The Queens of Scott-Land
Prosecuting attorney Marcus Webster called as
his first witness, Sheriff Sam Jayson. The sandy haired small town lawman was
sworn in by the bailiff and, with a nervous look in the direction of the defense
table, he took his seat on the witness stand.
After first asking a few introductory questions that allowed the Sheriff
to identify himself, the prosecutor quickly began to interrogate the man about
the events that he had witnessed.
“Sheriff, you rode out with the search party
the night that Scott Lancer first came up missing, is that correct?” Webster asked as he paced in front of the witness stand, his
hands clasped behind his back.
“Yes…ah,” Sam wiped his brow with his
handkerchief nervously. “I’d stopped out at the Lancer Ranch to drop off a
bill to Johnny and…”
The tall prosecutor stopped abruptly and focused
an inquisitive gaze upon Jayson, causing the Sheriff to falter in his
recitation. With the eyes of the jurors upon him, Webster waited a moment before
posing his next question. “What was this bill for?” he asked.
“Well, . . . Johnny got in a fight at the
saloon in town,” the sheriff explained reluctantly. “He was real sorry and
since he’d thrown the first punch he agreed to pay for the damages.”
“I see. Does
the Defendant get into fights very often, Sheriff?”
“I object!” Nicholas Reed stated firmly from
his seat at the defense table. “Your Honor, this line of questioning has no
bearing on the case.”
Webster replied, sweeping his glance over the jurors, “I contend that it goes
to the fact of the Defendant’s temper and impulsivity.”
“But,” he added smoothly, “ I’ll withdraw the question.” Reed’s eyes narrowed at that and he jotted a few
notes on the piece of paper in front of him.
Beside him, Jarrod Barkley scribbled furiously as he attempted to record
the prosecutor’s questions, as well as Sam Jayson’s answers. The prosecutor
turned back to the lawman. “Sheriff, please tell us what happened when you
joined the search team.”
“Well, we split into two groups and headed out
to the dam site.”
“And when you arrived at that spot, Scott
Lancer’s last known location, what did you find there, Sheriff?”
Sam Jayson looked down at his hat, lying in his
lap and back up at Webster. “When we got there we saw Scott…….ah Scott
Lancer’s horse. We didn’t see
any sign of him. Someone, I think
it was Mr. Hayford told everybody ta stay where they were so that we could look
at the tracks on the ground.”
“And Mr. Hayford would be?”
“Umm, he’d be Scott Lancer’s lawyer friend
from Boston. “
“Well, I guess he lives out here now. He was
visitin’ at the ranch.”
“I see. And who were the other members of the
search party, Sheriff?”
“Well, now, let’s see, there was Mr.
Lancer—Murdoch that is, and a coupla men that work for ‘im, Jelly Hoskins
and Cipriano . . I think his last name might be Sanchez.
And Chad Lancer, he’s a cousin. And,
um, well, ah, Johnny, a course.”
“So you looked at the tracks and how many sets
did you see?”
“There was only two sets of tracks in that
clearing. Brunswick’s, that‘s Scott’s horse and Barranca’s—that would
be Johnny’s horse.” Rubbing his mustache, Sam looked over toward Johnny
apologetically. Seated beside Jarrod Barkley at the defense table, Johnny Lancer
was listening intently, but kept his gaze fixed upon the bare surface of the
table in front of him. Jayson
shifted uncomfortably in his seat as the prosecutor continued his questioning.
“Sherriff Jayson, would you explain to the
Court how those tracks could be identified as belonging to those particular
“Well, you see, Johnny’s horse had front
shoes that were kinda worn, so they left distinctive marks on the ground,” Sam
explained, his chest puffed out with importance. “Scott’s horse’s shoes
left narrower prints.”
“You’re certain that there were no
other tracks?“ Webster asked with deliberate emphasis.
“No, sir,” Sam said shaking his head. “We
all looked around and there just weren’t any other tracks.”
“Sheriff Jayson, could you describe the other
significant items which were found at the scene?” the prosecutor continued,
one hand resting lightly on the rail next to the witness.
The Sheriff paused to gather his thoughts,
thinking back to that night. “Well, first thing we found was a canteen full of
water which we were sure was Scott’s. And then we found his hat a little ways
The prosecutor introduced into evidence the
canteen and the hat. He turned back to Sheriff Jayson.
“Please go on, Sheriff. What else was
“Well, there was a piece of wood, kinda like
driftwood, stickin’ out from some branches. We looked at it and there was a
dark stain on it that we all thought coulda been blood.”
“This piece of wood looked like a club, did it
“Objection,” Reed said calmly, “leading
Marcus Webster allowed himself a small smile.
“Sheriff Jayson, could you describe the size, shape and appearance of
this piece of wood, the once which the members of the search party believed
might have a blood stain on it?”
Sam Jayson gestured with his hands to indicate
the size of the stick. “Well, it
was about this long and that big around .
.it did kinda look like a club,” he concluded lamely.
“Sheriff, were the members of the search party
concerned that Scott Lancer might have been attacked and robbed?”
“Well, not robbed, cause his horse and all of
his things were still there.”
“But they feared that he might have been
“Yeah, cause of that piece of wood and where
his hat was.”
Webster walked over to his associate at the
prosecutor’s table and picked up a small white envelope.
The eyes of the jury members were trained upon the item that he held in
his hand as the lanky prosecutor approached the witness stand once more.
Removing a small object from the envelope, Webster extended his open hand
towards Sam Jayson. “Sheriff, was this button also found at the scene?”
Sam Jayson leaned forward and studied the
prosecutor’s palm. “Yes sir, it
was layin’ on the ground,” he said, nodding his head.
“Were you able to identify the source of the
“Well, it sure looked like it came offa the
shirt Johnny was wearin’,” Sheriff Jayson replied, again looking
apologetically towards the top of Johnny’s dark head.
