Mere fun. More adventures. More Mistakes. Please enjoy and excuse the mistakes.
They stood there watching and waiting. Both boys had been gagged and tied up. Neither could move.
He stood there contemplating his next move. “So you are both Lancer’s sons.” He nodded as he studied both of the men before him. “What to do…? What to do?”
He turned and sat on a chair that was unloaded from the chuck wagon. Nothing else was said. He just studied his captors.
Johnny eyes did not waver, yet his peripheral vision was on full force. ‘They’ve obviously been on the trail for a while.’
The man smiled as he noticed Johnny observant glare. “Good job boy.” He now turned his attention to Scott. Scott was just staring at the man, though he was also studying his surrounding without caring if the man noticed. “Have you come up with a plan Lt. Lancer?”
Stunned, Scott frowned at the name. “Ah, yes, I do know of your past as well as Madrid there.” Johnny was now on full alert. “Rest easy gentlemen. I don’t care about bringing up any of your past endeavors, I am only interested in getting the attention of one Murdoch Lancer and it seems he has made it very easy for me by bringing the two of you to live with him.”
Both Lancer men just stood listening. “Don’t worry boys, you’ll have your answers soon enough. For now I think I’ll just eat my dinner and continue to formulate a plan. Hungry gentlemen?”
He signaled two of his men to set the boys down and remove their gags. Their feet and hands remained tied. The men approached them with a plate of food and began to spoon-feed them. The boys refused at first, but the remainder that they would not be untied for any reason left them with no other choice but to open up and eat.
They were left resting against a tree trunk, after having been feed and given a drink, opposite of each other. Their gags were replaced and it was extremely embarrassing for the Lancers as they were not even untied to tend their needs. This man was not taking any chances and that was going to make their potential escape exceptionally hard.
The boys could not communicate or even look to each other for comfort. A man was guarding them very closely even if they had been sat apart. A mere rustling of their legs against fallen leaves was the only way to give them a sense that each brother was still fine.
It was getting late and the night air was getting cold. Johnny shivered and tried to make himself comfortable. For now they felt at ease knowing that they were still together.
One of the hands showed up and wrapped a blanket around each of the boy. Then he sat with a rifle in his arms. “Best try and get some sleep boys. My boss ain’t gonna be doing anything with ya’ until tomorrow, iffen he’d come up with a plan. Sorry cain’t make you more comfy.”
Both brothers just nodded in appreciation and leaned against the trunk. Johnny tried to get Scott’s attention, but did not get a response. ‘Guess Boston fell asleep.’ He sighed and dozed off himself.
When they woke, they noticed a new guard. Two other hands approached the brothers. They were fed and not allowed to talk. They couldn’t even if they wanted as the spoon of food was quickly placed into their mouths as soon as they swallowed. Once more they were assisted with other needs. After which they were sat shoulder to shoulder. Nonetheless, they were still gagged.
Nothing was being conveyed to them about their pending outcome. They were given water on occasion, helped up to stretch, but were not untied. Johnny was getting extremely frustrated and angrier by the minute. Scott was sensing his mood and started to feel anxious as well. ‘Thank God Johnny is gagged.’ Scott knew his brother temper provided a great knack to sass only making any given situation more difficult.
Finally, their abductor made an appearance. He stood there looking at them, then pointed to Johnny. “Him, bring him over there.” He pointed to the campfire.
Scott felt his stomach turn in fear. Johnny started to contrive his body in an attempt to stop them from carrying him over to the fire. “Remove his shirt and boots.”
Johnny kicked and groaned as best his could, but was silenced with a blow to his face. The blow served as a reminder that he was not in a position to fight them.
When he fell, he lifted his tied feet and kicked one of the men in the groin. This attempt to survive brought a gun to his brother head.
Scott moaned in protest and kicked out in an attempt to stand up, however was immediately pushed down on his side.
Johnny’s eye widen as he gave a muffled ‘no’ through his gag. At that moment, he gave the person in charge a pleading look for his brother life. “Seems we are able to communicate without words, Mr. Madrid. Put your gun away Jake.”
