Lancer waved to the men on the work crew as he rode off on Barranca, heading in
the direction of the Lancer Hacienda. The
dark-haired man smiled and his blue eyes glowed as he gave Barranca lead to go
at full stride. It had been a long,
hot, day branding cattle and he was glad to be on the way home. He hoped that
Maria had kept her word; she’d been promising for days to make arroz con pollo
with refried beans and fresh flour tortillas. Now, if only Teresa had baked a
chocolate cake, the youngest Lancer would feel as if he’d died and gone to
thought of his surrogate sister brought a frown to Johnny’s face as he looked
down at his dark red shirt. There was a big black mark right down the front and
he knew Teresa O’Brien was going to have something to say when she saw it.
She had just made that shirt for his last birthday, and had warned him
that he would seriously regret it if he wore it as a work shirt. He tried to
think of an excuse for why he was wearing it but he couldn’t come up with one.
Johnny had just plain forgotten to put his dirty clothes in the laundry and this
was the only clean shirt he’d had to wear.
he cut across the stream and turned his horse west Johnny noticed a solitary
figure standing in the small Lancer ranch cemetery plot.
As he drew closer, he could see the breeze stirring the light colored
hair on the tall man’s bowed head, and he recognized the familiar dark gray
shirt. Sighing, Johnny continued riding towards the tiny graveyard, but stopped
some distance away, near the patiently waiting Brunswick, opting to give the man
the privacy he knew he’d prefer.
few long moments passed while Johnny waited quietly, even though he had yet to
be acknowledged. Finally, the
mourner turned towards the man on horseback, replacing his hat as he walked
slowly away from the small collection of headstones. As he approached the spot
where Johnny sat watching him, he looked up and said: “Howdy,
there, Chad, “ Johnny replied.
knew that it was Callie’s grave that Chad had been visiting.
Callie was Chad’s sister and Chad had killed her.
been her birthday tommorra Johnny, ” Chad observed sadly.
right, Chad?”, Johnny responded sympathetically, nudging Barranca forward as
Chad mounted Brunswick.
they continued on together towards the hacienda, Johnny thought back to when
he’d first met Chad. He had stopped to get a room for the night in a small
town twenty miles from Morro Coyo. Chad
had been in the saloon singing a song; Johnny couldn’t remember the name of
it, but it had been something about a witch woman. Callie, a slightly built
young woman with long blond hair, had been collecting money from the people
who’d been listening to Chad sing. Some local rowdies had come in and started
causing trouble. One of them-- Johnny recalled that the man’s name had been
“Buck”-- had made a pass at Callie and when Chad objected, Buck had
threatened him with a gun. Johnny had had to intervene, wounding Buck and
putting himself right in the middle. He’d
quickly given up the idea of getting a room and he’d left right behind Chad
and Callie. Thanks to his efforts to assist the two young strangers, Johnny had
ended up with an injured leg and a runaway horse.
and Callie had introduced themselves as the Bufords, all the way from Kentucky.
They’d come to California to kill off the last of a family called the Lancres.
It was part of a feud between the two families, and they’d insisted that they
couldn’t rest until the last of the Lancres were gone. The Bufords had helped
Johnny tend to his injury and he had decided to bring the two of them back to
by the time they’d arrived, Callie had convinced herself that Johnny was in
love with her. Apparently, it was some backwoods custom that if a man offered to
fetch wood for you he was asking for your hand or something. Callie had also
figured out that the Lancres that she and Chad were hunting had changed their
name to Lancer. It was, in fact, the members of Johnny’s own family that his
two new friends wished to eliminate.
frowned as he remembered having to explain to Chad that he wasn’t in love with
his sister. That had been difficult because Johnny had come to consider Chad a
friend. When Chad had in turn informed his sister that Johnny was not actually
smitten with her, Callie had reacted angrily.
She had told Chad that Johnny was a Lancre and then claimed that he’d
taken advantage of her. Chad had gotten so incensed at that, that he had
actually called Johnny out. Johnny had gone to meet with Chad to try to talk
some sense into him, making sure not to bring his gun along for the
confrontation. Callie, realizing that Chad might kill Johnny in cold blood, ran
to tell Chad the truth and Chad, thinking she was Johnny, had shot her by
mistake. Callie had died, but before she drew her last breath she had confessed
that Chad was not exactly a Buford, that in reality he was himself a Lancre.
Johnny remembered her words clearly; she’d said: “You are my older
sister Ann’s boy. And she ran off
with a . . Lancre.
Ann died and Paw raised ya like his own.”
Chad was Callie’s nephew, not her brother.
But regardless of their relationship, Callie had been Chad’s only
remaining relative. When they had
stood together at the graveside on the day of Callie’s burial, Chad had said
mournfully that it seemed like he didn’t know where he belonged. Johnny had said that Chad
belonged at the ranch and Murdoch had agreed, assuring the Kentuckian that he
was a Lancer and that the Lancer spread was where he belonged.
reckon the women folk will have supper ready when we git there?”
Chad asked, his question breaking into Johnny’s thoughts.
pulled himself back to the present and smiled. “I sure hope so. That brandin’
takes a lot out of a man.”
ya thinkin’ they’ll be feedin us tonight?” Chad wondered hungrily.
responded with a twinkle in his eye, “Well, I think Teresa said something
about . . . . .liver.”
groaned, “Liver! Now Johnny why’d ya have ta tell me that. I reckon I’m
gonna…” Looking at Johnny he realized that his cousin was pulling his leg.
race you home!” Johnny shouted and pushed Barranca into a full gallop leaving
Chad behind to catch up.
he finished his dinner, Johnny smiled contentedly and considered that he needed
to do something special for Maria. She
had in fact made his favorite Mexican dishes: Arroz con pollo, refried beans and
flour tortillas. He picked up his glass and finished his milk.
how’d the branding go today?” Murdoch Lancer asked from his place at the
head of the table.
Johnny said swallowing quickly. “Another day out there and I think we’ll be
finished. We woulda gotten done today but Jordan got stepped on and I had ta
send a couple of the hands to take him to see Doc Jenkins.”
his fork down, the elder Lancer turned to Chad, who was seated at Murdoch’s
left. “Chad, how far did you get on that ditch I wanted cleared?”
looked up from his food and said, “I reckon I’m bout half way done, suh.
Should be done by day after tommorra.”
Murdoch was not entirely pleased by the young man’s estimate.
“That long?“ he inquired doubtfully.
Then he nodded his white head and said “Well, you just keep at it,
Chad. . . . On second thought, why
don‘t you work with Johnny and the branding crew tomorrow, fill in for
Jordan?“ Chad bobbed his head in
agreement and Murdoch, smiling fondly at Teresa, changed the topic of
conversation. “Now, I want you
two boys to listen up because Teresa said she had something she wanted to tell
us at supper.”
smiled brightly. She got up from her seat beside Johnny and crossed the room to
pick up a piece of paper from one of the side tables. “Yes, one of the ladies from church stopped by today and
gave me this.” Returning to her place, she handed the page to Johnny.
“It’s an invitation to a church social; they are having a dance for members
of the congregation. It also says that they are looking for anyone who can sing
or play an instrument to be part of the entertainment. It’s next Saturday
night, and I thought we could all go as a family.”
looked across the table at Chad and said seriously. “Chad, you can do both. I
think we should sign you up.”
chimed in, “Oh, yes! Chad that would be just wonderful!”
shook his head, uncomfortable with the attention that Teresa and Johnny were
focusing upon him. “I don’t know, “ he replied, looking across at each of
them in turn.
sat back in his chair and said, “I think Johnny has an excellent idea. Let’s
retire to the great room and Chad, you can play a bit for us.
I’d like to see some of the dance steps from Kentucky too. We could
really turn this social into a learning experience for everyone.”
next day, Johnny greeted Chad when he entered the kitchen for breakfast. Chad
nodded soberly in Johnny’s direction and sat down heavily in the nearest
chair, resting his elbows on the kitchen table, the image of dejection. Johnny
immediately noticed that his cousin seemed particularly downcast this morning
and then, as he poured himself a cup of coffee, he remembered that today was
poured a second cup of coffee for Chad and handed it to him, but he knew that
there was really very little else that he could do. There was certainly nothing
that he could say. It had been an
accident, but Chad had pulled the trigger, he had shot and killed his sister.
There were no words to ease the pain and guilt caused by that stark fact.
shook his head. He himself had once felt that same guilt over his brother Scott.
The Velasquez brothers, seeking revenge for their own younger sibling’s death
in a gunfight with Johnny Madrid, had set it up so that Scott would have to face
him. Johnny remembered that fateful
day when he’d had to make the choice between dropping his older brother or
watching as the Velasquez’ partner, Gordon, shot Scott down in the street. He
had made the only decision he felt he could at the time and had wounded Scott
himself. There had been a long, dark, period of uncertainty when Johnny had
feared that Scott had died or was dying from that wound. And that feeling of
guilt was still there. Oh, he knew Scott hadn’t held it against him, he’d
even understood why Johnny had done it, but the former gunhawk still hated
remembering that he could have finished his only brother. He looked at Chad and
wondered how his cousin could bear knowing that he’d killed the young woman he
had loved as a sister. Johnny knew that he himself would have never been the
same again if he had actually taken Scott’s life.
Lancer had been away in Sacramento for a week and was due back in Morro Coyo on
the afternoon stage. “Hey
Chad,” Johnny said, “Ya want ta come with me ta meet Scott in town this
Chad could respond, Maria, carefully approaching the table holding two plates
laden with food, looked up at Johnny with a pleased expression.
“Senor Scott, he is coming home today?”
that’s right. And I’m bettin’
he’s forgotten all his espanol by now, Maria . . “
fussed at Johnny for saying that, but her pleasure at Scott’s imminent return
was evident. She began murmuring
aloud in Spanish as she considered the evening’s menu. Johnny grinned to
himself. Quite soon after the brothers had arrived at the ranch, Scott had
started asking Maria for Spanish words and translations and the older woman had
taken her role as instructor very seriously.
It was actually pretty fortunate that Scott had a good memory and
continued to pick up the vocabulary fairly easily, since Maria had even
threatened, jokingly Johnny hoped, to withhold food on occasion.
Boston hadn’t had too much success mastering the accent, and Johnny
knew that there had been times when his older brother would just as soon not
have had to eat some of the spicy Mexican dishes that Maria had prepared.
But Maria seemed to dote on the blond Lancer and was forever plying him
with her specialties, all of which were new, exotic, and in some cases,
difficult to acquire, tastes for the Easterner.
they trotted down the road on their way to Morro Coyo, Johnny glanced over at
Chad and frowned. He’d been pleased when Chad had said he’d come along, but
ever since they’d left home his cousin hadn’t said three words. Johnny had
tried several topics but Chad just wasn’t talking. Deciding he’d had enough,
Johnny reined Barranca to a halt and stopped in the middle of the road.
Brunswick, on his lead behind Johnny, came to a standstill as well.
Chad’s horse continued on bit, until Chad realized that Johnny wasn’t
with him. He pulled on the reins and as the horse slowed to a stop, Chad slid
sideways almost falling off. Johnny shook his head as Chad turned to ride back
to him; it
seemed his cousin still just couldn’t stay in the saddle.
matter, Johnny?” Chad asked, puzzled.
what I want to know?” Johnny asked with some irritation. “You ain’t said
three words since we left home. What’s eatin’ at ya?”
looked down at Buford, his big bay horse, his fingers playing with the reins
nervously. “Uh….well, I
didn’t want ta say nuthin’ but . . . I jist don’t
think Scott likes me much.”
Johnny said, “What gave you that idea? Scott gets along with most everybody,
he ain’t all that hard to live with.”
shook his head, “Right before he left he said that he was gonna get me some
learnin’ books cause I was needin’ to be taught some things so I ain’t so
said you were embarrassin‘?” Johnny was quite surprised that his older
brother would say something so . .
not polite . . . to Chad.
nodded. “I reckon he didn’t know I heard him. He was talkin’ ta somebody
and said he was fetchin’ ta straighten me right up.” Hanging his head Chad
said softly, “I’m sorry I’m not what ya family expects me ta be.”
just fine the way you are, Chad. We all like you just fine.”
but since he’s collige edjucated Scott jist knows he’s better’n us, now
stared at Chad, thinking about what he’d just said.
“Nah, it ain’t like that. Look,
I’ll talk ta Scott….”
shook his head interrupting him, “No, Johnny! I don’t want ya ta say nuthin’.
Mebbe I din’t hear ‘im right. Scott’ll git mad at me an’ it will jist
make things worse.” Nudging his horse forward. “Sides, I cain’t rightly
hold it agin him, he did have all that schoolin’ an all. But you jist ferget I
said nuthin‘, mebbe I was wrong.”
rode along in silence each lost in their own thoughts. Johnny couldn’t get
what Chad had said out of his head. Johnny
remembered when Scott had helped Josh learn to read. His older brother had been so patient with the ranch hand as
he’d struggled with the printed words. Scott
had sat with Josh for hours, just listening to him slowly sounding out the
words, only murmuring gentle corrections now and then when Josh was unable to
come up with the correct pronunciation. Big Josh had been a proud man, but he
had been very grateful for Scott’s assistance.
the other hand, Johnny also recalled that when he himself had returned from
teaching at that school, Scott had had a few choice comments to make about
Johnny‘s suitability for the task. Johnny
had assumed that the older man had only been teasing, that Scott had merely
intended a few harmless jokes—at least it had certainly seemed that way at the
time. But now, riding into town,
Johnny wondered if there had been more to it than that. Ol’Boston was always
talking about things from books he’d read, things that he knew pretty well by
now that Johnny had never heard about. But
Scott still kept on mentioning people from history or characters in stories that
he called “classics”. Johnny
had to admit that a lot of it was pretty interesting, but now he wondered how
much of it was just what popped into his brother’s head and how much was a
deliberate attempt on the Easterner’s part to “straighten Johnny right
shook his head, unhappy with his train of thought. Didn’t he know Boston better’n that by now? Scott had
never once said or done anything to indicate that he was in any way embarrassed
to have Johnny for a brother, in fact, much the opposite. Truth be told, early on, of the two of them, it had been
Scott who had been more accepting of their relationship.
Chad didn’t know Scott as well. As
they approached the outskirts of Morro Coyo, Johnny wondered if he should abide
by Chad’s wishes or if he should say something to his brother.
Chad was obviously unhappy, and Johnny was worried that Scott might
unintentionally say or do something to make matters worse.
Johnny decided that he’d let it go for now.
There would be plenty of time to talk to Boston later.
stage had already arrived when Johnny and Chad turned onto the main street.
From that distance, Johnny easily recognized the familiar lean figure of
his brother emerging from the coach. As
Barranca continued his steady pace, Johnny watched Scott turn back to the door
and assist an older couple to disembark. Still
too far away to make out distinct words, Johnny could tell that Scott was
talking with the husband and wife, and saw him tip his hat to the elderly woman.
slid off of Barranca, handed his reins and Brunswick’s lead to Chad, and
strolled over to Scott. “Hey,
Boston! You have a nice trip?” Johnny asked, lightly tapping his brother’s
Scott managed a small smile. “Yes, but that stage hit every hole between here
and Sacramento. I’m ready to go home and sit in a tub.” Seeing Chad dismount
from Buford a short distance away,
Scott greeted him with a mild, “Hello, Chad.”
replied, “Scott, glad yur home,” and stepped towards Scott. Scott turned to
retrieve his gun belt from the driver; he then passed it to Johnny and missed
seeing Chad’s outstretched hand. Reaching
to take the heavy leather bag being handed down to him from the top of the
coach, Scott looked over his shoulder and asked his brother a question:
“You didn’t bring a wagon?”
Then in response to Scott’s uplifted brow, Johnny explained that Jelly
would be coming into town in the morning for supplies and could pick up
Scott’s luggage then. “Just leave it at the hotel, if ya think ya can live
without it overnight.”
might survive, “ Scott said dryly and then wearily carried his bag into the
nearby building. When his brother
emerged a few minutes later, Johnny greeted him with, ”We brought Brunswick
with us, cause he missed ya.” Scott
was carrying a few small packages, which he had evidently removed from his
valise, and he slipped them into Brunswick’s saddlebags. He then had a few words for the chestnut and gave the horse a
couple of strokes on the neck. The animal nickered softly at the sound of his
voice. “Chad’s been exercising him for ya,” Johnny added.
really? . . Well, thanks, Chad,” Scott said glancing his way and then
back to Johnny. “Anything new at the ranch?”
said Johnny, handing Scott his gun belt. “’Cept that Teresa and Maria were
cookin’ up a storm when we left.” Johnny smiled as they walked to their
horses. “Seems the women are afraid you mighta starved while you were gone.”
grinned back at him as he strapped his weapon in place, “I can smell their
cooking already!” The three
Lancers mounted their horses and headed out of town.
looked around at the landscape appreciatively.
“It feels good to be home . . .
what’dya do in the big city?” Johnny prompted him.
with Will, mostly,” Scott replied slowly.
“Talked about the cases he’s working on. There is an art gallery that
just opened in Sacramento, it’s the first one here in the West,
. .” Then, as Scott
paused, Johnny interrupted him, turning to Chad.
“Hey, we better get out there and help finish the brandin’ or
Murdoch’s gonna wanna know why it ain’t done.” As Chad nodded in emphatic
agreement, Johnny turned back to his older brother. “Sorry, Scott, what’d
shook his head, “Never mind. I’ll talk to you tonight.”
and Chad broke off, and spurred their horses, heading across the open field.
had more than enough time before supper to take a bath and change out of the
dusty clothes in which he had been traveling. He buttoned his dark blue shirt
and tucked it in, fastened up his pants and walked over to the mirror. He ran a
comb through his still damp hair and then picked up the gift-wrapped box which
was lying on the dresser. The paper was a delicate pink with tiny little rose
buds on it. Scott smiled, knowing that Maria would love the paper almost as much
as the gifts inside.
walked downstairs, avoiding the dining room where he heard the voices of the
family gathering, and entered the kitchen. Maria and Juanita were busy preparing
the food for the evening meal. Scott quietly glanced at the dishes and smiled.
They’d made a roast, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn on the cob and a
blueberry crunch for dessert. He walked over to the counter and leaned on it.
Juanita smiled shyly in greeting, but Maria, intent upon her task, had not
noticed his entrance. Scott watched her work for a moment.
esta, Maria?” Scott said finally.
turned around putting her hand on her chest. “Muy bien, Senor Scott. You
scared me! Usted es una calma como un león de montana.” Though Scott had
learned a lot of Spanish from Maria, he had a hard time keeping up with her
rapid words. He did catch the words “quiet” and “mountain lion”.
smiled. “I’m really not as quiet as a mountain lion, but you were busy at
work and didn’t hear me come in.” He handed her the box, struggling to find
the right Spanish words with which to accompany the gift. Maria wiped her hands
off on her apron before accepting the box from Scott.
Scott said gesturing to the present. “Para….. teaching me espanol.”
sat down in a chair near the kitchen table, placing the package in her aproned
lap and commenting on how “bonita” it
looked. Scott settled in a chair
beside her. She finally began to unwrap the box, being careful not to rip the
paper. She would certainly save this beautiful paper, never had she seen
anything like it in all her life! She set the box on the table and removed the
cover. In the left hand side of the box, nestled in the tissue paper was a milk
white perfume atomizer with pink flowers painted on it, and a matching powder
box. On the right hand side was a
collection of bundles of silk embroidery thread. Maria ran her fingers
delightedly through the colorful silk skeins. There were at least a dozen, maybe
more, and the hues were both beautiful and unusual.
Senor Scott. They are….bonita!.” Maria smiled as she stood up, and in her
enthusiasm, actually leaned over and gave “Senor Scott” a quick hug and a
pat on the cheek. “But you should
not have! They must have cost mucho dinero.” Scott was pleased with Maria’s
delight in his gift, but somewhat uncomfortable with the display of motherly
affection. It was not something that he had often experienced. He stood up,
giving Maria his own quick hug, then moving away as Teresa walked through the
looked down at Maria with a serious expression and said. “Si, Maria. I should
have.” Scott would have liked to say more but felt uncomfortable doing so with
Teresa in the room. He turned to the girl to inquire “Are they waiting for
nodded and turned to Maria. “Give us five minutes, Maria.”
Miss Teresa.” Maria said nodding as she turned back to her preparations.
put his arm around Teresa’s shoulders and asked, “Shall we?” They walked
out of the kitchen.
the dining room, Scott quickly noted that the place at the end of the table,
opposite Murdoch, was set. He sat
there, since Chad was now occupying Scott’s accustomed seat across from Teresa
conversation over the meal centered on the recent branding of the herd.
Murdoch had been none too pleased when Scott had announced that he was
planning to be away for part of that major undertaking, but Chad had filled in
fairly well, and there were numerous other projects in the works, including the
fencing of a new pasture area. After carefully interrogating Johnny and Chad
about the final day of branding, Murdoch immediately began outlining the
preparations that were necessary before the task of fence construction could get
the start of the meal, Maria and Juanita had carried out the platters of food
and served portions to each of the family members. From time to time, one of the women would reappear in the
dining room to replenish a dish or to remove an empty bowl. When Murdoch finally concluded his talk about fence posts and
wiring and the various tools needed to outfit the work crews, he requested that
Scott pass him the mashed potatoes. Johnny
looked at his brother and noted that the platters and serving dishes seemed to
have congregated at Scott’s end of the table:
“See, I told ya Maria was afraid you’d starved.”
After the meal, the family adjourned to the Great Room. Murdoch settled down with a book and Chad and Johnny set up the board for a game of checkers. Teresa finally had the opportunity to ask Scott some questions about his trip to Sacramento. Scott had just started to describe the case that his friend Will had been working on, when Jelly came in, hoping for a game of chess with Johnny. Seeing that the younger man was occupied, the grizzled horse wrangler settled down to watch the checkers match, greeting Scott as he did so. “So, ya decided ta come back, didya? Get tired of the big city?”
Jelly,” Scott replied with an amused look.
“I was just telling Teresa about my activities there.”
bin ta Sacramento. Like ta stay as
far from them gov’ment types as I can.”
my friend Will is a lawyer. . .”
“They’s too many of them
too,” Jelly decreed.
“I considered becoming a lawyer
once myself, Jelly,” Scott informed him.
“But ya didn’t now didya? Neva said ya weren’t smart.“ Jelly folded his
flannel-clad arms across his vest and focused his attention on the checkers
Scott resumed his account of life
in Sacramento, telling Teresa about a concert which he had attended there with
his friend Will. Will Hayford was a fellow Bostonian, a childhood friend of
Scott’s, who had also attended Harvard. Like
Scott, a Union Army veteran, Will had come West seeking a change of scenery and
had joined a Sacramento law firm only a few months previously.
Although the young men had exchanged letters, the recent visit had been
their first opportunity to meet in person since Scott had left Boston two years
about the concert reminded Teresa of the church social, with its promise of
musical entertainment. She
described the upcoming event and then informed Scott of the identity of some of
the local talent. “Chad is going
to sing some songs from Kentucky . . and
play the mandolin.”
that right?” Scott responded. “Well,
that should be . . .
do you play any musical instruments?” she inquired.
I spent untold hours taking piano lessons when I was a boy,” was his response,
shaking his head at the memory.
for Chad to make a move in the checkers game, Johnny had been listening to the
last part of the conversation between his brother and surrogate sister. When
Scott mentioned piano lessons, Johnny interjected a quick question: “You any
shrugged slightly. “I suppose I wasn’t too bad.” Then he added: “I do
have the hands for it,” holding up two large ones.
“Long fingers. ”
what kind of music did you play?” Teresa asked him.
mostly classical pieces-- Mendelssohn was always one of my favorite composers.
I’m not sure that I could play any of them now.
It’s been a long time.”
moved one of his red checkers forward, then added his own comment.
“Wall, in Kentucky we laike to
play music ya kin dance ta, not just sit still an’ lissen.“
was saved from having to respond to Chad’s remark when Johnny let out an
exclamation and jumped over two of his opponent’s pieces.
look too good fer ya, Chad,” Jelly observed.
left the room for a moment and Scott sat back to casually observe the checkers
game as the play continued. He was
surprised to see that his brother, who had become a more than fair player at
chess, had left himself dangerously open. Scott
watched more attentively, expecting Chad to take advantage of the situation.
Instead, Chad pushed one of the red pieces into a position that allowed Johnny
to swiftly and easily defeat him. Scott noted his brother’s expression of disbelief, then
delight, as he declared his victory. Chad
looked crestfallen, but for some reason Scott had the impression that their
“cousin” had deliberately allowed Johnny to win the game.
for Chad to relinquish his spot, Jelly commented on the play.
“Don’t know what you was thinkin’ there. Not much, I guess, “
Jelly said, shaking his head. Chad shook his own head ruefully.
“He sure got me agin,” he observed as he eased out of his seat.
Jelly and Johnny set to work arranging the checkers on the board.
Scott, do ya play checkas a’tall?” Chad asked as he settled into the
spectator position that Jelly had just vacated.
do,” was the response. “But I
really prefer chess.”
I kinda thought that.”
came back into the room, resumed her seat on the couch beside Scott and asked a
few more questions about his visit with Will Hayford: “So will your friend
ever come here and visit us at the ranch?”
a matter of fact, he’s just finishing up a case this week and may have the
opportunity to visit very soon. I have invited him.”
knew him in Boston, is that right?”
right, Will and I grew up together. He
was a few years older, and he and his family lived nearby.“
looked up at that remark. “I understood that your friend was an army veteran.
I assumed that you served with him.”
we got us anutha Yankee comin’?” asked Chad with a grin.
responded to Murdoch’s inquiry: “I’ve
known Will a very long time—he was very much like an older brother to me.
And he did serve during the War, but not in the cavalry. He was a captain
in the Infantry.
had looked sharply up at the word “brother”, but asked a different question:
“So what were you?”
carefully considered his younger sibling, not immediately certain exactly what
he was asking. Finally, “A
lieutenant,” Scott responded, in a somewhat reluctant tone.
His experiences during the War were not something that he spoke about
very often, and only rarely had he referred to them amongst his family.
whistled and Johnny grinned and gave his older brother a friendly mock salute.
Jelly gruffly informed Johnny that he better be concentrating a little
harder or he’d be surrendering pretty quick.
the game was concluded, Johnny stretched and yawned and announced that he was
turning in. “We got that ditch to finish tomorrow,” he reminded Chad.
Murdoch nodded his assent, observing that the project needed to be
completed the next day. “And Scott, you might do some work on the books tomorrow.
Since you’ve been away, I haven’t had any time to work on them.”
