Once more, this is pure and simple writing from the heart. No research was done. Excuse my mistakes. They are all mine. Ignore them and I hope you enjoy reading this little tidbit of fun.
Riding back at a very slow pace, he reached the top of the range and sat there with one leg swung over the saddle horn. Taking in a deep breath, he looked up at the shiny bright moon, and then twisted his neck back and forth. ‘God I love nights like this. Don’t need a fire to see where I am going. Nature takes care of it all.’ There was a slight breeze and it felt good.
He just sat and looked over the land being displayed by the moon’s shimmering light. It looked so surreal and out of a painting he’d seen in a book Scott had shown him. “Almost feel like singing a song Barranca with a night like this ‘cept might scare the coyotes into howling me shut.” He laughed and nudged his faithful steed forward. “Guessing the old man is churning a fit ‘cuz I ain’t home yet. Better get going a bit faster, compadre. Need to get my ass home before the moons shine hides behind them clouds.” Both, rider and horse scurried faster over the landscape.
Reaching the Lancer arch, he sighed with some relieve as he reached the barn. Settling Barranca in and giving him a treat, he patted his friend’s mane. Barranca snorted a warning and Johnny heard a click. He moved faster than a rattlesnake, spun around with his gun in his hand, and knelt on one knee facing the noise. He stopped, listened, and looked over at Barranca who was fidgeting in his stall. Someone was in the barn with them. He slowly started to stand, carefully maneuvering his stance around listening intently toward a bale of hay. Proceeding slowly, he suddenly felt a gun barrel touching the back of his head.
He froze then turned to face the gun barrel staring at him. Johnny smiled. “Aiming on using that gun or are ya’ just trying to show me that you forgot to clean it out?”
The hoarse voice stifled a grunt, “I’d hate to use it, but if you don’t put your gun down, I might just have to show you that my gun is very clean.” The vaquero signaled with his eyes for Johnny to drop his gun. Johnny held on to it for a bit until the vaquero clicked the gun. Johnny nodded. “Who am I to argue with a dirt-free gun?” and dropped his.
“Manuel, pick up the gun.” Johnny spotted the man making the noise as he came out from behind a hay bale. “You señor can move, start walking to the house. We’ve been waiting for you. Seems you are late for dinner.” He shoved Johnny towards the barn door.
Flinging the haciendas front door open, the gunman pushed Johnny through it. He stumbled in as he attempted to stop the shove. The vaquero hit him on the back of the head, just to make a point. Johnny momentarily lost his balance and caught himself on the corner of the arch of the great room. Through his moment of fuzziness, he heard his father’s voice. “Johnny!” As he steadied himself and touched the back of his head, he looked up to saw Murdoch, Scott, Teresa and Jelly tied up on a chair. He turned a puzzle look at the vaquero and was pushed even harder into the room. Johnny pitched forward and almost fell, but was caught by some strange arms.
“Glad you finally decided to join us Johnny.” Taken by surprise at the sound of a familiar voice, Johnny looked and saw the ill-omened face.
He felt his heart sink. “What the hell are you doing here? And what the hell do you want?” The tone of his voice caused him to receive a harsh slap across his face. He landed on one knee and while sustaining himself from falling completely.
“Now boy, shame you ain’t learned your manners yet.” The man walked over and bent down to be face to face with the boy he used to beat endlessly as a child. Johnny’s blood was burning with anger and need for revenge.
His hand turned into a tight fist. “You’d be surprised to see how much I’ve learned since I last saw your bastard face.” Johnny snarled back. It was an obvious issue that the sinister intruder was not going to let Johnny get away with, but before Johnny could raise his fist and slam it into his enemies face, the man’s fist met with Johnny’s face first instantly landing him flat on the floor.
“Your mouth sure ain’t changed… “ He turned and ordered his men to lift Johnny up and sit him down. “Let my men make you more comfortable.” They grabbed Johnny and shoved him onto a chair then proceeded to tie him up like the rest.
With blood trickling down the side of his mouth, Johnny just glared at the older man and scowled, “What the hell do you want?” Johnny demanded an answer.
Once more the man walked up closer to Johnny. “See hear boy. You are in no special position to have such a demanding tone with me.” And once more, slapped his hand down hard on Johnny’s cheeks causing his chair to sway back a bit and coercing his face to jerk hard.
Murdoch yelled. “Stop! We all want to know what you want. Are you going to slap us all?”
“Iffen I have to Mr. Lancer, but this boy deserves what he gets, always has.” He glared at Johnny who was now spitting out more blood. “Ain’t that right boy?”
Johnny slowly raised his eyes in an intimidating stare. “Only difference is that I was only ten. I ain’t ten anymore. Care to see what I think you deserve? Or have you lost some of your cajones as you’ve aged?”