Johnny succumbed to the removal of his shirt and boots. He jerked back when he saw them place a branding iron in the fire. He turned to look at his brother and saw an expression of dreaded fear. Johnny tried to console Scott with a slit grin and nod. Scott just lowered his head and sighed.
Two men held Johnny down on his knees and lifted his head up. The boss man grabbed the branding iron and slowly raised it up. Next he looked at Johnny and smiled. Johnny did not give him the satisfaction by appearing afraid and just glared at him.
“Rest at ease Mr. Madrid. I am not ready to brand you as yet, but a message needs to be given to your father.” With that he turned to and placed the branding iron on Johnny boots and then his shirt. “See this is what will happen to your chest and feet should your father not respond.” He then turned his attention to Scott.
“Bring him here.” The men dragged Scott over. “Untie his feet and hands.” Scott rubbed his hands and waited. A horse was brought up next to him. “Mount and tie him to the saddle.” Scott could not stop the action of his captors. With the gag still in his mouth, he could not voice his concern for his brother.
They placed the shirt, boots, and a message in the saddlebag. Waiting for the order, they whipped the horse into a full gallop. Johnny just lowered his head with submission and exhaled. ‘At least he’ll be safe.’
“Now Mr. Lancer. It’s your turned. Johnny looked up questionably. “Tie him to the tree. We wait. Now we wait.” The man walked away.
Scott couldn’t move his hands to reach the reigns, but he’d maneuver his legs, body and knees to control the horse’s direction. Occasionally he’d have nudged the horse to keep him moving. Eventually, the horse and rider made their way back to Lancer.
Their arrival at the hacienda was very dramatic. The ranch hands immediately made their way to assist Scott, who in turn ran directly into the house. He swung the door open yelling for Murdoch, who was already running towards the door.
Murdoch grabbed his son by the shoulders and looked him over. “I’m fine Murdoch. They have Johnny. We have to hurry.” He ran to get his gun, rifle and ammunition while yelling at Jelly to get their horses and supplies.
Murdoch stood there hazily listening to Scotts ranting as he read the note. Finally, coming to his senses, he stopped Scott from running out the door. “Scott, Wait!” He stood in front of his path. “SCOTT, I said we have to WAIT!”
Scott stood and look at his father in disbelieve. “Father, they have Johnny. They’ll hurt him if we don’t get him now.” Murdoch handed him the note and walked back to the great room rubbing his chin and thinking.
“Murdoch, they want money! They’re holding him for ransom? Who is this McAlister? And what does he have to do with you?” He followed his father, reached out his hand, and turned him around to face him.
Murdoch sighed and moved away from his irate son. “His a very old friend… well, he use to be until his fortune failed. He made a wrong business decision and… lost everything.” He poured himself a drink. “Scott, I am going to town, to the bank and getting the money. I need to follow his instruction to the letter or he will hurt your brother. I can’t lose him or you again. I won’t.” He walked towards the door.
“Murdoch, I’m coming with you. Murdoch?” Scott reached out for his father’s arm again turning him. That was when he noticed his father was shaking. “Father? Sit and gather your thoughts.” He guided him to the couch. “Talk to me. Tell me about this man and maybe there might be some information I can draw together to help us stop this madness.”
“Yes, yes of course. We can’t be too hasty. We need to plan. Scott sent one of the men for Val.” He stood and walked to his desk to pull out a map. “Also, get Jelly to come here. I’ll send him to the bank with a draft and three of our best riflemen.”
Murdoch kept reading the ransom note as his eldest went to retrieve the men. Murdoch shook his head in disbelieve. “Why now Mac, why now?”
Scott hurriedly entered, “Sir, everything has been set. The horses are ready and I’ve instructed to have a wagon with supplies, just in case…” Scott looked and sounded exhausted.
“We’ll get him back safely Scott. Why don’t you rest until Val gets here with Jelly?”
“Sir, care to tell me more about this man.” His son sat in front of the desk.
Both men sat and had a drink to help calm their nerves, while Murdoch began his story.