“I’ll take care of it, sir”, Scott replied, choosing to overlook
the faint hint of resentment in Murdoch’s words.
few days later, Johnny, Scott, Chad and some of the hands rode out to work on
fencing in the new pasture. Once they arrived at the site, Scott immediately set
about giving the men their assignments for the day.
Johnny, you kin sure tell who’s gonna give th’orders when Murdoch’s not
aroun’.” Chad murmured under his breath to Johnny, shaking his head.
frowned at Chad’s statement, “What d’ya mean?”
nodded his head toward the men. “See how they’re all goin’ off in pairs?
Scott matches ‘em up,--he’s makin’ sure that th’ones that he thinks
ain’t so likely ta work hard are workin’ with one a them that gits the job
done.” Chad looked at his cousin and smiled. “Now, when you run a crew, you
jus’ tell em what needs ta be done and let ‘em go do it.”
observed Scott closely, waiting until he was finished with the men. Normally,
none of this would have bothered him, but he could see that Chad was right.
Scott had just jumped right into army mode or something and started assigning
everyone his duty for the day. Leaning
against a tree, Johnny played with the string on his hat as he waited
impatiently for his brother, good ol‘ Scott “Lieutenant” Lancer, to get
around to him.
Scott did turn his attention to Johnny and Chad, who were standing together by
the tree near their horses. Striding over to them, Scott gave Johnny a smile.
ready to go to work?” Scott asked as he pulled his gloves on.
waitin’ for you to get to me with my orders.” Johnny said in a slightly
irritated tone. He pushed away from the tree. “What do ya want Chad and me ta
started to speak and stopped, considering Johnny’s comment. He wondered if
perhaps he had come across as too commanding. He knew that the men often
didn’t respond to that very well.
of answering Johnny right away, Scott turned to Chad, pointing to the nearest
pile of fence posts and wiring. Similar stacks were already positioned, spaced
evenly along the proposed fence line. “This
isn’t even half the material we’re going to need to get this job done.
Chad, why don’t you head back to the barn and get some more posts and
wiring. By the time…”
I was thinkin’, Scott, maybe you should go get the supplies.” Johnny said
interrupting his older brother. “I’ll work with Chad, that’ll give ya a
chance to catch up, you havin’ been on vacation and all.”
started to object but thought better of it. He really didn’t want to argue
with Johnny in front of anyone, even Chad. It seemed that his brother was
already annoyed with the way that he’d handled the crew so Scott decided that
perhaps it would be better to just do as Johnny had suggested and go back after
the supplies himself. Without another word, the older sibling nodded and headed
quickly towards his horse. He
mounted Brunswick and then watched as his younger brother and Chad headed out
with the rest of the work crew. Scott pulled on the reins and spurred the
chestnut back towards the Hacienda.
Scott rode along at a moderate pace, he realized that it would take Johnny and
the others most of the morning to use up the materials on hand, and therefore
there was no real need to hurry. He
had ample time to get more supplies and return to the work site. Cresting the
hill, he looked over the expanse of land which was Lancer, took a deep breath
and sighed. This really was one of the “most beautiful places in the whole
wide world.” He smiled as he recalled the day that he and Johnny had first
arrived at the ranch. Teresa had referred to it as such, when she’d stopped to
show them their father’s land from the perspective opposite this one; it had
truly been a spectacular view.
His initial interactions with his brother, on the other hand, had been far from spectacular. Over time, that had changed significantly. As they’d gotten to know each other, the two had become quite close, and, despite their many differences, the young men had generally gotten along surprisingly well. Scott was puzzled and concerned as to why he and Johnny didn’t seem to agree on very much lately. But perhaps that was to be expected. After all, they had come from such very different ways of life.
his mother’s death, Scott had been raised from infancy by his maternal
grandfather in Boston, Massachusetts. Harlan Garrett was a wealthy man, and had
been able to provide his only grandson with many advantages. In addition to his
grandfather’s loving guidance, Scott had received a fine education and had
enjoyed the opportunity to travel. Prior to his military service, Scott’s life
had been filled with many positive experiences, although he had often wondered
about his father’s absence from his life.
crossed the stream, turning south towards the ranch. Johnny’s story on the
other hand was very different. Maria, Murdoch’s second wife, had apparently
packed up one night and fled the ranch, taking her baby with her. Johnny’s
mother had left her son an orphan at a young age; his formal education had
evidently been spotty and Johnny had grown up in the area around the Mexican
border. Murdoch Lancer had spent a
lot of time and money trying to find his younger son, without success--at least
not until two short years ago, when a Pinkerton agent had finally tracked him
contrast, Murdoch had always known where Scott was, but for
reasons which were still unclear, he had left his elder son in Boston.
Scott sometimes wondered
what life would have been like if things had been different—if the two
brothers had met sooner, had even been raised together.
He smiled to himself now, shaking off the thoughts of
“what if”. The fact of
the matter was that he and Johnny were just two very different people and it was
inevitable that they would clash on certain subjects. One example of their dissimilarity was that his younger
brother had a tendency to be more relaxed and flexible and to live for the
moment while Scott was more methodical, he preferred that things were done in an
orderly fashion; he liked to have a plan. It
really wasn’t surprising at all that the two siblings didn’t always get
along perfectly; it would be quite unrealistic to expect that the two
strong-willed young men would always agree.
few hours later, Scott returned to the work area driving a buckboard laden with
supplies. The young man
watched approvingly as the scattered members of the work crew toiled on the
fence line. Scott jumped down from the wagon, grabbed a basket off of the seat
and walked over to where the first pair of men were hard at work. Frank, a tall
black man originally from Pennsylvania, and a veteran employee, was working with
Andy, one of the newer hands. The
two men looked up and then paused in their labors, reaching for their canteens
as Scott approached. Expecting to
receive some new instructions, they were pleasantly surprised when Scott lifted
the lid of the basket, revealing freshly baked biscuits and a jar of jam which
Teresa had provided. Frank greeted Scott and Andy grinned appreciatively as he
helped himself to the welcome refreshment.
Scott knew that Frank was extremely reliable. As a former soldier himself, having served in one of the
Negro Regiments during the War, the older man was more than familiar with the
chain of command. Andy, the new hire, seemed to be an affable young man.
So far he had been content to follow the lead of the more experienced
hands, while still pulling his weight. There was no question that the fresh
biscuits were welcome and would help keep the men going until Jelly arrived with
the chuck wagon at noon. After assisting Frank and Andy in unloading their share
of the new fencing materials, Scott continued along the line.
Each pair of men responded enthusiastically to the food that accompanied
the additional supplies. Noticing how hard the men were working, Scott made a
point of complimenting each pair on a job well done.
he got to Johnny and Chad however, Scott immediately recognized that they had
made comparatively less progress. Chad, bareheaded, with his shirt sleeves
rolled up to the elbows, was holding a post upright, while Johnny filled in
around it with dirt. If this was what they had been doing all along, then it was
no small wonder that they hadn’t progressed as rapidly as the other men. Like
most of the men, Johnny was more
than capable of holding his own post and packing the dirt in around it. Johnny
was usually one of the hardest working members of any crew.
Chad should have been stringing the wire around each post while Johnny
moved on to set the next one. Seeing
the disgruntled expression on his younger brother’s face, Scott decided to
refrain from comment. He casually inquired, “So how is it going?” as he
handed Johnny and Chad the basket containing the remainder of the biscuits.
right along, Scott,” was Chad’s reply as he grabbed for a biscuit and
hungrily wedged most of it into his mouth. “Ain’t that right, Johnny?”
“That’s right, Chad,” was the dark-haired man’s quiet response. Johnny reached for a biscuit of his own and then proceeded to
methodically spread some of Teresa’s preserves over the crusty surface.
He did not look at Scott.
frowned. He set about unloading the last of the posts from the wagon bed, even
though Johnny and Chad still had quite a few left in their pile.
It seemed clear to him that Chad was holding Johnny up rather than
helping him. Scott wondered now whether Johnny didn’t let Chad get by with a
lot because of what had happened to Callie. He noticed that their “cousin”
was sitting under the shade of a tree, eating another biscuit, while Johnny,
bare-chested and perspiring, was already back at work.
Scott carried a post down the line; Johnny was intent upon his task and
did not look around when his older brother approached.
the post down on the ground, Scott straightened and regarded the younger man
with a concerned expression. Slowly, Scott lifted the strap of his canteen off
of his shoulder, removed the lid and took a drink. “So . .
.” he started to say, and finally Johnny stopped shoveling and looked
up at him. As he handed over the
canteen, Scott couldn’t help quietly commenting. “It does seem to be going
more slowly than usual,” and then winced inwardly at his own words.
took a drink from the canteen, seemingly undisturbed by his brother’s remark.
“Yeah, it’s a hot day. I was thinking maybe Chad should go after the next
load and you can work with me. Give ‘im a break.”
resisted the urge to say something critical about Chad.
To be fair, he hadn’t been out here all morning and it could be that
Chad had been doing his share of the work; perhaps it only seemed as if Johnny
had had to carry the load.
glanced over at Chad and back at his younger brother. “All right. Whatever you
leaned on the shovel, turning to Chad, “Hey Chad, why don’t you take the
wagon back and pick up some more supplies. Jelly should be headin’ out here
the same time as you to bring lunch.”
looked uncertain. “Wall . . okay,
sure, Johnny. If’n that’s what ya want me ta do.” After looking from one
brother to the other, Chad got up reluctantly and wandered towards the wagon.
The big Kentuckian slowly clambered up into the buckboard seat. Taking up the
reins, he managed to turn the team and headed off towards the hacienda.
get to work then, Boston.” Johnny said smiling and punching Scott lightly on
the shoulder. “Don’t want to look bad in front of the hands now do we?”
the next hour, the brothers worked steadily in a companionable silence.
Scott dug the holes, put the posts in and filled around them with dirt
while Johnny strung the fence line. As Scott methodically pushed the shovel into
the ground he wondered what would be the best approach to take in talking to his
brother about Chad. Chad had been at the ranch for a while now, and the young
man still didn’t seem to be fitting in. The elder Lancer had a feeling that if
Chad was really trying his hardest, then the Kentuckian simply did not have what
it took to be a rancher. As he piled the dirt beside the hole and then brought
up another shovel full, Scott glanced over at Johnny who was running the wiring
around the previous fence post. He
shook his head. Johnny seemed to be very protective of their
“cousin”. Maybe it would
be best if he spoke to Murdoch about Chad.
took a break and stretched, his muscled torso glistening in the sun.
Reaching for his canteen, he took a sip of water and then paused for a
moment and watched his older brother at work-- sleeves rolled up, beige shirt
untucked and partially unbuttoned, the fabric darkened with sweat.
Scott sure had come a long way since his early days at Lancer. He had
been a “city boy”, a “greenhorn” back then.
Thanks to his military experience, the Bostonian could ride and shoot and
was comfortable being in charge. He
also excelled at bookkeeping and actually seemed to enjoy handling the accounts.
But Scott hadn’t known the first thing about real ranch work.
A few aspects of ranching had been new to Johnny too, of course, but he
had been somewhat familiar with most of the tasks and had tried to advise and
encourage Scott when he’d needed it. It hadn’t always been easy for the
elder brother to accept that support, but Scott had demonstrated a desire to
learn and a determination to succeed, even when things hadn’t gone well for
him. Initially, he’d had
difficulty with some of the new skills that he’d attempted, but with patience
and perseverance Scott had turned into one of the better ranch hands the dark
haired Lancer had ever known. He
frowned when he thought about Scott’s lack of patience with their cousin. All
Chad needed was some time and someone to help him--just as Scott had. Johnny
picked up the fencing wire and started to attach some more to the next post.
rate we’re going we’ll have this pasture fenced in by the end of the
week,” Johnny commented glancing at his brother.
paused, looking down the distant line of men hard at work. “Yes, we will, as
long as everyone keeps busy.”
people just work faster than others, I guess.”
some men work harder than others,” was Scott’s smooth rejoinder.
bristled slightly, “Sometimes it takes a while to learn something new.
Took you some time, I seem ta recall.”
nodded, “That’s true,” he said mildly.
He was about to make a direct observation about Chad, but to his
surprise, it was Johnny who finally referred to their cousin by name.
Johnny stood staring down at the canteen that he was still holding in his
hand. “I heard from Chad that you
were gonna bring ‘im back some books from Sacramento,” he said carefully,
then looked at Scott, waiting for a reply.
When his brother, leaning on his shovel, nodded in the affirmative,
Johnny continued. “You know,
Scott, some folks who don’t have much book learnin’ don’t like bein’
reminded ‘bout it.”
suppose you’re right,” Scott said slowly, then picked up his shovel and
returned to his task. He couldn’t help wondering whether his brother was
speaking just for Chad or for himself as well. He was uncomfortably aware that he had stepped on his
younger brother’s toes upon occasion, whenever he’d made the mistake of
blandly assuming that Johnny was familiar with things that Scott remembered from
his own studies. Hearing a footstep, he looked up to see that Johnny was now
standing only a few paces away. The
younger man looked down at his work gloves as he slowly removed them.
“I’m wonderin’ what you got against Chad,” he said softly.
sighed. He knew that this was a
fair question, and he’d been asking himself the same thing.
Then this morning, as he was driving the buckboard back from the
hacienda, the answer had come to him. Resting
his gloved hands on the top of the shovel handle, Scott gazed off towards the
distant mountains. “I suppose
that it may be that he reminds me of someone . . . .”
his work gloves in one hand, Johnny folded his arms across his bare chest and
waited quietly to see if Scott would say anything more.
was a guard named Carter . . . he was almost affable when his superior officers
were around. But at times he was
quite . . . brutal.”
when former lieutenant Dan Cassidy and his “friends” had shown up looking
for Scott, Johnny had been amazed to learn that during the War his brother, the
“pampered city boy“, had spent a year in a notorious Confederate prison
camp. Even worse, Scott had been the sole survivor of a doomed escape attempt,
and wrongly accused by Cassidy and others of being a traitor.
In the days following Cassidy’s departure, there had been moments when
Johnny had glimpsed a haunted look in his brother’s eyes and it had been
painfully obvious that Scott had no desire to talk about his experience.
It had been almost a year and a half since then, and Johnny still
didn’t know any more details about his brother’s military service or his
time in Libby Prison. Now it took
Johnny a moment to realize that Scott was volunteering information on the very
topic which they had avoided for so long.
older brother looked down at the ground, then met Johnny’s eyes with his
customary direct gaze. “There’s no real physical resemblance between them,
but the accent’s the same. Perhaps Private Carter was from Kentucky.“
still could only hazard a guess at the sort of treatment that Scott might have
received at the hands of this Private Carter and others, but he was dismayed to
think that his brother might hold it against Chad simply because he sounded like
one of those guards. “Well,
we’re here now,” Johnny ventured in what he hoped was a sympathetic tone,
and watched as all the expression on Scott’s face drained away. The older man picked up his shovel and turned away as Johnny
added lightly, “You sure don’t
need to worry ‘bout Chad; I mean, if I was you, I sure wouldn’t lose any
sleep over ‘im, Boston.”
that last remark, Scott turned back towards Johnny, his face a mask, his eyes
cold. “I’m not ‘worried’
about him. But I’m not certain
that he’s as simple as he appears to be.”
Turning away, Scott headed towards the spot where Brunswick was tethered,
quickly putting distance between his younger sibling and himself with just a few
kicked at the ground, while mentally kicking himself for his choice of words.
From spending time with his brother out on the trail, he was well aware
that the man didn’t sleep all that well at night.
Once he’d learned of Scott’s wartime imprisonment, the cause of the
frequent nightmares had seemed evident. Not
that they’d ever spoken about them at all. Of course, the last time Scott had
woken him in the night, Johnny had heard his elder sibling say something about a
gun; he’d caught the name “Drago” too.
he slowly bent down and picked up his shirt, Johnny recalled that Scott had
revealed only a very few details of his captivity at the hands of Drago and his
crew. Johnny understood from Murdoch and Jelly that the outlaw had somehow been
convinced that Scott was the gunfighter, “Johnny Madrid“.
When Drago and the girl Violet had finally been apprehended, Johnny had
ridden into town with Murdoch to file the complaint against them. That Drago
sure was a piece of work; with Murdoch standing right there, he’d actually
complimented Johnny on his “daddy” and how much “spunk” he had.
But then the man had added, “Much as I’ve heard ‘bout you Johnny,
you’d have a ways ta go ta match that brother of yours.”
after Murdoch and Jelly had attempted to sabotage the Gatling gun, Drago’s man
Chapel had decided to test the machine, using Scott for target practice. Johnny
and Murdoch had listened in stunned disbelief as the loquacious Drago had gone
on and on about the “damned miracle”. The
outlaw confided that he’d wanted to find out if the blond man--- who he at the
time still believed to be Johnny Madrid--- would stand tall in the line of fire
or fall to his knees “when the time came.”
Shaking his head in wonder, Drago had repeated a phrase, not once but
twice: “I guess no man really knows, til his time comes.”
That’s what Scott had said, according to Drago at least, and Johnny
could almost hear just exactly how his brother would have spoken those words.
The gun had dispensed its hail of bullets and at the end, somehow, Scott
had still been standing. Johnny had
been amazed to hear Drago’s story. The
account had made an even stronger impression on Johnny because he’d come very
close to having a similar experience. When he’d finally been located by the
Pinkerton agent that Murdoch had sent to track him down, Johnny had been about
to face a firing squad. Kneeling on
the ground, waiting for his turn, Johnny’s worst fear had been that his body
might betray his will, that his knees might buckle, “when the time came”.
Then the Pinkerton man had arrived and Johnny had never actually stood in the
line of fire. But Scott had
. . .
Drago’s account echoing in their ears, the ride back to the ranch had been a
quiet one. Neither Murdoch nor Johnny had said anything about the outlaw’s
tale, not even when they dismounted and walked side by side to stand and
contemplate the wall. They had
simply stared at the pattern of holes edging the spot where Scott must have
been, neither of them addressing the other, although Johnny had allowed a
Spanish epithet to escape his lips. Murdoch Lancer had wasted no time in
directing some of the men to make repairs to the damaged wall.
Scott had refused to testify against Drago and Violet.
Johnny shook his head as he slowly slid his sweaty arms into his shirt.
Scott had helped Dan Cassidy too, protected him from the other
ex-soldiers, Lewis and Hardy, even though the man had traveled three thousand
miles to kill Scott for something that Cassidy himself had inadvertently
done--betray the escape attempt. Well,
Murdoch had called it “compassion”; Johnny hadn’t been sure what to call
it at the time, but the word “loco” had been one which had come to mind.
It seemed that ever since he’d known him, his brother had been quick to
help people, even when they didn’t seem to deserve it.
Scott always seemed ready to give a man---or a woman---the benefit of the
doubt, although he’d had ample reason to regret it more than once. But Scott
usually persisted in helping whoever it was regardless.
Which just made it more disturbing that Scott didn’t seem to be able to
do the same for Chad. Their cousin
was too young to have fought in the War, but he was from the South . . . <<Well,
I guess every man has his limits>> Johnny thought, <<maybe
even my big brother.>>
to avoid getting into an argument with Johnny about Chad, Scott walked swiftly
away from his younger brother. Johnny’s
words followed him, repeating themselves in his head, <<I
sure wouldn’t lose any sleep over ‘im, Boston.>>
knew that his brother couldn’t have helped noticing the frequent disturbances
in his sleep, but he had appreciated the younger man’s discretion in thus far
refraining from comment. Perhaps it
was inevitable that something would be said eventually.
Scott removed his hat and wiped the damp hair from his brow with a gloved
hand before settling the hat back once more on the crown of his head.
He was feeling especially tired today; Private Carter had in fact invaded
Scott’s sleep the night before, which he realized was probably why he’d
finally made the connection between his memories of the prison guard and his
attitude towards Chad.
could hardly feel proud of himself if the basis of his negative view of
their Lancer cousin was simply that he came from the South. <<But
there’s more than that . . .
>> Scott ruefully
recognized that part of his resentment of Chad might possibly stem from his
observation of Johnny’s relationship with the younger man.
Johnny and Chad did seem to be spending a great deal of time together.
Despite what he’d said just now, Scott did view Chad as
“simple”; there was certainly nothing sinister about him, unless it was his
propensity to “throw” checkers games . . .
approached Brunswick and absently stroked the chestnut’s neck before removing
the gun belt that he had hung on the pommel of his saddle.
When Johnny was at work, he often preferred to be free of the confining
fabric of whichever shirt he was wearing, but his gun belt always remained in
position, slung low across his hips. Scott,
on the other hand, was always ready to be unencumbered by the weight of a gun.
Holding the holster in one hand, he used the other to slip the ends of his shirt
into the waistband of his pants before wrapping the gun belt around his hips.
He was suffering from a lack of sleep, it was a hot day and he was
hungry. Johnny must be too, and
they both had been pushing themselves very hard, an unspoken agreement between
them that they would try to make up for the ground lost by Johnny and Chad
earlier in the day--they’d made good progress
too. Scott told himself that
any one of those factors would explain why he had heard a disparaging tone in
the name “Boston”, why his brother’s fond nickname had rankled a bit just
that he was ashamed to be from Boston, not by any means.
His home city had much to recommend it . . But when he had first arrived
out West, Scott had learned quickly that hailing from a city, being from “back
East”, even possessing a formal education, none of these things were likely to
be considered points in one’s favor, but rather black marks against a man so
identified. The Bostonian had come
to enjoy his new life out West; he relished the challenges, the hard work, the
sense of belonging to a family. But
he did occasionally miss the familiar faces and well-known streets of his home
city. Scott had to admit that it had been very pleasant to spend some time in
Sacramento with a good friend from “back home”.
Perhaps he needed to do a bit more of that . . .
far off sound caught his attention and, looking over Brunswick’s back, Scott
could see Jelly approaching with the chuck wagon, followed by Chad driving the
buckboard. Even from this distance,
he could see that the supply wagon was not filled to capacity.
Scott sighed and resolved to refrain from voicing criticism.
Chad could simply head back again after the crew had finished with lunch.
Scott glanced over towards Johnny, who was just finishing buttoning up
Jelly,” he offered.
I’m hungry enough to eat no matter what he’s fixin’”, was Johnny’s
nodded his assent. “So am I.”
what are we waitin’ for?” Johnny asked with a grin. The brothers mounted and
rode off to join the others.
Carefully carrying a rimmed tin plate filled with Jelly’s hearty stew, Scott found a seat on the ground under some trees, near Andy, the new hand, and young Walt. Dark haired Walt was a local boy. His father, a solidly built man with prematurely white hair, shared the name Walt and was also employed at the ranch. Scott first chatted briefly with Walt and was asking Andy a few questions, trying to find out how things were going for the recent hire, when Johnny joined the group.
a few joking comments about Jelly and his cooking, the four men lapsed into a
short silence as they concentrated hungrily on the food. Once the edge had
been taken off of his appetite, Johnny slid a question of sorts over to his
brother, "So this friend of yours in Sacramento, tell me ‘bout ‘im."
"Will? We grew up together--though he’s a few years older than I."
"Ya said he’s a lawyer?"
"That’s right. He specializes in criminal
cases," Scott grinned at his brother, the former gunfighter.
"So if you’re ever seeking representation, I’d recommend him."
"Yeah? Thanks," was Johnny’s response, causing Scott to smile even more broadly down at his stew. Andy was bewildered by the comment, but Walt was amused. He was familiar with the easy relationship between the two Lancer brothers, and also knew something of Johnny’s past. Walt had witnessed the ex-gunslinger in action versus Sam Stryker’s boy, before the young ranch hand had himself fallen victim to one of the elder Stryker’s bullets. Speculation about the career of Johnny Madrid was rife among the Lancer employees; they often compared notes about the known facts as well as the myriad other details which they merely believed to be true. But none of them had ever questioned Johnny directly or even made reference in his presence to what they thought they knew about his past. Scott Lancer was the only one who ever did that.
"While I was in Sacramento, Will was just
finishing up a very interesting case, a murder trial. But his
constant complaint is that the legal profession entails a great deal of routine
paperwork----divorces, deeds, wills, tax documents . . ."
"You got a will, Boston? Cause you might need one some day," Johnny said darkly.
Scott reflected that it had been too long since he’d enjoyed this type of easy banter with his younger brother. That nickname, "Boston", sounded good too. It was amazing, the difference in one’s attitude that a little food and a bit of shade could make. "Don’t worry, I’m well prepared," was Scott’s response. "Will is drawing one up for me."
Johnny set his almost empty plate on the ground beside him and leaned contentedly back against a tree trunk, settling his hat over his eyes. "Good ta hear it. So what ‘re ya leavin’ me?"
"Oh . . A photograph of myself." Seeing Johnny grin under the shade of his hat brim, Scott continued in the same vein. "A hairbrush. And a few books. Some clothes." Johnny rolled his eyes at that, not that anyone could see. "My trust fund," Scott added, and immediately wished that he hadn’t brought that up.
"What’s a trust fund?" Johnny asked, raising the brim of his hat so that he could look at his brother.
"Oh . . It’s . .well, it’s money that was left to me by my mother and grandmother."
Skirting the more sensitive aspects of this piece of information, Johnny simply inquired, "So, how much?"
Aware that Andy and Walt were silently listening to this conversation, and in any event, reluctant to discuss the topic of his personal finances, Scott avoided specifics. "More than enough--- thanks to my grandfather’s prudent investments."
"That mean I’ll never have ta work
"Well, there is one minor legal technicality," Scott said dryly.
"You need me out of the way first."
Johnny snorted at that. "That ain’t no problem. I just gotta stop keepin’ you out of trouble."
Johnny had to laugh at the annoyed look that flashed across his older brother’s face. In retaliation, Scott turned to Walt and Andy and in a very serious tone informed them: "If anything happens to me, you two are witnesses." Walt nodded his head, "You got it. We won’t let you down, Mr. Lancer."
Johnny noticed that the new man, Andy seemed pretty uncertain as to how to take this conversation, and decided that it was about time to change the subject. "Time to get back to work," Johnny told his brother.
Scott got up slowly. He was already feeling the
effects of those few hours of setting fence posts; it had been a good
length of time since he had engaged in such strenuous physical activity, and the
week spent in the city certainly hadn’t helped. When he stumbled
slightly, catching his foot against a tree root, Johnny was quick to shoot a
comment at him: "Hey, don’t hurt yourself, Boston. . . “.
“Or if ya do, you just make sure it’s Real Bad," he added
with a laugh. When Scott
straightened up from retrieving the spoon he’d dropped, Johnny caught his
brother in a brief neck hold before the two of them headed over to return their
utensils to the chuck wagon.
It was Saturday night and the church social was in full swing.