“One of his buttons was, in fact missing?”
“Did the Defendant admit to losing the button
at the dam site?”
“No,” the lawman replied uncomfortably.
“He said it was missin’ when he put his shirt on that mornin’.”
“Sheriff, if it was already missing then how
did it get to the crime scene?” the prosecutor demanded.
Sam Jayson struggled to come up with an answer.
”I’m not really -----“
“Objection,” Nicholas Reed insisted, half
rising this time. “Calls for speculation.”
“I’ll withdraw the question, Your Honor,”
was Webster’s quick rejoinder, “And I’ll turn this witness over to the
Nicholas Reed stood slowly and deliberately
approached the witness stand. The eyes of everyone in the courtroom followed the
movements of the distinguished looking attorney, including those of his client.
“Good morning, Sheriff,” he
said with a smile.
“Good mornin’,“ the round faced lawman
“Tell me, Sheriff Jayson, are you a trained
“Well, no, I guess I can’t say that I am . .
“Are you experienced in identifying tracks,
Sam Jayson looked nervously over at Johnny, who
coolly returned the perspiring man’s gaze.
“Uh . .no, not really.” Jayson
glanced down and shifted in his seat. “It
was Cipriano who showed ‘em to me, “ he admitted.
“So can you personally be certain that
there were only two sets of tracks in the clearing and that those tracks
did in fact belong to the horses which the Lancer brothers were riding that
“No, I guess not, but . . . .”
“Thank you, Sheriff,” Reed said, holding up
one hand, halting him. “Now,
Johnny Lancer admitted that he had been at the dam site, correct?”
“Yes sir, he said he’d been waitin’ there
“So the tracks aren’t proof of anything,
really,” Reed said musingly.
Marcus Webster was polishing his eyeglasses.
“Is that a question, your Honor?” he asked looking up from his seat
at the prosecution table.
Reed quickly addressed the Judge, “I’m
sorry, Your Honor.” The defense
attorney regarded Sam Jayson thoughtfully.
“Sheriff, did I understand you to say that it was Mr. Hayford who was
concerned about stopping to examine the tracks when the search party initially
first arrived at the clearing?”
“Well, yes, yes, sir he was.”
“And when it appeared that Scott Lancer might
have fallen into Grand Creek, who was it who first suggested that it might not
have been an accident?”
Sam Jayson thought about that.
“That would be Mr. Hayford, I think”
“Hmmm, that’s interesting . . . Sheriff, who
found the button on the ground?”
“Mr. Hayford,” Jayson replied confidently.
“And I assume that it was also Mr. Hayford who
noticed that Johnny’s shirt was missing a button?”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
“Sheriff, who was it who urged you to consider
Johnny Lancer as a suspect in his brother’s disappearance?”
. .Hayford,” Sam Jayson answered a bit more hesitantly, in belated recognition
of the fact that it might appear that he had been led astray by the Eastern
“One more question, Sheriff—I think that
perhaps there might be a pattern here--who was it who went with you to obtain
the arrest warrant from Judge Hill?”
“Uh . .Mr. Hayford,“ Sam replied in a
somewhat embarrassed tone.
“I wonder if anyone else sees a pattern . .
.” Reed murmured.
Before Marcus Webster could voice an objection,
Judge Blackwell looked over the top of his reading glasses to offer a mildly
pointed interrogatory of his own: “Mr. Reed, is there a question for the
“No, Your Honor, I have no further questions
for this witness.”
Webster promptly rose to his feet and strode
towards the witness stand. “Sheriff,
you said that you were not an experienced investigator.
Did you therefore appreciate the assistance that you received from the
other members of the search party?”
“Well, yes . . .”
“Sheriff Jayson, who found Scott Lancer’s
Sam considered this.
“It was Cipriano, Mr. Lancer’s foreman.”
“And who helped you to identify the tracks as
belonging Scott Lancer’s horse and that of the Defendant?”
“That was Cipriano again.
He found the piece of wood, too,” Sam added helpfully.
“Who was it who suggested that the stain on
the wood could be blood?”
“That was Mr. Lancer .
“And who found Scott Lancer’s hat
“Chad Lancer,” Jayson said confidently.
Webster strolled away from the witness stand,
positioning himself so that both he and Johnny were in the jurors’ line of
“Sheriff Jayson, besides Scott Lancer, who is
the only other person who was known to have been present in the clearing prior
to the search party’s arrival?“ Noting the lawman’s confused expression,
Webster rephrased the question. “Who
had been there earlier in the day?”
“Who was known to have argued with the
“Well, Johnny, I guess. . “
“Objection! The Sheriff has not testified to
having first hand knowledge of any disagreements between the brothers,” Reed
Judge Blackwell nodded his agreement. “Sustained.”
“Sheriff,” Webster began again, “whose
button was found on the ground at the dam site?”
“Sheriff, you sought an arrest warrant because
you were presented with evidence of a suspect having both motive and opportunity
to commit a crime. What was the
name on that warrant, Sheriff?”
Sam Jayson sighed.
“Sheriff, who is the only person that you are
aware of who had both the opportunity and a motive to attack Scott Lancer?”
When Sam Jayson did not answer, Marcus Webster
stepped nearer to the witness stand and repeated his question..
“Sheriff, I repeat, who is the only person that you are aware of who
had both the opportunity and a motive to attack Scott Lancer?”
Sam Jayson said reluctantly.
“No further questions.”
Andy Stovall was the next witness for the
prosecution. After he had been sworn in, Marcus Webster asked the young man a
few questions about his brief period of employment at the Lancer Ranch.
Throughout these preliminaries, the prosecutor addressed the red-faced and
obviously nervous young ranch hand in a reassuring tone.