Shaking his head in disbelieve, the man stood firm only this time he swung his fist into Johnny’s face and knocked him out. “Maybe another time boy.” He laughed and walked away.
The others watched as Johnny head just hung resting against his chin and the blood dripped down on his shirt. “Murdoch?” Scott was desperately trying to get himself free of the bonds. “Johnny? Johnny wake up.” But there was not answer. All they could do was sit and wait.
Johnny slowly came around moaning as he tried to make the incoherence leave his head. He could hear his name being called over and over again. “Johnny, Johnny please son open your eyes. Johnny, please.” His head just kept wobbling up and down. It felt so heavy to him and opening his eyes was grueling. His jaw throbbed and he tasted blood, which continued to drip down his chin onto his shirt.
He did manage to mumble a few words, but did not open his eyes. “Am alright… Murdoch, just… just… giv’ me… a minute….” He took in a breath and opened his eyes. “Damn… son of a bitch…” He let out a breath. “… still has a … hard fist.” He spit out some more blood.
With his eyes half opened, he glanced at each one of his family members. They had an expression of deep worry. He just offered them a weak smile. Opening up his eyes a bit more; he slowly looked around and didn’t see anyone else. “Where are they?” He looked at his father for the answer.
“We don’t know son. One man came running in and said something to the man who hit you. Then they all walked out, but they’re still here. We can hear them outside.” Murdoch was intensely watching his son attempting to regain his senses.
“Ok” Johnny was getting his baring back. “How many?”
“Best we figured is there must be around six.” Jelly was quick to answer.
“How long have they been here?” He leaned his head against the back of the chair, and hissed at the pain he felt on the back, and took in a deep breath while closing his eyes again.
“Johnny?” Scott was very uneasy, but Murdoch did not give his younger brother a chance to acknowledge his concern.
“For about three hours. John, who is that man? How do you know him?” Murdoch now wanted his own answers.
Johnny looked down. “He thought … he wanted mamá to…” He huffed a gulp of air and closed his eyes recalling the abuse from this man. “Let’s just say that he took pleasure in getting his point across when I didn’t obey him.” He looked up with cold eyes.
Murdoch knew he dared not push it further, for now anyway. “Ok, son, is there anything that you… remember… that might help us figure out what he wants from… us?” He hesitated and used words that would not anger his youngest.
“Swear to God Murdoch, I have no clue.” He shook his head. “I can’t figure it out. He just disappeared one day and we never heard from him again.” Johnny was desperately trying to remember anything that might help, but his head was hurting like hell almighty.
“Johnny take it slow.” Scott spoke up.
“Hasn’t he told you all anything since he’s been here?” Waiting for an answer, Johnny glanced towards the French doors.
“No brother, but I get the feeling he is not the one in charge. So it might not have to do with…” Scott did not proceed with his thought. Johnny just looked at his brother. “Brother, what I meant is… “
Johnny interrupted. “It’s OK Scott. After what you saw and heard, guess I would assume it had to do with me. To be honest, I too thought that. But if you say he is not the one in charge, then it doesn’t make sense to me. Murdoch?” They all looked at Murdoch.
“I don’t know son. I wish I knew. Every time there was a conversation, it was between that man…”
“Miguel, Murdoch, his name is Miguel Riojas. Mean bastardo.” Johnny interjected.
“Miguel and the vaquero, well, we could not hear.” They all just sat there contemplating their own theory.
The doors opened and four men took a spot at a window. Miguel looked over to see his captors. “It is almost over familia Lancer. Thank you for being so patient.” He walked over to them. “Ah, Johnny is now awake. Care to take another nap or are you going to keep your stupid mouth shut?” He laughed and directed his attention to the other men.
“Manuel, send one of the men out to watch from the roof. You Jose, take the back door in the kitchen. You two stay here. Let’s lower the light, shall we, to make it look more welcoming, si?” He started to lower the wicks on all the lanterns in the great room.
“Are you ever going to tell us why you are here?” Murdoch asked in a very calm demeanor.
Miguel just looked at him they, pulled a chair close, and rested his hands on his knees. “Yes, I guess you do deserve to know why we invaded you home.” He looked down thinking.
“First, I must say that I was very surprised to see Johnny. I thought you were dead.” He chuckled. “See Mr. Lancer. Johnny has nothing to do with our visit. As matters of fact neither do any of you.” He stood stretching his arm out gesturing around the great room. “It is this place we needed. We needed a meeting place. One that was known to a certain party, shall we say, someone who needs extermination.” He raised and walked towards a french door and looked outside.
“Our pending guest would not show up otherwise, which means that if we would have chosen an unknown hacienda or some other rancher’s home, he might not find it a rewarding venture to travel.” He smiled deviously at them.