Playing with the Mexican bolo tie which Teresa had encouraged him to wear,
Johnny watched as Chad prepared to perform yet another Kentucky tune.
Johnny was not feeling altogether comfortable in his black dress pants
and jacket, but as he looked around the room he could see that everyone else
seemed to really be enjoying the evening. There were several other musicians,
but it seemed that his cousin was the hit of the town social. Even Scott
appeared to have enjoyed Chad’s music.
older brother hadn’t stepped off the dance floor all evening; at the moment, he
was twirling Corinna Cushman around the room, in time to Luke Hanson’s fiddle
music. Normally, Johnny would have
been out there beside Scott, dancing with some pretty partner of his own, but
tonight he’d wanted to be sure that no one was laughing at Chad. It hadn’t
been that long ago that many of these same people had been doing just that.
Chad had met up with an old man named Otto Mueller.
Otto had been convinced that he could build a machine that would allow a
man to fly and Chad had believed him. His cousin had even taken time off from
ranch work to help ol’ Otto build his flying machine. At one point, Chad had
even strapped on some wings that Otto had made
through the countryside flapping them. Some of the ranch hands and a
few other local residents had seen him, and the story had rapidly spread.
Chad and Otto had been the laughing stocks of Morro Coyo for quite a
Otto had finished building his machine, but before he could fly it he’d had a
heart attack and died. Chad knew that Otto had devoted his whole life to proving
that a man could fly, so he decided he would test Otto’s contraption himself.
Johnny had been able to see that the thing would never work, so he‘d
destroyed it in order to prevent Chad from killing himself. Chad had been very
angry at first, but he‘d come around, eventually.
He’d understood that Johnny had just been looking out for him.
the fiddle tune ended, Scott bid a smiling goodbye to his dance partner and then
headed in Johnny‘s direction. Scott
was wearing a pair of brown dress pants, matching jacket, and a white shirt with
a string tie. Johnny noticed how the young ladies looked admiringly at his older
sibling as he passed by. One thing about Boston, he sure cleaned up good.
popular tonight, ain’t he, Boston?” Johnny asked as Scott served himself a
glass of punch from the nearby refreshment table and then came over to lean
against the wall next to his brother.
took a sip of his drink before answering Johnny. It seemed they’d finally
found something Chad was good at. Too bad it didn’t relate in any way to
he is,” Scott replied quietly watching as Chad made his way toward the
makeshift stage. The young
Kentuckian looked rather nice tonight. Following Scott’s suggestion, he’d
left his suspenders at home, and had worn a new shirt that Murdoch had bought
him just for this occasion.
the Lancer brothers stood side by side and listened, Chad began to play a song
about a “witch woman”. Johnny
had heard him sing it more than once, but the tune was unfamiliar to Scott.
tops are wearin’ smoke in the land where I come from.
that blue haze stays to this day from the guns of ‘21.
grow blue . . . . valley run red . . . . Witch
stay blue . . . . valley stay
red. ‘Til the last of the feudin’ kin lies dead.
that was certainly a, ah, different sort of ballad.” Scott ventured.
there’s nothin’ like a good feudin’ song ta liven up a church social.”
grinned at his brother’s response, but they were both uncomfortably aware that
the tune had received noticeably less applause than Chad’s earlier pieces.
Evidently Chad recognized this as well, because he immediately began strumming
another song, this time one which was well-known to many in the audience.
Chad’s lyric voice movingly carried each verse of “My Old Kentucky Home”,
while many of those present joined him in the chorus:
no more, my lady,
Oh! weep no more to-day!
We will sing one song for the old Kentucky Home,
For the old Kentucky Home far away.”
time the applause was very enthusiastic and there were calls for Chad to sing
Scott, however, recalled the remark
which Chad had made to him, that in Kentucky they liked to “play music ya kin
dance ta, not just sit still an’ lissen.”
He was about to make a clever comment to Johnny about that, when Chad
began his next piece. “Old Dan Tucker” was another familiar favorite, as well
as a much livelier tune and therefore proved even more popular, especially with
that took to the dance floor. Chad concluded with short ditty entitled
“Goober Peas”. After
coaching his listeners on the chorus, he launched into the lighthearted song:
by the roadside on a summer day.
with my messmates, passing time away,
in the Shadow, underneath the trees,
how delicious, eating goober peas!
Peas! Peas! Peas! Eating goober peas!
how delicious, eating goober peas!”
the crowd shouted out the last lines along with him, Chad’s smile was a yard
wide. When he departed from the
stage, it was with much praise and plenty of back slapping from the members of
was happy to see that his cousin was being so warmly received, although he
didn’t quite understand some of Chad’s music.
“Ain’t never heard a song like that one before,” Johnny said,
shaking his head.
Somehow Johnny just couldn’t picture his older brother singing a cheerful
little song about peas.
a marching song. It was used by the
Confederate soldiers during the War.”
didn’t have an opportunity to reply to that information, as Chad drew near.
Scott pushed himself away from the wall and went over to the nearby
refreshment table. He returned with
a glass of punch, which he handed to Chad. “You’re very talented, Chad.”
thank ya, Scott. Guess I noticed ya have some talents of yur own” Chad drained
his glass and set it down. “Seems every purty girl in the room is lookin’ at
Scott could reply, a beautiful young woman approached the punch bowl. Chad
quickly stepped over and poured her a glass of punch.
would ya like ta dance?” Chad asked her nervously.
I’m sorry.” Emma Anderson replied with a smile. “I’d love to, but I
promised this dance to Johnny.” She turned and gazed up at Johnny who,
although surprised by this announcement, was more than ready to take her arm.
Chad,” Johnny said smiling at his cousin. “Maybe the next dance, huh?”
and Chad stood against the wall together and watched as Johnny and Emma moved
out onto the dance floor.
shore can dance, cain’t he?” Chad commented as Johnny and the young woman
danced by them.
he can.” Scott commented. “It was difficult at first though. The dance steps
here are a bit different from what he knew in the border towns and in Mexico.
But Johnny’s a quick learner.”
know, Scott, it’s shore funny when ya think on it. We all come from different
parts of th’ country and ways of life. You bein’ a Yankee an’ all. Yet we
all seem ta’ be fittin’ in here jist fine. I’m mighty grateful that ya
been so good ‘bout me learnin’ things. I know I ain’t been a very fast
felt a twinge of guilt. He knew that if he was honest he hadn’t been very
Chad at all. He’d decided early
on that perhaps Chad just didn’t have the drive to make it at Lancer.
But Scott now realized that his negative feelings about the Kentuckian
were, least in part, tied to his memories of the War, and to
thoughts of that guard at Libby Prison. Deciding that it was time to give his
cousin the benefit of the doubt, Scott pushed himself away from the wall once
on, Chad.” Scott said looking across the room. “I see a couple of young
ladies who look like they would just love to dance.
I’ll introduce you.”
mighty kind of ya’, Scott.” Chad said following him across the floor. A few
moments later, Scott, Chad and two very willing young ladies joined Johnny and
his partner on the dance floor.
he set down his coffee cup, Murdoch Lancer looked around the table and smiled to
himself. Teresa was chattering up a storm, going on and on about the previous
evening’s festivities, praising Chad’s musical performance and teasing
Johnny and Scott about their popularity on
the dance floor. It
seemed that they had all had a good time. Waiting for a lull in the
conversation, Murdoch looked from one of his children to the other. As he
glanced around the table his gaze rested for a long moment on Scott. His eldest
son was pushing his food around on his plate, apparently lost in thought. The
Lancer patriarch doubted that Scott was even paying the slightest attention to
what Teresa was saying. His older son had been at Lancer long enough now for
Murdoch to recognize what this meant. Scott had something he wanted to say; he
was simply trying to figure out how to go about presenting it to the family.
on your mind, Scott?” Murdoch asked, interrupting Teresa’s chatter about the
a matter of fact, yes, there is.” Scott said pushing his plate away. “I
received a wire from my friend Will
yesterday.” He paused, and took a sip of his coffee. “He’ll be arriving on
the ten o’clock
stage tomorrow.” In a characteristic movement, Scott glanced briefly down at
the tabletop, and then looked up and addressed the family members who were
waiting expectantly. “I know that
I mentioned that he fought in the War but there are a few things that I didn’t
tell you about Will.”
he had something important to say, Scott was usually very direct.
When he hesitated once more, Johnny noticed it immediately and while
carefully keeping his tone casual, he prompted his brother. “Yeah?
was very seriously injured.”
happened to him?” Teresa asked in a concerned voice.
Scott rested his elbows on the edge of the table, the fingertips of
his two hands meeting in the space above his plate.
“Will was in the 20th Massachusetts infantry. He fought in the
Battle of Gettysburg and served under Colonel Paul
Revere—a grandson of the
Revolutionary War hero.
As in the ‘midnight ride’,” he explained, glancing around the
table. Seeing facial expressions that ranged from comprehension to confusion, he
continued on. “The 20th
played a key role in repelling the Confederate charge. . .” Scott
realized that he was in danger of digressing too far into battlefield history,
sighed and then finally got to the heart of the matter. “Will was hit in the
right arm . . .the damage was so
extensive that the doctors had to amputate just above the elbow.” Scott paused
again, looked down at his coffee cup and then picked it up in both hands.
“They told him he was lucky.” Scott said quietly. “And, I guess in a way
he was; over 23,000 Union soldiers died at Gettysburg. Forty
of them were from the 20th, including Captain John Hayford,
Will’s older brother.”
finally broke the solemn silence. “From what I read, a lot of young men came
back from the War minus a limb.”
a few men laike that back home.” Chad volunteered.
was quiet, wondering about Scott’s little history lesson; he also couldn’t
help thinking that the right hand, well, that was his gun hand .
. . .
pushed on. “Will lost his right
eye as well . . . so he wears an eye patch.”
“He’s been able to adapt remarkably well, actually,” Scott added, admiration
for his friend evident in
his voice. “I . . .well, I just didn’t want you to be surprised by
his appearance when he arrives. . .”
Ready to be finished with this topic of
Johnny pushed his plate away. “So, what didya think we’d do Scott? Ask him
all kinds of questions about his war injuries?” he
asked, a hint of annoyance in his voice.
replied quietly, “No Johnny, I didn’t. I just wanted you all to be prepared.
While I was with Will in Sacramento, we encountered some people who were
meeting him for the first time. They
would try to hide their surprise, but their facial expressions would give it
away. It’s a normal reaction.”
think Scott’s just trying to save us all from feeling uncomfortable,” Teresa
said, trying to soothe the tension between the brothers.
said Chad, nodding his head in between bites of biscuit. “Scott’s jist
lookin’ out for his friend, tryin’ ta’ make sure he gits a warm welcome
from alla us, them bein’ like brothahs an’ all.”
Murdoch said unhappily. “It appears that Scott won’t be available again
tomorrow, so we’ll put off the surveying until the next day.” Scott winced
inwardly as Murdoch put the emphasis on “again”. He knew his father wasn’t
very happy that he’d gone to Sacramento in the first place and here he was
already taking another day off.
get to that surveying first thing Tuesday morning,” Scott said stiffly.
hoping that having your….er….friend from Boston here isn’t going to
interfere with your work, Scott. That you won’t be so busy taking care of him
that you won’t be able to do your share.” Murdoch said gruffly.
sat back in his chair and looked directly at his father. “You don’t have to
worry, Murdoch. I can assure you that Will is quite capable of entertaining
himself while I’m occupied.”
turned to Johnny and Chad, “Johnny, you and Chad can take some of the hands
and move the cattle to the south pasture tomorrow. We’ll worry about the
surveying later in the week.”
Johnny nodded, then turned to Teresa and asked her a question about a young neighbor with whom she’d shared a dance or two. Teresa blushingly denied that the young man had paid any particular attention to her and Scott attempted to rescue her by interjecting a remark about Johnny and Emma Anderson. Johnny grinned wickedly and came back with a comment about a certain young woman named Corinna and how much time Scott had spent dancing with her; how it was a good thing for him that Zee was no longer in town. While Chad looked on, even Murdoch became a focus of romantic speculation when the Widow Hargis’ name was mentioned . . .
next day Scott stood outside the mercantile waiting impatiently for the stage to
arrive. It figured that the stage was going to be late. Murdoch was already
upset that Scott was going to be away from the ranch this morning; it was now
looking like it might turn into the whole day. Sighing, he walked to the corner
of the building and looked down the street to see if the stage was coming.
Nothing. He removed his hat and then resettled it
squarely on his head, before sitting down on a chair outside the store.
ten minutes later, Scott heard the familiar rumble
of the stage approaching. He slowly stood, pushing his
hat back on the crown of his head, and watched as the stage pulled up.
First, two giggling young girls disembarked, with their mother right behind
them, fussing at them to behave. Finally, he saw his friend exiting the coach.
Will Hayford was a tall, broad shouldered man with curly brown hair. He wore a
patch to cover his missing right eye and the lower
half of his right sleeve was folded and pinned to the shoulder of his jacket.
it’s good to see you.” Scott said with a smile. Placing his right hand on his friend’s shoulder, Scott
offered his own left hand, which Will grasped in a firm handshake.
good to finally be here,” Will said with a sigh, his brown eye showing the
weariness of the lengthy time spent on the stage.
The two young men watched as the driver and his outrider started unloading the
bags from the top of the coach.
Will grabbed one bag and set it aside on the
ground near Scott’s feet, then leaned over to pick up the heavier of his two
“I’ll get this one,” Scott commented,
picking up the smaller bag and leading the way down the sidewalk towards the surrey. “Are you
hungry? Would you like to get something to eat before we head out to Lancer?”
Scott knew that Murdoch wouldn’t be pleased, but his good manners dictated
that he at least offer to stop for lunch before they headed for the ranch.
his head, Will said smiling slightly. “No, that isn’t necessary. I’m about
an hour late and from what you’ve said about your Senora Maria,
I’m sure she’s got something planned for lunch.”
sure she has.”
Scott reached for the work gloves that were
resting on the handle of his holstered gun, and
drew them on. He then lifted
Will’s luggage into the back of the surrey and untied the horses’ lead.
The two friends climbed onto the seat and headed out of town.
route to Lancer, Scott pointed out areas of interest and finally stopped at that
vantage point from which the expanse of Lancer could be seen. He loved this
view, it reminded him once more of that first day, when Teresa had paused in
this very spot and showed the newly met brothers their father’s land.
He had been awed then by the beauty of this scene; after all this time,
he still often had to catch his breath at the sight.
is Lancer,” Scott announced proudly.
got down from the surrey seat, grateful for an excuse to stretch the legs that
had been confined to that bumping, rolling stagecoach for more hours than he
cared to recall. Gazing out at the beauty of this land, the faraway mountains,
the scattered cattle, the men hard at work, the gleaming white hacienda in the
distance, he shook his head. “All this time I’ve wondered why you would give
up your life in Boston. I even agreed with your grandfather that you were insane
to stay here, to have anything to do with Murdoch Lancer.” He gestured at the
scene with his good arm. “But I can perhaps begin to see it now.”
Scott nodded his head not quite knowing how to
respond. Of course, his long-time
friend was well aware of Scott’s youthful hatred for his father, the feelings
of hurt and resentment that had been the result of the older man’s neglect.
Young Scott had certainly expressed his feelings strongly enough,
whenever the topic of his father had come up.
During his recent visit to Sacramento, Scott had tried to answer Will’s
many questions about his new-found family.
But there were some things that were simply hard to explain, topics which
were difficult to discuss even with an old friend.
Scott walked over and stood at Will’s left side.
I came here,” he said slowly, “it
was with no expectation of staying. Simply to satisfy my curiosity.” He paused
searching for the right words.
How could he explain why he’d stayed,
when he didn’t entirely understand it himself?
“But…as I’ve told you, the ranch was under attack . . .” “I
know,” Will interrupted, “and you just leapt at the opportunity to play
soldier once more.” Scott looked
up sharply at Will’s disparaging tone, but his friend kept on speaking.
“You risked being injured, risked your own life even, to help a man
who’d never given you a second thought . . . “
Instead of getting angry, Scott sighed and nodded.
Will had already said as much to him during their earlier visit; then as
now, Scott had to acknowledge that he simply had no logical explanation for his
actions. “They were trying to run
him off of this land, it .. it
wasn’t right.” “And don’t
say it,” Scott added holding up one hand.
“What Murdoch did or didn’t do all those years wasn’t right either,
I know that better than anyone. But
if I was ever going to get to know him at all, I had to stay. So
I accepted a third of this ranch . . . .”
“And now, to the utter amazement of all of our good friends back
East, you are a rancher!” Will
gave his friend a genuine smile. “It’s like a new world, a new way of life. And I must say that I envy you that.” Then, turning to admire the view once more, he added, “And
like it out here.”
now you finally have a father . . . and a brother as well, something you always
wanted, growing up.”
Scott nodded at the truth of that statement.
Will might in fact envy him now, covet his “new way of life”, or
perhaps his friend was merely being polite.
But when they were growing up together, it had been Scott who had envied
Will Hayford. He could still
recall how reluctant he had been whenever it was time to return home with his
grandfather after spending a day in the hubbub of the Hayford household.
Scott had practically been adopted by the Hayford clan, and by Will in
particular. As the youngest of the three Hayford sons, Will had reveled in the
opportunity to play big brother to little “Scotty” Lancer.
Still, as close as Scott and Will had been, nothing could match the bond
that Will had shared with his middle brother, John.
And now Scott Lancer had a younger brother of
his own. When Scott had first arrived in Sacramento, Will had had a great many
questions about Johnny, and had been especially curious about his past as a
notorious gunfighter. Johnny had again become a topic of discussion when Will
had been at work drawing up the will. Now
Scott expected his friend to steer the conversation in that direction once more;
he was rather pleased when that was not the case.
clapped Will on the shoulder. “Come
on, Will. I’m anxious to introduce you to my family.” They climbed aboard
the surrey once again and headed down the road toward Lancer.
they stopped in front of the house, Scott jumped down and called to one of the
hands. Jose came over and took
charge of the horses and the surrey, while Scott grabbed Will’s bags.
Host and guest then headed into the house. Scott set the cases down just
inside the entry, and then led the way to the Great Room. There they found
Murdoch Lancer at his desk, reading some letters. Johnny was ensconced on the
couch discussing the afternoon’s work with Chad who was seated across from him
in a chair by the fireplace.
walked into the room with Will and, removing his gloves, addressed Murdoch.
“I’m sorry, we’re late,” he said apologetically.
“The stage was a bit behind schedule.”
looked up, frowning, “You’re just in time, actually; Teresa is just seeing
about getting lunch on the table.” The elder Lancer stood and came around his
made the introductions. “Will, this is my father, Murdoch Lancer. Murdoch, my
very good friend, Will Hayford.”
stepped forward and paused momentarily, until Will extended his left hand.
The elder Lancer grasped it in his own and addressed the visitor in a
serious tone: “It’s nice to meet you, Will. Welcome to Lancer.”
smiled politely, “Thank you, Mr. Lancer. It’s good to finally see your
ranch. Scott’s told me so much
turned to Johnny, “And this is my brother, Johnny.”
stood up and put his left hand out, “Hello, Will.”
extended his hand rather slowly, his one eye examining Scott’s brother very
intently. “Johnny,” he said, acknowledging the younger man with a nod.
Relinquishing his grasp on Johnny’s hand, Will then turned expectantly
to face the third man in the room.
gestured towards Chad, “And this is our ….cousin, Chad. From Kentucky.” At
the word “cousin”, Will glanced at Scott with mild surprise. As Will once
more offered his left hand, Chad reached towards the newcomer with his right.
uh sorry,” Chad mumbled in embarrassment, dropping his right hand and putting
out his left hand to shake Will’s. “It’s real nice ta’ meet ya’
Scott you’re home!” Teresa exclaimed happily as she entered the room.
“Lunch is ready!”
this is my father’s ward, Teresa O’Brien.” Scott said as Teresa approached
them. “Teresa this is my friend, Will Hayford.
very nice to meet you,” Teresa said with a welcoming smile. “I’ve heard a
lot about you from Scott.”
“And I’ve heard a great deal about you, Miss
O’Brien,” Will said smiling in return. “But it’s only now that I
understand that when Scott was describing the beauty of this ranch, he was not
referring solely to the scenery . .”
blushed, “Oh, Mr. Hayford….”
Murdoch interrupted, “We better sit down and eat lunch.” Then, without
looking at Scott, he added, “Johnny and Chad have work to finish this
To Scott’s annoyance, there was no mistaking
his father’s tone; it was quite clear to everyone in the room, including their
guest, exactly what it was that Murdoch Lancer was implying. “And I’m going to go over the books later this
afternoon while Will gets unpacked and settles in,” Scott informed him quietly
as they all headed into the dining room.
frustration of having to go over the recent accounts for a third time was
wearing on Scott. Something just wasn’t adding
up, but he was having great difficulty locating the discrepancy.
He looked up briefly and nodded as Will Hayford entered the room. Scott
noticed that his friend had changed into a dark green shirt and casual black
pants and was glad to see that Will hadn’t made the mistake of bringing only
his business clothes. Reluctantly, Scott returned his attention to the pages of
numbers before him. When he got halfway down the column, he finally found the
error, and then set to work correcting it.
Will said walking towards the desk.
looked up again. “Nothing major.” He closed the book and sat back in the
chair. “Are you all settled in?”
Will said, changing course, and moving towards the big picture window. “This
is a splendid view,“ he commented as he turned, looking at Scott. “Have you
ever thought about hiring someone to do your books, keep your records? It would
save you a lot of headaches.”
sat unconsciously playing with the pen in his hand. “Murdoch would never agree
to that. He’s very protective of this ranch and the finances. In fact, he
insisted on personally teaching us how to do the books when we decided to
taught you? Didn’t you tell him that you went to Harvard?” Will asked.
smiled. “Oh, he knows. But
there’s the Harvard way and Murdoch Lancer’s way. You won’t be here too
long before you realize that at Lancer, it’s Murdoch who calls the tune.”
Brief pause. “Or so he likes to think. Truthfully, we are all still trying to
fine tune our three way partnership.”
turned to look out the window once more. He frowned as he watched Johnny heading
towards the house.
have been pretty difficult for Johnny to learn to keep the books,” Will
both had things to learn about life on a ranch,” Scott responded quietly.
“Johnny’s still learning and so am I.”
both turned as they heard the front door slam. Johnny came walking into the
Great Room, tipping back his hat, without removing it.
Boston, where’s Murdoch?” he demanded impatiently.
sat up. “He went to a cattlemen’s meeting in town. Is something wrong?”
he told Cipriano he wanted ta see me before I left for the north pasture,”
Johnny replied, heading for the door. “Tell him I’ll---”
wait a minute,” Scott said, gesturing for him to come over to the desk.
“While you’re here, let me show you something.”
reversed direction and walked over to stand beside his brother. Scott opened the
book on the desk in front of him.
might try to be a bit more careful when you work on the books. Your writing here
is hard to read and----“ Pointing to a set of digits, Scott picked up a slip
off the desk. “And here you transposed the numbers.”
looked at Scott, then over at Will, and back at Scott again. He stood back with
his arms crossed. “Well, that’s pretty good, seein’ as I don’t know what
It means that you altered the sequence…switched the numbers around.”
if you don’t like the way I do the books then why don’t you stay home and do
‘em? While you’re traipsing all over California, I’m here doing your work
and mine.” Johnny replied coldly.
Scott struggled to choke back his reply. He stared back at Johnny, who looked
meaningfully at Will, and then stalked angrily out of the room.
Scott swore to himself. Another bad move. He
had forgotten that though Will was like family to him, he was a stranger to the
rest. He pressed his lips together as Johnny slammed the front door.
he seems to have quite a temper,” Will said, breaking the silence that filled
the room after the echo of the closing door faded away.
has a right to be angry, Will. I could have picked a better time,” Scott said
regretfully. “No one likes to be corrected in front of someone they don’t
and Scott were still in the Great Room when Dr. Sam Jenkins arrived a short time
later. The local doctor had been
paying a call on a family nearby and had stopped in to visit his old friend
Murdoch Lancer. After introducing
Doc Jenkins to Will, Scott extended to Sam the expected invitation to join the
family for the evening meal, explaining that Murdoch was in town and that he
would be back shortly.
conversation was relaxed and far ranging. Murdoch
recounted his discussion with his fellow cattlemen in town, Doctor Jenkins
relayed news of the neighbors and Scott and Will shared the details of some of
their activities during Scott’s recent visit to Sacramento. Johnny and Jelly
updated everyone on the day’s accomplishments on the ranch. Teresa was still
happy to reminisce about the church social, which prompted another round of
compliments to Chad for his musical performance that evening.
the meal was finally concluded, Sam Jenkins reluctantly pushed himself away from
the table and voiced his intention of heading back to town.
Will looked meaningfully at Scott, who promptly addressed the doctor:
“Sam, before you go, perhaps you might help me out--- I need a witness to my
signature on a legal document.” As
the rest of the seated company listened with curiosity, Scott explained about
the will that his friend had drawn up for him.
Dr. Jenkins readily assented, and then Scott turned to Chad.
“Chad, would you mind being the second witness?”
Despite the puzzled expression on his face, Chad nonetheless nodded his
agreement. Will, Scott and the two
witnesses withdrew to the other side of the room.
removed a set of legal documents from a folder and placed them on Murdoch’s
desk. As Sam and Chad watched,
Scott affixed his flowing signature to the bottom of several pages, the crossing
of the ‘T’s in his first name starting the large looping “L” of Lancer.
Next it was Sam’s turn to sign in the spaces which Will indicated.
“So now, why’re askin’ me ta do this, Scott?” Chad inquired of
his cousin, but it was Will Hayford who explained.
“In order for Scott’s will to be legal, there must be two witnesses
to attest to the fact that he’s signed it.
And the witnesses should be people who are not beneficiaries.“
that? A bene . .?”
beneficiary is someone who stands to inherit property, or money, from the
Well, you ain’t fixin’ ta be deceased any time soon, now are ya,
Chad, that’s not my plan,” Scott replied with an amused look.
“I might not have even thought of having a will made if I didn’t
happen to have a very good friend who’s a very good lawyer.
slowly and painstakingly added his name to the document and then Will gathered
up the pages. Johnny sauntered
over. “Hey, Chad, how about if we
ride on into town with Doc Jenkins here, see what’s happening, have a few
thing, Johnny,” was the pleased reply. Sam
Jenkins welcomed the prospect of the young men’s company on the ride. . . . .
“Elmer, pour us a couple beers
will you?” Johnny asked as he and Chad walked into the saloon.
“Sure, Johnny,” Elmer said
reaching for a couple of mugs.