Stepping away from the witness stand and closer
to the jury box, the experienced prosecutor introduced a topic that he believed
to be central to his case. “Now, Mr. Stovall, I understand that you had the
opportunity to overhear a conversation between Mr. Scott Lancer and the
Defendant, a conversation that involved Scott Lancer’s will?”
“Ah….y y yyes, sir,” Andy stammered. “We were eatin’ lunch out at the pasture where we were
buildin’ a new fence line and Johnny up and asked ‘im if he had a will.”
“Andy, to the best of your recollection, what
were the Defendant’s exact words?”
“He said ta him, ‘have you got a will,
Boston?’, I remembered that he didn’t call ‘im by his real name.
Then he told him he might be needin’ one some day."
“The Defendant said that? Did that sound like
a threat to you, Andy?”
Andy Stovall hesitated a long moment. “Well, Mr. Lancer—Scott—he didn’t seem too bothered
by it, but it sure didn’t sound too friendly to me.”
“What was Scott Lancer’s response?”
“He just said that he was havin’ a will
“How did the Defendant respond to that
“He wanted ta know how much Scott was leavin’
him. Scott told ‘im there was a
lot of money.”
“Did the Defendant say anything else?”
The dark haired young ranch hand slid a sideways
glance in the direction of the defense table. Webster quickly stepped into
Stovall’s line of vision. “Let
me remind you, Mr. Stovall, that you are under oath to answer truthfully to the
best of your recollection.”
Andy took a deep breath and slowly expelled it,
then hurried through his answer. “Johnny,
he wanted ta know if it meant he’d never have to work again, an’ Mr. Lancer,
that’s Scott, he said that the only problem was he’d have ta be dead fer
Johnny ta get any of it.”
“What was the Defendant’s reply?”
“Well, he said he was gonna stop keepin Mr.
Lan---Scott out of trouble. And then Scott turned to me and Walt and told us to
remember that. He told us we was witnesses. That’s what he said, that we was
At this revelation, there was a murmur in the
courtroom, quickly silenced as Judge Blackwell glared down at the spectators.
“Thank you, Andy.”
Marcus Webster walked over to the prosecution table, leaning over and
speaking to his legal associate in low tones, providing the jury with an
opportunity to absorb this information. Then
he turned back to the witness.
“Andy, I understand you overheard an argument
between Scott Lancer and the Defendant on the day prior to Scott Lancer’s
“Please tell the court what you heard.”
The dark haired young man sighed again. “Well, Johnny was mad cause he said Mr. Lancer---Scott---
was takin’ charge of things, over ridin’ his orders. They started ta’
argue.” Andy paused, nervously looking at the courtroom filled with people
listening attentively to him. “Then, Scott, he sent me to off to the barn. I
could hear ‘em talkin’, real angry like, but I weren’t payin close
“Until what?” the prosecutor prodded him.
“Johnny—the Defendant that is---grabbed Mr.
Lancer by the arm. I saw that but I
couldn’t make out what they was sayin’ though.
Then Scott, he kinda shook him off and started ta walk away.”
“And what did the Defendant do then, Andy?”
“He stood there an’ he said, kinda loud, he
ain’t never shot ya, like I did.’ I remember it
clear as a bell cause it sure enough surprised the he--heck outta me.”
“What did you take that statement to mean,
“I weren’t sure, but some of the other
hands, I think it was Manuel and his brother Jorge, they told me later that . .
“Objection!” announced Nicholas Reed.
“This is hearsay.”
Judge Blackwell turned to the witness. “You may only testify to events
of which you have direct knowledge, not to things that someone else has told you
Webster approached his witness once more.
“Was that the end of the argument, Andy?
Did the Defendant say anything else to Mr. Lancer?”
he said that he guessed that Scott thought he could take care of himself cause
he was turning his back on him. On
Johnny, that is.”
“What did you take that statement to mean,
“Well, I took it ta mean that he was sayin’
that Mr. Lancer oughta watch his back.”
“Thank you, Andy,” Webster said with a
smile. The prosecutor addressed the
judge: “No further questions, your Honor.”
Jarrod Barkley rose to conduct the cross
examination of Andy Stovall. One
hand in his pocket, the other idly fingering his string tie, the Stockton
attorney addressed the young ranch hand from a position near the jury box.
“Mr. Stovall, you’ve only been working for the Lancers for a short
time, is that correct?”
“Yessir, that’s right.”
“So, it would be fair to say that you don’t
really know the Lancer brothers very well, now do you?”
“No, I guess not.”
“But you had probably heard some things about
Johnny Lancer’s past, that he used to be a gunfighter?”
“Yeah, sure, I’d heard that.”
“Now, Mr. Stovall, what was your opinion of
Andy considered this question for a moment.
“I dunno know what you mean, he seemed like he knew what he was doin’.
The other men said---.” Jarrod
held up his hand. “Mr. Stovall, I
asked you for your assessment. Did you like Scott Lancer, was he easy to
get along with?”
“Well, sure, I guess so . . . yeah.”
“But, Johnny Lancer, because of what you’d
heard about his past, were you perhaps a bit more . .leery
. .of him?” At the defense
table, Nicholas Reed noted with mild surprise that Marcus Webster did not object
to Jarrod’s somewhat leading question.
“I guess, maybe.”
that a yes or a no, Mr. Stovall? Were
you a little bit uncomfortable around Johnny Lancer?”
“Yeah, sure I was.”
Jarrod paused for a moment, staring at the floor
as he formulated his next question. “Mr.
Stovall, you had only worked for the Lancers for a short time, you admit that
you didn’t know the Lancer brothers very well.
You acknowledge that you liked Scott Lancer and felt a bit uncomfortable
around Johnny Lancer. Mr. Stovall,
is it possible that the remarks which you viewed as threats were in fact joking
comments between the brothers?” Marcus Webster rose to his full height.
“Your Honor, Mr. Barkley is making a speech and leading the
Judge Blackwell gave Jarrod a baleful look.