“So who is this unsuspecting person you have invited into our home, if I may be too bold to ask?” Scott spoke up.
“Ah, this man is known throughout California. He is much respected, one with many influences. One that needs to be shown his place, his permanent place.” He laughed.
Murdoch’s head bowed down in deep thought. ‘Who would accept an invitation to Lancer without question or doubt?’
Miguel could see Murdoch’s mind working overtime. “Well Mr. Lancer, have you figured it out yet?” Miguel walked up to him and waited.
“No?” He then turned to caress Teresa’s cheek and smiled when he saw the reaction on all the Lancer men’s faces.
“Oh, don’t worry. My goal is not to… shall we say take certain personal pleasure, yet. She is safe.” He winked at her.
Miguel walked up and sat next to Johnny. “You do remember how passionate I could get Johnny, don’t you?” He reached to gently slap his cheek.
Johnny wanted to kill him right then and now. He didn’t want his family to know any of what this man had done to him. He squirmed in his chair trying to release the ropes.
“Calm down boy.” He laughed and slapped his knees. “His mother, now that’s a woman who knows….hummm.” He looked naughtily at Murdoch. “Well Mr. Lancer, you should know how she was, huh?” He coughed up a laugh, and then slapped Johnny on the back. Now Murdoch wanted to desperately kill him.
Riojas stood and paced back from one end of the table to the other side. “Now where was I?” He winked at Johnny. “The guest will be arriving tomorrow and we need to be ready for his visit.”
“Tomorrow? Then why are your men on high alert?” Scott interjected. “Are you going to tell us who this person is?”
“No, Scott, I am afraid I can’t. If I do… well, I’ll have to kill everyone for sure.” He kept up his pacing sliding his fingers along the top of each chair he passed.
“Then what are you going to do with us until tomorrow; surely you can’t leave us tied up like this the whole night?” Scott pointed out.
“What kind of person do you take me for Mr. Lancer?”
“I know what kind of person your are, Riojas!” Johnny answered that one quickly.
Riojas laughed and ignored a retort. “I had no intention of leaving all of you tied up. The girl will be confided to her room, as well as Mr. Jellifer, and you, well, I have plans for the continued company of Johnny and you two, as a security measure for our plans.” He walked back to Murdoch and signaled his men to untie Teresa and Jelly.
“There will be a guard posted by their room and for Johnny’s sake; I pray you don’t attempt any silly and unnecessary behaviors.” Shaking a finger at Teresa and Jelly.
The other two men escorted Teresa and Jelly out of the great room. Teresa pulled herself away and wrapped her arms around Murdoch. “It’s all right sweetheart. Make sure you lock the door.” He kissed her forehead.
“Very touching. Now get her out of here.” Miguel walked out of the room as he waved his hand in dismissal.
The boys looked at their father. “Sir, do you have any idea who it might be that would graciously and without doubt accept an invitation to Lancer?” Scott inquired with longing to get an idea.
“No son. I can’t help but wonder who and why.” He paused and thought. “There is the political movement occurring, but not in our area. I had plans on traveling up to the conference and participate at the request of…. “He paused again with an expression of dawning. “My God, the governor!”
“Very good, Mr. Lancer,” Miguel was now standing at the door next to another man.
Murdoch looked up. “Mr. Wilson.” Murdoch recognized the second man. “You… You’re the one that needs the governor out of the way. Of course, I can see why now.”
“Now Murdoch, the way I see it, you can join my cause or choose to become a pond and suffer the consequence.” Mr. Wilson walked over to Scott and placed a hand on his shoulder.
“Having a son from Boston, one who comes from a prominent family, is to my advantage, plus a gunslinger to boot. Now I believe that many people might be pleased to see him dead and I intend to use them to my advantage.” He turned on his heel. “Now Miguel, let’s get our plan going, shall we?”
They left the three men sitting there thinking about what just transpired. “OK, Murdoch, any ideas as to how we can stop these two idiots?” Johnny mused as he attempted to loosen the ropes and grunted.
“Any luck there, brother? I’ve been trying for the past three hours and it seems these men know how to tie knots.”
Murdoch smiled as he slowly raised one hand. “Boys, age, and experience have its rewards! Plus, Teresa slipped the knife into my hands.” He just scrunched his shoulders and grinned at them. Both his sons smiled with pride at their little sister’s bravery.
Good thing she was in the kitchen cutting vegetables for dinner when the intruders arrived. She had heard all the commotion in the great room and managed to slip the knife into her skirt pocket. She just couldn’t figure out a way to get it to one of the boys or Murdoch until that moment when she hugged her ward.
Johnny was the last one to be untied. All three sat there grateful that the men had been left them alone for a long time. “OK, now what?” Johnny was definitely exasperated. “We need to get past the guard in the kitchen and get Teresa to safety.”