“Grab our beers Chad, and I’ll
get us a table,” Johnny said heading for the back of the room. The habit of
always having to have his back to the wall was hard to break and Johnny still
liked to sit at a table located where he could see who was coming and going. As
he sat down, Johnny looked around the room. A card game
was going on in the corner, and he nodded at Jorge and Reese, two of his
card playing buddies. Over to the left, Johnny noticed
with a frown, Lumas and his buddy, Reno were sitting with some of their friends.
Those two loved to pick on Chad, calling him, “Hilly Billy”, among other
names. Johnny glanced up as Chad
sat down, and handed him his drink.
“Thanks, Chad,” Johnny said
“It sure is slow in here ta nite’
ain’t it, Johnny?” Chad said glancing around.
“Well, most of the ranch hands
around here don’t come to town during the week.
Sun up comes early enough as it is,” Johnny replied, and then flashed a
smile one of the saloon girls as she passed by with some drinks. “This is what I needed,” he added with a soft sigh. “A
little time for myself away from home.”
“Yeah,” Chad said grinning as
he sipped at his beer. “I know what ya’ mean. We shore been workin’ hard
lately—what with Scott bein’ so busy an’ all.”
“Hey, Lumas!” Reno yelled from
the table across the room. “Look, who’s here. Johnny Lancer and his cousin,
“I thought I smelled somethin’
funny a minute ago,” Lumas said loudly laughing. “Hey Hilly Billy, how’d
ya get to town? Did you come in your new flyin’ machine?
“Ignore ‘em, Chad,” Johnny
said quietly. “They’re just trying to get us goin’.”
“I know,” Chad responded
glancing over at the cowboys.
“Ya’ know, Lumas, we
shouldn’t be pickin’ on them Lancers,” Reno said as he stood up and walked
over to the bar. He leaned against
the polished wood surface as he continued.
“They’re really nice people. They took in that cousin, what’s his
name?” Reno paused and then looked directly at Chad. “Oh, yeah, Useless.”
Reno laughed heartily at his own joke. “Anyway,
I heard they
took him in cause he’s a bit touched in the head.”
“You sayin’ he’s loony?”
Lumas asked, laughing as he walked over to join his friend. “Everybody says he
ain’t the only Lancer that is.”
“Let’s get out of here.”
Johnny stood, and Chad followed suit. They
started walking towards the door.
“Well, any woman who
would marry ol’Murdoch would have to be plum crazy.”
changed direction and walked over to the bar, hitting Reno squarely on
the jaw and knocking him down. Lumas swung at Johnny, but Chad was there with
his own fist, knocking Lumas down. Reno quickly regained his feet and his fist
connected with the side of Johnny’s face. Johnny immediately landed a solid
punch into Reno’s stomach. The poker players started hollering, cheering
Johnny on. They quickly moved out of the way as Reno pushed Johnny into their
table, money and poker chips going everywhere.
Chad and Lumas continued to fight, matching each other punch for punch.
Then Lumas grabbed a chair and swung at Chad, catching him across the
Realizing that the fight was
getting out of hand, Elmer ran outside, yelling for the sheriff.
The four men continued their brawl, throwing chairs and punching each
other. A few minutes later, the stocky, mustached, sheriff entered the saloon
with a couple of his deputies. One deputy pulled Johnny off of Reno, while the
other one separated Chad and Lumas.
Sheriff Sam Jayson walked over to
the men shaking his head. He removed his hat, setting it on the bar and ran his
hand through his graying sandy colored hair. “What happened?” he asked
looking around at the overturned tables and broken chairs.
“He started it!” Reno shouted
belligerently. “Lancer came at me.”
Frowning, the round faced sheriff
turned to the dark haired Lancer. “That true, Johnny?”
Johnny looked at Sam Jayson and
then down at his boots. “Yeah, Sam, I hit him first.” He looked at the
saloon owner. “Sorry, Elmer. I’ll pay for the damages.”
Jayson turned to Elmer. “That
okay with you?” Elmer nodded his head and the lawman addressed the four men.
“I want you all to head home. And Johnny, I’ll have Elmer make up a bill for
me and run it out to the ranch when it’s ready.
Johnny nodded, leaned over and
picked his hat up from the floor. Chad and Johnny walked out of the saloon and
headed for their horses.
En route to the ranch a few
minutes later, Chad groaned at the pain in his arm as he turned in his saddle to
look at his cousin. He addressed a
morose comment to Johnny. “Yur pa’s gonna be mighty sore when he finds out we
busted up the place and now ya gotta pay for the damages.”
“Don’t worry, I can handle my
old man,” Johnny said wincing at the pain in his jaw.
They rode on a ways in silence.
Johnny was wondering how he was going to explain this to Murdoch. The “old
man” wasn’t going to be happy, that was for sure, especially when Johnny had
to ask for yet another advance on his wages to cover the bill.
Johnny was trying to recall exactly how far in debt he was, when Chad’s
voice broke into his thoughts.
Johnny, how come yur brother had a will made?”
Johnny shrugged. “I don’t
know, Chad. I think maybe his friend talked him into it.”
“Well, do ya’ know what he’s
leaving ya?” Chad asked interestedly. “I mean is he leavin’ ya anythin’
“Yeah, I know. He’s leavin’
me plenty,” Johnny replied testily, clearly not really wanting to pursue the
“Sorry, Johnny, I guess ya’
jist don’t’ want ta’ talk about it.”
“My brother dyin’ isn’t
anything I feel like talkin’ about,” Johnny said soberly.
“I kin understan’ that Johnny,
I surely can.” Chad said. They rode the rest of the way in silence, each man
lost in his own thoughts.
the next morning, Scott returned from completing his surveying task to find
Johnny in the corral working with a horse and Will leaning with his good arm
resting on the top of the fence rail, watching. Scott reined in Brunswick, dismounted and walked over to
stand beside Will.
greeted him with a relaxed smile. “Hi Scott. Your brother’s been
demonstrating some of the finer points of breaking a wild horse.”
looked over at his younger sibling, but Johnny continued to work with the horse,
without even glancing in Scott’s direction.
was hoping that you’d find something to do while I was gone,” Scott said in
response to his friend.
would have gone with you, but you left pretty early.”
grinned at that. “Well, the day does start quite a bit earlier here than in
Boston . . . or in Sacramento.”
it appears,” was Will’s dry response.
since you’re awake now, perhaps I can take you on that tour that I
promised,” Scott said warmly.
expression eased a bit. “Sure,
just give me a few minutes, ” he replied and then headed for the hacienda.
stood at the rail, removing his gloves as he once more regarded his brother.
Johnny was still intent upon the horse. “So
how’s it going?” Scott asked.
looked around at that. Seeing his
brother standing alone, Johnny released the animal, which quickly trotted to the
far side of the corral. He strolled
over towards Scott, shrugged and replied, “All right,” in a tone that was
difficult for the older sibling to decipher.
Then he added, “Your friend sure asks a lot of questions.”
that, Scott shook his head and grinned again.
“Asking questions is something he does well. Will’s a lawyer, from a family of lawyers. And he doesn’t
really know anything about ranching.”
looked directly at Scott, and speaking now with an undertone of anger, said
“He sure seems ta know plenty ‘bout me.”
do you mean?” Scott asked carefully.
mean that my past is none a his business. I
don’t appreciate som’a th’ things he was askin’ me about,” Johnny
looked down uncomfortably. “Well,
Brother, I don’t know what to say.”
Scott, it seems like maybe you said plenty already.” Scott looked up sharply at that, but Johnny was already
walking away. Scott stood for a
moment with his hands on hips, looking at the ground and thinking.
that afternoon, Scott, on Brunswick, allowed the white-footed chestnut to pick
its way up the trail. Will was a
few yards back, seated on Rambler. Scott
had saddled his secondary mount for his friend, and they had set off on an
afternoon‘s tour of the ranch. Will had never been much of a horseman, but so
far the former infantry officer seemed to be managing fairly well, despite the
disadvantage of having only one hand on the reins.
Harlan’s associates could see you now, they’d never recognize you.” Will
commented. There certainly wasn’t much left in Scott’s appearance that
reflected the Boston dandy he once was.
would probably feel sorry for my grandfather,” Scott acknowledged, as he
crested the rise and reined in his horse. “Spending all those years raising me
in the ‘proper’ manner, preparing me to take over his business.”
Looking out over the view, he added, “And here I am in California.”
is having a fine time in your absence,” Will informed him. “He’s acting
like he’s Harlan’s grandson. Which I suspect he’s always wanted to be.”
a short laugh, Scott thought of Wade Garrett for the first time in months. He
was the son of Harlan’s first cousin. Wade
was a squat, ugly, little man and the butt of many jokes.
Scott looked at Will. “My grandfather is an intelligent man. He knows
what Wade Garrett is after.”
perhaps he should give it to him, since you don’t seem to want it,” Will
shot back. “Your grandfather is
still hoping you’ll come back, you know,” he added.
patted Brunswick’s neck as he replied. “I know.”
do stand to inherit a considerable estate from Harlan,”
Will reminded him.
looked off in the distance once more. “Well,
we aren’t exactly on the best of terms,” he said with a sigh.
During his visit with to Sacramento, Scott had shared a few of the
details of his grandfather’s visit to Lancer. It hadn’t taken much listening
between the lines for Will to recognize how deeply wounded Scott had to have
been by the man’s actions. Now he chose to skirt the topic of Garrett’s
betrayal of his grandson’s trust.
the only child of his only child, he’d never disinherit you. But what will you
do when he does pass the company on to you?” Will asked curiously.
sobered at the thought of something happening to his grandfather. “I don’t
know, Will.” He paused, at a loss as to what to say. “I just don’t
shrugged. “Well, maybe you can get Wade to stay on and run things for you,”
he said lightly.
response was serious. “I’m not sure that would work. You know, I’ve always
had the feeling that Wade just doesn’t like me very much,” Scott reminded
as I said, I’m sure he’d love to replace you as Harlan Garrett’s
grandson.” Will shot Scott a
sideways look before he continued on. “And, you know, it wasn’t just
“Toads” like Wade who disliked the amazing Scott Lancer,” he added, making
reference to Wade Garrett’s unfortunate childhood nickname.
Will couldn‘t prevent the smile from curving his lips as he continued.
“I assure you that all of us were, quite frankly, simply in awe of
your intelligence, charm, and good looks, not to mention your inestimable way
with the ladies. Everyone of us hated you for it, too.”
forgot to mention my being a rather remarkable dresser as well ... Or, at least,
I used to be,” Scott said, deadpan.
laughed and gestured at Scott’s beige work shirt. “Yes! Such sartorial splendor!
Simply elegant! But,
seriously, it’s those gloves that complete the outfit!”
both laughed at that comment, then Will sobered. “Truthfully, Scott, I
received a letter from my brother George. As
your grandfather’s attorney, of course he couldn’t be specific, but he did
know that I’d be seeing you.” Will paused, frowning. “I may be reading into it more than George intended, but I
wondered whether he was suggesting that your grandfather might decide to leave
Garrett Enterprises to Wade.”
had a letter from Grandfather myself. He
did mention that he was revising his will and that he intends to name cousin
Wade as his secondary beneficiary. If
anything happens to me, or if I decline to accept that part of the inheritance,
the company will pass into Wade’s hands.” Scott said quietly.
He and his grandfather had exchanged several letters since the ill-fated
visit, but the older man’s missives had taken on a noticeably more formal tone
than previously, even for him.
know you like it out here, Scott,” Will stated firmly. “But don’t you miss
Boston? Wouldn‘t you go back, if you inherited Harlan’s estate?”
looked at Will, carefully considering his response. “If Grandfather were no
longer there, I’d have much less reason to return. If you’re asking me if I miss our friends, the social life,
the entertainments, yes, there are times when I feel homesick for all
that.” He paused, adjusting his hat to block out the sun. “But do I miss
working for my grandfather? No, Will, I don’t. When the Pinkerton man handed
me that card, I was tempted to throw it away. But by the next afternoon I knew
that I would be going West. Partly to find meet Murdoch face to face
………and partly because …..well, quite frankly, I was bored.”
chasing cows isn’t boring?” Will asked incredulously.
more to ranching than chasing cows, Will.”
didn’t mean to belittle the ranching business, I just can’t imagine it being
as lucrative as working for Harlan,” Will commented.
isn’t really about the money. We do own considerable acres of some of the best
land in the San Joaquin valley, with over 20,000 head of cattle. We each draw a
salary, but most of the profits are put right back into the ranch. No one goes
into the ranching business to get rich, I‘m afraid. But you know my
decided that in addition to a change of topic, a change of scenery was in order.
“There is one spot that I really want to show you. Let’s stop along the
river before it’s time to head back to the hacienda.” The two young men turned their horses and headed back down
the trail, Scott taking the lead and Will following on Rambler.
they reached the riverbank, the two friends dismounted.
The river was wide and slow at this spot, but the water flowed much
faster just a short distance downstream. They stood for a time, contemplating
the current and discussing their surroundings.
In response to a question from Will, Scott explained that there were
several streams and rivers that flowed through Lancer land.
Will was surprised to learn that in addition to tending to livestock,
stringing fences and surveying, Scott had also had to learn about building
bridges and repairing dams.
walked a short distance downriver until they came to a few overhanging trees and
found themselves some comfortable seats in the leafy shade.
Will settled back against a tree trunk, while Scott sat down on Will’s
left side, his long fingers absently tying knots in a strand of grass as he
watched the river flow past. This
particular spot was one of Scott’s favorites, despite its association with his
memory of a rather unpleasant event from his early days at Lancer.
He and Teresa had stopped along the river on their way back from Morro
Coyo following Scott’s ill-fated clothes shopping trip and the altercation
with three of Day Pardee’s “land pirates” in Senor Baldemerro‘s store. Outnumbered, Scott had ended up being tossed out into
the street, only to look up and see his brother seated in a chair on the
boardwalk, just watching.
Teresa and Scott were still at the riverside Johnny had ridden up on Barranca.
Teresa had not been terribly pleased to see him, and had flounced away,
but Scott had waited calmly while Johnny sauntered towards him. When Johnny had
reminded him that he’d “told ya ta stay outta it,” Scott had “thanked”
his brother for his “help” with a strong right hand punch which had sent the
gunfighter tumbling down the banking. Johnny had gotten to his feet pretty
quickly and come charging back up the slope, yelling that Scott was
“nothing” to him. Teresa had intervened to prevent them from doing further
damage to each other. Scott had been embarrassed at his loss of control, the more
so because the girl had been a witness to it.
In attempting to apologize, he had commented that the two of them were at
Lancer for the same reason. Johnny
had quickly pulled a twenty dollar gold piece out of his pocket, and announced
that ‘that’ was why he had come.
had not told Will about all of the events of the brothers’ first encounter,
but he had shared with his friend his initial impressions of Johnny.
Some of those thoughts had proven accurate, while others had not been
borne out on further acquaintance. Despite
their rocky start, the brothers had since forged a relationship, a strong bond,
really. Unfortunately, things had not been going particularly well
between them of late, and Scott realized unhappily that this was due in part to
some of his own actions.
was Will who brought up Johnny‘s name, with a joking comment about having
heard him address Scott as “Boston”.
of Johnny . . .” Scott paused uncomfortably. “What exactly happened between
you two this morning?”
Will asked. “What did your brother say?”
you were asking him questions. I
assume about his past.”
gazed thoughtfully at Scott. “There
were a few things that I wanted to ask him about. And I’ll own up, Scott.
I’ve done a little research into the career of Johnny Madrid.”
Johnny Lancer now,” Scott reminded his friend.
you told me yourself, that he wasn’t altogether certain, when he first arrived
here, which one it would be.”
right,” Scott acknowledged. “But then he made his choice.”
he?” Will asked in a skeptical tone.
was Scott’s forceful response. “He
could have sided with Pardee. He chose Lancer.”
Will broke eye contact with Scott. Looking
down at the ground, he said, “That was what I wanted to ask him about,
actually. But our discussion
didn’t last long enough.” Will looked up at Scott once more, managing a
slight smile. “Your brother
isn’t exactly a sparkling conversationalist.”
disregarded that comment. “So
what was it that you wanted to know, Will?”
seems that he worked with that outlaw, Day Pardee several years ago. . .did you
know that Scott?”
was evident from the look on Scott’s face that he hadn’t been aware of it.
Still, he recalled that during the initial meeting with Murdoch, Johnny had made
it clear that he’d known quite well who Day Pardee was.
“Why does that matter, Will? Pardee is dead.”
stared out at the river. “Who
killed him, Scott?”
did.” Scott had already described
that incident to Will, explained how Pardee had been just outside the hacienda,
how the rest of the land pirates had quickly dispersed once their leader had
how did your brother feel about that?” Will asked, without turning his head.
by the question, Scott took a moment to consider his response.
“I’m not sure,” he said slowly.
“Though I do recall that he complimented my shooting,” he added
wryly. There was a brief pause,
then Scott remembered something else. “Johnny said that he had shot Pardee himself, before he
started riding toward the hacienda” Scott shook his head. “It looked for a moment as if he was leading the charge .
.but then we recognized him and--”
said that he shot Pardee?” Will asked quietly.
you were the one who killed him?”
interesting,” Will said musingly. “You’d
think that someone as good with a gun as your brother appears to be would have
been able to do more than inflict a minor wound. If he had wanted to.”
considered that. He could certainly
understand why Johnny, or anyone else for that matter, would be very reluctant
to kill someone with whom he had a past history, regardless of the present
situation. But no matter how close
his brother may have been to Pardee, Scott could not imagine that Johnny would
hold the outlaw’s death against him in any way. “Will, Johnny is my brother.
You can stop worrying about him.”
sighed, then fixed his gaze on Scott. “It’s
you that I’ve been worried about. Your tendency to be too trusting.”
He gave an embarrassed laugh. “Like
it or not, I guess that I still think of myself as your big brother.”
looked down, smiling to himself. Then
he looked up and clasped his friend on the shoulder. “Thank you for that,” he said sincerely.
Scott shifted his position so that he was seated with his back to a large
rock and facing Will directly. “I
do trust Johnny. And I don’t
believe that that trust is misplaced.”
he was a gunfighter, a killer for hire. That
would bother most people.”
smiled. “Well, as you might
imagine, Grandfather was certainly horrified by the news. Of course, he seemed
to be disapproving of just about everything about Johnny, even including that
nickname which you seem to find so very amusing.”
Scott became serious. “As
far as Johnny’s past, most people simply avoid the topic. Murdoch, and Teresa, well, I think that they just try not to
think about what he once was.”
I? . . .
Well, . . .given his
circumstances, I can understand it.”
killed men for pay.”
we were soldiers, we killed . . .”
didn’t allow Scott to finish that statement.
“That was different. We were fighting for a cause,” he said, his
voice taking on a hard edge.
cause. . . ,” Scott said slowly.
“Yes, when I enlisted, it was for the cause.
But out on the battlefield . . .
. .how many men really thought about that?”
looked away. Seeing only the damaged side of his friend's face, with the black
circle of his eye patch, Scott found it difficult to anticipate his reply.
you stopped believing in the Union? That’s
what my brother died for.”
was a long pause. Scott looked down
momentarily before looking up to meet Will’s regard. “There weren’t really
any causes in Libby,” he said softly. “Will,
I did things that I would never have believed that I’d do.”
were never a traitor.”
nodded in agreement. “Yes, that’s true. But Dan Cassidy believed that I was.
And, given the right circumstances, perhaps
. . .I might have been. What
I learned in the War, was to never say ‘I would never’ .
but for the grace of God . . .?”
so that’s why you turned around and helped him . . . But, Scott, I know
you,” Will assured him. “There are things that you would never do.”
there? I hope so. I’d even like
to think so. But no man ever really knows, until he has to choose. . .”
then, if you can’t trust yourself, if you would never say ‘that you
would never’, then how can you be sure about anyone else, including your
that question, Scott had no ready answer. Will
Hayford, the lawyer, saw that there was no further need to press his point,
because Scott Lancer had already made his argument for him.
was late the next morning and Johnny had already returned to the hacienda after
riding fence lines for several hours. Now
he was headed back towards the stable, but he stopped when he noticed Jelly
pulling up with a loaded supply wagon, the new man, Andy, seated beside him.
Johnny shook his head.
have you been, Andy?” Johnny demanded, walking over to the buckboard as the
young ranch hand clambered down. “I told you to go work with Chad today.”
Lancer sent me to town with Jelly,” Andy Stovall replied, looking nervously up
at him. He was a bit shorter than Johnny, stocky with black hair. “I told
‘im you said I was suppos’d ta work with Chad and he said I should go with
okay then, I guess you’d better help Jelly get the supplies unloaded,”
Johnny said frowning. He was wondering why Murdoch had overruled him on this.
After all, Jelly frequently did the supply run to town on his own. Johnny
started to walk away, but turned towards the wagon once more when he saw Scott
and Will Hayford approaching. Scott
and his lawyer friend were about equal in height, but the one-armed man was
broader in the shoulders than the blonde haired Lancer.
A hat that Johnny recognized as one belonging to Scott covered
Hayford’s brown curly hair.
greeted Jelly, and asked him about his trip to town. “Waal, the trip never seems ta get no shorter, Scott,”
was the grizzled horse-wrangler’s reply.
“You’ll have to let us know when that changes,” Scott said in
amused response. Then he turned to address Andy.
“We’ll help Jelly get the wagon unloaded, Andy. I asked Frank if he
would show you how to do repairs on some of the harnesses— I believe he’s in
Mr. Lancer,” Andy replied, and quickly headed for the large building nearby.
a minute, Andy,” Johnny said quietly, as the young man walked past. “When
you said “Mr. Lancer” told you to go with Jelly, who were you talkin’
…Scott.” Andy answered uncertainly. “He’s in charge of who does what,
the question as well as Andy’s reply, and noting his brother’s displeasure,
Scott quickly stepped in. “Andy, why don’t you just go ahead and find
Frank.” Turning to Johnny, Scott started to explain: “I don’t think that
didn’t mean what?” Johnny interrupted coldly. “He didn’t mean that he
thinks you’re in
charge around here?”
pushed his hat back onto the crown of his head and looked his brother in the
eyes. “Look Johnny, Andy’s new.
I know you wanted him to work with Chad but I just thought-----”
thought!” Johnny said, with emphasis on the pronoun. “This ranch is a
three-way operation, Scott, and you ain’t the one that calls the tune.”
know that and I’ve never wanted it otherwise. I simply felt that it would be
good for Andy to spend time with Jelly .
Frank? Or Walt? Anyone but Chad.”
flashed on the memory of how Chad had backed him up in town. When Johnny had
launched himself at Reno, Chad had quickly taken on Reno’s buddy Lumas.
stood for a moment, hands on hips, staring at the ground. He was painfully aware
that Jelly and Will were standing by the wagon, within earshot of the
brothers’ less than friendly conversation. Will couldn’t see them, as they
were standing off to his right, but he was listening intently. Jelly was in the
process of loading Will up with a stack of mail and a few small packages to take
inside the hacienda, all the while shooting worried glances at the two brothers.
Andy had almost reached the open stable doors. The young man turned back to
listen as Johnny’s voice increased slightly in volume with his next statement.
took a step closer to his brother. “I’d sure like ta know what the Hell is
wrong with you,” he said to Scott’s profile.
“It ain’t like you to hold it against Chad just cause he sounds like
head snapped up at the word “guard”, though his expression was unreadable;
behind him, Will Hayford also reacted visibly to Johnny’s comment.
of the guards at Libby?” Will asked in a concerned voice, looking directly at
the Lancers and taking a few steps towards Scott.
it alone, Will,” Scott said in a low voice, turning his head briefly in his
friend’s direction, without really looking at him. Scott started slowly
removing the work glove from his left hand, focusing his attention on that
does Chad sound like--- Carter?”
I said, leave it alone.”
Hayford’s expression turn grim at being twice rebuffed, Johnny couldn’t help
but smile. He did sort of wish that
he hadn’t just brought up what Scott had confided to him about that prison
guard, but it was pretty evident that Will Hayford already knew plenty about
Scott’s time at Libby, probably a lot more than Johnny did. The
ex-gunslinger’s voice was stone cold as he said, “Yeah, that’s right,
let’s not talk about the past, huh, Boston? Not yours, anyway. . .
though it seems like you and your friend think mine is fair game.”
stepped up. “I’m the one who
was asking questions. Don’t think
that Scott has revealed any of your “secrets”.”
folded his arms against his chest. “So mebbe you’re lookin’ for something
you can use against him? Well, it
ain’t gonna work. His grandfather
already tried it.”
began an heated retort: “Against him?! You’re just . .”
but Scott cut him off with a harsh, “Shut up, Will.”
whirled away and moved angrily back towards Jelly and the wagon.
The satisfied expression that was just crossing Johnny’s face swiftly
disappeared as Scott rounded on him. Holding
his left glove in his still covered right hand, Scott gestured emphatically at
his brother. “And you can
leave my Grandfather out of this,” he said with fierce intensity.
looked down and shrugged. Truth be
told, just like Scott’s time in Libby, Harlan Garrett’s behavior during his
visit to Lancer wasn’t something that Johnny would have ever planned on
bringing up. “Yeah, well, at least he wanted ya,” Johnny offered.
had started to walk away, but he now froze in place, then turned and fixed a
searching, squint-eyed gaze on Johnny’s face for a long moment. Then without
saying a word, Scott turned his back once more.
hey, don’t worry Boston, I’ll still keep watching out for ya.”
bristled at Johnny’s announcement. “I can take care of myself.”
straightened up, looking Scott straight in the eye. “Fine. If that’s the way
you want it. You just better watch your back, cause I’m not gonna do it
since that’s settled, I think I’ll go back to work.” Scott said, slipping
his left hand back into his glove.
Johnny said, stepping up and grasping his brother by the arm.
“Maybe you oughta be careful who you listen to,” he said, nodding in
Hayford’s direction. Scott’s
friend was headed towards the front door of the hacienda.
known Will a very long time,” was Scott’s cold response.
couldn’t help asking, “Just like your grandfather?” though he stopped
himself from adding: “He turned on ya.”
shrugged his arm out of Johnny’s grasp. “Well,
neither one of them has ever . . .”
His usually mild blue-grey eyes had stared hard into Johnny’s sapphire
colored ones, but he broke eye contact as his voice faded.
ever what?’ Johnny asked angrily, when Scott failed to complete his statement.
Shaking his head, Scott turned once more, this time putting distance between
them with a few long strides.
stood with his hands on his hips. “ They ain’t never shot ya, like I did?
