and stepped in between the two.

"What do ya' want?"  He grabbed Johnny's arm to lift him.  "You're here, now what?"

The vaqueros smiled exposing his yellow teeth.  "Venganza hombre, revenge!" He hissed as he spoke his words then he turned to give his instruction to his partner.  "Tonto, get this estupido (stupid) and take him outside.  It is time he learned his lesson in minding his own business."  The indio pushed Murdoch away and went to seized Johnny by the arm. Taking advantage of Johnny's unstable stance, he roughly dragged him out through the french door. 

The lead vaqueros stood there feeling proud, waiting for the signal that all was taken care of.  Murdoch attempted to plead for his son's life, but the crude man just walked up to him and slapped him across the face.  "Callate!"(shut up) Suddenly a shot was heard from outside.  Murdoch yelled.  "Johnny, NO!" 

The vaquero laughed at his triumphant quest.  He turned then gestured his farewell by removing his hat and bowing as he slithered out into the night.  Val was stumped and he slumped down on the couch.  The guilt surged through him like a flood of torrent water, had he not told Johnny to got after the man he might still be alive.  Murdoch ran to Scott's side. "God, Scott, son wake up, please."

Scott moaned and fluttered is eyes.  "That's it son.  Come on I need you."

"Mur..  Murdoch, what's wrong?"  He tried to lift his head and moaned.  Touching his chin, he shook his head ever so slightly.  "What hit me?"  Then Murdoch helped him sit up.

Murdoch just looked down and felt a tear run down his cheek.  Scott reached and wiped it.  He felt the anguish from his father. He looked around.  "Murdoch, where's Johnny?  JOHNNY!"

He stood up.  "Where the hell is my brother, Murdoch?"  He ran into the Great room and looked at Val.  "VAL, answer me!"  He bent to place his hands on his knees wanting to throw up and whispered, "Please God, don't let it be."

Murdoch just knelt there, head bowed down.  Val just sat and stared at the fire.  Scott fell to his knees and let the tears run freely.


Chapter Ten

The room was still.  All life was sucked out of it.  No one moved. Then they heard footsteps.  Val reached for his gun.  Murdoch jumped to his feet and took Johnny's gun into his hands.  Scott slide over to Val's side.  They waited and watched the doors.

They couldn't believe their eyes.  "Hey, why's everyone so gloomy?"  Johnny limped in being helped by Cari.  "Help me to the couch, will ya' Cari."  Johnny knew damn well what everyone had thought, but it made him uneasy to get sentimental on his behalf.

Hey Val, wanna give a lady a hand?" 

Val smiled wider than the Rio Grande. "Sure amigo, sure."

Johnny smiled at Val's reaction and was stunned when Val quickly reached out and hugged him tight.  "Ahem, well, best be getting doc over here to check you out. I'll go get someone to fetch him.  Now don't go anywhere, hear?"  Val just shook his head. 'Damn kid has more lives than a horde of cats.'  He stood back and let loose a big "Yii-ha!" Then slapped his hat on his knee as he walked out to get a ranch hand.

Scott heard his father heavy footsteps heading towards his little brother. "My God Johnny, we thought your were…" He reached out and touched his son's cheek then he bend down and hugged him tight.  "I've got you.  Thank God, I've got you!"

Johnny relished in the hug and returned it with much affection.  "Ain't going anywhere Murdoch.  See I told you I'd listen."  He sighed. 

Scott finally raised himself up and stood behind the couch where his brother sat.  Wiping his cheeks, he reached out and placed his hands firmly on Johnny shoulders.  "Brother, you do enjoy scaring the shit out of us, don't you?"  Everybody laughed, which helped to release some tension.


Chapter Eleven

"Just wha' da' hell happened out there Johnny?" Val crossed his arms and waited for an answer.

"Well, the Indio and I were having ourselves a little fun and when I kicked him off me, I heard this shot.  Lord and behold, there stood Skirt with that rifle of hers, again."  He gave her a bright smile.  "Guess I owe you twice over Skirt."

"What about the other one?"  Val frown expressed some confusion at the results of this mess.

"Oh him, let's just say that he meddled in my business and I had to 'slice' him out of my life.  See, I don't appreciate a man meddling in my affairs or family."  He just leaned back on the couch and made himself more comfortable.


THE END- Chapter Twelve

After the crew cleaned up the mess and Sam checked Johnny newly acquired injuries, Murdoch stood by them having a drink to help settle down the effects of the day.  'It'll be a long time before I take another two week trip.'  He chuckled at himself. 

Later that evening, Murdoch acknowledged his sons guest. "Young lady, I don't even know how to begin thanking you for saving my sons life, again, but I am indebted to you." Murdoch hugged her and kissed her cheek.

She blushed and bit her lower lip in embarrassment.  "I'd do it for anyone Mr. Lancer, but the truth is that Johnny is needed by someone very special to me and if I need to keep saving his ass… um, sorry, butt, then so be it."  She lifted her eyes and looked at her potential savior.

"Looks like I might be taking a trip Murdoch."  Johnny snickered as he made himself cozy on the couch.

"No son."  His father paused. "It looks like we might be taking a trip, together."  He placed his hand on his head,  "but for now, the only trip that is to be had is to bed. Good night everyone and let's try to stay out of trouble, at least until tomorrow." 



*Note:  Excuse the language.  Some of the cuss words are in Spanish and there really isn't any literal translation.  It is up to the interpretation of the reader and the speaker.

Here are some small notes in an attempt to help you out with the pronunciations of the Spanish wordsMind you, I am not a linguist, so this is only my attempt to assist you, should you want to take on this mission. LOL

Oye hombre - /oi-eh  ohm-bre/

cerveza - /ser-veh-saw/

Muy bien - /moo-ee   bee-en/

Vamos - /vau-moe-s/

rapido - /rah-pee-doe/

Tu y quien, carbon - /too  ee   key-en  kaw-beron/

Andale - /ahn-dah-lay/

menso - /men-sew/

dinero - /dee-neh-row/

nariz - /nah-reese/

pendejo - /pen-deh-ho/

Venganza - /ven-gahn-saw/

Callate - /kaw-yah-teh/






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