“Agreed!” Scott projected. Johnny was the first up who then advanced quietly into the kitchen. The other two sat there, rolled their eyes at Johnny impetuous behavior, and anxiously waited.
Within minutes, Johnny casually walked up to the guard and tapped him on the shoulder. “Where can I get some coffee? I’m falling asleep waiting for your boss to take over the world.” Just as the guard turned, Johnny whacked him unconscious and dragged him into the pantry.
He peeked his head into the great room and gave a small whistle. Murdoch and Scott joined him in the kitchen and he signaled towards the pantry while keeping guard. They quickly tied and gagged the unconscious man. At last, they made their way to Teresa’s room and took care of that guard as well. She almost yelped loudly when the door was forced opened. Johnny was quicker and placed his hands over her mouth. “Shhhh, honey, it’s only us.” She turned and hugged him. Scott and Murdoch dragged the guard into her room.
They proceeded to quietly lower her out through the window. Quietly hiding from view, they made their way to Jelly’s room. Lucky for them the guard had decided to go visit the outhouse. They carefully opened the door. What they saw nearly scared the shit out of them. Jelly was aiming a rifle at them.
Johnny yipped and skipped a jump. “Yeech, Jelly, did you honestly think that shooting that contraption won’t get the others’ attention?”
“I might of gotten their attention, but I’d of taken one of them hombres with me.” He uttered in annoyance.
“Yeah, give me that before you shoot your foot off.” Johnny walked up to him and removed the rifle from his arms. “You got more of these hidden anywhere?”
“Oh, I sees how it is. First I might of shot my foot off and now ‘em asked for help. I see how it is.” Jelly walked over to a corner. “Just happen to have several hid away. Was getting ‘em cleaned out for our men, when I heard all the ruckus. Managed to get them hid befores I was drag’d away. Got some ammunition as well.” He boosted like a proud peacock strutting his feathers.
“I’ve got to hand it to you Jelly. You are a man after my heart. Glad you are on our side.” Scott went to retrieve rifles for them.
Johnny smiled widely as he spotted a gun. “Um, Jelly, I am buying you all the beer you can drink this Saturday.” He wrapped the gun belt around his waist and started to feel whole. Turning around and smiling, “Now what gang?”
“Don’t know.” Murdoch looked out the window. “They haven’t detected our absence, but I can assure you that this in one of the first places they’ll be looking, so we need to get out of here fast.” They all nodded.
“Damn, Murdoch, you spoke too soon. Here they come. Shit!” Johnny rushed to the door and well as Scott. “Jelly, get Teresa over to that corner and both of you stay down.”
Murdoch unlocked the door and Johnny hid behind it waiting for the first man to come through.
Sure enough, the door was kicked opened and one man stormed in. Murdoch slammed his fist into his face, and then was thrown down by a second man. Johnny jumped on the second one and whacked him unconscious. Scott tackled the third man and followed his brother example. All three men guarded the men until Teresa and Jelly tied them together.
“Murdoch, you said there were at least six men. We’ve managed to tie four, which leaves two. Was that including Miguel?” Johnny stood dusted himself off and walked towards the door.
No son, it does not include Miguel, but I fear that Mr. Wilson might have arrived with a few of his own men. We have to be careful, just in case.”
Scott opened the door ever so slightly and looked outside. “Looks like it’s clear. How do we do this? The moon is shining bright tonight.”
They all looked at each other. “I say we disguise ourselves.” Johnny started to undress one of the men.
A few minutes later, the door opened as two non-conspicuous men carried rifles and pointed them at their hostages. One of the Wilson’s guards spotted them and started to run over to them. Johnny lifted his rifle and waved him off as he pointed the rifle straight at Murdoch’s head. The guard nodded and went back to his post.
The two led their hostages to the barn and they all quickly saddled three horses. Johnny looked outside and was grateful that clouds were hiding the light of the moon.
“Ok honey,” He helped Teresa mount. “Follow the back trail out as quietly as possible, Jelly will be behind you. Go straight to Val and tell him what’s happening and to keep the governor away from Lancer. Got it?” He patted the horse.
She had tears in her eyes, but nodded. Jelly looked at them with such affection that it took Johnny breath away. “Go on old man. Keep an eye on her for us. We’ll be fine and take care of yourself.” He smiled at him and patted his horse as well.
He shook his head when the clouds stopped hiding the moon’s light. He knew he had to do something, so he released two more horses whacking them on the rump and without explaining his plan to his brother or father, he took his gun in hand and ran out the barn. Murdoch reached out to stop him, but wasn’t fast enough. Scott almost ran after him, but Murdoch managed to stop his eldest.
