After dinner, they gathered around Murdoch desk. Cip showed up with five of the best hands. They could hear Jelly giving orders to the rest of the hands as he prepared the wagon with supplies. Teresa was in the kitchen preparing first aid bags and some non-perishable food and filling their canteens.
Murdoch had brought out the map and spread it on his desk. Cari showed them where she lived and the route she took to get to Lancer. They needed to figure out the time span of their travel to get there.
Being familiar with this border town and after talking to Cari about the layout of the surrounding area of the town, Johnny discussed possible hiding places for the men. Scott had sent a note to Val asking him to send a telegram to the sheriff in that town with an explanation on how they might need his help.
Every in and out, possible mishap or different scenarios were being tossed around. No rock was going to be left unturned. Johnny was set on riding in alone to confront the devil himself and hopefully bring him out into the open. But his first concern was to check that Sergio was indeed alive.
While the men discussed their plans, Johnny was intensely listening and looking at the map. It was late, but he kept asking Cari for tidbits of information about her captor, details he had mentioned, reactions, facial expressions, anything that could help him understand el Capitans plan. He also asked her about her travels to Lancer. After piecing information together, he sat and thought. Something did not set right with him, he could not put his finger on it.
Scott noticed him walk away and stand by the picture window deep in thought. "OK, brother. Obviously something is bothering you. Want to share?"
"Don't know brother. It just doesn't sit right. This whole idea of giving Cari three weeks to find me and take me back doesn't make sense. Seriously Scott, she's just a kid. How could he expect her to venture out alone and find me, I don't… " He looked profoundly at his brother. "I've been so pre-occupied with getting better so I could get on my way, that I did not give any thought to Capitan Demonio. (devil captain) motives."
Scott listened intensely, "Care to be more explicit." He waited.
"Like I said Scott. Something just don't sit right." He looked back out the window and then his expression started to transform as he thought more about it.
'He couldn't jeopardize anything happening to her. He needed her to find me without bringing any suspicion to herself. He couldn't ask the questions he gave her to ask at each stopping place. People would not open up to him. DAMN, she was not alone.'
"Johnny, it's looks as if you've just seen the light. What is it?" Now Scott was uneasy.
Johnny turned quickly on his heels his voice was frantic and loud. "He's here! He followed Cari. He's probably been familiarizing himself with Lancer land and watching our every move."
They all remained still. Johnny walked over to Cari. "Tell me, did you see any strangers following you?" He grabbed her shoulders. "Was there any one that you saw in one place and then again in another place…. THINK, Cari!" He slightly shook her.
"JOHNNY!" Murdoch spoke up. "You're scaring her."
He let go, stepped back and placed his hands in front of him, one on top of another. "Sorry Cari. Please forgive me. But I need you to think hard, real hard hon. It's important."
She stared at the floor and thought. Then she lifted her head up and looked at him in shock. "Johnny, I… didn't put much thought into it, until now, but…"
She turned to look at the rest. "Oh, God Johnny. I brought them to you."
"Who Cari, who?" He stepped up to her. "It isn't your fault, believe me. The man is cunning. Who did you remember?"
She whispered it. “It was the Indio who stabbed you in the alley." Looking at him apologetic, she felt so stupid.
Scott turned and looked at his father. "Murdoch, they came into the hacienda so easily the last time." He looked around. "Maybe…" He started giving orders. "
Cip, carefully go out to the men and put them on high alert. Take two men of these men with you. Tell them they'll sleep in shifts. Quickly!"
He looked at the other three men and gave them orders as well. "One in the kitchen. Set yourself where you cannot be seen, but where you can see anyone trying to enter. You two upstairs, each one at end of each hall and stay alert."
Murdoch was now standing next to Cari and guiding her to the couch in front of the fireplace. "Johnny, go get Teresa from the kitchen and bring her here." I'll gather more ammunition from that cabinet. Scott, close the curtains and lock the side door."
Everyone did as they were told.
Teresa rushed in carrying the bags of first aid.
"Where's Johnny?" Murdoch became concerned.
"He went outside, said he had to get something from the barn. Murdoch, what is going on?" She looked over to Scott who was now heading to the front door.
"Scott, wait." Murdoch tried to stop him.
Scott did not listen. As he reached to open the front door, he hesitated then shook his head, so he opened the door with extreme care this time and with his body to one side. Good thing too if not he would have been knocked down by Jelly who was running in full force.
"Anybody care ta' tell me what da' hell is goin' on? Johnny came and scared the bee-jeezie out of me, then told me to get in here, pronto. Tha' boy sure can be bossy." He glided over to where Teresa stood.
Scott stopped, "Where's Johnny Jelly?"
"Right behind you Scott." There he stood with a smile that could melt an iceberg.
"And just where the did you run off to brother?" Scott held his little brother's shoulder.
"Had to go fetch my friend over there. Didn't want him getting attacked and hurt." He winked at Jelly. "Need someone to take care of Barranca when I'm indisposed."
"See ther', I figured there was a one-sided reason for his anxious bossiness. I jus' don't get any 'preciation from these two. Where ya' want me boss?" He went to get a rifle.