“I was not as well off as some of the other ranchers, but I was just starting to develop somewhat of a reputation, a good one, as an up and coming cattle rancher.
During one of our meetings, we were going to be dealing with cattle contracts for individual ranchers. One contractor in particular, who really didn’t set well with me, approached McAlister and other ranchers from this area.
I couldn’t explain it, Scott, but I just didn’t trust him. I was new to this and wasn’t really in a financial position to venture out and trust someone I hadn’t heard of.” He drank a small sip. “Well, we met with this man, several times. He was very presentable and very articulated in his manner in presenting the contract. The deal sounded like it was a definite profit maker and practically had most of the rancher convinced to join him, all except me.” He looked at Scott and drank again.
“How many rancher were involved in this deal that was being offered?” Scott asked.
“Oh, I’d say about six, six well to do ranchers. I was but a drop in the bucket, but my land was worthy of more than the size of the cattle I owned, at that time anyway.” He took in a deep breath. “Anyway, I really didn’t have the money that was needed to enter into this joined affair. It was easy enough for me to say no, however Mac offered me a loan. He really liked me and we felt an affinity of some sort, but getting in debt to him, regardless of the tempting interest rate and other factors, wasn’t in my plans. I just couldn’t and didn’t accept.” He scratched his chin in deep thought.
“I didn’t know it then, but other rancher were feeling this indecision as well and when they saw that I stood my ground likewise didn’t merge with this man, well, others backed off as well.”
Murdoch slumped into his chair, “I felt bad for Mac. He needed others to join him. I didn’t expect them drop out. Believe me Scott, I did not anticipate any of that.” He shook his head.
“Anyway, Mac’s pride was bruised when I didn’t accept his offer. He felt that I’d lost respect for his business erudition, which I hadn’t. I highly respected him, just didn’t feel comfortable with accepting a loan so soon in my ranching ventures.” Scott continued to listen intently.
Murdoch continued with another drink in his hand. “I tried to explain to him that if I didn’t have my own money for an opportunity, then it was my loss. I restated, should I regret my decision, it would be my regret not his, plus that I would be wholeheartedly exultant for his success and would always value him for having offered me an opportunity to be his partner. I then wished him well.” Taking another deep breath, he looked down at the floor.
“He wanted me to persuade the ranchers that had pulled away from the deal to reconsider.” He snorted a chuckle. “Well, I refused. I told him that they were businessmen of their own dealing and if they felt the need to hold off then so be it.
He got real upset and accused me of backstabbing him by having the ranchers turn against him. I couldn’t believe his accusation.” He stood by the picture window. He took a larger gulp then turned to look at Scott.
“Of course, my temper got the best of me and I… well, let’s say my fist found it’s way to his face. I am not proud of that moment, but I couldn’t have him start accusations of untruths.” He smiled at Scott. “Son, I would not be inclined to convince anyone to do something because I am being falsely accused and made to feel remorseful.”
“Seems you and Johnny share a bit of the same temper, huh sir?” Scott grinned.
“Sadly, true.” He looked out the picture window. “ I just hope that temper doesn’t get him killed.”
“Then what happened?” Scott wanted to get the whole story.
“We parted ways. I did not sign that deal and decided to hold on to my money, as little as it was back then, it was mine and I wasn’t going to jeopardize losing it on some deal that rubbed me the wrong way.” His eyes looking out waiting for Johnny to ride in, his eyes were worried. “The contract and the representative all seemed legitimate. I swear Scott, I felt as if I had made the biggest mistake by turning it down, but after the way Mac reacted, I didn’t care. I was sure another opportunity would come my way.” He started to show some agitation. “God, where is Val?”
Scott went and stood next to him, placing his hand on his shoulder he reassured him.
“It won’t be long now, sir. I don’t think Johnny is in any danger yet. They really didn’t seem to be in a hurry to hurt either one of us. They were more concerned with keeping us well fed and safe to avoid any attempts of us getting away.”
“Care to tell me the rest? What happened? I assume that something went wrong?” Scott moved back and sat on the edge of the desk.