“Get to the point, Mr. Barkley.”
“I’m sorry, your Honor.”
Turning his attention to Andy Stovall once more, Jarrod rephrased his
question. “Andy, is it possible
that you could have misinterpreted the conversations that you over heard?”
“Sure, it’s possible,” was Andy
Stovall’s grudging response.
Jarrod Barkley stepped over to the defense table
and picked up his page of notes. “Mr.
Stovall, you said that Scott Lancer ‘didn’t seem too bothered’ by his
brother’s comments about having a will. If
Johnny had in fact been threatening him, rather than merely
joking with his brother, wouldn’t you have expected Scott to have been
a bit ‘bothered’?”
Andy Stovall shook his head.
“Scott, he didn’t act scared or nothin’, but it sure sounded like a
threat ta me,“ he insisted stubbornly.
Jarrod looked over at Nicholas Reed. His mentor nodded slightly; their grave concerns about this
witness’s testimony had come to pass. Jarrod addressed the Judge.
“No further questions, your Honor.”
On redirect, Marcus Webster efficiently took
Andy Stovall through the key portions of his testimony, making sure that the
gentlemen of the jury understood that the Defendant had reason to expect to
inherit a considerable sum of money from Scott Lancer’s will, and that if the
conversation between the brothers had contained a note of dark humor, there had
been a threatening undertone as well. The prosecutor also made certain that the
jurors realized that the Lancers’ quarrel had taken place on the very day
prior to Scott Lancer’s disappearance and that the argument had included a
threatening statement by the Defendant as well as a reference to his having shot
his brother at some time in the past.
Once Andy Stovall was excused from the stand,
the stocky young man hurried from the courtroom.
Marcus Webster calmly called his next witness: Mr. William Hayford.
Will Hayford slowly walked across
the floor to the witness stand. He
was wearing a light brown suit, with the right sleeve of his jacket pinned to
the shoulder. The bailiff swore him
in; Will raised his left hand to take the oath.
As he settled into the witness chair, the attention of everyone in the
courtroom was focused upon the man with the eye patch.
with the previous witnesses, the prosecutor began his questioning by posing
basic inquiries; Hayford’s occupation was one topic. It was established that
he was an attorney, originally from Boston, currently a member of the firm of
Wetherby and Franklin, in Sacramento. At this information, there was a murmured
response from the crowd of spectators that had gathered to observe the
proceedings. Weatherby and Franklin was considered a very prestigious firm in
the city, with a reputation for rarely losing a case.
Webster continued his examination of the witness by inquiring about his military
service record. Will Hayford modestly stated that he was a former U.S. army
Hayford, you received your injuries on the battlefield, is that true?”
is it also true that you were recognized with a medal for your bravery in that
true that I was awarded several medals, but I don’t consider myself to be a
hero, Mr. Webster. Just a soldier,
defending his country.”
nodded in approval at the sincerity evident in Hayford’s reply and then looked
significantly at the gentlemen on the jury.
The attorney for the state next proceeded to question Hayford about his
educational background. The witness confirmed that he was a graduate of Harvard
his next series of questions, the prosecutor asked the witness to describe his
relationship with Scott Lancer. For the most part, Will spoke with confident
familiarity of his friend, although at times his voice cracked with emotions
that he tried in vain to hold back. He confirmed that they had known each other
since childhood and that he had considered Scott to be like a younger brother.
The young attorney described his long-time friend as an intelligent, honest,
loyal, and generous man. Hayford also cited several acts of bravery for which
Lieutenant Scott Lancer had been recognized while serving in the Union cavalry.
As he responded to the prosecutor’s inquiries, Hayford directed his remarks
alternately towards the jury members and towards Webster himself.
his side, Nicholas Reed scribbled notes in a somewhat frustrated manner. The
defense had already stipulated to Scott Lancer’s “sterling qualities”; the
character of the alleged victim was not in question. The experienced attorney was well aware, however, that juries
were simply more eager to find a defendant—any defendant--- guilty if they
believed that the victim was a “good” man, one particularly deserving of
Justice. If Scott Lancer could be
presented as a candidate for sainthood, then it would be just that much easier
for the prosecution to portray as the epitome of evil anyone accused of having
harmed him. Continuing with his
“Cain and Abel theme”, it was clear that Marcus Webster wished the jurors to
accept the late Scott Lancer as “the good Lancer brother” and Johnny as
“the bad seed.” Reed knew that if he objected to any part of the witness’s
detailed description of Scott Lancer or to the prosecutor’s drawn out
exploration of the long standing friendship between the two men, that it would
be at the risk of having the jurors
perceive his actions as disrespectful to either the missing man or to the humble
war hero on the stand. Webster
alternately addressed Hayford as either “Mister Hayford” or as
“Captain”, even though the injured man clearly no longer held that military
position—something else that Reed also prudently refrained from pointing out.
It was apparent that Marcus Webster was very well aware of the fact that
he had an intelligent, articulate, knowledgeable and sympathetic witness in Will
Hayford, and the prosecutor was deliberately taking his time in questioning the
the line of inquiry turned to the day that Scott Lancer had “tragically came
up missing” and the search at the dam site.
Webster painstakingly took Will Hayford through what the earlier
witnesses had stated in regards to the evidence that had been found at the
scene: Scott Lancer’s horse, his hat and canteen, the piece of silvered wood
and the two sets of hoof prints.
Hayford," the solemn faced prosecutor continued, one hand resting on the
rail beside the witness. "The defense has intimated that you may have been
. . .premature . . . in presuming that Scott Lancer ended up in Grand Creek as
the result of a vicious attack. There
has been speculation that Scott Lancer may simply have slipped and fallen into
the water. Could you explain to the jury why you so quickly discounted this
addition to the club-like piece of wood with the possible bloodstain on it,
there were Scott’s own footprints. It
appeared that he was standing in the sand, not on the slippery rocks. At least,
that’s where his canteen was found," Will responded, turning his head to
look directly at Murdoch Lancer, then back at the prosecutor.
do you agree that if he had tripped and fallen into the creek, then he would
most likely have drowned?”