They held back and leaned against the barn door when they heard shots being fired. “God Murdoch, what the hell was he thinking?”
“He’s giving them time and a distraction. Let’s take these rifles up and climb to the loft where we can see what is happening. They’ll probably think we left as well. Damn him and his…“ With that they heard footsteps running towards the barn. They both quickly climbed up to the loft. Peering over the side ever so slightly, they saw Miguel dragging Johnny along with him.
“Do they honestly think they’ll get away, estupidos? Wilson!” He yelled.
Mr. Wilson came running. “Did you find them Miguel?”
“No, they took the horses… they couldn’t have gone far. Get two of your men and follow the tracks. The moon light should help them, quickly!” He turned and hit Johnny with the handle of his gun throwing him back into unconsciousness. “Now you will see how I handle a grown mestizo bastardo.” He dragged him out of the barn by one arm.
“Murdoch we have to do something.” Scott whispered. “They’ll find Teresa and Jelly and possibly kill Johnny.” Scott was making his way to the ladder.
“NO son, wait. Let me think and don’t worry about Teresa. She knows the back roads and how to avoid being followed. She’ll make it. They’ll probably follow our horses and I am sure they’re now in the pasture eating to their hearts content.”
He leaned back and thought.
“Let see where he took him.” They look out the loft window. Then they saw what Miguel had in mind. He had tied Johnny onto the side of the corral, back facing him and shirtless. Johnny was still unconscious and his head hung. “Damn, Miguel went into the house. I’m sure it’s for….” Murdoch just bowed his head.
They waited to see how many guards were left behind to watch Johnny. There was only one.
“They must not have as many men as we thought and haven’t found the three in Jelly’s room. That one looks like the one Johnny took care of in the kitchen which, mean trouble.”
Murdoch moved away. “We’ll wait until the clouds cover the moon light and then make our move. Looks like Wilson and Miguel are still inside the house.
They made their way down the ladder and waited until they felt it was safe to sneak by, but then they saw Miguel walking out with a whip in his hand. Scott panicked. “Damn Murdoch, we have to stop him!”
Murdoch held his breath. “I know. God, Johnny.” His face became solid. “Scott…“ He looked at him with a plan in mind.
“No Murdoch, I don’t like what you are thinking. You can’t turn yourself in. What makes you think he won’t hurt Johnny if you are re-captured?”
“It’s a chance I have to take son. I can’t stay hidden waiting and witnessing Johnny being tortured. You stay low until Val shows up. Please be brave and wait. Don’t do anything foolish! Do you understand? We need you to remain free!”
Meanwhile, Miguel threw a bucket of cold water on Johnny’s face. “Wake up bastardo. I want you to feel what you are about to receive for you disobedience. Wake up!” He threw more water at him.
Johnny moaned softly. He lifted his head slowly and glared “Hey, Miguel…” He managed a chuckle. “I’d appreciate some soap with that water if you don’t mind.” He dropped his head again.
“Si, very funny… I wonder if you think it’ll be funny when you feel this.” And then he did it, he whipped Johnny once just to get his attention. Johnny jerked at the pain. That was when Murdoch made his appearance.
“Stop torturing my son or I will not cooperate, Miguel.” He stood tall and angry.
“”Ah, there you are. I did not believe you would leave your youngest alone. So you will not cooperate, eh? We’ll see.” And then he did it again, swung the whip harder into Johnny’s back.
Johnny jerked again and mumbled, “Murdoch, don’t…. run.” Murdoch ran towards Miguel and tackled him, but received a blow to the head when the guard pushed the rifle’s end hard into his head.
This cause Murdoch a momentary delay, then he stood and tried to wrestle the man with the rifle, but he felt a sharp stink on his arm when Miguel whipped him. This brought Murdoch down on his knees. “If you don’t stop your stupidity, I swear I will kill Johnny right here and now.”
Murdoch just knelt there. “Please don’t hurt him more. I’ll do what you want. Just leave him alone.”
Miguel looked so arrogant. “Fine, for now anyway. He will stay tied up just in case you do not see fit to follow our instruction. Juan, help him into the hacienda. Johnny, I will return for some more fun later. Try not to miss me. Meanwhile enjoy your restful evening.” He walked behind Juan and Murdoch.
Johnny just hung his head. “Dios, it hurts.” He was lax and having a hard time staying awake. Suddenly, he heard a rustle from across the corral. He managed a glance over to where the noise was coming from. “Scott… “ He grinned a bit. “Hey brother, sorry you caught me hanging around.”
“Funny, Johnny. Let’s get you down.” Scott started to untie him.