Murdoch turned and sat at his chair. “Yes, things went wrong, horribly wrong. Mac lost everything. The deal was a fraud, a complete and utter fraud. The company did not exist and neither did the man. As soon as Mac and the other ranchers, who eagerly went into the deal blindfolded, deposited their money into a set account and contracts were signed, it became a financial suicide. They all went to celebrate, eat and drink. Lost in their pride and inebriated, they did not realize that the representative had snuck off, withdrawn all the cash, and fled town.
It wasn’t until the next day when they were suppose to meet over breakfast to finalize an office site for the new cattlemen company, that they came to the realization that something was wrong.” Closing his eyes he leaned back on the chair.
“To make matters worse, they had signed away their land, legally, with that contract they signed. That conman sold their land to other ranchers from other areas. When the new owners came to claim their newly acquired land, there was nothing anyone could do. Everyone went to court and the land purchase was all legally done. Mac and the others had to move out. They were left without anything. They even lost their personal belongings, cattle and other ranch items. I never felt so relieved to have followed my instincts.” He poured another drink and went back to his desk.
Scott sat on the edge contemplating what he had just heard. “So now he wants what he lost back. Money?”
Nodding, Murdoch continued. “He blamed me for his mistake. He said that I knew something was amidst and I didn’t share it with them. He, again, accused me of purposely holding back pertinent information that would have saved his land and money.” Throwing his head back against the chair, he sighed deeply. “He couldn’t accept that my decision was solely based on a gut feeling and lack of funds. So, yes, now he wants his money and I will give it to him and more for my son’s safe return.”
They heard the door swing open and saw Val run in with Jelly behind him. “Boss I got the money and Val here companied me to make sure it were safe.”
“So Murdoch, what’s the plan?” He walked over to the Lancer men.
Johnny just sat there, frustrated and eager to get this deal done with. His legs and arms were numb, even if he was allowed to stretch on occasion. It wasn’t enough to circulate the blood flow through his limbs. Having the gag in his mouth was also exasperating. Breathing through his nose was becoming difficult, as he started to sniffle from the cool air hitting his bare back and chest. ‘God, now I’m getting a stupid cold. Great, now I’ll die from pneumonia.’
By the grace of luck, one of the guards noticed the difficulty Johnny was having breathing and heard him sneeze a few times. He later showed up with shirt. They untied him and put the shirt on him and immediately tied his hands, but this time they removed his gag. Johnny was relieved to have it out, so now he could open his mouth to breathe.
Nighttime was closing in. ‘Guess I’ll be sleeping under the star again.’ He leaned up against the trunk and looked up at the stars before dozing off.
When he awoke, he was lying down plus covered with a blanket. Without moving, he looked around and spotted the guard sitting a few feet away with the rifle.
“Awake there, kid?” The guard stood up. “Ready for your breakfast?” Approaching Johnny with a plate, he offered him some information. “ Should be hearing from your old man today.” After quickly feeding him, he was lifted up and allowed to stretch a bit. “Come on then, let’s get your business taken care of.”
“I can walk on my own if you’d just untie my ankles so you won’t have to drag me around.” Sounded like a good suggestion from Johnny, only it wasn’t accepted.
“Sorry kid, jus’ following orders, now let’s git going.” Another man showed up and helped drag him along.
Returning from the bushes, they sat him down. “Hey fellows, care to tell me what’s on the agenda for today? Kind of tired of just sitting while I watch ya’ll doing all the work. Figur ‘d I could just walk around a bit, maybe stretch some more. Wha’d ya’ say?” He smiled at them.
“Wish we could oblige ya’. Can’t thou.” They walked away after placing him back next to the trunk. Johnny sulked a bit when he noticed McAlister approaching him.
“Morning Mr. Lancer. Did we sleep well?” Mac walked and stood in front of Johnny.
“I slept just fine, don’t know about ‘we’.” Johnny raised his eyes, keeping his chin down a bit.
“Well, I had a restful nights sleep. I dreamt of good things to come. Yes sir, should be getting things taken care of today. At least I hope for your sake.” He knelt down next to Johnny. “Tell Mr. Lancer. Is your father a good man? Thought you hated him?”