I do not agree," Will answered confidently.
addressed his reply to the members of the jury. “Scott was my height and very strong. He was also an
excellent swimmer," the witness explained quietly. "We grew up near
the ocean. Scott spent several
summers up in Maine; he was quite experienced in the woods and around
prosecuting attorney walked over to his table and got a drink of water, allowing
the jury members time to contemplate this information.
Webster asked his witness his next question from a considerable distance.
Hayford, if Scott Lancer did not have an accident, then he was, you believe,
it true that you were instrumental in pursuing a warrant for the arrest of the
Defendant for the attempted murder of Scott Lancer?"
Will declared, looking directly at Johnny.
you explain to the court, why you suspected him?"
was because of the evidence at the scene," Will began. "First, it was
clear that the attacker’s motive was not simple robbery, as Scott’s horse,
his rifle, everything in his saddlebags—nothing had been touched.
Second, there was no indication that anyone else had been present at the
clearing—there were only two sets of hoof prints, from Scott's horse and from
that of the Defendant.”
across the floor, Webster tilted his head, a puzzled expression on his face.
“But Captain Hayford, the Defendant freely admitted that he had been at the
clearing earlier in the day, did he not?”
he did, and he said that he had been there on time. Scott Lancer has always been very punctual, yet the Defendant
claimed that he had never seen him.”
walked slowly towards the witness stand. “Couldn’t Scott Lancer have been
course,“ Hayford acknowledged. “But
clearly he arrived at the clearing at some point. Those were two things that the Defendant said that didn’t
sound quite truthful to me: first his claim of having been on time and second
his assertion that he had never seen Scott at the clearing.”
there anything else?”
There was the button, which matched the one that was missing from the
Defendant’s shirt. With the
entire search party as witnesses, he said that the button had been missing from
his shirt when he put it on that morning and yet---- I picked it up off the
ground in the clearing."
was your conclusion, Mr. Hayford?”
the Defendant was lying.”
Webster stood still, a thoughtful expression on his face.
After a moment, he roused himself and looked up to address Judge
Blackwell’s stern visage. “Your
Honor, I still have a number of questions for this Witness, but in view of the
fact that Captain Hayford has been on the stand for quite some time now, and
that it is past the hour of noon, I move to recess.”
Blackwell tapped his gavel and announced in a stentorian voice that the Court
was adjourned until two o’clock. “All
rise,” the Bailiff declared as the big man stood and regally exited the
Courtroom in a swirl of black robes.
Court was again underway, Marcus Webster continued his questioning of Will
Hayford. “Mr. Hayford, prior to
the recess, you had indicated that you were skeptical of the Defendant’s
you’ve only recently become acquainted with the Defendant is that true?”
I met him for the first time when I came to visit Scott at the Lancer ranch.”
your friend had told you something about his newly encountered half-brother?”
Scott had told me that his half brother had been a gunfighter.
object!" the defense attorney protested, standing up. "Your Honor, the
witness is testifying to a conversation which cannot be corroborated."
Honor," the prosecutor countered, “We certainly agree that it is
unfortunate that Scott Lancer is not . . available . . . to testify, but it is
relevant to our case that the jury members understand what Scott Lancer knew
about the Defendant."
Judge Blackwell decided.
told me that his brother used to be a gunfighter. He said that he had used the
name Johnny Madrid."
he say anything else about the Defendant’s past?"
not really," Will responded, shaking his head. He directed his one-eyed
gaze at Johnny, who stared back at him without expression. "Scott was quite
reluctant to discuss details of his brother’s past with me."
“But,” he added, looking at Webster once more, “I conducted some
research of my own about Mr. Madrid’s exploits, how many men he had killed .
Nicholas Reed’s repeated objections, Marcus Webster took Will Hayford through
a reading of several documents. Evidently
convinced by Webster’s assertions that information about Johnny Madrid
Lancer’s past spoke to the character of the Defendant, Judge Blackwell allowed
the material to be read to the jury and entered into evidence.
Once this lengthy task had been completed, the prosecutor introduced a
Hayford, as an attorney, you are aware that in solving a crime, primary
consideration must be given to determining a suspect’s motive.
In your professional opinion, did the Defendant have an identifiable
motive for this vicious attack on his brother?”
in fact, several."
were those possible motives?"
Scott was visiting me here in Sacramento, I drew up a will for him, a will which
leaves his sizeable trust fund and other parts of his estate to the Defendant.
Mr. Stovall has already testified that Johnny Lancer was aware of both his
brother’s will and of the money involved; the Defendant was also present the
evening that Dr. Jenkins and Chad Lancer served as witnesses to Scott’s
signature on the document," Hayford revealed.
was this attack motivated by a desire for money?”
Calls for speculation.”
was unruffled. “Let me ask another question.
Captain Hayford, based upon your personal observations of the brothers,
were there any other possible motives for the attack?”
Webster, during my short visit, I personally observed that the Defendant has a
rather volatile temper; on at least two occasions his anger was directed at
Scott Lancer. It is my opinion that
the Defendant seemed to be rather resentful of his brother.”
you also witnessed the argument that Mr. Stovall described?”
did. It appeared that the Defendant
was initially upset because he believed that Scott had countermanded his
instructions to Mr. Stovall. When Scott tried to explain, his brother only
seemed to get angrier. He called
Scott ‘Boston’ in a derogatory manner and then accused Scott of talking to
me about his past.”
seems that you overheard more of the conversation than Mr. Stovall did.”
did. I was standing much closer to
them. The Defendant made some derogatory remarks about Scott Lancer’s
grandfather; that’s when Scott got angry and tried to walk away.”
told Scott that he’d better watch his back, because he wasn’t going to do it
for him any more. I was heading back towards the house, so I don’t know what
happened next; the next thing I heard was Johnny saying something about having
shot Scott. That startled me, and I turned around. . . .