Was that what you were gonna say?” Johnny demanded of Scott’s departing
figure. “Guess you really do think you can take care of yourself, if you’re
turning your back on me.”
words filled the silence of the yard. On
opposite sides, Will Hayford and Andy Stovall each stood motionless in stunned
surprise at Johnny had said. Jelly
held onto the edge of the buckboard and bowed his head. He had heard something
about that, how one time Johnny had been forced to wound Scott in order to
prevent his being killed by some gunmen who were out to get revenge on Johnny
Madrid. No matter what the reason, it had to be something between them, that
Johnny had put a bullet in his brother.
stood there shaking his head in dismay after the brothers moved off in their
opposite directions. He remembered
when he first met Scott n’ Johnny, he’d been just like pretty near everybody
else, he hadn’t been able to believe that they were brothers.
The two of them sure didn’t look anything alike. They didn’t act much
alike, neither; which was no surprise, them having grown up so different, on
opposite sides of the country. But
once he’d gotten to know em, Jelly’d seen what it was that they had in
common, they were both just good men. The
boys’d each been able to see through their differences to find that in each
other, too. And from what he knew about their upbringing, they’d
each needed a brother somethin’ awful. Jelly had heard enough to figure out
that Johnny‘s mother had gone off and left Murdoch, she taken Johnny with her
and then she’d up and died on him. And
Scott, well, he’d never had a mother or father a’tall, just that sorry
excuse for a grandfather of his. Jelly
didn’t know all the details about why those two boys hadn’t been raised
right here at the ranch, but one thing he did know, if’n they’d been his
sons, neither hell nor high water coulda kept him away from ‘em.
But it was something he sure hadn’t ever asked the Boss about.
slowly walked over from the front door of the hacienda and stood next to Jelly
as they watched the boys walk away. Jelly
wondered how much the Boss had heard of his sons’ “discussion”. Plenty of
people on the ranch were noticing, and commenting on, the fact that the two of
them hadn’t been getting on too well lately. The grey-bearded handyman slid a
comment over to the tall rancher. “Someone oughta talk to them two.”
stared out at the distance. “I’m
going to send them out to check on that dam up at Grand Creek.
Tomorrow, both of them.” Jelly thought about that.
The dam was a passable distance away, seemed like Johnny and Scott would
pretty much have to do some talking to each other, if they didn’t just decide
ta kill each other first and git it over with.
Jelly sighed, then glanced up at Murdoch Lancer’s
grim profile. For someone who’d never raised any boys, the Boss
sure did seem to know just what to do most of the time.
next morning, Johnny was up earlier than usual. He already had plenty to do and now Murdoch was sending him
and Scott out to check up on that dam. Since he didn’t have to meet Scott
there until noon, Johnny hoped to get out and take care of a few things so that
he wouldn’t have so much work to do later in the afternoon.
clad only in his boots and tight black pants, Johnny stepped over to the armoire
and opened up the right hand door. Damn if he didn’t have only one clean shirt
again. Well, it sure made it a lot
easier to get dressed in the morning, no big decisions to make. He slid his arms
into his old familiar faded-to-pink embroidered shirt.
As he started to button it, he stopped, shook his dark head in disgust,
and then looked into the empty armoire once more. Johnny heaved a sigh,
continued buttoning up his shirt and then opened the left hand door and reached
for a belt.
gun belt, was of course, hanging on the bedpost; he never liked to have it far
away, even when he was asleep in his own bed. There were several regular belts
hanging on the hooks inside the cabinet.
had recently been doing some leatherwork, tooling designs into the smooth
surface, and had crafted a few belts for himself. Scott had been interested in what he’d been doing and had
asked Johnny quite a few questions about how he’d learned the skill.
Reaching for his favorite belt, one that was rather wide and covered with
intricate designs, Johnny recalled asking Scott what he’d thought of it.
a lot of work,” had been Scott’s mild response.
but how d’ ya like it?”
had hesitated a moment before saying, “It’s very . . . . decorative.”
smiled sardonically at the memory. Well,
this belt he was putting on just wasn’t Scott’s style, though of course his
well-mannered city boy brother had been too polite to say anything that might
sound critical of Johnny’s handiwork. But while Scott had been off in Sacramento, Johnny had
purchased two belts that were similar to the ones that Scott usually wore –a
plain black leather belt and a matching gun belt with simple silver buckles.
He’d incised some small star-like designs into the surfaces of each of them,
and on the gun belt a Lancer “L” on the left hip.
He had hoped that Scott might like them, since they were nothing too
“decorative”. Of course, Johnny
had been planning on telling his brother that the “L” was for “left”,
just in case he got confused in the morning when he was getting dressed. But
given how things had been between them lately, Johnny didn’t feel much at all
like offering his older brother a gift. In
fact, if he thought real hard, he figured that he just might come up with a few
other things to do with a couple of belts . . .Johnny shut the door to the
armoire a bit harder than he had intended, and headed downstairs for breakfast.
was none too happy about Murdoch sending him and Scott out to check on that dam.
Scott hadn’t looked any more pleased when Murdoch had announced the
project the previous evening, but neither of them had objected in front of the
assembled mealtime audience. Grand Creek was more like a small river and it was
true that the dam had been a concern for a while now, but it was pretty plain
what the Old Man was trying to do. There
sure wasn’t any good reason for both of them to ride all that ways out there
just to take a look at a pile of logs. Any
one of the hands could have done it just as well.
Johnny was pretty certain that if they spent all that time together going
out there and back, they’d just find something else to disagree on. Well, the ride back, anyway.
Johnny was heading out to the north pasture first and Scott probably had
some other tasks of his own before they met at noon, and then they were supposed
to both ride back to the hacienda.
on a slice of toast and cup of coffee, Will Hayford was reading in the Lancer
Great Room when Teresa O’Brien entered, carrying a basket of mending.
Will smiled at her and said “Good morning.”
Teresa returned his greeting and then set to work on one of Johnny’s
shirts, shaking her head in dismay at how hard he was on his clothing.
the hostess, Teresa made friendly conversation with Scott’s guest, answering
his questions about ranch life. After
several minutes of listening to Teresa’s descriptions, Will expressed his
frank surprise at seeing Scott so comfortable in this new and different
smiled uncertainly at that; Scott seemed to have adjusted quite well to life
here at the ranch, but she had often wondered how much his missed his family,
his friends, his “other life” back in Boston.
Rather than responding right away, she concentrated on threading her
needle, and Will went back to his book. The
needle conquered, the girl looked over at him. After momentarily contemplating
his visible profile, with the dark circle of his eye patch, she finally ventured
a question of her own: “So how long have you known Scott, Mr. Hayford?”
Will,” he reminded her with a quick smile.
Hayford closed the book, and shifted slightly in his seat so that he
could more easily focus on the young lady sitting across the way.
“Scott and I grew up together, our houses were on the same street.
If Scott hadn’t been so blond, people would have mistaken him for the
youngest Hayford, he spent so much time at our house.”
Will shook his head. “He was all alone with his grandfather--- and my
brothers and I allowed him to tag along with us.”
shadow clouded the man’s damaged face, and he lowered his gaze.
“Of course, if it hadn’t been for my example and my brothers’,
Scott might not have enlisted . . .”
was curious: “You all fought in the War?” she asked. “And how many of you
were three of us,” Will replied. “My
oldest brother George was in the cavalry; now he’s in legal practice with my
father in Boston. John was killed
at Gettysburg . . . . .we were in
the infantry there together.”
sorry,” Teresa murmured.
was home by the time we received the news about Scott being captured and
imprisoned at Libby . . . .it was
like losing another brother.”
you knew he was still alive.”
but the conditions in the Confederate prisons were notoriously bad.
We had no way of knowing if he was sick or injured.
There was no guarantee that he would survive his time there.”
he did,” Teresa observed soberly.
nodded. “Thank God.”
He eyed Teresa speculatively. “Do you know about the escape attempt?”
He survived that too . . . but it all must have been just a horrible
sure that it was. When Scott
finally got home, he was
still pretty sick and very thin.
He didn’t have an easy time of it. And the memory of those sixteen men
who died weighed very heavily on him.”
looked down at the mending in her lap. “I’m sure that was very difficult,”
she said unhappily.
would have been much more difficult if I hadn’t had the help of a good
friend,” was the quiet comment from a familiar voice.
Startled, both Teresa and Will looked quickly towards the doorway, both
wondering how long Scott had been standing there. Will recovered first, shaking
his head ruefully. “I’d like to
think that I was of some assistance,” he said.
“But you had to sober me up first.”
entered the room, placing his hat on a tabletop. “You had some difficulties of your own to contend with,”
he commented mildly.
looked at him searchingly. “And
hating you was one of them,” he stated flatly.
was startled by that remark: “Why??”
continued to keep his one good eye trained on Scott as he responded to the young
woman’s question. “He
wouldn’t allow me to get drunk, for one thing . . .
For another, . . . he came
back alive, and well.”
crossed the room and took a seat near Hayford, placing himself on Will’s left
side. Resting his arms on his
thighs, he looked down at his clasped hands, then back up at Will.
“Alive at any rate. And in
not exactly whole. And definitely
not the same,” was Will’s quiet comment.
stared at his hands and uttered only one short phrase: “That’s true.”
true of a lot of men. Not whole.
Not the same.” Will laughed mirthlessly.
“Though I guess that that was an improvement for some.”
across the room, Teresa sat motionless as she tried to fathom the hidden
thoughts and meanings beneath the words of this conversation.
She wondered whether the two men even remembered that she was in the
one could stay the same, Will. The
War changed all of us.”
more than others,” was Will’s quick rejoinder.
true,” Scott soberly agreed. Then he looked up and smiled apologetically at
the concerned expression on Teresa’s face.
Placing his hands on his knees, he slowly stood, announcing that he had a
full morning of ranch work ahead of him.
his head in Scott’s direction, noting his friend’s apparently typical
uniform of beige checked shirt and black pants, Will smiled. “I did notice that you weren’t exactly dressed for a ni .
. …….socializing.” Scott,
eyebrows raised, gave his friend a look, well aware of some activities that Will
might have been tempted to mention if Teresa had not been present.
don’t worry about me,” the lawyer added.
“I have a few letters to write, and it will take me most of the
nodded in comprehension. Will had
had to painstakingly teach himself to write left-handed; while he could now do
so with a fair degree of legibility, it was still a slow and tedious process.
Teresa rose and accompanied Scott
to the entryway. “You’re meeting Johnny later today?” she asked
tentatively, when they had reached the front door.
“That’s right,” he assured
her. “Murdoch wants us to check on the dam at Grand Creek,” he added, quite
He fastened his serious pale blue
eyes on her own darker, troubled ones. “Don’t
worry, Teresa. I do plan to talk to
Johnny, square things.” Teresa smiled and nodded.
The young woman watched the tall
blonde stride away. Once outside he
slid his hat onto his head and headed towards the stables.
Teresa thought about that day at the river, when she and Scott had been
returning from Morro Coyo. Both she and Scott had been so angry at Johnny for
not helping his brother in town, when Scott had had to fight off three of
Pardee’s men. Then Johnny had shown up at the riverside and Scott had punched
him, knocking him to the ground. Teresa recalled that when she had scolded them
for fighting, Scott had apologized right away, but Johnny had still been very
angry. “It would be so like Scott
to apologize,” she murmured to herself. “Even when he isn’t entirely at
later, Scott Lancer was riding along, unaware that he was being observed from a
distance. His own telescope was
used to track his movements as he and Brunswick traveled in the direction of the
dam that needed to be inspected. Scott
kept the horse to a leisurely pace, since he was still early yet.
From past experience, he knew that his younger brother was not likely to
be ahead of schedule.
in the small clearing opposite the dam, Scott saw that the ground was covered
with horse prints. Apparently Johnny had been early, he noted with mild
surprise. Glancing around, he saw
no other sign of either his brother or Barranca.
Scott assumed that Johnny had ridden further downstream, and would be
back shortly. Looking out over the
racing water, he realized with dismay that the dam had, in fact, been breached,
slowly untied his canteen and approached the water’s edge.
He stepped over some large rocks and pieces of “driftwood”, the
weathered and bleached wood that was called “dry kai” up in Maine. The water
level in the creek was very high; the fast flowing current reminded him of some
of the rivers that he had canoed up north. Glistening black rocks protruded from
the swirling white water; at the moment it was certainly not a waterway that he
would be anxious to navigate. Scott crouched down with his canteen in hand. Once
the container had been filled, he removed his hat and leaned forward, putting
his hand in the cool water and splashing it on his face. Hearing movements
behind him, Scott half turned. “Johnny?” he asked. There was no response.
Suddenly, he was stunned by a blow to the top of his head which caused his body
to start to pitch forward. There was no other sound except for the loud splash as Scott
Lancer hit the water, and quickly disappeared from view.
the assailant tossed the heavy piece of silvered wood to the ground.
“Boston” had never seen it coming.
that afternoon, Johnny was riding back to the hacienda, keeping Barranca at a
slow and steady pace, in no particular hurry to get home.
Not surprisingly, his thoughts were focused on his brother and the recent
hostilities between them. He shook his head, wondering how it had all escalated
to this point. Yesterday’s argument had started out just being about
giving orders around the ranch and before Johnny had realized it they’d been
talking about everything from Harlan Garrett’s failed blackmail attempt to the
time that Johnny had been forced to put a bullet in his older brother.
all that Johnny had been told his entire life that he’d inherited his temper
from his mama, he knew that Scott had one too.
His brother might be able to hold a lid on things longer, keep a careful
guard on his words, but every once and a while he’d explode into action.
Johnny tended to be more verbally impulsive; it seemed he was too often
saying things that he’d regret, but he was usually firmly in control of his
actions. It seemed as if for the
past week, maybe longer, the unexplained anger had just laid there between them,
simmering, waiting to boil over. After yesterday’s argument, the two of them
hadn’t said two words to each other; they had even managed to avoid spending
much time in the same room. This morning, Johnny had left the house very early.
Then, when he’d arrived at the river, he’d been waiting for Scott and
. . ..
Teresa’s voice broke into his thoughts, greeting him as he rode past the front
door of the hacienda. “Supper will be ready in an hour.”
right,” Johnny replied quietly, continuing on to the small stable where some
of the family’s horses were housed. He
had plenty of time to feed and groom Barranca before he had to get himself
cleaned up for the evening meal.
and Chad entered the dining room together, both moving to their customary seats
at the table. Teresa, wearing a blue dress this evening, was already seated to
Murdoch’s right, and Johnny settled himself beside her. Chad sat on
Murdoch’s left, in the chair that had formerly been Scott’s. Will Hayford, wearing a jacket and tie, was beside Chad, and
Scott’s new place at the end of the table, opposite Murdoch, remained empty.
we going to wait for Scott?” his friend inquired.
sure he’ll be along directly,” Murdoch replied. “It’s time to begin.”
commented in a concerned tone on Scott’s uncharacteristic tardiness, but
Johnny assured her that even Scott wasn’t always on time. The company reached for their napkins in anticipation of the
start of the meal.
long white tapers were lit in the silver candelabra in the center of the table.
The surface was set as usual, with white dishes decorated with pale blue
violets. The silverware had the Lancer “L” etched on the handle of each
utensil. A crystal glass filled with water, a glass for wine, and a cup and
saucer for coffee after dinner accompanied each table setting. Juanita bustled
out of the kitchen to place a serving bowl filled with corn and another one of
mashed potatoes on the table. Maria
followed closely behind her carrying a platter of roast beef that she deposited
beside Murdoch. In her other hand she had a dinner plate that she set down in
the empty spot in front of Will. Senor Scott had requested that she please have
his friend’s meat cut up for him before it came to the table. Maria hurried
from the room and quickly returned with a gravy boat and a basket of biscuits.
the assembled diners began to serve themselves, Murdoch commenced his inquiry
into the day’s activities. “How did riding the fence line go today, Chad?”
Murdoch asked as he lifted several thick slices of roast beef onto his plate.
Johnny was ladling vegetables onto his plate while still listening
intently for his cousin’s response. He
recognized that Murdoch was trying to build up Chad’s confidence by giving him
some tasks to perform all on his own.
looks like we need ta’ replace a section of the fence up towards the Eastern
line shack,” Chad said putting a forkful of potatoes in his mouth.
get a crew out there tomorrow to work on it.
Perhaps Scott . . .” Murdoch glanced again at Scott’s empty chair.
“Were there any other sections that you noticed needing repair?”
there are some parts ta’ the fence ‘bout a mile past the road ta’ town
that could use some work,” Chad replied. “That shore is mighty pretty
country up there,” he added. “The birds was a singin’ and I even saw a
coupla deer while I was up that way.”
have to get a crew out there, before winter sets in, ” Johnny commented as he
accepted the meat platter from Teresa.
politely addressed a question to their guest. “Mis. . .Will, what did you do
today?” she asked him with a smile.
I spent most of the day in my room, getting caught up on some reading, and I
wrote those letters to people back home,” Will replied, taking a sip of wine.
must not have heard me then, when I knocked. I did some baking today and thought
that you might like a taste.”
very sorry to have missed that Teresa—both the baked goods and the pleasure of
your company,” he assured her. “It
was such a nice day that I did go outside for a walk.” Then nodding in the direction of his friend’s vacant place,
Will added, “I had expected to see Scott this afternoon.”
Teresa said worriedly. “What do you think is keeping him?”
supplied the answer. “He ain’t back here yet. I just came in from the stable
and Brunswick’s stall’s still empty.”
Johnny had spent more time grooming his palomino than he had planned and
was still wearing the faded pink shirt that he had worked in all day.
didn’t ride back from Grand Creek together?”
looked up from his plate and set down his fork. “Murdoch, Scott never showed.
I looked around and checked out the dam. Waited half an hour or so for ‘im. I
figured when he showed up, he’d take a look and we could talk about it at
may have been helping the crew with the bridge,” Murdoch mused aloud.
“That group isn’t back yet.” He
knew that it wasn’t like Scott to ignore his “assignment”, but perhaps
voicing this possibility would keep Teresa from growing even more concerned. One
thing was evident; wherever Scott had been, Murdoch’s plan to force his sons
to spend time together had been thwarted.
addressed Johnny across the table. “He did say that he would be back here
after meeting you at Grand Creek.”
Murdoch said, he probably got busy helping the crew finish that bridge.”
it unusual for them to put in such a long day?” Will asked.
yeah,” Johnny replied, somewhat irritated by Hayford’s probing tone. ”But
they were gonna to stay out til the bridge was finished. Without it we can’t
get to the cattle in the east pasture without having to go out of our way.”
the same, Johnny,” Murdoch said seriously. “After you finish eating, maybe
you should head out and meet your brother.”
dark-haired Lancer nodded, drained his glass of milk and then pushed his chair
back. “Might as well head out
now.” He looked over at his
cousin. “Chad, you wanna come with me?”
of the young men noted the displeased expression on Murdoch Lancer’s face as
he listened to Johnny’s invitation and Chad’s quick response. Replying with
a “Shore, Johnny,” Chad stood up, grabbing a biscuit from the basket and
snatching a piece of roast beef from his plate. Johnny strode over to the front entrance and paused to remove
his gun belt and hat from the tree near the door. Just then there was a knock on
the heavy wooden panel. Johnny opened the door and said, “Hi Sam, come on
Sam Jayson entered, removing his hat. “Hey,
How are ya Johnny? Chad? Hungrily
eyeing the food on the table, he addressed Murdoch. “Sorry to interrupt your
dinner, Mr. Lancer. I just wanted ta’ drop this bill off for Johnny.” He
pulled a slip of paper out of his vest pocket.
Murdoch asked, his eyes narrowing as he slowly stood. “What bill?”
damages to the saloon. Johnny agreed to pay after he got in that fight with
Lumas and Reno.” Sheriff Jayson explained as Murdoch approached.
Johnny, how many times are you….” Murdoch started to say, but Johnny
you can yell at me later.” Johnny said, grabbing the bill out of the
Sheriff’s hand. “If we’re going to go meet Scott before dark, we need ta
head on out.”
started to ask Jayson another question, when Cipriano Sanchez appeared in the
Lancer,” the Segundo announced solemnly. “The bridge is finished.”
was he out there with you?” Murdoch asked gruffly.
Senor,” the foreman replied, shaking his head. “I have not seen Senor Scott
Scott didn’t meet up with Johnny at noon.” Murdoch explained, concern
written on his face. “He’s probably fine, maybe his horse went lame or threw
a shoe.” The big rancher paused, while everyone present considered that if
something like that had happened to Scott at noontime, he would have to have
been walking very slowly not to have made it back to the hacienda by now.
“We’ll follow both routes to the dam.
Johnny, you and Chad head to the tree line and go along the river;
Cipriano and I will cut across the pastures, meet you at the dam site.”
I’ll come along,” Sheriff Jayson offered. Murdoch nodded his acceptance.
“Then you ride with me, Sheriff.”
He turned to his Segundo. “Cipriano, you head out with Johnny and Chad.
You know where to check. The Sheriff and I will take the direct route to the
moved towards the wall of shelves, then turned back to address the room, a
puzzled expression on his face. “Anyone
seen Scott’s telescope? Thought it might come in handy . . .”
brow furrowed. “It’s usually
there on the shelf with my stereo-opticon,” he said, referring to the
instrument that Scott had purchased as a gift for the first birthday that
Murdoch had celebrated after the boys’ return home.
It was actually the second stereo-opticon that Scott had ordered from
“back East”, after he had given the first one to the girl Trina so that the
house bound young artist could “see the world”.
Hayford rose from his seat and joined the discussion, Teresa following him from
the table with an anxious expression on her face. “Look in the stable,” he suggested. “Scott wanted to bring it along when he gave me a tour of
the ranch, but then we both forgot about it, and it was left behind.”
nodded. “Let’s get saddled
up,” he said to Chad and the two of them headed for the door. Cipriano also prepared to depart, quietly stating that
he would ready the patron’s horse.
Lancer, I’d like to come along also, if you don’t mind,” Will requested
looked at his son’s one-armed friend. “Fine,”
Murdoch said, after a brief hesitation. “You
can ride with the Sheriff and me.” Murdoch
reached for his own gun belt as he shouted out the door—“Johnny, saddle up
Rambler for Mr. Hayford, he’ll be joining us.”
Cipriano hurried towards the smaller stable to prepare Murdoch’s mount, Johnny
paused in the doorway of the larger building where Rambler was housed. Chad was
already inside, heading directly to Buford’s stall to saddle up the big bay.
Johnny noticed Andy Stovall just unsaddling his horse; he didn’t recall
hearing that Andy had been assigned to the bridge crew and briefly wondered
where the young man had been today.
Andy, could ya saddle up Rambler and take him to the house for Scott’s
sir,” Andy responded, heading for Rambler’s stall. Johnny hurried off to the next building to get Barranca. A
few minutes later, Johnny and Chad each exited their respective barns, joined
Senor Sanchez and rode out to look for Scott.
sun was lowering when the two search parties met as planned near the Grand Creek
dam site. As they headed towards
the clearing opposite the dam, Cipriano rode alongside Murdoch Lancer.
The Segundo informed his employer that he, Chad and Johnny had seen no
sign of the rancher’s elder son. As the group entered the small open area,
those in the lead were surprised to see Brunswick standing there.
The spirited chestnut reacted nervously to the approaching group of
riders, and Cipriano quickly dismounted and walked over to calm the animal.
Murdoch scanned the area, but there was no other evicence of Scott. Will reined
Rambler to a halt behind Murdoch, but Johnny on Barranca continued past him,
shouting his brother’s name. Cipriano
handed Brunswick’s bridle up to Johnny and started towards the river’s edge.
tried to edge Buford past Will. “Wait!”
Hayford exclaimed forcefully. “Wait . . . before we tramp all over the area,
perhaps we’d better let the Sheriff take a look at the tracks on the
Lancer turned in the saddle, pushing his hat back on his head to regard his
son’s friend. “Scott is
missing, after all,” Hayford explained in response to Murdoch’s questioning
look. “We wouldn’t want to
destroy any evidence . . that might help us find him.”
“Right, Sheriff?” Will asked, seeking support from the man on
horseback directly behind him.
his place at the rear of the company, Sheriff Sam Jayson appeared to be somewhat
disconcerted by suddenly having everyone’s attention focused upon him.
The way was parted for the sandy haired lawman to ride to a position
alongside Murdoch. He slowly dismounted. As
Jayson stood staring at the ground at his feet, Johnny couldn’t help but feel
a grim amusement. He remembered the
time when he and Sam had ridden out after Scott, Jelly and the Calhouns, father
and daughter. Johnny had busted his
brain trying to out guess Scott, to figure out what his brother would to do to
throw him off the trail. It had been pretty evident that Sam hadn’t known the
first thing about tracking. If it hadn’t been for Johnny, they would have
never found the fugitive miners’ hideout and all of those people would have
died from eating the contaminated food that Scott and Jelly were unwittingly
bringing to them.
now fell to Cipriano to point out to the Sheriff the two sets of hoof prints—Barranca’s
and Brunswick’s. The big foreman crouched down near the ground and calmly
indicated Barranca’s distinctive treads; Johnny’s palomino had wider hooves
than Scott’s chestnut.
said he was here, and here are his tracks.”
Then, Sanchez addressed Johnny in Spanish, pointing out that Barranca’s
front shoes seemed to be quite worn.
Tio,”Johnny replied. “Been meaning ta take care of that,” he added in
English. In response to the
quizzical glances from the other men, including the already puzzled Sheriff, the
Segundo indicated the rounded edge of one of the horseshoe marks.
“These here are from Senor Scott’s horse,” he added, gesturing
towards another series of prints.
other horse?” Will asked from his
place behind Murdoch.
quickly sweeping the area, Cipriano shook his head. “No, Senor.”
about foot prints?”
was the lawyer’s next question.
Jayson looked around, trying to make sense of the tracks on the ground.
“Hey, here’s one set . .
. and these over here are a little
be Scott,” Johnny said quietly, indicating some of the clearer prints.
He slowly dismounted. “These
here are mine,” he announced. Meanwhile,
Cipriano walked once more towards the edge of the creek bed.
Carefully stepping onto some of the large rocks at the shoreline, he bent
down, with his back to the company. Straightening,
he turned held up a canteen.
Scott’s?” Chad asked.
so,” was Johnny’s response as he took a few steps to meet Cipriano and
accepted the container. “It’s
full,” he informed Murdoch as he handed the canteen up to his father.
sign of him?” Murdoch asked his Segundo in a concerned voice. Cipriano shook
his head in response and then returned to the river.
awkwardly lowered himself to the ground and he and Sam Jayson followed Cipriano
back over to the water’s edge. Behind Murdoch, Will Hayford began to carefully
dismount as well.
the Lancer foreman scanned the waterway, studying the breached dam, Chad peered
downstream. “I see something,”
the tall Kentuckian announced. As
Murdoch watched from astride his big bay horse, with Johnny standing alongside
him still holding Brunswick’s reins, Chad ducked his head below some branches
and moved off to the left, disappearing from view. Will moved into a position
between Johnny and Murdoch, the three of them waiting to learn what Chad had
seen. Although no longer visible,
he could be heard splashing along the creek. When Chad came back into sight, he
was holding an object in his hand. “Uh,
. . looks like Scott’s hat,” he announced in a worried tone, holding
up the damp piece of headgear.