Johnny did not like the tension. He started to pace. "Ain't going to sit here. We don't even know if he is out there. Something has to be done to lure him here or…" He just felt so inadequate and that meant trouble.
"So what do you suggest we do brother?" Scott was also feeling the tension. He knew Johnny was right. They had to do something, not just sit there and wait. "Ok, we might have over reacted."
"NO brother we did not overreact! We just need to rethink what we are doing." He continued to pace. His eyes were moving back and forth thinking hard. "I need to be alone, to think."
"Johnny, I don't think being alone is wise." Murdoch spoke up.
"Murdoch, I am not leaving the house. I just need to think, put myself in his shoes. I need to concentrate and remember things about my past and this man." With that he stepped outside.
"Don't worry Sir, Cip and the men are out there. Let's give him space." Scott intervened for his brother.
Cari was just bewildered at this entire turn of events. She just sat on the couch and listened to all the commotion around her. 'What if my Tio is dead? I can't….' Teresa talking brought her out of her deep thought.
"Huh, oh I'm sorry Teresa, did you say something?" She looked at her, but really wasn't aware of her being there. She felt Teresa grab her and pull her down to the floor.
"Cari, get down. Someone is shooting at the house. Get Down!" She looked around. Scott and Murdoch were standing by a window guns out. Jelly was knelt down next to them. 'God, what's happening?'
Johnny busted in through the front door. "Is anybody hurt?" He looked around and noticed that everyone was fine.
His gun in his hand, "Well so much for luring him out. I am guessing that the sudden change in our routine must have alerted him. Which means that he can see everything to his advantage." He went and stood by another window.
"Did you see anyone?" Scott asked still holding his position.
"Not really. Just heard shots and I threw myself to the floor, then crawled in here."
He looked over to the couch. "You girls doing alright? Is Jelly taking care of you two?"
"Ain't no reason to worry about this girls, they're safe under my watch. You take care of yourself." Jelly was on full alert.
Looking out the window, Johnny couldn't stand not knowing, 'I need to get out there and find him.' He looked around at his family and then made his decision. He opened the French door and ran outside.
"Damn it!" Scott just started to lifted his rifle. "Why the hell does he have to be so...."
"Just be ready to give your brother cover." Murdoch prepared himself.
At that time, they heard some ruckus going on behind them. Murdoch turned to see what was happening. He saw Jelly on the floor struggling to get pick himself up. "Jelly!" Murdoch shouted and then spotted Cari running out of the room into the kitchen with Jelly's rifle in tow.
"Jelly, I swear!" Murdoch turned and looked out.
Both Lancer men then looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders. "Now what?" Asked Scott.
"We wait." Answered Murdoch.
Hearing noises from the kitchen, Scott signaled Murdoch to stay put. He slowly made his way to kitchen while motioning to Jelly and Teresa to stay down. He held his gun ready to fire and slowly opened the door walking in.
Murdoch held is breath. 'God, take care of them.' With both sons out of his sight he was feeling the stress even more.
Teresa just knelt there next to Jelly. Murdoch dared not move. Voices were heard from outside, the three strained to listen. All of a sudden the front door opened and in walked Cip. "Senor, everything is clear." He looked around and noticed one of the men looking down from upstairs. "Ya bajen. Todo esta bien." (come down, everything is fine) He walked into the Great room. "Senor, your boys?"
"I don't know Cipriano. I was hoping you could tell me." He went over to Teresa. "Here hon, just sit here and wait. Jelly stay with her while I go outside with Cipriano." They nodded.
"Three are missing Cip. Johnny, Scott and Cari are not here." He was obviously upset as he walked out with his Segundo.
"I did see Juanito. He was running behind the bunkhouse. I also saw Cari, who was going into the barn. I haven't seen Scott, senor. I am sorry I can not give you more information." They walked out and looked around.
The hands were scurrying around the grounds still on full alert. Not knowing which way to go look, Murdoch was exasperated and exasperation was setting in. Cipriano started yelling orders for everyone to spread out to find the three missing people.
"Cipriano, do you know who was responsible for the shooting?" Murdoch did not like being kept in the dark about what had just happened.
"Si senor. It was a couple of rurales, but they were no match for us." He walked with his patron out towards the corral.
"Damn them. Where are they?" He ran his hand through his hair. "Was anyone hurt?"
"Just one man got shot, but he'll will be fine. I have sent Manuel to get Dr. Jenkins." Cip continued to instruct the men to walk around the grounds checking for more rurales.
Suddenly Murdoch heard his name being called. He quickly turned and saw Scott walking towards him "Scott, have you seen Johnny or Cari?"
"No sir I haven't. The noise in the kitchen was Jaime. Apparently Cari knocked him over as she made her way out. I followed out but didn't see her." They stood there confused, not knowing what to do.
Deciding to go inside, they waited for the all clear. Murdoch sat at his desk leaning against his chair with his eyes closed. Scott was pacing up and down driving his father crazy. Teresa was in the kitchen making coffee and Jelly went outside to help the men because he couldn't stand to be around the nervous Lancer men.