That was when the Defendant threatened his brother.”
What did he say?”
said that Scott had better be capable of taking care of himself if he was
turning his back on him. From his tone, I took that as a warning.”
did Mr. Stovall,” Webster observed. “Captain Hayford, besides the issue over
giving orders to one of the hands, are you aware of any other reasons why the
Defendant might have felt resentment towards Scott Lancer?”
Hayford considered this question for a long moment. “I certainly believe that it’s quite possible that his
brother resented Scott for being who he was—a cultured, educated Easterner.
Scott was self-confident, he was comfortable in a leadership position.
I also learned that when the two of them first arrived at their
father’s ranch, they helped Mr. Lancer fend off a band of what were called
“Land Pirates”—and the leader of that band, a man named Day Pardee, was a
former associate of the Defendant. In the course of that conflict, Johnny shot
and wounded Pardee.”
what did this have to do with Scott Lancer, Mr. Hayford?”
Webster, the Court has heard that the defendant has a reputation for being quite
deadly with a six shooter. I would surmise that had he wished to kill Pardee, he
would have done so. As it happened,
before the conflict was over, it was Scott Lancer who shot and killed Pardee.”
you believe that avenging this Pardee’s death could be another possible motive
for the Defendant to attack his brother?”
Mr. Webster, I do.” At the
defense table, Johnny Lancer slapped the table surface with one hand and engaged
in a heated whispered exchange with Jarrod Barkley.
A warning tap of the Judge’s gavel and a glare from Nicholas Reed
quickly quelled the disturbance.
Webster smiled indulgently in the direction of the defense.
“You were saying, Mr. Hayford? As
to the Defendant’s motive?”
Webster, when a man has a temper, a motive is not always necessary. A fatal
attack could be the result of an angry impulse. But in this case, I believe that the Defendant had three
possible motives: greed, envy and revenge.”
paused dramatically and allowed his gaze to sweep the jury box.
He nodded approvingly as he noted the attentiveness of the jurors.
“Thank you, Captain Hayford. Your witness, Mr. Reed.”
Reed approached the witness warily. He noted that Hayford, who had been sitting
upright and alert, now settled back comfortably in his chair as the defense
attorney neared him. During the
mid-day recess, he and Jarrod had discussed possible strategies; it was Reed’s
intention to try to keep Hayford off balance by abrupt changes of topic.
Hayford, you have brothers, do you not?” Reed asked, turning to face the jury
Reed, I have one surviving brother; the other perished at Gettysburg.”
of the jury members’ scrutiny, Reed was careful not to react. Instead, he
rested his hand upon the rail and regarded it thoughtfully.
“Did you ever fight with your brothers? Argue?”
course, all brothers argue. But I
never wanted to do either of mine physical harm, if that’s what you’re
getting at, Mr. Reed.”
head snapped up at that, and he turned to face Hayford. “It wasn’t, but it
is an interesting thought, Mr. Hayford.”
Reed placed his left arm across his chest, resting his right elbow on his
left hand. He pensively stroked his
clean-shaven chin with the fingers of his right hand. “Mr. Hayford, you testified that you had known Scott Lancer
for a very long time, that he was ‘like a brother’ to you. Did you ever
argue with him?”
disagreed sometimes, certainly.”
what sorts of things did you disagree?”
considered his response for a moment. “Mr.
Hayford?” Reed inquired. Will
looked out over the courtroom, without seeing the faces of the spectators
assembled there. “Well,
. . .I disagreed with his decision to accept his estranged father’s
invitation to come out here, to stay in California.”
“More recently, I tried to suggest that perhaps he shouldn’t
be quite so trusting of others,” Will added softly, “particularly the
Defendant.” “But,” he
continued, looking directly at Reed, “we tended to discuss or debate; I
can’t say that we really ‘argued’.”
did you did convey to Scott Lancer that you
. .disapproved . . . of his choice to live with his family here in
California and did you express to him as well your negative judgment of his
Mr. Reed, I certainly did.”
about the slight hint of frustration in Hayford’s tone told Nicholas Reed to
take a chance. A cardinal rule, and one which he had repeatedly impressed upon
Jarrod Barkley as well as upon other young associates, was that a prudent
attorney never asked a question in court unless he already knew the answer.
It wasn’t that “rules were made to be broken,” but one reason why
Nicholas Reed was a successful lawyer was because he was a man who had learned
to trust his instincts. “Mr. Hayford,” Reed asked in a curious tone, “how
did Scott Lancer respond to your concerns about his brother?”
told me not to worry,” Hayford replied honestly, a harsh edge in his voice.
He turned his head to the right, bringing Johnny into his line of vision.
One brown eye stared intently at Johnny’s two bright blue ones.
“Scott said that he trusted him,” Will said in a bitter tone, and
then set his mouth in a grim line.
Before Hayford could add anything more, Nicholas Reed hastened to pose another question. “It would appear that you were reluctant to trust Scott Lancer’s judgment. How did you really feel about him, Mr. Hayford?”
glared angrily at the white haired defense attorney. “I loved him like a brother.”
him? Despite his poor judgment?
How charitable of you,” Reed said, smiling sardonically.
Reed . . .” began the judge in a cautioning tone.
defense attorney nodded respectfully to the grim magistrate and then addressed
Will Hayford once more. “Tell,
me, have you always had such positive feelings towards Scott Lancer, Mr.