“NO, you can’t! If he doesn’t see me here, he’ll hurt Murdoch. I’m fine. Leave me and go get help. I heard that they have the men locked up in the bunkhouse. Take advantage of the… “. He held his breath as nausea started to reach him. “Go get the men out. Leave me, ‘m ‘k, go”
Scott hesitated and cupped his brother face. “I’ll be back for you. Please don’t go anywhere.”
Johnny couldn’t help but chuckle. “I promise.”
Scott made his way to the bunkhouse. Looking into the small window, he got the attention of the first man he saw.
“Señor Scott, todo bíen? Qué está pasando?”
Shhhh, Luis, I’ve come to get you out. I can’t go to the front. There is a guard. How many of you can squeeze through this small window.” He bowed low when he heard some coughing from around the corner. He darned not move.
The first man slipped out. “Follow the corral on the south side, up to the barn. There are some rifles on the loft. Be very quiet.”
“Si Señor Scott.”
Scott helped four more men out. He was delighted that they were all good with the rifles. When Scott joined them in the barn, they immediately came up to him expressing their concern for Johnny, whom they had seen hanging on the corral fence. “Señor Scott, we need to get Juanito to safety. No?”
Scott placed his hand on Luis’s shoulder acknowledging his concern. “We’ll need to get him later. First, we need to disarm the others.” He looked into his eyes hoping they’d understand. They nodded. “Luis do you know how many there are?”
“I looked through the window every chance I get and I counted six at first. Then another hombre rode in with four more men.”
“Ok, we have three tied up in Jelly’s room. That leaves us with seven, not including Miguel and Mr. Wilson.” He stood with his hands on his waist. “Luis, did you happen to see where they are posted.”
“I did see three Señor Scott.” Answered Tomás. “One is by the hacienda to the left of the big window. Another is on the roof and a third is guarding our place.”
“Good, good. Thank you Tomás. That leaves four unknown. I am guessing one is back on watch in the kitchen entrance and one is guarding Johnny. The other two must be roaming the ranch.
“No señor, I just remember they rode off fast earlier.” Luis added.
“Yes, yes that’s right. They went after us. Now that makes it easier. Good.” Scott started instructing the men on which guard they would take down. He decided that the one man guarding Johnny was his.
The clouds were working with them as they continued to hide the moon’s light. Scott crept ever so slowly through the corral fence inching his way to Johnny. ‘So what do I do with him once I get him down? God. I don’t want the guard to signal the others.’
He slowed and paused his approach, watching as the guard stepped up to Johnny. “Not so fast with the fist now, eh tonto?” He kicked Johnny on the ribs. Then he walked to the other side of his victim. “Guess you thought you’d be smarter than el jefe?” He proceeded to kick his other side.
Johnny would just shiver with each blow refusing to moan grinning his teeth tight.
“Qué pasó? You like the pain… porque you don’t saying anything?” He whacked him between the shoulder blades with the rifle’s handle. Johnny could not help but release a moan. “Sí, that’s what I like to hear. The sound of suffering.” He lifted his rifle again readying another blow when his head was pulled back by the his hairs and an unexpected knife appeared slicing through his throat relieving him of an agonizing sound. Scott stood behind him, legs wide and firm. His breathing was heavy as his blood rushed through his veins surging with revenge. He quickly went to cut the binds holding Johnny.
“No… Sco..tt, Mur... doch, get ‘em.” And he landed on the ground looking up at his brother who was now soothing his forehead.
“I’m on it little brother. Let’s get you someplace safe.” Just as he was turning to lift Johnny, Scott felt some heavy hands on his shoulder. He quickly turned ready to fight when he saw a familiar face. “Whoa amigo. It’s me. What Johnny do ta’ himself this time? Damn boy, can’t leave ya’ alone anymore!”
“Val, thank God.” Scott relaxed and felt an urgent need to grab and hug him, but didn’t.
“Here amigo, let’s get this boy over to an area where I left Jelly and Doc waiting, just in case.” They both carried him over to a well hidden and secluded area south of the hacienda.”
As they arrived, Jelly ran up to the wagon and prepared the blankets for them to lay Johnny on. Sam grabbed his bag and walked over to the men. “Glad I insisted on coming now, huh? Well, how’s my favorite patient.”
Johnny glanced at him. “I thought I’d just keep you practicing some serious medicine.” He groaned as he was examined.
“Damn son. How do you manage to get people mad enough to do this to you?” Sam checked the wounds and ribs. “Your ribs are bruised and the slashes on your back aren’t that deep, but it will be painful for you to move. Now let me check your head.” He looked and smiled. “OK, no permanent damage, but might have a slight concussion. How many blows did you get tonight? There are a few lumps here.” He just shook his head in disbelieve. “Again, you’ll be sore and those bruises on your cheek and jaw…. hum, well, let’s get you on the wagon and taken care of.”