Cipriano walked in. "Senor, they have found them." He was catching his breath. "They are being brought in."
"Brought in. Cip, was one of them hurt? Who?" Murdoch got up and ran to the door with Scott close behind.
A wagon pulled up and the men immediately looked in back. Two bodies were covered with a blanket. Murdoch felt sick. "Relax senor, it is the two dead rurales. Look over there." He tilted his head towards the path.
Murdoch just about jumped out of his pants at the sight. Scott couldn't restrain himself and ran up to greet the walking trio. Teresa was now standing next to her guardian with her arms around his waist. "They're safe. Thank God."
As Scott reached them, he shook his finger at Cari. "Young lady, we will be having a stern talk later!" Then he turned towards his brother. "Well little brother, I am guessing that this is Sergio." He reached out to shake his hand and to assist Johnny is supporting the man's weight. "Let's get him inside. Cip has already sent for the doctor."
Everyone else started to get things ready for the doc. Sergio was led to the couch and made comfortable. Later, Teresa and Cari cleaned him up as much as possible for Doc examination.
Johnny rested on a chair. Scott looked at him with squinting eyes.
"I'm alright Scott. Just tired and sore." He put his head back. "Serg, are the girls treating you good." He chuckled.
"Oh amigo. I may leave your home. I can live like this." Sergio winked at his niece and held her hand to kiss it.
"Ok now, who wants to start telling us what the hell happened out there, while I was in here getting more gray hairs?" Murdoch firmly stood tight lipped, waiting.
Johnny was making his way through the land hiding along shrubs and behind trees. His gun ready should he need it. A rustling sound caught his attention, he stayed low and quiet, and it was then that he noticed two rurales heading towards the hacienda. He had to decide whether to shot them or go find his friend. His friend came first. He knew the hacienda was well guarded. He waited until they were clear of earshot.
He followed the smell of a campfire. 'A campfire… hum, guess he is waiting for me. Wonder if he made supper?' He crept along spotting the glow of the fire, he moved in slow, real slow. If he could stop his breathing he would, just to avoid causing a breeze, which could possibly alert 'El Demonio' to his presence.
Reaching the surrounding area of the camp, he spotted Sergio. He was tied up and sat up against a fallen tree trunk. He didn't appear to be hurt, too bad. Just the usual bruises to the face and probably his body. He had another decision to make. 'I know you are there, carbon, I can smell you. But where is there?' Squinting his eyes he focused on any movement in the shrubs, behind and on top of the trees.
Another sound of rustling leaves was heard a few feet away from where Johnny hid. He scrunched down lower. 'SOB, Carissa!' He couldn't stop her. He wanted wrestle her down and hog tie her, but it was too late. She was walking into 'trap'. "Tio! Tio!"
She ran and slide down next to him, wrapping her arms around his body.
Sergio eyes were now filled with fear and he couldn't believe his nieces' audacity by walking into a trap. 'Dios, mi nina.' She started to remove is gag.
He spad out, then looked at her. "Carissa, 'vete'. Leave now. It's a trap. 'Corre'." Only his words were too late. In walked in one of the rural, pointing his gun at Cari, he smiled an atrocious smile.
Johnny just lowered his head. 'Now what?' He knew he had to do something. He started in quietly and surprised the rural. "Now didn't anyone tell you it was impolite to point?"
The man turned around and looked shocked, then a quick glance behind Johnny and a slight smile, alerted Johnny that 'Capitan Domonio' was sneaking up behind him. Johnny looked over to Sergio. They nodded.
Sergio lifted his legs and swung them over forcing the rural to loose his balance, while Johnny quickly knelt, turned, and fired. Unfortunately, he missed when the rural fell and bumped into Johnny, which caused the misfire.
Another shot rang out and everyone froze for a quick second. Johnny saw Captitan Domonio fall back, he turned and shot the rural. He then looked back at El Capitan who was down, not moving. Replacing his gun in his holster, he went over to kick both men checking that they were dead.
Untieing Sergio, he helped him up and then checked out Cari, who's arms were still wrapped around her Tio. Johnny offered Sergio his hand and then brought him in for a half hug. "Are you seriously hurt? Can you walk?" Johnny looked him over.
"Johnny, I am fine, really." He chucked. "I see that you still have that guardian angel watching over you, eh?"
"What do you mean?" Johnny scrunched his brows.
Sergio now laughed. "You did not notice, 'hijole, hermano', when I kicked that 'pendejo'. He pointed to the dead rural.
"And he fell, his hand gun hit that rock." He pointed to that rock.
"And it accidentally fired." Sergio was now laughing harder.
"And, he…he shot….. " He pointed to the body of Capitan. "He shot… that pendejo!"
Now Carissa was laughing with him.
Johnny twisted his lips and joined in. See, Sergio has one of those contagious laughs that seems to get everyone joining in. The more he laughs the harder it is to stop. It's a combination of 'he, he's, snorts, ha's, wheez, and more he, he's'.