Hayford?” When Hayford merely
stared back at him without answering, Reed rephrased his question, making it
more pointed: “Have you ever said that you hated him?”
a rueful smile, Will searched until he found Teresa O’Brien, seated next to
Murdoch Lancer, behind Johnny and Jarrod Barkley. “I assume, Mr. Reed that you are referring to a
conversation that I had with Scott the morning of his disappearance, a
conversation that Mr. Lancer’s ward, Miss O’Brien, overheard.”
He glanced down with a sigh and then up at Reed once again.
“It should have been evident that we were talking about events from the
you hated Scott Lancer in the past? But
you also loved him like a brother? Which was it, Mr. Hayford?”
Your Honor, Counsel is badgering this witness.”
Allow the witness to respond, Mr. Reed.”
Hayford sighed once more. When he
began speaking again, it was in a distant voice.
“When I returned . .
from the War, I had difficulty .
. . coping with my injuries . . . as well as with my older brother’s death.
I . . I started drinking, quite heavily. And then sometime later, we
received word that Scott had been imprisoned in Libby.”
Will paused, looking firmly in the direction of the Lancers. “Those of
us who knew him and cared about him, we were concerned about whether or not
Scott would survive his time there. And when he finally came home, even though
he was alive and in one piece, he was still very thin, sickly.
. . . Despite that, he tried to help me. And I resented him
was jealous as hell of Scott Lancer, and angry, angry that I needed his help so
badly. I hated him.”
Reed paused to allow the jury members to absorb the significance of this
statement. To the defense
attorney’s chagrin, Hayford continued speaking.
“But once I sobered up, with Scott’s help, well, then I came to
appreciate what he’d done for me. And
in turn, I was able to help him . .
. . . they weren’t visible, but Scott had some scars of his own.”
was a prisoner of war for an entire year. He
was also the sole survivor of a failed escape attempt.
The loss of his men weighed on him very heavily.
He was even falsely accused of having betrayed the escape.”
discussed these events with him during your recent visit?”
Hayford, what if Scott Lancer were to walk in that door, right now?”
As he posed the question, the defense attorney pointed to the double
doors at the rear of the courtroom. Everyone in the courtroom turned to look in
be very happy, Mr. Reed.”
Will Hayford said emphatically.
how do you think that Scott Lancer would react to learning of the accusations
which you have made against his brother?”
Hayford focused his one eye unflinchingly upon the white haired attorney.
“Well, Mr. Reed, I suppose that that would depend upon what Scott
already knew, whether he had seen his attacker.”
Hayford, I’m asking you how you think Scott Lancer would react to hearing that
you have accused his brother of attempted murder.”
wouldn’t want to believe it was true, of that I’m certain. But Scott
would consider the evidence.”
don’t think he would be angry with you?”
sure he would be. But, Mr. Reed,
Scott Lancer could hate me for the rest of his life, and I would still be glad
that he was alive.”
Hayford, the piece of wood found at the scene, which has been described as
“resembling a club”, that piece of wood has not been entered into evidence.
The jury has not had the opportunity to examine it. In your professional
opinion, is there any way to verify that the discoloration on that piece of wood
was actually blood?”
sir, there is not. But as Sheriff
Jayson has already testified, it was Mr. Lancer who first suggested that it
might be, and the rest of us agreed.”
you acknowledge that it is impossible to be certain, that the piece of
wood did in fact have a bloodstain on it, or that it was even used as a club.”
is impossible to be certain,” Hayford replied in an ironically dutiful tone.
Hayford, is it true that that piece of wood, about which it is impossible to be
certain, was a key factor in the members of the search party jumping to the
conclusion that Scott Lancer had been attacked?”
can’t speak for the other members of the search party, Mr. Reed, but for
myself, my concerns about the Defendant were a key factor.”
concerns about Johnny Lancer, the man that his brother trusted, were much more
significant to you than the alleged weapon?”
were immediately suspicious of Johnny Lancer, weren’t you, Mr. Hayford?”
Mr. Reed,” Hayford responded forthrightly, “I was.”
solely on what you knew of his past?”
Hayford sighed. “There were my
personal observations as well, but yes, Mr. Reed, his past as a notorious
gunfighter was an important factor.”
he stood facing the members of the jury, Nicholas Reed crossed his arms.
He continued to study the faces of the jurors as he posed his next
question to the witness seated behind him. “Let me ask you this, Mr. Hayford.
Had you not felt such an animosity towards your friend’s brother,
wouldn’t you have been more inclined to consider other possibilities besides
Presumption. Calls for speculation.”
whirled to face the judge. “Your
Honor, this witness is primarily responsible for the accusations levied against
my client. I would submit that he
has already voiced considerable ‘speculation’.”
displeased by the defense attorney’s words and tone, Judge Blackwell coolly
regarded Reed over the tops of his reading glasses. Finally, however, he nodded.
“I’ll allow it. But go carefully, Mr. Reed.”
Reed repeated his question. Will
Hayford slowly shook his head. “I’ve
already explained why I doubt that Scott simply slipped and fell into the creek.
. . “
patrician lawyer irritably interrupted the witness. “Aren’t there other possibilities, Mr. Hayford?” he
asked, “other explanations for Scott Lancer’s demise which might serve to
exonerate his brother, had you been in a frame of mind to consider them?”
Hayford stared at Nicholas Reed without comprehension.
“I’m afraid I can’t think of any, Mr. Reed,” he said in a puzzled
Mr. Hayford, you did say that Scott Lancer returned from the War and his lengthy
period of imprisonment with scars, invisible ones. Perhaps your visit, your
conversations, stirred up painful memories of his incarceration, the failed
escape.” Reed paced away from the
witness stand and then turned to face Hayford once more.
“Based upon the evidence, isn’t it possible that Scott Lancer
took his own life?”
word erupted simultaneously from Will Hayford on the witness stand, Johnny
Lancer at the defense table and Teresa O’Brien, who was seated behind Johnny,
in between Murdoch and Chad.