Johnny felt his heart race. “He’s decent enough not to threaten another man using his son’s as bait. More I can say about you.”
“Ah, you think me indecent because I have taken certain measures to get what is owed me. So what made you care for Murdoch? Did he offer you some money for your loyalty?” He sneered at Johnny.
“Don’t need Murdoch to offer me any money to want to be with ‘em. Like I said his decent and that’s enough for me.” Johnny wanted to hit him bad.
“Murdoch, you call him Murdoch. Not Pa, papi, dad, father, but Murdoch. Guess those loving bonds haven’t been completely sealed then. This might present a problem? Do you think that a bond between father and son needs to be sealed for there to be a willingness to sacrifice for each other, Mr. Madrid?”
Shifting his body, Mac tapped Johnny on the knee.
“That bond between my old man and I ain’t any of your business. Least way, it ain’t something a stranger might understand.” Johnny’s breathing was getting deep.
“Oh, I ain’t a stranger to your old man. Believe me he knows who I am and what I am all about. See we used to have a bond, Murdoch and I, until he betrayed me.” He looked at Johnny’s reaction, which was stone cold. “Yes, boy, your Pa’ can betray the best of ‘em, when it is to his convenience.” He glared down to the dirt and picked up a twig.
“We’ll soon find out just how important you truly are to Murdoch. How much bonding can a man, who hasn’t been with his son for nearly twenty years, have developed in little over one year? Yes, sir, it should be interesting.” He stood and walked away.
Johnny took a deep breath. ‘You’ll soon find out you bastard.’ He leaned back and closed his eyes. “God Murdoch… please, hurry.”
The day dragged for Johnny until he heard horses riding into the camp. He shifted his body in an attempt to see who it was, drew in a deep breath, and a smiled when he saw it was Scott and Murdoch.
As they approached closer, Murdoch saw Johnny leaning against the trunk and quickly dismounted. He hurriedly walked over to his son and cupped his face. “Johnny, thank God. Are you all right son? Did they hurt you?” He placed his forehead against his youngest son.
“I ain’t hurt. What’s going on? What does this crazy fart want from you?” Johnny looked over Murdoch shoulder and spotted Scott standing there.
“Hey Boston, glad you didn’t get lost.”
“Now why would I get lost little brother? I needed to bring our father back to get your sorry ass out of here.” Scott quickly turned when he heard a voice behind him.
Scott reached for his gun. “Slow down there, Lt. Don’t want to get yourself killed in front of your father, now do you?” Scott noticed three men aiming their rifles at him.
“Sorry, just a reaction.” He returned his gun into his holster and moved back to give Murdoch passage, who was now standing next to him.
Murdoch towered over Scott in a menacing stance as he glared at Mac. “Let’s get this over with Mac. The money is in the saddle bags.” Mac nudged one of his men to walk over to the horses, but Murdoch stopped him. “You aren’t getting one cent until you release my son.”
“Now Murdoch, how can you possible think that you have the upper hand here. The way I see it, the guns are on you. I can have the three of you killed right now and still get what’s rightfully mine.” Mac just laughed.
“Yes, you can Mac. You can kill us right now, but I know you aren’t a murderer.” Murdoch waited a bit and continued. “And I am not stupid enough to ride in without a plan to assure we get away without getting hurt.” He nodded his head and a shot rang out with the bullet landing between the legs of one of Mac’s men.
“I never doubted you’d come prepared Murdoch. I am not interested in dealing with a gun fight, even if one of your sons just happens to be the famous gun hawk Johnny Madrid.” He slowly moved closer to the horses. “Tell me Murdoch has life dealings been good to you? Have you made sound investments? Are you rich now, Murdoch?” He scolded at the last question.
“Rich? Am I rich?” Murdoch looked at both his sons. “Yes, Mac, I am rich, very rich… As a matter of fact, I am the riches man on the face of this earth. I have my two sons and that’s all I need to make my life rich.”