Johnny and Will stepped towards Chad at the same time.
Chad moved directly to Johnny and placed the sodden hat into his
him, Cipriano turned and addressed Senor Lancer. Johnny had already alerted the searchers to the condition of
the dam; now the stolid foreman issued his own terse assessment.
As he commented as well upon the force of the current, something to the
right caught his eye. There, protruding from the branches of a thick bush, was
one end of a piece of river “driftwood”.
Grasping the heavy, whitened chunk of wood, Cipriano pulled it from the
brush and examined it carefully; he then grimly approached Murdoch. Even Sheriff
Jayson registered that the log would make a fine club, before hearing
Murdoch’s verdict to that effect. Noting
the dark stain on the silvered surface, the dour faced rancher shook his head in
disbelief. “That could be blood,” he stated flatly, handing the piece of
wood to Johnny, who nodded his agreement. “I
guess I’d better hang on to it then,” Sam Jayson observed, a mixture of
hesitation and self-importance in his voice.
With a stunned expression on his damaged face, Will Hayford walked slowly
over to the creek’s edge and stood with his left hand in his jacket pocket,
contemplating the racing current and the dark rocks looming in the fading light.
one of the men spoke. Apparently no
one wanted to be the first to give voice to the possibility that Scott Lancer
had somehow ended up in Grand Creek, let alone speculate aloud as to how that
might have happened. Finally
Murdoch Lancer forced himself to take charge, giving directions from astride his
large horse. “Johnny, you and
Chad head down stream on foot, see how far you can go. The under brush may be
too thick to go any distance,” he warned.
Johnny and Chad headed downstream along the creek bed, Cipriano canvassed the
clearing once more. In the
deepening twilight, the other men could hear Johnny and Chad thrashing in the
underbrush, slipping on the rocks and splashing in the water, all the while
shouting out for Scott. There was
no response, just the constant noise of the rushing water.
The two young men hadn’t gotten very far when Murdoch resignedly called
Johnny and Chad rejoined the others in the clearing, they looked damp and
no moon tonight, not much we can do after dark, Murdoch,” Johnny said.
“We’re gonna have ta wait for daylight to do much lookin’”. Chad
nodded his head in emphatic agreement, while Sheriff Jayson started to offer to
return early the next morning to assist in the search.
interrupted the lawman. “I think
we’ll certainly need you, Sheriff,” he said from his spot by the water.
“It looks as if Scott may have been attacked.”
whoever mighta done somethin’ like that would be long gone by now,” Chad
pointed it out.
the lawyer answered. “Johnny, I believe you said that you were here at
bristled at the emphasis on “said”, but answered the question in a neutral
voice. “That’s right.” “Like
I said,” he added, placing his own emphasis on the word, “Scott never
obviously he was here at some point. And
you never came back to look for him?”
Johnny said, folding his arms across his chest. “I waited for ‘im a while,
then I went for a ride, til it was time to head back to the hacienda.”
already tole us alla this,” Chad objected.
Sheriff Jayson stood between Johnny and Will, his head twisting back and
forth as he followed the discussion. Cipriano
Sanchez stared grimly at Will Hayford. Murdoch Lancer did not seem to be
following the conversation as he sat staring out over the water, his eyes gazing
unseeingly at the remains of the dam.
looked down at the ground, apparently lost in thought.
Abruptly, he glanced up at Johnny. “How
long have you been missing that button?” he asked.
pairs of eyes focused on the front of Johnny’s pink shirt.
The second button was indeed missing. Under this scrutiny, Johnny replied
in a voice that was deadly calm. “Well, Will, since ya think it’s any of
your business, it was missin’ when I got dressed this mornin’.”
you put that shirt on anyway?”
the circumstances, it seemed like a stupid thing to be asking, and Johnny was
not about to admit to Scott’s damnably inquisitive friend that he’d only had
the one clean shirt to wear. Before
he could offer any sort of retort, Hayford bent down and picked something up off
of the ground. “Is this it?” he
asked, approaching Johnny with his hand extended.
Will was holding a small barrel-shaped white button similar to the ones
on Johnny’s faded shirt.
reluctantly accepted the object. It sure seemed to be the missing button all
directed his next comment up to Murdoch Lancer, who was still on horseback.
“It could have fallen off in a struggle.”
and the others stared at Hayford in disbelief.
“You ain’t suggestin’ what I think you’re suggestin’ . . .”
Johnny said menacingly, dropping Brunswick’s lead as he clenched his fists and
stepped towards the one-armed man. Cipirano placed a hand on the Johnny’s
shoulder as Chad exclaimed: “Johnny would neva do nuthin’ like that!”
Cipriano nodded his head in emphatic agreement while Murdoch regarded
Will with a stone-faced expression. Behind
Will, Sheriff Sam Jayson rubbed at his moustache, looking both apprehensive and
wasn’t a random act—robbers would have taken Scott’s horse or at least
emptied his saddlebags,” Will pointed out, gesturing towards Brunswick’s
back. The saddlebags did indeed
appear to be full, the straps still secured.
Even Scott’s carbine remained in its sheath.
the face of hostile glares from the men before him, Will Hayford stood his
ground. Moving his head in order to
fix his one good eye upon each of them in turn, he stated forcefully: “There
were only two sets of prints here, Scott’s and Johnny’s . .. and every one
of you is a witness to that.”
gripped Johnny’s shoulders with both hands, speaking to him in a low voice in
Spanish. Responding in the same tongue, the furious young man shrugged off the
restraining hands and moved towards his horse.
Leaping up onto Barranca’s saddle, Johnny spurred the animal and
quickly left the small clearing behind. Chad
hastily clambered up onto Buford and noisily followed his cousin.
Lancer glared down at Will Hayford. “Hayford,”
he said coldly, “You don’t know Johnny, so you can’t possibly
understand how far off the mark you are here.” He paused ominously.
“All I can say is that if you weren’t Scott’s friend and our guest
. . . “
completing his statement, Murdoch wheeled his horse and left. Cipriano
hurriedly mounted his own horse, and taking Brunswick’s lead, rode after the
the growing darkness, Will Hayford, a determined expression on his face,
laboriously climbed aboard Rambler. A
thoroughly bewildered Sheriff Sam Jayson was the last man to leave the clearing.
he had put some distance between himself and the accusations that Will Hayford
had made in the clearing, Johnny eased Barranca’s pace. The shadows were
deepening, and there was nothing to be gained in risking having the horse
stumble. A few moments later, when
he recognized the heavy tread of Chad’s horse Buford coming up behind him,
Johnny slowed Barranca to a walk. Chad reined in his own animal and the two
young men rode side by side in silence.
made several half-hearted attempts at conversation. His feeble assurances that Scott Lancer was bound to turn up
unharmed, his stubborn insistence that no one with a lick of sense would think
for one minute that Johnny had turned against his brother, even his angry
castigation of the one-eyed “Yankee” lawyer, all were met with monosyllabic
grunts from his dark-haired cousin.
was only when Chad posed a direct question that he received any real response
from Johnny. “So, Johnny, did I
hear right that you and Scott had some kinda big argumint yestiday?”
you heard that right,” Johnny replied with a heavy sigh.
He didn’t bother to ask his cousin just how he had heard about it.
With so many people living and working together every day, there
weren’t too many secrets on a ranch. Johnny knew that Hayford, Jelly and the
new man, Andy, had all been witnesses to the angry “conversation” between
the brothers, but there was no telling who else might have also been within
earshot. Evidently Murdoch had heard plenty, since he had been so determined to
send the two of them off together to investigate the dam.
and Cipriano, with Scott’s horse Brunswick trailing behind them, finally
caught up with Johnny and Chad. The
two older men did not offer a greeting; the foursome continued on without a
word. Further back, Will Hayford and Sheriff Sam Jayson were conversing; Johnny
could hear snatches of the exchange as their voices carried over the sound of
the hoof beats in the still night. It
sounded as if Hayford was quizzing Sam about his experience as a lawman.
Johnny smiled sardonically to himself; the Harvard lawyer was not likely
to be much impressed. Sam was a decent enough man, he tried to do a good job,
but he sure wasn’t any great shakes as a lawman.
No one would ever claim that Sam Jayson was the smartest person that ever
pinned on a badge.
outwardly calm, as he sat in a relaxed posture, moving with Barranca’s gentle
rhythm, Johnny’s mind was brimming with dark swirling thoughts.
Chief among them was the cold fear that Scott had, somehow, ended up in
the dark, flowing waters of Grand Creek. As
infuriated as he had been by Will Hayford’s insinuations, Johnny reminded
himself that no one else was very likely to pay attention to that kind of talk.
He certainly couldn’t allow himself to be distracted by the man’s
accusations; he had to find his brother and then figure out what had actually
happened. The thing that was the most disturbing was the discovery of the
button. Johnny knew, he absolutely
knew for a fact, that it had been missing when he put that embroidered shirt on
early this morning. He’d checked several times since just to be sure that
there was still only one missing. How
could the button have gotten out here? He’d seen Hayford pick it up off the
ground with his own eyes.
that button raised a host of questions, well, on the face of it, the piece of
wood with the dark stain was a lot less mysterious. When Cipriano had been
holding the log, it had looked like nothing so much as a club. The rocks and the
cold temperatures of the rapid current would be bad enough, but if a man went
into the water already injured . . . .
Murdoch had speculated that the dark spot could be blood and Johnny had
quickly agreed with him, but now he considered that the whitened length of wood
could have any sort of discoloration on it.
tried not to think about what it meant that Chad had located Scott’s hat a
little ways down stream. He shook his head now, suddenly wondering what had
happened to that hat. Johnny could recall taking it from Chad, but then later he
had been holding the piece of silvered drift wood in his hands, and still later
balling them into fists, wanting very much to shut Will Hayford up by planting a
punch on the man’s jaw. At some
point, he must have unthinkingly dropped the hat or passed it off to someone.
Johnny half turned, about to question his cousin, then thought better of
it. He didn’t really feel like starting up any conversations.
If no one else had picked it up, then his brother’s hat would still be
there in a few hours. Johnny didn’t figure on getting any sleep tonight, just
getting back to the hacienda and gathering some gear together, then heading back
to the creek in time to be there by first light.
what they might find sent an unpleasant chill traveling down Johnny’s spine,
and he reflexively spurred Barranca to a slightly quicker pace. In an effort to
avoid dwelling on that topic, he tried to direct his thoughts to more pleasant
images of his brother, alive and well. But rather than a smiling Scott, his
troubled mind instead latched onto grim faced recollections of the previous
day’s argument. As different as
the two of them were, it really was kind of amazing that he and Scott argued so
rarely. What bothered Johnny the
most about yesterday’s confrontation was that both he and Scott had simply
walked away, neither one of them making the least effort to “square“ things.
They’d sat within arms length at supper last night, without saying one
word to each other the whole time. Even
when Murdoch had announced that the two of them would be riding out to Grand
Creek to check on the dam, they’d focused their attention on him, hadn’t
even so much as glanced at each other.
was most surprising was that, although usually Scott was pretty quick to
apologize whenever he thought he’d done or said something wrong, he hadn’t
done so this time. Johnny’s
thoughts drifted back to that first day soon after the brothers had arrived at
the ranch, the day that they’d fought down by the river.
His new brother had been pretty angry that Johnny hadn’t tried to help
him when Scott had been attacked by three of Day Pardee’s boys in town. That
was the only time that Johnny could remember that Scott had ever actually struck
him and ol’Boston sure had thrown a pretty strong punch. Unconsciously rubbing
his jaw, Johnny recalled Scott saying
that he couldn’t resist “thanking you for your help, Brother.” He shook
his head; it was funny how Scott had started calling him that right away,
“Brother”, even when the Easterner probably hadn’t been all that happy
about the fact that they were related. Well, Johnny figured he’d had it coming
then, even though a big reason why he hadn’t helped Scott was that he just
hadn’t been ready yet for his old friend Day to know about his connection to
Murdoch Lancer. And Scott must have
managed to hold his own pretty good against Coley and the others, at least
judging from the length of time that passed from when Day’s boys went into the
store after him to when the city boy had been sent rolling out into the street.
when Teresa had gotten all fired up and scolded them about “brothers
fighting,” Scott had been real quick to offer an apology.
He’d meant it too, no question there.
Apologizing was always a bit more difficult for Johnny.
He’d wait and worry. Of course when he knew he was in the wrong, he
wasn’t one to back off, he had every intention of accepting the
responsibility. It wasn’t that. He
just hated that feeling of vulnerability, wondering whether the reason that he
had to offer, if the regret that he had to express would actually be accepted by
those he cared about.
had never been one to let his pride or anything else stand in the way of the two
of them being on good terms, or at least he hadn’t up to now.
If he was in the wrong, he’d step right up and say so.
Even when Scott was right, he’d still like as not say he was sorry for
getting angry, or for something particular that he’d said, which made it that
much easier for the other man to come back with an apology of his own.
Not this time though.
that things had gone too far, Johnny had been more than ready to make the first
move. He’d made a point of
arriving at the dam site early, determined to patch things up with Scott. He’d
grown more and more irritated when his typically punctual brother didn’t show,
and after waiting until a good half hour past noon, he’d left in disgust, gone
for a ride to clear his head. Obviously
Scott had gotten there sometime later. And
maybe someone else had turned up too, someone who had taken Scott by surprise.
But it was true that there didn’t seem to be any sign of anyone else,
so perhaps his brother had simply slipped and fallen.
Johnny bowed his head and expelled an audible breath.
If only he’d waited a little longer. If only he’d gone back to check
for Scott before he’d ridden for home.
unsaddled Barranca, Johnny went through the grooming ritual once more.
He’d already spent considerable time currying the palomino earlier, but
he needed to go through the motions again.
His own emotions were in such a state of upheaval that he was reluctant
to go inside to face the concerns, fears, and unanswered questions of the rest
of the household. In the past, he’d found that the rhythmic movements of
brushing the horse’s hide seemed to help smooth his own tangled thoughts.
it didn‘t seem to be helping now.
least he wanted ya.” As it had
several times since yesterday, the phrase echoed in his mind. Johnny could once more hear those words, uttered in his own
voice, what he‘d said to Scott about his grandfather. “At least he wanted ya.”
Each time that he recalled the phrase, Johnny mentally berated himself
once more. He never should’ve said anything about the man, but strangely
enough, he’d really intended it as a compliment of sorts to Garrett. After
all, Scott’s grandfather had raised him, done a damn fine job of it too.
Johnny had suspected that back at the beginning, there had been a decent length
of time when Scott could have gone either way—decided to remain at Lancer or
headed back to Boston; after all, his brother had family in both places.
There was no question that his grandfather had been willing to fight for
Scott. Even though there was no way around the fact that Garrett’s behavior
during his visit to the ranch had amounted to a betrayal of his grandson’s
trust, Johnny had to credit the old man for making an effort. Sure, he’d
fought dirty, but at least he’d fought. Which was a lot more than Murdoch
Lancer had ever done, even when his eldest son had been about to head back East.
Murdoch hadn’t put up any kind of fight at all; he hadn’t even told
Scott flat out that he wanted him to stay.
evidently Murdoch hadn’t done much fighting when Scott was a kid, either.
He’d always known right where Scott was, just hadn’t done anything
about it. The brothers hadn’t
ever really talked about that very much. Scott
had made a comment once that made it sound as if he suspected that his
Grandfather would have put up some kind of big legal battle to keep him in
Boston, speculating that perhaps Murdoch hadn’t wanted to put his son through
that. Johnny hadn’t been at all
impressed with the theory, though of course he hadn’t let his brother know it.
Hell, Scott had been just a kid, even if he had been badly “hurt” by
a custody case, Murdoch could have had twenty years to make it up to him,
instead of twenty years of nothing.
Murdoch had done during those twenty years was to spend a lot of time and money
looking for Johnny and his mother. Those
Pinkerton reports were the proof of it. Johnny knew that his brother had read most of the documents
on “Johnny Madrid”. At one
point Johnny had even resolved to read what information Murdoch had on Scott,
planning on giving his brother a hard time if the Bostonian’s history wasn’t
as purely fascinating as his own gun slinging career.
Well, there had just been a thin folder with a couple of pages inside,
information that was only a year old. That
had been it. It had been something
they both had to have recognized--how much effort Murdoch had made over the
years trying to bring Johnny back to the ranch and how he’d done nothing about
Scott, but neither one of them had ever said anything about it.
Johnny had uttered those words, “At least he wanted ya,” Scott had frozen in
place. Then he’d turned and squinted at Johnny appraisingly.
And that’s when Johnny had seen it, a flicker of pain, quickly masked.
And he’d known, he’d just known deep down, that his brother had
believed that he was being taunted with a reference to the fact that Murdoch
Lancer had not wanted him. Well, Johnny had spent his childhood believing
that his father hadn’t cared about him; Scott must have felt the same way.
The difference was that Johnny now knew that hadn’t been true, but
Scott, well, Scott didn’t. But Scott had obviously decided that the past was past and he
was now trying to forge a relationship with Murdoch, man to man.
Most of the time it seemed to be working too.
sighed. The disparity in Murdoch
Lancer’s actions in respect to his two sons was something else he would never
have planned on bringing up. He
didn’t see how he was ever gonna apologize to Scott for something that he
hadn’t really meant to say, that he only suspected that maybe Scott had taken
the wrong way. Seemed like bringing it up would make it worse rather than
better, especially if he’d been mistaken, misread that flicker he was
convinced that he’d seen move across his brother’s face.
Of course, he realized, he might never have the opportunity to bring it
up at all. Johnny rested his head
on his arms across Barranca’s broad back, while cold fear gripped his heart.
stared sympathetically at Johnny’s motionless figure as he entered the stable
with Brunswick. He knew that the younger Lancer had to be very worried about his
older brother, but he resolved to wait and see if Johnny felt like talking about
it. Hearing Jelly enter, Johnny
resumed brushing Barranca, but failed to acknowledge the older man.
Jelly led Brunswick to the adjacent stall and removed his saddle and
bridle. Once each piece of tack had been hung in its designated spot, the
grizzled handyman grabbed a brush and began working on Scott‘s horse.
on now, Johnny,” Jelly finally said gruffly, pausing in his task. “Ya gotta
keep yur hopes up.”
for what, Jelly, a miracle?“ Johnny asked dejectedly, “cause it looks like
Scott’s gonna need one.” Turning
away from his friend, Johnny directed his next words to the walls.
“If there ain’t one, seems like some people think I
could’ve…..” Johnny let the sentence trail off unable to say the words,
“killed my brother”.
walked quickly around to the entrance to Barranca’s stall. “Aint’ nobody
t’all gonna think ya could have done anythin’ ta hurt Scott,” he
blustered. “Only darn fool who’d think somethin’ like that is that Eastern
dandy.” He walked over to Johnny, pulling nervously on his suspender straps.
“Sides, we’re gonna find yur brother in the mornin’. Probably he’s on
foot somewheres after this persnickety horse of his threw ‘em.”
turned and looked up at Jelly with weary eyes, unable to voice his appreciation
for the older man‘s vote of confidence. “I’m
not too sure bout’ us findin’ Boston…..alive anyway,” he said softly,
shaking his head. Johnny haltingly
told Jelly about finding his brother’s canteen and hat, and about the piece of
wood. Then the words flowed out of
him in a quiet torrent as he proceeded to explain what they had seen at the dam
site: the structure that had been badly breached, the rapidly moving water, the
many large rocks. Although Johnny didn’t say it, they both knew that not far
from the dam site the creek flowed into a deep gorge, which was why it just
hadn’t been possible to do much searching in the dark. The plain truth was
that anyone or anything that had been caught up in the current would most likely
travel quite a ways downstream.
scratched his beard, trying to find a way to ease the young man’s pain.
“Well, Johnny, I’ll tell ya’, that city friend of Scott’s did say one
thing worth givin’ thought ta.”
what’s he saying?” Johnny asked angrily, his eyes narrowing at the
unlikelihood of Will Hayford saying anything that was worth listening to.
don’t ya’ start gettin’ yurself all in an uproar,” Jelly grumbled. “He
said that yur brother is a darn strong swimmer. That he used ta’ go swimmin’
in th’ ocean.”
frowned; it seemed that even after two years of living together there were
plenty of things that he still didn’t know about Scott. He tried to ignore the
stomach clenching fear that he might never get another chance.
just can’t see anyone bein’ able to swim that Creek,” Johnny said quietly,
concern evident in his voice. “And specially not if he was injured.”
just stood there, at a loss as to what he could possibly say to ease his young
friend’s mind. He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Johnny would never do
anything to hurt Scott. He
remembered how they’d all been so upset that time when Scott was gonna go back
to Boston with his grandfather. Johnny hadn’t been willing to let his brother
go without putting up a fight; it had been Johnny who’d gone to town and met
the Degan brothers
and then figured out Harlan Garrett’s plan.
stood with his hands on his hips and watched as Johnny slowly left the barn.
The horse wrangler‘s own heart was heavy with worry. He knew the
chances were pretty poor that any one could survive falling into Grand Creek; he
had just been trying to give Johnny a little hope.
search party left on horseback at first light, heading for the creek even before
dawn broke. Once there, they planned to split up into two groups. Johnny, Chad,
and young Walt were going to attempt to cross the creek at the dam, and then
work their way on foot downstream on the far side, while Cipriano, Jelly, and
Frank would stay on the near side. Big Jose was driving a buckboard out to the
clearing and would remain there with the horses. Conceding that his chronically
bad back and leg would prevent him from being able to negotiate the rough
terrain along the creek, Murdoch Lancer supervised the assembling of tools and
provisions and then resigned himself to remaining behind.
He was sending his best men to search for Scott; but there was still work
to be done, a ranch to be run.
to his word, Sheriff Sam Jayson caught up with the group right before they
arrived at the dam site. The men surveyed the area around the breached dam,
assessing the best route to employ to cross the rapidly flowing water. Cipriano
and Johnny conferred and then motioned young Walt to their side.
”What do you think?” Johnny asked, pointing at a large tree stump on the opposite side of the river. “If you could get the lasso over that, there seems to be enough rocks sticking out of the water to try to cross here.”
shouldn’t be a problem, Mr. Lancer,” Walt replied, gauging the length of
throw that was needed. The
dark haired young ranch hand made several attempts before his noose finally
snagged the stump. He put his weight against the rope to test its hold on the
stump. Walt then tied his end around a large tree, making sure it was pulled as
tight as possible.
volunteered to cross first, securing a second rope around his waist.
Moving slowly and carefully from rock to rock, keeping one hand on the
line that stretched across the creek, he finally made it to the opposite bank.
He then lashed the second rope around a tree, providing two handholds for the
men who would follow.
crossed next, carrying a pack laden with food, water and first aid materials.
Chad followed, similarly burdened with supplies. There was a moment when
each man held his breath as Chad’s foot slipped out from underneath him and he
almost let go of the rope. He managed to hang on, and pulled himself up onto a
large boulder. At Johnny’s
insistence, Chad waited there while his cousin worked his way back out into the
stream and relieved him of a few of the items that he was carrying.
Johnny turned and slowly moved back to the shore again, with Chad close
safely across the creek, the three young men began moving down stream. The
leader was prepared with a hatchet and a machete to use if necessary, while the
other two followed carrying the packs. They
had agreed to rotate their roles and positions as the morning wore on. On the
opposite shore, Cipriano, Jelly, Frank and the Sheriff left Jose with the
animals and set off as well. Their order, which would remain essentially
unchanged, placed dusky skinned Frank in the lead, with the mustached Sheriff
puffing along in the rear.
with any search, the members of the party set out with hopes of making a quick
discovery, eagerly scanning the water and the rocks. After twenty minutes of level walking, Johnny, Chad and Walt
began a rugged ascent to the top of the rock wall edging Grand Creek on their
side, while the older men were forced to continue to fight their way through
was little conversation on either side, as the men set about their grim task.
By unspoken agreement, whenever anyone spied a shape in the water, he
forced himself to wait until he could ascertain that it was only a rock, a log
or some reflection on the water, and not Scott Lancer.
in the morning, taking his second turn in the lead, Johnny looked up ahead and
noticed that they were approaching a bend in the water. Pushing the pace,
breathing hard with the unaccustomed exertion of spending so much time traveling
on foot, he allowed himself to imagine what he hoped to see around that bend.
In his mind’s eye, Johnny could picture his brother, seated on a rock
midstream, patiently waiting for them. Elbows
resting on his knees, Scott would be a bit battered and bedraggled looking, but
he’d glance up at them, raise those eyebrows of his and make some mild comment
like “It’s good to see you, Brother.”
Johnny figured he’d have to come back with some question, maybe ask
Boston something about how much he’d enjoyed the ride.
course, when he turned the corner and the creek came into view again, there
wasn’t anyone in sight, perched on a rock or otherwise.
There was a very nice view; Johnny could see quite a ways from atop the
outcropping of rock. Off in the distance there was another bend in the water,
where the creek widened and slowed considerably; there looked to be some kind of
a sandbar formation as well. In the foreground, the swiftly flowing waters shone
and sparkled in the bright sunlight and the dark rocks glistened.
The branches of the trees around him moved with the light breeze and the
birds were singing. It was a real
pretty day. Which made it that much harder to face the fact that they were most
likely looking for his brother’s body.
clenched his jaw and pushed on. No
matter what, he wasn’t about to give up until he found Scott.
the opposite bank, the older men were moving at a slower pace, and had, in fact
fallen further behind as they traveled around the outer edge of the bend.
Now they came to a halt. Chad, trailing some distance behind Johnny and
Walt, alerted his cousin.
Johnny, looks like they found somethin’ over there.”
all three of the younger men watched, Frank, directed by Cipriano, clambered
down several feet of rocks on the lower side of the gorge, not stopping until he
reached the eddy below. From his vantage point, Johnny could see that Frank
appeared to pick something up. It
was impossible to tell what it was, although Jelly seemed to have plenty to say
about it. Scaling back up the rocks
once more, Frank handed the object to Cipriano; the Segundo and the horse
wrangler conferred, while Sam Jayson stood by. Then the foursome moved on to a position opposite
Johnny, Chad and Walt.