Scott was more at ease about Johnny, but needed to tell Val about the plans Miguel and Wilson had. He moved Val away from the wagon in order to speak to him in private.
“Val, the governor is coming out to Lancer tomorrow and….” He was interrupted.
“I know Scott and so does the governor. Apparently, they’ve been keepin’ a close eye on that Wilson fellow. Governor felt he should play along. He’s coming to Lancer.”
Scott was astonished. “The governor, NO Val they want to kill him and blame it on Murdoch. You’ve got to stop him!” Scott was now frantic.
“Now calm down Scott. There are some rangers coming all ready to fight.”
“Val, Murdoch is inside. They’ll kill him. He is not armed.”
“Not to worry. It’s all been taken care of. Now we need ta’ git mi amigo to safety or do I have to draw you a plan now while he’s hurting.” Val nudged him.
“Sorry Val.” They walked back over to the wagon.
Moments later Val disappeared back towards the ranch after he had instructed Scott to stay behind. He didn’t have time to fill him in on the details and didn’t give him much of a choice. Scott fought the decision, but when he heard his little brother call out his name, he gave in to Val instructions. He sat on the edge of the wagon as Sam finished up with Johnny’s wounds.
Johnny groaned at Sam continued to clean him up. “It hurts son, I know, but remember, you’ve had worse.” Sam smiled and Johnny attempted a laugh.
After a while, Johnny looked at the desperation on Scotts face. Sam had gotten down off the wagon; Johnny slowly shimmied towards his brother. “Hey Scott. Don’t worry. Val knows what’s he doing.”
Scott turned and chuckled as he spotted his little brother right there next to him. “Yeah… I know. I just can’t help feeling like I could have done more.” He bowed his head.
“Hey, you did plenty. You saved my sorry ass.” He elbowed him and winced at his sudden movement then he heard Sam standing along side of them arms folded with a frown.
“Shouldn’t he be laying down or something?” Scott glanced over to Sam.
“He’ll be fine. Didn’t need stitches and he’ll be aching and very sore, but he’ll be fine.”
“See Scott. I’ll be just fine.” They suddenly heard shots. Scott jumped off the wagon and grabbed his rifle. Johnny slowly stumbled alongside him. As they readied themselves to go join the fight, they heard loud shouts coming from the hacienda.
Scott was starting to move when Johnny reached out and stopped him. “Scott, let’s wait. We don’t want to interfere and possibly get shot by mistake.” Scott just nodded, as hard as it was; he knew his little brother was right.
Time was moving too slowly for those two. Their adrenaline was flowing and neither was feeling the affects of the night’s ordeal. Both were getting ready to go in regardless of the chance they’d take in getting shoot. It was better than waiting. They suddenly saw a tall figure walking towards them.
Both brothers shouted, “Murdoch!”
He ran up to his sons and wrapped his big long arms around them when he heard Johnny hiss in pain. “Johnny, are you alright?” He held his son’s shoulders and then looked at Sam.
Sam smiled as he continued to put his instruments away. “Oh, he’s had worse.”
Johnny rolled his eyes; Scott chuckled and Murdoch just rested his hands on Johnny’s cheeks as he gently stroked the bruises forming on his face. He brought him closer to his chest and sighed in content. Johnny felt all tingly inside. He loved it when his father showed them his affection.
They noticed that their father looked a bit tattered and wondered what might have happened.
Sam immediately ordered Johnny to rest on the wagon, and then proceeded to check on Murdoch.
While Sam was giving Murdoch the once over, Jelly was trying to make Johnny more comfortable, and Scott was being entertained by watching Johnny swatting Jelly’s hand away every time Jelly attempted to tuck him in, the noise at the hacienda had finally died down.
Finally settled into the wagon, they waited for the all clear from Val. Murdoch told them about the events he was glad his son’s had missed out on.
Riders were heard coming into the yard. Wilson looked out the window. “Seems my friend decided to arrive tonight with only two men. Good. This should make it easier to handle. Miguel, you know what to do.” Miguel went over to the corridor and hid.
There was a knock on the door. Wilson instructed Murdoch to go and greet his new guest. When Murdoch opened the door, a well-dressed tall man surprised him. Not saying a word, Murdoch, moved to the side and allowed the man in. Wilson stood, but as he started to walk over to greet the governor, he noticed something was askew with the man.
Before he could give out a shout to Miguel, Wilson reached for his gun, but was not fast enough. The man was quicker. Wilson lay on the floor clutching his chest. The decoy moved over to Wilson’s body.
When Murdoch heard gunfire out in the yard, he put his body between the stranger and Miguel. Miguel rushed past him trying to get a shot at the imposter governor and Murdoch was thrown to the ground. Murdoch did however manage to grab for Miguel’s feet causing him to trip and fall. This caused his gun to misfire as a stray bullet fly hit the stranger on the shoulder. The man knelt on one knee, dropped his gun, held his hand to his shoulder, and leaned against the wall for support.