Murdoch walked over to the horses and grabbed a saddlebag. “It’s a shame you spent twenty years stewing over a sour deal you were too arrogant to see as a fraudulent deal and found it easier to blame another instead of blaming your inflated ego.” He then threw the saddlebag at Mac’s feet. “Now let my son go before I signal my friend to shoot you first.”
Mac bit back a retort and instructed his men to untie Johnny. Scott walked over to help Johnny stand up and guided his stiff and wobbling brother over to the horses. They were getting ready to mount, when Johnny noticed Mac angrily glaring at Murdoch than back at them. Johnny was trying to limber up a bit more when all hell broke loose. ‘Damn I knew this was too easy!’
He hit his horse on the rump, which startled the other horses causing Scott to loose his balance. Managing to run over towards his father, he tackled Murdoch to the ground, grabbed his father’s gun, swung around and shot two of Mac’s three men.
Johnny shimmied onto his knee to shoot when he felt a sharp pain hit his backside. This caused him to wrench to the side a bit, but he still managed to sustain himself from completely falling. Johnny noticed Mac pointing a gun at Scott as he regained his momentum.
Scott was now running to get his rifle from his saddle and had not notice Mac had targeting him. Raising his gun to shot, Johnny yelled his brother name, “SCOTT!”, but the warning came too late. Scott fell forward.
Johnny froze. ‘God no, Scott.’ He slumped over next to Murdoch, who was having a hard time standing up. Murdoch remained on his knees and reached over to his youngest. “Johnny, son, are you hurt?”
Johnny was perplexed at Murdoch’s calmness then realized that Murdoch had not seen Scott being shot. “Murdoch…. Pa’… “ He just relaxed in his father’s arm and closed his eyes.
Reeling between unconsciousness and reality, Johnny heard his name being called and felt a hand gently patting his cheek.
“Hey little brother. Wake up. Come on I need some help getting our father up. Come on Johnny, please.”
‘I saw him get shot.’ Johnny opened his eyes and stared at him. “I saw you… I heard a shot. Scott?”
“I tripped over a damn rock. That shot your heard was Val’s. He got Mac. “ Smiling, he gently started to lift his little brother. “You on the other hand seemed to have stood in front of a bullet, again. Come on, let’s get you up and off our father.” He was guided over to Mac’s chair.
Murdoch was finally stood and rushed over to Johnny’s side. “How bad? Let me look son.” He lifted his shirt. “We’ll need to get Sam to stitch you up. Thank God, it just grazed your side. It is a deep graze though. Scott bring me some bandages. We need to stop the blood flow.” He cupped Johnny face, which was now slowly getting paler by the minute.
Johnny placed his hands on his knees and tried to keep alert and control the pain he now felt. When he looked up, he saw Val running into the camp followed by some of the ranch hands. They had one of Mac’s men in tow.
Val grabbed the man and placed handcuffs on him then led him to a horse while looking over at his amigo. “Johnny?” He nodded.
Johnny smiled at Val and then looked at his father who was now kneeing next to his precious cargo. “John, look at me. Son, you’re getting pale which means….”
That was all Johnny heard when darkness took over.
He heard mumbling and felt movement. Reaching to remove something from his forehead, he heard a familiar voice. “Hey there young man. Let me check your forehead for fever. I heard you sneezing and sniffling. Two nights in the cold air and now a deep graze on the side, seems you are wanting my constant attention, huh?”
Johnny opened his eyes and saw Sam. “Hey Sam. Glad you joined the party.”
“Good thing too. I stopped the bleeding and you should be fine, with about two weeks rest.” Sam smiled.
Johnny rolled his eyes and tilted his head back. “Two weeks! Sam, please. It’s just a scratch.”
“Oh it’s not the ‘scratch’ that worries me John, it’s the cold you are developing. But rest assure that with a lot of bed rest, chicken and beef broth, you should be well taken care of it.”
“Sam, I’ve been tied up and held captive for two long… boring…days. Can’t… you… give… a man… a break.” All he heard was laughter, he sighed in defeat and decided to fall asleep while riding once more on the road to his home and safety.
The End, till the next adventure.