Jelly hollered up at them. The
creek bed was narrower here, but the water was still very deep and the noise of
the current quite loud. The older
man had to repeat his shouted question several times.
was Scott wearing yesterday!?”
shrugged in an exaggerated manner and shook his head to indicate that he
didn’t know the answer. He’d
left too early; he hadn’t ever seen Scott.
He looked askance at Walt, but the ranch hand shook his head.
ah saw ‘im, right afore ah headed out ta ride th’ fence line,” Chad
volunteered. “He was wearin’
one a them tan shirts a his.”
relayed this information, shouting across to the others, concluding with a loud
of ----“, Jelly yelled back, holding up what they assumed was a scrap of
Scott’s torn clothing.
quickly turned away and continued walking down stream.
carefully tucked the piece of fabric into his pocket. He was growing more and more concerned about Johnny.
He’d been watching how hard Johnny had been pushing himself; he was
most frequently in the lead, with Chad and even young Walt trailing a ways
behind him. The kindhearted older
man was almost beginning to hope that they wouldn’t ever find Scott. The
further they went, the worse the missing man’s condition was likely to be.
Jelly had seen men pulled out of rivers before and it hadn’t been pretty.
It might be best if Johnny never had to see his brother that way.
Cipriano was starting to think along the same lines. When the men stopped for a quick meal, the stolid foreman
suggested that it was time to turn back. Obviously,
it would take as long to return as it had taken to follow the creek this far,
and the Segundo also pointed out the difficulty of transporting Scott such a
distance, should they find him. Frank
agreed, suggesting that the next step would be to go to the spot where the creek
entered the larger river and work their way upstream as well as downstream from
there. Both men looked expectantly
at Jelly, clearly assuming that he would be the one to convey all of this to
Johnny. Reluctantly, Jelly stepped over to the edge of the banking and called up
to the three men on the other side.
response to the suggestion that they head back upstream came as no surprise.
“I ain’t stoppin’!” Even
after Jelly had explained Frank’s suggestion that they go to the mouth of the
creek, Johnny was still adamant. “That’ll
take another day!” he shouted.
agreed, though it did occur to him that Murdoch Lancer was back at the ranch;
perhaps Frank’s idea might also have occurred to the Boss.
But Jelly wasn’t about to try to shout all that up to Johnny.
the way, young Walt kept quiet; he wasn’t about to disagree with Johnny. But
was about to insist that he wasn’t going to leave Scott out here another
night, but then he looked at his cousin, and at young Walt. From the expressions on their faces, he knew what they were
thinking, even if they wouldn’t say it to him; that it probably didn’t
matter. Across the creek, Jelly and Cipriano apparently were of the same
opinion. Feeling defeated, Johnny simply turned and began trudging back up
member of the party seemed to share the same sense of discouragement.
Since in retracing their steps, the men no longer were motivated by the
anticipation of possibly discovering Scott Lancer or finding some clue as to his
whereabouts, the return trip was laboriously slow and plodding.
was still very early in the morning when Will Hayford walked out of
the hacienda and noticed Teresa hanging laundry.
He quickly approached her.
morning, Teresa. Where is
everyone?” He asked with concern.
“Aren’t we supposed to go back to the creek and look for Scott this
paused and gave him a long look. “They
left before first light,” she replied coolly, as she resumed hanging the
wanted to go with them!” Will stated angrily.
takes care of its own, Mr. Hayford,” Teresa informed him, bending down to take
one of Johnny’s shirts out of the basket.
that supposed to mean?”
kept her attention focused on Johnny’s green shirt. “It means that Johnny and the others didn’t want you to
go. They’ll find Scott and bring him home.”
take it that you are upset with me about the questions I was asking last night
in regards to Johnny.”
could you accuse him?” Teresa asked angrily.
“Johnny couldn’t….he wouldn’t do anything to hurt Scott.
who haven’t really known each other very long,” Will replied quietly.
“ I was just trying to figure out what happened to Scott.
And although no one seems to want to admit it, the fact is that the
evidence does appear to implicate Johnny.”
turned her back on him and fastened Johnny‘s green shirt to the clothesline.
if I’m mistaken, then of course I’ll be glad to apologize . . .”
like that!” she spat without looking around at him.
I’m sure it wouldn’t be enough,” he said pointedly. “Because people here seem to much more upset about my
suggesting that Johnny might be capable of wrongdoing than they are about
the very real possibility that Scott Lancer is
. .. dead.”
whirled around to face him, eyes welled up with tears.
“They’ll keep looking, they’ll find him,” she insisted in a grief
hope so. But if Scott has been
killed, I promise you that I’ll do whatever I can to ensure that the person
who did it will not go unpunished.”
slowly turned away. Teresa was
surprised to see him head towards the bunkhouse.
She watched for a moment as Will Hayford walked off and then turned back
to finish hanging her laundry.
the members of the search party had returned to the dam site, Johnny, Chad and
young Walt still had to work their way across the swiftly flowing creek waters.
They did so with extra caution, unwilling to allow their fatigue from the
extensive ground they had covered throughout the day to cause a miss-step that
they knew would send them all too quickly downstream.
was the last of the three to make the crossing, and as he stepped from the final
water-washed boulder onto solid ground, he looked immediately for Jose.
Before setting out, Johnny had made a private request in Spanish to the
vaquero. He was hopeful that Jose might have some information for him
and Frank were occupied taking in the ropes, but the other men –Chad, Cipriano,
Jelly and the Sheriff--were moving around the clearing, placing their gear in
the back of the buckboard, checking on their horses. Unconcerned about the rest
of the group hearing the answer, what ever it might be, Johnny posed his
question to the big man out right. “So
Jose, you find anything? Any sign
of anyone being here, ‘sides me—and Scott?”
shook his head. “I looked every
where, Senor. Nothing.”
Johnny to be dismayed by this response, Jelly stepped up quickly.
“Now, Johnny, you already know no one here’s gonna be fool enough to
think ya had anythin’ ta do with it. If
there weren’t nobody else here, then Scott must have slipped and fallen into
that there creek--“
he couldn’t get back out?” Johnny asked with some emotion.
shook his head. “Now Johnny,
look, could be we won’t never know what happened, exactly . . .”
hit his haid on one a them rocks,” Chad offered.
forced himself to choke back his angry reaction to that suggestion. He turned
away and tossed his gear into the back of the buckboard.
Frank and Walt silently followed suit and the rest of the group moved
soberly in the direction of their respective mounts.
Once he was astride Barranca, Johnny glanced over at Jose, now seated in
the buckboard. Beside the driver on
the bench seat was Scott’s hat. An
unfamiliar feeling of rage mixed with despair washed over Johnny again and he
fought the urge to spur the palomino to a gallop, to just get away from that
knew that what Jelly and Chad were saying must be true.
If no one else had been here, then Scott hadn’t been attacked.
Which meant he had simply fallen into Grand Creek and been swept away.
And a part of him wanted to shout that that just wasn’t right.
Scott had survived the War, he had survived a year—an entire year—in
a prison camp, and he had been the only man not shot dead in that escape
attempt. Hell, Scott hadn’t been
shot down when he’d stood in front of that damned Gatling gun. But here he’d
stood on the banks of a mountain stream and fallen in?
It just wasn’t right. Most
of all, Johnny could not accept that only two years after his brother had
entered his life, he might have been lost so quickly, all because of one
Lancer rode slowly back towards the hacienda.
It had been a long day, one filled with lingering dread.
He knew that, good news or bad, it might still be too early for Johnny
and the others to have returned from the dam site. The terrain along the banks
of Grand Stream was largely unexplored territory; there was no telling how far
downstream the search party had been been able to go.
Late morning, Murdoch had sent out a well-provisioned crew, including
Walt senior, Miguel, and Cipriano’s oldest son Alfonso, on the long trip to
the spot where Grand Creek emptied into the Green River.
Once there, the men were to break into two groups, one moving up stream,
the other down, looking for some sign of Scott.
With all of his most experienced, trusted, men participating in the
search for his elder son, the determined rancher had taken it upon himself to
visit each of the far flung work crews in turn, checking on their progress.
His aching body was already paying the penalty for the day’s effort.
there was still work to be done. Once
he was back at the main house, Murdoch would first and foremost need to find out
if there had been any word about Scott. Then
he intended to find Mr. William Hayford, Esq. and have a few well-chosen words
of his own with his son’s friend.
of the hands, the newest man, dark-haired young Andy, hurried over to take
charge of Murdoch’s horse as he wearily dismounted at the front door of the
hacienda. Teresa came running out,
calling his name.
you heard anything?” they asked each other simultaneously.
not back yet?” Murdoch inquired. The
girl shook her head sadly and then rested it against her guardian’s chest as
she entered his embrace. After a
moment, Murdoch slowly pushed her to arm’s length. “We have to keep our hopes up, honey.” Teresa nodded her agreement, not trusting her voice, certain
that it would betray her by revealing how very little hope she had.
go on in the house; I need to clean up.”
reluctantly nodded again. She
slowly entered the hacienda through the glass paned double doors and sank into
one of the easy chairs facing that entrance, so that she would be able to see
Johnny, Jelly and the others when they returned.
When she heard footsteps enter the room behind her; she turned and looked
over the back of the seat. It was
Will Hayford, who came to a standstill to gaze out of the large window behind
Murdoch Lancer’s desk. She
wasn’t able to tell whether Scott’s friend was coming in, or on his way out;
he wore a tan jacket, the lower portion of the right sleeve fastened to his
shoulder, but no hat. Since Teresa was partially hidden from view by the chair
back, and additionally, was seated on the man’s blind side, Hayford was
unaware of her presence. Having
successfully avoided him since their angry exchange earlier that morning, and
having no wish to converse with him now, Teresa shrank further into the big
chair and kept silent. She
continued to remain so when she heard Murdoch Lancer come into the room a few
moments later and start to pour himself a drink.
Lancer, is there any news?” she
heard Hayford ask anxiously.
news about Scott, no,” Murdoch responded heavily. He limped over to one of the sofas and stiffly lowered his
body into it, then sipped his drink contemplatively before glancing back at his
son’s friend. “I understand
you’ve been keeping yourself busy, Hayford.”
do you mean?”
mean,” said Murdoch Lancer, his voice rising in volume, “that I hear
you’ve been bothering the hands with a lot of questions about my sons.”
Will Hayford could reply, everyone in the Great Room heard it: the sound of a
buckboard and numerous saddle horses. The search party had returned.
From her secluded vantage point in the blue chair, Teresa peered
anxiously out the glass paneled doors, willing herself to see the familiar
figure of Scott Lancer seated alongside Big Jose in the front of the buckboard.
But Scott wasn’t there. From the
somber expressions on the faces of the members of the group, she concluded that
either they hadn’t found him or that he was dead.
In despair, the young woman buried her own face in her hands.
few moments later she heard, someone shouting “Murdoch?!”
It was Johnny’s voice, calling for his father as he passed through the
front door. Allowing Cipriano,
Jelly and the others to tend to the horses and gear, Johnny hurried inside to
report on the search. Sheriff Sam
Jayson followed the young man into the Great Room; neither of them was very
pleased to see that Will Hayford was there with Murdoch.
weary rancher struggled to his feet, giving his younger son a searching look,
but refraining from asking the obvious question. It was Will who spoke first, dejectedly, “You didn’t find
Hayford, Johnny focused his serious blue-eyed gaze on his father’s face, as he
quietly outlined the day’s efforts. Murdoch
Lancer listened in grim silence, his own visage becoming more and more furrowed
as Johnny’s account continued.
found this, “ he said finally, holding out the scrap of beige checked fabric,
“quite a ways downstream.”
stepped forward, “Is that a piece of Scott’s shirt?” Barely acknowledging him, Johnny merely nodded.
found that, and then you turned back?”
bristled at the words and was about to issue an angry retort, when Johnny held
up his hand. Rather than a
recrimination, in Hayford’s tone he had clearly heard an echo of his own sense
of loss and discouragement. “Yeah,”
Johnny said softly, “we turned back.” Then bowing his head, thinking of the
distance they’d traveled, the speed of the current, the number of rocks, he
added, “I guess it ain’t looking too good.” Instead of the overwhelming
sense of pain that he would have anticipated feeling when he heard himself utter
those words, Johnny only felt numb. He continued to feel nothing, other than a
sense of detachment, as Murdoch explained about having sent Miguel and the
others to Green River to search from that end of Grand Creek.
As if from a distance, Johnny heard Sam Jayson ask Murdoch a few
questions, about how many men had gone and who, heard Murdoch say something
about how it would take that group most of today just to get to the spot where
the Creek emptied into the river, so they probably wouldn’t get to any real
searching until morning. Then it would take them most of another day to get back.
Johnny was relieved to know that someone was still out there looking for
Scott; he wished he was with them.
I had known, I would have gone with them,” Will announced in an aggrieved
tone. “I would have gone this
morning . .”
was my decision, who to send. My
ranch, my son,” Murdoch stated emphatically.
was my friend . . .” Will started to say in protest.
stayed behind .. “
doesn’t surprise me!”
stayed behind for the same reason you did—“
was—?” Will addressed Murdoch in a challenging tone, glaring at him
one was going to slow down the search. No
one,” was Murdoch’s harsh response.
course not, Mr. Lancer,” Hayford said bitterly, crossing his good arm across
his body and turning away from the other three men. “Forgive me. You must be so concerned about
Lancer stared in consternation at Will Hayford. Behind Johnny, Sam Jayson shifted his weight uncomfortably,
started to try to say something optimistic about the second search party maybe
finding something. Johnny stepped
up. “Everybody here’s worried
looked around sharply, biting back another sarcastic remark.
“I hope so,” he said instead. “But you don’t exactly have much of
a history, now do you?”
temper flared. “Now what’s that supposed to mean? You got something ta say,
just say it!”
right, I will. Apparently no one
here cared anything at all about Scott until rather recently.”
As he voiced this accusation, Hayford directed his one-eyed gaze straight
at Murdoch Lancer, who glowered back. “At
least not until you needed his help, that’s when you sent for him.”
pointed angrily at Will. “Now
that’s between Murdoch and Scott; ain’t your place to say anythin’ about
shifted his gaze to Johnny. “There’s
no one else to say it,” he stated tonelessly. “You don’t know how it was
for Scott growing up, I do.” Murdoch
Lancer continued to remain silent; Johnny was concerned to see how his
father’s expression had slackened, but he just didn’t know what to say.
sat down wearily. When he started speaking again, it was without looking at any
of the other men in the room. “Scott was a friend to me my entire life and he
was there for me when I most needed him. To think that he survived the War, and
a year at Libby, that he came out here and faced that Gatling gun, and now he
ends up in a river . . .”
was disconcerted to hear in Hayford’s words something that so closely
paralleled his own thoughts. But he
was stunned to learn that Will Hayford knew about the Gatling gun.
Johnny could tell from the expression on Murdoch‘s face that the older
man was equally surprised. The two of them only knew about the incident because
the loquacious outlaw Drago had gone on and on about it. Neither of them had
ever broached the subject with Scott; Scott had never said a word about it to
either of them. Somehow, realizing that his brother must have shared the story
with Hayford felt akin to a slap in the face.
this about a Gatling gun?” Sam Jayson asked in a puzzled tone.
Hayford kept talking. “If we’ve
lost him now because of one careless step, then there is no justice in the
world.” Johnny nodded woodenly in
agreement; the words were again an echo of his own thoughts.
Then Hayford continued, his voice growing stronger as he rose to his feet
and stared directly at Johnny. “But if, as the evidence indicates,
someone pushed him into that water, there will be justice, at
least if I have anything to say about it.”
took one quick step towards the man, before Murdoch held out a restraining arm.
“No one pushed him,” Murdoch asserted loudly.
do you know he wasn’t attacked? What
about the piece of wood with the bloodstain on it?”
fielded that question. “Ain’t
no way a knowin’ for sure if that was blood.”
Murdoch jumped in to address Hayford’s assumption. “You just heard Johnny
say that there was no sign of anyone else having been there.”
yes, I did hear him say that.”
must have slipped on a wet rock and . . . . fallen . . . I don’t like it
neither, but that’s what musta happened,” Johnny concluded, avoiding direct
eye contact with either his father or Will Hayford. He left the room quickly as
the impact of his brother’s loss finally hit him.
watched his younger son depart then lowered himself into a chair.
“Sam, go ahead and pour yourself a drink,“ he said to the sheriff,
who was still standing uncomfortably in the middle of the room.
Then Murdoch turned his attention to the man in the eyepatch.
“I’m trying very hard to remember that you are Scott’s guest,” he
ground out. “But you need to
understand that Johnny would never have harmed his brother.”
you that certain, Mr. Lancer? Because
it’s not likely that Scott simply slipped and fell. His footprints near the canteen were in sand, he was not
standing on a ‘wet rock’,” Will stated firmly. “If you don’t believe
me, ask the Sheriff here, he knows, I pointed it out to him before we left the
clearing last night.”
by Murdoch’s inquiring gaze, Sam Jayson reluctantly nodded his head.
a strong man, Mr. Lancer. If he’d
simply fallen, he would have been able to get out of the water with no harm
done, except for some wet clothing.” Hayford
concluded his case: “The fact that he was carried so far downstream indicates
that he was injured; that he was attacked.”
by Johnny,” Murdoch stated firmly.
do know something about his past; I’ve seen his temper . . .”
was only with great effort that Murdoch Lancer was managing to restrain his own
temper. “It was not Johnny. There has to be some other explanation.”
only other person who was at the site was Johnny,” Will replied coldly.
“But I guess that if you have to choose between your sons, well, we all know
which one it will be.”
it!” Murdoch thundered as he rose to his feet. “I want you to pack your bags
and get out….now!” Murdoch turned to Sam, anger blazing in his eyes. “Sam,
you go find one of the hands, tell him to harness a buckboard.
Tell him to come get Mr. Hayford and his bags and take him to town.”
Mr. Lancer. No problem,” Jayson said worriedly, looking from one angry man to
the other. Glad of the
opportunity, he quickly made his escape.
gave Will one last look of angry contempt then limped out of the room.
of heading immediately to his room to pack, Will Hayford hurried out the front
door to catch up with the Sheriff. “Jayson!”
He called loudly. “Sheriff, wait a moment!”
en route to the stable, paused and turned as Hayford caught up with him.
you leave, I’d like to talk to you.”
ahead,” Sheriff Jayson said frowning, clearly not eager to converse with the
about Johnny. How much do you know about his past?”
I guess I know about as much as I need ta know,” the round-faced Sheriff
replied doubtfully. “Johnny came
right on in and had a talk with me right after I signed on for this job.”
must see that there are indications of foul play in Scott’s disappearance.
I assume that you will be considering Johnny as a suspect.”
really think Johnny Lancer could kill his brother?” Sam asked incredulously.
we both know that Scott Lancer didn’t just stumble into that creek or throw
. .well, I dunno, Scott and Johnny
always seem ta get along so good . . . “
they’ve been having a number of disagreements lately. Look, Sheriff, Johnny had opportunity, he had motive.
He admits he was there,” Will pointed out.
of this ranch, for one reason. And
Johnny’s the primary beneficiary of Scott’s will, there’s your motive.”
Hayford paused, giving the discomfited Sheriff a moment to try to consider all
this. “I’ll stop by your office
in the morning. I’d better get my
things packed, before Mr. Lancer comes out and demands that you arrest me for
trespassing.” He headed back
towards the front entrance.
Jayson stood for a moment, shaking his head in bewilderment.
He looked up as Andy Stovall came out of the stable. The Sheriff roused
himself to approach the young ranch hand and relay Murdoch Lancer’s message.
Andy nodded and quickly set off to hitch up a team.
upstairs in his room, Will placed the larger of his two bags on the bed and
began taking items out of the dresser drawers and tossing them into the suitcase
in a haphazard fashion. Suddenly Teresa O’Brien pushed open the door and
stormed into the room.
dare you!!” Teresa exclaimed, hands on her hips.
briefly paused in his task, and calmly addressed her. “Now what did I dare to do, Miss O’Brien?
Are you still defending Johnny? Because it’s completely unnecessary, I
assure you, he has plenty of partisans it seems.”
dare you say those things to Murdoch! That
he never cared about Scott!! You .
. . you don’t know how happy he was when he found out that Scott was
coming to Lancer!! I do know,
because I was here!”
kept his eye attention on what he was doing, responding in a tight voice.
“Oh, I believe you. I’m
sure that he was very happy that someone with military experience was on his way
to help him save his precious ranch.”
it? Hayford inquired, gesturing with the shirt he was holding in his hand.
“Then tell me, why did he wait until Scott was twenty-four years old to
contact him?? Why not years
earlier? Why when he turned
twenty-one, when Scott was expecting it--- hell, he was still hoping to
hear from the man, even then. And I know that, Miss O’Brien, because I was there.”
stood in the center of the room, glaring back at him and trying to think of an
answer. She had none. She had never
understood what her guardian’s reasons might have been for not communicating
with his older son.
closed the now empty drawer and leaned against the dresser.
“The fact is Teresa, that Murdoch Lancer never gave Scott the time of
day until he needed him. And I’ll never understand why Scott did it, why he
came out here and risked his life to help the man.”
he did come! And he did stay, he
stayed, because he wanted to!” Teresa insisted.
that’s all true,” Hayford acknowledged.
“Apparently Scott was willing to give his father the benefit of the
doubt, that there was some explanation for his years of silence.
But to my knowledge, Scott was never informed as to what those reasons
might be.” He paused, picking his shaving kit up off the dresser. “Now he
may never know.”
these words, Teresa turned away, a sob escaping her lips.
Hayford sat down heavily on the edge of the bed, staring at the leather
case in his hand, a sorrowful expression on his damaged face.
When he spoke again, it seemed as much to himself as to the tearful young
after Scott’s twenty first birthday, he actually got drunk with me. He told me
that he’d always thought that if he was ever going to hear from his father, it
would be on his birthday. I guess
when he turned twenty one and didn’t . .
. I guess he gave up hope then.
I remember he made a toast to Murdoch Lancer . . .Scott said he wished
the man might some day have an idea of just how much he hated him.”
face streaked with tears, Teresa turned and looked down at Hayford.
“Scott doesn’t feel that way any more.”
I suppose he doesn’t.” Staring
at the floor, Will recalled other moments from the past that he had shared with
Scott. “You know, Teresa,” he
began slowly, meeting the girl’s eyes once more. “Scott’s mother died a
few days after he was born. . . and that, that made his birthday a difficult
time for Mr. Garrett. Some years,
he’d go all out, plan an elaborate party, other years, almost nothing. One
year . . . Scott must have been eight or nine, his grandfather was planning
something special. I don’t
remember what it was, but Scott was very excited; he was at our house and he was
telling us, my brothers and I, all about it.”
Will paused and sighed a bit. “Well,
at one point he said, “everyone will be there.”—I think he was talking
about his aunt, Mr. Garrett’s sister and her husband, coming down from Maine. My older brother George, cynical adolescent that he was, he
just couldn’t resist making a comment. “Everyone
except your father,” he said.” Will
paused again. “I can still remember that, the silence in the playroom, the
look on Scott’s face. My other
brother John, he started to lay into George for that, but Scott interrupted him,
said that maybe his father was coming.
And George, he just laughed, kept asking questions about when he was
coming and how did Scott know, things that Scott couldn’t answer of course.”
Will shook his head. “He even asked Scott how he’d recognize his father if
he did show up. Scott did finally back down, said that maybe his father wasn’t
coming, but that he was sure he’d be sending something, a special present
of some kind. Of course that never
happened either. Never. And you know what I think?” he concluded forcefully, “the
loss was all Murdoch Lancer’s.”
rose and resumed filling the suitcase once more. When Teresa continued to stand there motionless, silently
watching him, he addressed her once more. “Mr.
Garrett should be informed that Scott is missing.
You can let Mr. Lancer know that I’ll send a wire to Boston as soon as
I get to town.”
Andy Stovall drove Will Hayford
into town, and willingly stopped at the telegraph office in compliance with the
Boston lawyer’s request. Hayford
sent several wires to Sacramento and to Boston, before checking into the local
the next morning, Will appeared at Sheriff Jayson’s office. “Is there any
mean about Scott? I haven’t heard
you ready to listen to me now, Sheriff?” Will asked as he entered the office,
closing the door behind him.
Jayson looked up from cleaning his rifle, sighing, his sandy colored brows
furrowed with concern. “Well, you
can go ahead, tell me what you’ve found out.”
took a seat beside the Sheriff’s desk. He quietly repeated his assertions
about Johnny having both opportunity and motive. The young lawyer also reminded
the Sheriff about the button that had been found at the dam. “He lied, he said
it had been missing when he got dressed in the morning.” Sheriff Jayson paused
for a moment to consider that, then returned his attention to his gun.
was a gunfighter,” Will stated, in a tone that implied that this fact was the
most damning piece of evidence of all. “A good one. A killer.”
Jayson smiled at that. Maybe there
were a few things this well-educated Easterner didn’t comprehend about life
out West. “Johnny was real good,
you’ve got that right, Mr. Hayford. But
you see, what you maybe don’t understand is that round here, being a
gunfighter ain’t all that bad a thing. Most
of the good ones manage to stay on the right side of the law.”
I think I understand the ‘ethics’ involved, Sheriff. A trained gunman calls out his victim and forces him to draw
first. Then he can claim
well, somethin’ like that,” Jayson replied uncertainly.
did you know that Johnny shot Scott once?”
head jerked up and he stopped his work. “Johnny shot Scott? You’ve got to be
I’m not,” Will stated firmly. “Several of the hands know about it; he shot
him down in the street, right here in Morro Coyo.
Of course, he claimed that he was trying to ‘save’ Scott from
being killed by someone else.” He
paused for a moment, then pressed on. “If Scott doesn’t turn up soon….you may have no choice but to
charge Johnny with murder.”
hold on, ah….I—I think I’ll
wait to start chargin’ anyone until that other search party Mr. Lancer sent
out comes back. They’ll have to come through town on their way back to the
shook his head in frustration. “Sheriff, with each day that passes the chances
of finding him grow more slim.”
the same, I’d feel better if I waited for ‘em to get back.” He stood up
and carefully replaced the rifle in the gun rack on the wall. “In the
meantime, I’m gonna head over to the hotel and get me some breakfast.” He
picked up his hat and placed it on his head and waited while Will slowly stood
up and walked out the door ahead of him. “The search party won’t be comin’
through here til tomorrow or the next day. I’ll let ya know when I hear
something.” With that promise, Sheriff Jayson quickly took his leave of the
lawyer and headed across the street.
days later, the stocky Sheriff had word that some of the Lancer hands were in
the saloon. Pushing his way through the swinging doors, he saw the older Walt,
Miguel, Alfonso and two other men seated at a large front table.