Meanwhile, Miguel turned and kicked Murdoch in the face, but Murdoch grabbed him again and kept him down. “Estupido! You cannot win! It is too late. I will now go out and kill the son of a bitch you call a son!” Miguel managed to kick Murdoch twice allowing him time to stand and run out. The fear of Miguel killing Johnny gave him the agility to jump up and run towards the French doors. He grabbed Wilson’s gun and took off after Miguel.
Miguel stood in front of the corral as he noticed that Johnny was gone. He heard Murdoch heavy footsteps behind him then he turned ready to shoot the father of that bastard he hated.
Instead, he felt a sudden pain, which caused him to drop his gun. Holding the painful wrist, he wondered how this was possible. Miguel looked up and saw Murdoch manipulating his whip as he brought it back for a second strike. “You forgot this on the veranda.” Miguel was not given a chance to run when he felt the whip wrap around his feet causing him to land flat on his face.
Murdoch walked up and stonily stared at him with the assurance of a cougar ready to lunge at his prey. “You want to take on a man more your age. I’ll oblige you that privilege. Get up you bastard! I need to show you some manners.”
Miguel gave him a grin. He was feeling good about this. Just as he was about to take a swing at Murdoch, he felt a fist slam him down to the ground. “Stand up! Now! There’s more where that came from.” Murdoch was adamant about teaching him a thing or two.
Miguel was shooting fire from his eyes, especially when he realized that there was an audience circled around them. He stood and grabbed some dirt in his hand; only the dirt did not make it to Murdoch’s face when another hard fist got him good and hard on the side of his face. He did not fall back this time, but started to loose his balance. Murdoch allowed him to straighten up and face him.
“Come on Miguel. Show me how you treated my son when he was only ten years of age. Come on you son of a bitch!” Miguel rammed himself into Murdoch body, but the protective father was only moved back a few steps. The image of his baby boy being beaten by this savage provided enough anger in Murdoch that it gave him the strength of ten men.
Miguel looked up at this mountain of a man and saw a smile of utter delight before he felt another blow to his gut this time. Murdoch held his son’s torturer head by the hair and swung his fist into the assholes stomach, again and again. The final blow came to the chin.
Miguel was down and struggling to get up. “Want more? I’ve got plenty to give.” Murdoch stood next to him, and then scowled a remark. “Maybe I should have my men tie you up on that corral and treat you in the same manner you treated their friend using the whip you seemed so fond of.”
Miguel rolled onto his back and looked around. The Lancer men took one step forward and Murdoch took one step back. “Men, he’s all yours.” He threw the whip down and walked away. He advised Luis to control the men. He did not want Miguel dead, yet.
Walking back to the hacienda, he spotted Val. “Mr. Lancer.” He just chuckled and bowed. “Your boys are waiting for you south of that corral there under the big tree. Go to them before they hurt themselves running over here. I’ll take care of the rest.”
“Thank you Val.” He made haste and found the boys he dearly loved anxiously standing next to each other.
Chapter Eleven - epilogue
Val was a true friend. Murdoch was grateful that the sheriff managed to gather all the vaqueros that traveled with Riojas and Wilson. Sam tended to the injured men. The governor’s rangers were preparing to extradite the outlaws to another city. Riojas was more than likely going to be hung, as he was wanted for murder, none too soon for the Lancers.
The governor made it his personal business to visit the Lancer Ranch the following day to show them his appreciation. Things were quickly handled and thank you’s were exchanged. Life at the Lancer Ranch was finally back to normal.
Sitting in front of the fireplace, Murdoch was in deep thought over the events that happened three nights before. He was always amazed on how his boys were always willing to sacrifice themselves for each other, friends, and family.
His thoughts were interrupted when he heard the boys walking in laughing. “Hey you two, what’s so funny?” He took a sip of his drink.
“Nothing much. Just remembering what Johnny told the governor.” Scott just shook his head. “Thank God that man had a sense of humor.”
“Hey, I met Downey before he became governor when I saved his ass down South! Couldn’t believe it when I saw him riding in all powerful looking and such.” He slowly and carefully sat next to his father. “Just wanted to share my views, is all. He knew what I was talking about.”
Murdoch placed his hand on Johnny’s knee and laughed. “I can still hear you, ‘Now Gov. Downey, you of all people should know that good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgments.” Murdoch just chuckled some more. “There is truth to that point of view Johnny and you are right, he knew just what you were referring to!”
“Well Murdoch, it don’t take no genius to spot a sheep in a herd of cattle.”
“Amen brother, Amen!” Scott offered each a fresh drink then sat next to his father as well.