It appeared that Walt had just made a toast, as his solemn faced
companions raised their glasses. All five of the men downed their whiskey. As the bottle was
passed around for refills, Sheriff Jayson approached the group.
did you find anything?” Sheriff Jayson asked hopefully.
Walt said shaking his head. “No sign of him.”
The senior Walt was a silver haired man with a receding hairline.
“Searched up and down both sides of the river, and up into the creek too. Came
across a cabin, but the man living there said he hadn’t seen anyone.” He
paused, reaching for his hat. “If
you don’t mind, Sheriff, I think we’re going to head for home.”
He looked around at the other members of the search party, who joined him
in pushing back their chairs and preparing to leave. “We have a ways to go
yet, the men are tired and I know Mr. Lancer is waiting for us.”
Then, evidently feeling that some explanation was in order, he added,
“It’s been a hard coupla days. We wanted ta stop and raise a glass to
sheriff watched as the men slowly rode out of town. He had seen the
disappointment on each ranch hand’s face. They had hoped to be able to bring
Scott Lancer home to his family…..one way or the other, but here they were
returning empty handed. He didn’t envy them at all.
turned to head back to his office, intending to send one of his deputies to
notify Mr. Hayford. As he looked up he saw the one armed man standing across the
street, watching the departing Lancer hands. The significance of the determined look on Hayford’s face
was evident to even the simple-minded sheriff. Will turned and walked down the
street and Sheriff Sam Jayson reluctantly followed him.
it had been the previous evening, mealtime at the Lancer hacienda was once more
a somber affair. Scott’s empty
place was a stark reminder of his disappearance, not that any of the family
members had managed to forget for more than a few moments throughout the long
day. The second search party, led by Walt senior and Miguel, had returned only a
few hours before, to report on another fruitless effort. Johnny had immediately
announced his intention to spend the next day along the banks of Grand Creek,
and both Jelly and Chad had quickly volunteered to join him.
Johnny was relieved that his father had not raised any objection to the
plan. The younger Lancer had
acceded to his father’s insistence that he not spend a second sleepless night
riding out to join Walt and the others, and had reluctantly agreed that heading
out the next day would have only meant joining the men on their return trip.
Johnny knew that the next day’s search would simply be a recovering of the
same ground, but he needed to do something.
himself pushing his food around on his plate, Johnny looked across the table at
his cousin. Nothin’ ever seemed
to put much of a damper on Chad’s appetite, that was for sure. But Johnny
hardly knew how he would have gotten through the past few days without Chad’s
quiet support. Johnny knew he hadn’t been anything like fit company, but Chad
had stuck by him, been willing to listen whenever he’d felt like talking about
around the table, Johnny noted that neither Teresa nor Murdoch seemed to have
much enthusiasm for the meal that Maria had prepared. As for Maria herself, it
seemed that every time he entered the kitchen, he was interrupting her murmured
prayers; he knew she was praying hard for Scott. They were just about to finish
the meal; Murdoch had just risen up from the table and poured himself a stiff
after dinner drink, when there was a knock on the door.
Sam,” Murdoch said as he opened the door.
“Come on in.” Teresa
came up to stand behind her guardian.
walked in, nervously looking around. “Ah…..Murdoch…..”
is it?” Murdoch asked, concerned by the look of apprehension on Sam’s face.
“Do you have some news?”
Lancer..” Sheriff Jayson stammered edgily.
is it!” Teresa cried, dreading what she was sure the lawman was about to tell
them. “Did you find him? Is he…..” The young woman found she couldn’t
say the words.
“No, we didn’t find Scott,” Sam replied, holding up the paper in his hand, looking toward the table. “I…..I ah….I’m here to …..see…Johnny.”
Sheriff, . . is Johnny in trouble?”
Sam Jayson standing in the doorway reminded Johnny of Scott coming into the
Great Room to get a couple of bottles of Murdoch’s good sherry, “for
medicinal purposes”. When he’d
seen Johnny, Jelly and Sam talking, Scott had smiled and made the joking remark
as he’d walked by. Scott hadn’t
known yet that Sam had come to tell them that those people, the Calhouns, the
ones who had rescued him in the desert, were wanted for murder, for what had
happened up in Cripple Creek. Johnny hadn’t been at all anxious to give
his brother the bad news.
Now it seemed that Sam was here with worse news. Johnny sighed, pushed back his chair and strolled over to the door, Chad following behind. "So what did ya want ta talk to me about, Sam?" he asked with studied casualness.
Sam Jayson looked around at the group clustered in the entryway. "I'm awful sorry, folks," the mustached lawman said. He belatedly removed his hat with one hand while extending the paper in his other hand towards Murdoch Lancer.
Murdoch reluctantly unfolded the single sheet and started to read. "An arrest warrant!" he exploded. "You cannot be serious!" Chad seemed stunned: "Who's he arrestin'?" Teresa looked stricken. A concerned expression settled across Sam Jayson's round face, his cheeks were flushed and a few beads of perspiration were faintly visible on his forehead. "I'm guessin' that's for me," Johnny said quietly, reaching for the paper. "What's the charge, Sam?"
Chad looked over Johnny's shoulder. "Attempted murder?!" he asked in surprise. “Waal, . . . I s'pose that's better'n murder," he added lamely.
"But Scott's not dead!" Teresa cried out. "And Johnny wouldn't ever hurt him! You know that, Sam Jayson!" Murdoch Lancer glared at the hapless sheriff. Sam shook his head and held up his hands. "Now, I'm just doin' my job, it was the judge that signed the charges."
"Well, who was it that asked the judge for the warrant, if it wasn't you?" Murdoch demanded angrily.
It was Johnny who supplied the answer, in the same calm, quiet voice. "Somethin' tells me that maybe it was our friend Hayford."
Sam nodded his head emphatically. Murdoch swore and stalked over to the side table where he had left the drink that he had poured just before responding to the knock on the door. Tossing back the liquid, he slammed the glass down hard on the tabletop. "I should have kept him here," he growled. He addressed Jayson, gesturing to the sofa. "Come on in, Sam, sit down, let's talk about this."
Sam hesitated. Again, Johnny interceded. "Ain't nothin' ta talk about, Murdoch, he's got that paper,” Johnny said nonchalantly. “I'll just go with 'im, sleep in town tonight," he added, smiling reassuringly at Teresa, before looking directly at Murdoch again. "Mebbe you can have a talk with the judge in the mornin'."
"Of course, Son. We'll get this straightened out."
"Shore thing, Johnny," Chad chimed in. "Don't you worry none." Johnny gave Teresa a quick hug, then grabbed his hat off of the tree by the door and headed out. Sam started after him, only to stop when Johnny turned back to say that it would take him a few minutes to saddle up his horse. Left standing by the door, Sam Jayson looked apologetically from Murdoch, to Teresa to Chad. Seeing no sympathy or understanding on their faces, he hurried outside.
Sam Jayson clambered aboard his horse while the rest of the family filed out of the hacienda after him and waited silently for Johnny to emerge from the stable leading Barranca. He mounted the animal and rode up to the front of the house. Reining his palomino to a halt, Johnny looked down at his father. "Murdoch," he said seriously, "You gotta keep lookin' for Scott." Murdoch nodded in solemn agreement. "You know," Johnny added slowly, "I'm thinkin' that lawyer friend of his sure has been kinda anxious ta pin somethin' on me." Seems like he's pretty set on the idea that Scott didn't just have an accident. Could even be he knows somthin’ the rest of us don’t."
"Well, he's the one that said that he hated Scott!' Teresa blurted out. Every man's head turned towards the dark haired girl. "He said that?" Murdoch demanded. "When?"
Teresa haltingly explained about the conversation she had overheard between Scott and Will Hayford in the Great Room the morning that Scott had disappeared. "They were talking about what happened . . . after the War. Will Hayford said that Scott stopped him from drinking. Then, well, I think they both forgot that I was there. It . . it sounded as if he was saying that he resented Scott, because he came back home in . . .in one piece." Johnny nodded his head; it made sense to him that Hayford might be jealous of Scott.
you listening to this?” Murdoch asked Sam Jayson harshly.
Teresa thought of something else. "He had a brother too, that died, maybe that has something to do with why he's accusing Johnny."
Chad shook his head in evident dismay. "That lawya fella's gonna be hard ta shake." Murdoch drew himself up to his full height and looked Johnny in the eyes. "Don't worry, Son. We'll shake him. You'll be back home tomorrow." "Tomorrow, " he repeated, reaching up and grasping Johnny's hand. Casting a baleful glance in Sam Jayson's direction, Murdoch bid the sheriff a caustic good night, and stalked back inside. Teresa spoke with forced cheerfulness. "We'll have a special dinner tomorrow night, Johnny," she assured him. "That'll be real nice, Teresa," was all that Johnny said in reply. It meant a great deal to know that he had his family's support, though of course he couldn't tell them how grateful he was.
"You jist take care now, Johnny," Chad said as Sam and Johnny rode off into the night. He and Teresa stood and watched even after the two men had disappeared into the darkness, listening to the fading hoof beats. They stood for a few more moments in silence, Teresa supporting herself with her hands on the hitching rail and Chad leaning one shoulder against an archway support. When Chad snapped one of his suspenders and let out a loud sigh, Teresa cast a worried glance up at him. "It'll be all right, you know that, don't you? He didn't do it. Johnny will be home tomorrow."
"Ah hope so, T’resa."
"But you don't sound as if you believe it," she said in a sad voice.
"Waal, that Yankee lawya fella shore seems ta have some things ta use ‘gainst Johnny. Leastways he was able ta convince tha judge."
"What sort of things?" she asked, turning to face him.
With the night sounds as a backdrop, Chad slowly recounted some of what Will Hayford had said and done at the dam site that first evening that Scott had gone missing. He also explained what Teresa already knew, that Scott and Johnny had had some kind of big disagreement the day before, that Johnny was supposed to meet Scott at the dam, that there was no sign that anyone else had been there. It appeared that Scott had ended up in the creek, and, according to Hayford, Scott must have had a little help.
"But Johnny would never hurt Scott!" Teresa protested.
"Ah know that," Chad responded patiently. "Ahm jist tellin' ya what all that Hayford'll be sayin' ta try ta prove it was Johnny that killed Scott.
"I'm sorry, " she murmured. "Go on, tell me again."
Chad listed once more what the men had seen at the dam site: Scott's horse, all of his things left untouched, his canteen on the ground, his hat a short ways downstream. When he mentioned the club-like piece of wood with the stain on it. Teresa's eyes welled up at the thought of Scott being hit. "But none of that proves it was Johnny," she said impatiently.
"Waal, there was that button."
"Off'n Johnny's pink shirt. It was lyin' there on the ground."
"So it just fell off of Johnny's shirt while he was waiting for Scott."
"Mebbe. But that Hayford said it coulda come off in a . . in a struggle."
"It wasn’t like that! It couldn’t have been!"
Teresa wondered about the funny look on Chad's face. "What is it?"
"Johnny said the button was missin' from his shirt that mornin' . . so how did it get all tha way out there, less'n he weren't tellin' the truth?"
Teresa stared at him. Pinned by her gaze, Chad Lancer shifted his weight uncomfortably. "T’resa," he ventured, "Ah know ya ain’t eva gonna wanna hear this, but . . .waal, Johnny does have himself a temper and mebbe . . ."
"Chad Lancer! You can't think that Johnny would . . ! Don't you dare say anything like that, Chad!"
"Sorry," he mumbled. He sighed and stared at the ground. "I .. I jist don't want ya ta git yer hopes up any more T’resa. I know yer still thinkin' Scott's gonna turn up and now ya don't wanna believe that Johnny coulda ever done nothin' wrong. . .I don't neither, but . . .."
Teresa put her hand on Chad's arm, tears flooding her eyes and rolling down her cheeks. "Scott will turn up," she said with conviction. "And Johnny didn't do it. We both know that." Chad nodded, but the hopeful expression on his face, quickly clouded over.
"So how'd tha button git out there then?"
Teresa thought about that. "Chad couldn't someone else could have put it there?"
The big man looked down at her doubtfully. "Ya mean laike mebbe that Hayford fella? Teresa nodded emphatically. "Now T’resa, how would he eva get ahold of a button off'n Johnny's shirt? And, well, if’n he did, he’d kinda hafta know that Johnny'd be wearin' that same one, right?"
Teresa pondered those questions for a long moment. "Johnny's always running out of clean clothes,” she said, thinking aloud. "There have been lots of times that he has only had one clean shirt to wear. And a lot of people have probably heard me scolding him for not putting his things in the laundry."
"Yeah, I rememba that nice new shirt ya made 'im, tha red one that he spoilt workin’ in it, cause he didn't have no other ones ta wear."
"So, someone could have taken a button off of Johnny's shirt and put it there."
"I s'pose,” Chad said doubtfully. “Still, shore seems laike a lot of trouble for someone ta go to.”
late the next morning, Murdoch Lancer arrived at Sheriff Jayson’s office.
Frustrated from his encounter with Judge Roy Hill, the tall rancher
greeted Sam Jayson curtly, and without another word removed his gun belt,
dropped it on the desk and proceeded through the door to the back part of the
building that contained the jail cells. Johnny
was stretched out on the cot with his hands behind his head when his father
entered; he quickly got to his feet, grasping the cold bars with both hands.
From Murdoch’s expression, it was pretty obvious to Johnny that he
wasn’t going home anytime soon. Instead
of interrogating the older man on his visit to the judge, Johnny posed another
question, one that was of more immediate concern. “Is anyone still out there lookin’ for Scott?” he
Murdoch responded, sighing heavily, “Jelly and Chad headed out again this
morning. But Son, I’m afraid it’s no use.”
Johnny looked down at the floor; each of them silently contemplating that
statement for a long moment. When
Johnny finally spoke, it was with a quiet intensity. “You still gotta find ‘im, Murdoch, bring ‘im home.
Can’t just leave ‘im out there.”
Murdoch nodded in grave assent, but Johnny, still staring at the floor,
didn’t see. When his son finally
looked up at him, Murdoch repeated his assurance.
“Johnny, we’ll keep looking . . . .”
Johnny folded his arms across his chest and leaned against the black iron bars.
“So, I guess I ain’t gettin’ outta here anytime soon. . . .”
wearily shook his head. “I spoke with Judge Hill. He won’t cancel the warrant.”
with a lingering note of disbelief in his voice, Murdoch explained that since a
process had been set in motion that could very well mean a trial, he had sent a
wire to Jarrod Barkley. Johnny
nodded his acceptance. He didn’t
have that high an opinion of lawyers in general, but he knew that Murdoch had
been friends with the Barkleys for a very long time and that Jarrod was a good
back to Sacramento, evidently, “ Murdoch replied in disgust.
“And, I understand that he sent some wires of his own ---including one
to Scott’s grandfather in Boston.”
next several days were a flurry of activity once it became evident that there
would in fact be a trial in Sacramento. The
Lancer ranch, which has been silently reeling from the impact of Scott
Lancer’s sudden disappearance, now became a beehive of rumor and speculation.
The lingering question of Scott’s fate, the suppositions about
Johnny’s gun fighting past and the accusations leveled against him were all
topics of conversation amongst the men. Conjecture as to what had happened was
rife as well, but the inevitable conclusion was that if Scott Lancer had not yet
been found, then he must surely be dead.
was certainly Murdoch Lancer’s conviction as well. The veteran rancher had sadly identified a quiet spot on one
of the overlooks and quietly instructed his Segundo that should his older
son’s body be recovered, it was to be buried there rather than in the small
ranch cemetery. Instructing
Cipriano as to what should be done, Murdoch added, “It isn’t necessary to
send word to Sacramento.” Initially puzzled, Sanchez nodded in understanding
as comprehension dawned and he recognized the impact that such news might have
upon the trial. “There will be
time to plan a memorial service after we all get back from Sacramento,”
Murdoch concluded despondently, thinking aloud.
sympathetic expression on Cipriano’s face clouded over; he was still very
angry that he would not be making the trip to the capital to testify in
“Juanito’s” behalf. Murdoch
droned on, giving his foreman detailed instructions concerning what should take
place at the ranch during the family’s absence, an absence that might prove to
be quite lengthy.
Sam Jayson had already left for Sacramento, with Johnny in custody.
The others from Lancer would be departing early the next morning.
Murdoch had also received a wire from one Wade Garrett, writing on behalf
of Scott’s grandfather. Apparently,
the Boston businessmen had been in the midwest when Will Hayford’s
communication had been forwarded to them there and the Garretts were even now en
route to Sacramento as well. The
wire addressed to Murdoch announcing this had concluded with a blunt “answers
wanted answers as well. It
was an unbelievable situation, Johnny on trial for killing Scott.
Murdoch had had his own disagreements and tensions with each of his sons,
but he had long been envious of the brothers’ seemingly instant rapport with
each other. After the initial
difficult introduction and period of adjustment, the boys had gotten along very
well, or so Murdoch had believed. Upon reflection, he now had to admit that
their seeming closeness had not been a constant; there had of course been
tensions, arguments and competition between the two, in addition to the friendly
banter and other signs of genuine mutual affection that he had witnessed.
But there had been nothing between his sons that could have prompted this
nightmare of a murder charge, of that Murdoch Lancer was certain. No matter
whether the charge was murder or attempted murder, both were hanging offenses.
Jarrod Barkley had expressed a reluctance to take on the case, citing his
lack of extensive trial experience in defending against such serious charges.
The Barkley family’s long association with Murdoch Lancer and
Jarrod’s recent friendship with both Scott and Johnny had prompted the
Stockton attorney to contact one of the pre-eminent defense lawyers in the
state, his mentor, Nicholas Reed. Murdoch had yet to meet Reed, although he had,
of course, heard of the man. To
everyone’s relief, once he had understood that Jarrod would still sit as
co-counsel, Johnny had promised to co-operate fully with the big city attorney.
Reed welcomed Murdoch, Johnny and Jarrod once more to his well-appointed office.
Reed was a patrician man of average height, expensively dressed and
well-coiffed, with an elegant head of prematurely white hair.
An Easterner and a Yale man, he thought very highly of Jarrod Barkley and
had completely rearranged his schedule, distributing casework amongst his
associates, in order to comply with his young friend’s request that he take on
the Lancer case. Reed, quite
frankly, had been intrigued by the brief Lancer family history that Jarrod had
provided: the story of the father
and his adult sons who had become acquainted only two years previously. Equally interesting were the differences between the two
young men themselves. Although Jarrod had spoken highly of both of the brothers
and had assured Reed that he would be representing an innocent man in Johnny
Lancer, it had been evident to his mentor that young Barkley had
had a stronger affinity for the elder son, Scott, and was greatly
saddened by his friend’s demise. But
it was Johnny Madrid Lancer, and his career as a notorious gunfighter, which
Reed found utterly fascinating—and challenging.
How best to defend such a man?
each of their meetings, Reed was polite and professional, clearly eager to forgo
pleasantries and focus upon gathering information and plotting trial strategy.
His plan, as he had presented it to Johnny, Murdoch and Jarrod, was to
confront the issue of Johnny’s past as Madrid, and to openly acknowledge the
recent disagreements between the two brothers.
“Not in detail, you understand, but to address these facts in the hopes
of decreasing their effectiveness as a weapon to be used by the prosecution.”
Lancer was apprehensive about references being made to his younger son’s past,
but Johnny was agreeable. “I got
nothin’ to hide. My past is my
past, I ain’t gonna lie about it.” He
looked the white haired lawyer directly in the eyes.
“There’s things I’ve done . .
things I ain’t proud of. But
I did not kill my brother.”
nodded too quickly, somewhat dismissively.
Most defendants proclaimed their innocence; some, he knew, were even
telling the truth. Reed was a firm believer in the concept of “burden of
proof”, innocent or guilty, every accused man deserved a vigorous defense. He
said as much now: “That isn’t quite the essential issue, Johnny. No matter
if you are innocent or guilty, you still deserve---“
posture in the chair remained relaxed, but Johnny’s blues eyes glittered
harshly as he interrupted the self-assured man behind the large desk.
“It matters,” he said forcefully. “I didn’t kill Scott.”
smiled. Even after all these years,
the dedicated defense attorney still greatly preferred to do battle for those he
truly believed in, and he found that he believed in this young man.
“Then shall we go over what happened one more tim?” he suggested.
“The jury will be impaneled tomorrow, the trial begins the day after.
I have a list of the prosecution’s witnesses, we need to talk about
what we think they are likely to say . .
day of the trial dawned and Johnny Lancer was dressed in the new dark jacket and
matching pair of pants that Teresa had picked out for him.
He was seated at one end of the defense table next to Jarrod Barkley,
with Nicholas Reed at the opposite end. He didn’t look around, but he knew
that his family was seated behind the rail and that most of the other people in
the courtroom were strangers.
courtroom was called to order and Judge Timothy Blackwell, a large, imposing
man, entered the chamber. Both Reed
and Barkley had assured the Lancers that the judge had a reputation for fairness
and for running his orderly courtroom with a great deal of efficiency.
True to form, the Judge had barely taken his seat when he motioned for
the prosecutor to make his opening statement.
steeled himself as he watched Marcus L. Webster, the tall, lanky prosecutor,
slowly and deliberately approach the jury box.
Jarrod had tried to prepare him for the day’s events, which would
feature the opening remarks from each of the opposing attorneys.
Whenever Johnny allowed himself to think about Scott’s absence, the
pain was still sharp and raw; hearing himself characterized as his brother’s
would be killer was going to be like rubbing a salt block into that wound.
panel of twelve jurors, most of them middle-aged and moderately well-dressed,
many of them associated with businesses in the city, regarded Webster
attentively as he began to speak. Marcus
Webster was a middle-aged man in glasses, with a mustache and receding dark
hair. Tall and angular, there was
an austere, ministerial aspect to his appearance that coincided with his
reputation for having an evangelical zeal in seeking harsh punishment for
evildoers. There were those in
Sacramento who regarded Marcus Webster as a champion of justice, an avenging
angel seeking retribution for the victims of heinous crimes, a reputation that
the dedicated prosecutor cherished.
concisely, Webster outlined for the court the case against one Johnny Madrid
Lancer. He eloquently drew the
contrast between the two brothers, depicting Johnny, “the defendant here
present before you” as a dark haired, hot tempered young gunslinger, the
infamous Johnny Madrid, widely known along the uncivilized Mexican border
region, renowned for his deadly prowess. On
the other hand, blonde haired, blue-eyed Scott Lancer was described in some
detail as a mild mannered and well educated Easterner, a concerned and caring
civic minded individual, a Union army veteran and a decorated military hero.
Webster sorrowfully reminded the members of the jury that the crime of
fratricide, brother killing brother, as unfortunately not a new occurrence in
the history of mankind, drawing comparisons between the Lancer brothers and the
Old Testament siblings, Cain and Abel. Johnny
glanced sideways at Jarrod, who was jotting notes on the sheet of paper before
him. Jarrod had written those names
in large letters and then circled them in recognition of the accuracy of
Nicholas Reed’s prediction. Beyond Jarrod, Johnny could see Reed, seated with
his arms crossed and his head bowed, listening intently to Webster’s every
word. A small smile flitted across the white haired lawyer’s face in response
to his opponent’s anticipated Biblical reference.
Reed was good, and Johnny took some comfort in that. But there was no question that Webster knew his business
pretty well too. The prosecutor
described the clearing near the dam site as if he’d been there himself; from
the looks on their faces, he was able to make the men on the jury see it too.
The spare lawyer movingly described Scott in this idyllic setting,
crouched and dipping his canteen in the water, then brutally struck from behind
and plunging to his death. Behind
him, Johnny heard Teresa attempt to stifle a small sob.
He kept his own gaze on the table before him, as Webster gestured in his
direction, identifying Johnny Madrid Lancer as the man that Scott Lancer had
expected to meet on the banks of Grand Creek that day, the day that “the
unsuspecting Scott Lancer was so cruelly betrayed by his own brother.”
Webster carefully explained to the enthralled jurors that the defendant
had both motive and opportunity to commit his horrible crime and assured them
that the prosecution would present evidence to clearly demonstrate his guilt.
his turn came, Nicholas Reed proceeded with his plan. He looked the jurymen in the eyes and announced that “Yes,
the defendant, Johnny Lancer, now a successful businessman, a rancher, was, in
his past life, a skilled gunfighter. Yes, the Lancer brothers have only known
each other for two years. Yes, on the surface, the two brothers are very
different from each other, and yes, like all brothers, they have sometimes
disagreed. But did Johnny Lancer
kill or attempt to kill his brother? No,
he did not.”
Scott Lancer dead? Let me remind
you that no body has yet been found . . . There
is, sadly, admittedly, some indication that Scott Lancer may have fallen into
the rapid flowing waters of the mountain stream so eloquently described by my
colleague Mr. Webster. A tragic accident, which Scott Lancer is unlikely to have
survived. He may have slipped,
struck his head---- we may never know. The prosecution will try to persuade you that Scott Lancer
was attacked; they will present circumstantial evidence to that effect. He may
well have been struck from behind and pushed into those waters; again,----- we
may never know. What we do know,
is that Johnny Lancer would not, could not perpetrate such an act
against his own brother.”
paced back and forth in front of the jury box.
“The prosecutor would like you to view this alleged crime as a modern
day Cain and Abel story, casting Johnny Lancer here as Cain, with Scott Lancer
in the role of Abel.” He stopped
still in front of the jury. “The
defense freely, eagerly, stipulates to fact of Scott Lancer’s sterling
character. His loss is deeply
felt.” Reed paused for a moment,
turning to indicate Johnny, who sat with his eyes lowered, and the visibly sad
faces of the family seated behind him. Facing the jury once more, he continued
with his remarks. “But the fact
that Scott Lancer was a good man does not by default, make his brother an
evil one. It cannot. For we will
show you that Scott Lancer, even after only a relatively brief acquaintance,
held his younger brother in high regard; Scott Lancer accepted Johnny
“Madrid” Lancer as his brother, past and all.”
that the truth,” Johnny thought to himself, the feeling of intense loss
threatening to overwhelm him. He continued to sit with his head bowed, staring
hard at the table as Reed described his own good qualities, “characteristics
which are recognized by all those who know him”, including his late brother.
Inwardly wincing at the use of the term “late” to describe Scott, Johnny
listened to his attorney talking about a young man who had demonstrated his own
personal sense of honor, and who was loyal, caring and kind; Johnny wondered
whether the members of the jury would ever believe that he was that young man.
concluded his remarks. “One son
has been cruelly taken from this newly created family. Do not, gentlemen of the jury, allow the prosecution, on the
basis of flimsy evidence and hasty, biased accusations, persuade you to deprive
them of the second son as well.”