Judge Blackwell glared in the direction of the defense table and tapped
his gavel. “Order in the
Court!” he shouted, quelling the spectators. “Control your client, Mr.
Barkley,” he admonished the Stockton attorney.
Jarrod nodded, speaking quietly to Johnny, who stared hard at his own
clenched fists on the table top in front of him.
the stand, Will Hayford repeated the word emphatically.
“No. Scott would never do that.”
quite certain, despite the evidence? I
would contend, Mr. Hayford, that the evidence at least allows that possibility,
that is, if one were willing to consider it objectively.”
Webster pursed his lips. “Your
Honor, is Mr. Reed testifying here?”
Blackwell admonished the defense attorney with a look.
Reed slowly approached the witness. “Isn’t it true, Mr. Hayford, that
because of both your admiration for your late friend and your personal distrust
for his recently acquired brother, that you are unwilling to accept the
possibility that Scott Lancer may have been responsible for his own
death—either through the simple human error of a careless misstep or
otherwise? Isn’t that the real
reason why you believe his brother is responsible?”
replied Hayford, calm once more. “I
simply examined the evidence and relied upon my personal observation of the two
men during my visit.”
yes, your short visit, of three or four days . . .”
the prosecution table, Webster raised his eyebrows and opened his mouth, but
Timothy Blackwell was quicker. “Ask a question, Mr. Reed,” the judge
it true Mr. Hayford, that you were envious of Scott Lancer’s relationship with
his brother, that you took an immediate dislike to Johnny Lancer and therefore
wished to blame him rather than Scott himself for this tragic event?”
Mr. Reed, that is not true.”
you were angry that Scott Lancer declined to accept your advice, refused to
leave his family’s ranch, resisted your suggestions that he should trust you
rather than his only brother?”
was concerned about Scott, Mr. Reed, I was not angry with him.”
Hayford, you knew that the Lancer brothers were going to meet at the Grand Creek
dam site that day?”
I did. As did others.”
nodded. “Upon first arriving at
the site, you immediately urged the Sheriff to examine the tracks?”
you immediately suspected foul play?”
I realized that the tracks might give some indication as to what had
you had no idea at that point what could have occurred?”
you say, Mr. Reed, everyone was aware that the Defendant was to meet his brother
there earlier in the day. The Defendant had told us that Scott had never shown
up, yet his horse was immediately visible in the clearing upon our
arrival---and Scott was not.”
Hayford, a suspicious person might have suspected that you leapt to the idea of
an attack, because you had some knowledge of it. Had you been to the clearing earlier in the day yourself?”
stared angrily at Reed. “No, I
had not,” he said tightly.
Johnny Lancer’s button in your jacket pocket all day, just waiting to be
just happened to be there on the ground, lying at your feet, where you just
happened to see it?”
Reed shook his head in disbelief. “Your
Honor, I have no further questions for this witness.”
Webster slowly rose from his seat. The
tall man with the receding dark hair approached he star witness.
Will Hayford had been on the stand for a very long time and Reed’s
relentless questions, abrupt shift of topics and startling accusations were all
taking their toll on the man. Nevertheless,
Webster meticulously took Will through a review of the key elements of his
earlier testimony. The prosecutor was very clever in linking his questions to
topics that had been raised by the defense and was able to emphasize the
evidence against Johnny. Reed’s
objections were most often overruled by Judge Blackwell.
prosecutor had noted that several of the jurors had reacted visibly to Will
Hayford’s potentially damaging admission that Scott Lancer had expressed trust
and confidence in his brother. Webster
set about laying groundwork to combat the possible negative impact of that piece
Hayford, you advised Scott Lancer to be cautious in trusting his brother, did
you characterize Scott Lancer as a trusting man, Mr. Hayford?”
suppose that you could say that. Scott
tended to expect that other people were much like himself, honorable.”
must frequently have been disappointed then.
Mr. Hayford, are you personally aware of instances in which Scott Lancer
trusted people who, as it later turned out, were not deserving of that trust?”
I suppose that I am.”
Marcus Webster requested a recent example, Will briefly outlined for him what
Scott had shared about his experience with Polly Foley. The pregnant young woman
had lied to Scott about her identity, but Scott had persisted in helping her
it would appear that Scott Lancer was also unusually forgiving, willing to
overlook the lies and transgressions of others?”
was willing to accept his father’s invitation to come out here, helped the man
defend his ranch, even though Mr. Lancer ignored Scott the entire time he was
significant then, is Scott Lancer’s statement that he trusted his brother?
Wasn’t he willing to ‘trust’ anyone, forgive anyone?”
Hayford paused at that. His face
assumed a grim expression. “Scott
was not stupid or naïve, Mr. Webster. He
believed in giving a man the opportunity to prove himself.”
man, or woman? And at times, as it turned out, he was quite wrong to do so?”
yes,” was Will Hayford’s reluctant reply. Marcus Webster thanked his witness
and excused him from the stand.
prosecution calls Jellifer B. Hoskins."
Jelly Hoskins slowly and very reluctantly rose from his seat. The Lancer handyman was attired in a jacket and black string tie for his appearance in court, with his sparse hair carefully combed back. He nodded to Murdoch, Chad and Teresa and with a very solemn expression started to walk towards the witness stand.
From his seat next to Jarrod at the defense table, Johnny watched with sympathetic concern as Jelly approached the front of the courtroom. Reed and Barkley had explained that Jelly would be considered a "hostile" prosecution witness and the two attorneys had speculated at length as to why Marcus Webster had decided to call Hoskins to the stand. The grey bearded horse wrangler had been an outspoken defender of his young friend, and extremely supportive of Johnny ever since Scott's disappearance. Normally outspoken and even belligerent in expressing his views, today Jelly appeared uncharacteristically subdued. Nicholas Reed had met with him and then later confided to Johnny that the older man was very concerned that he might somehow be tricked into saying something that would be detrimental to Johnny's defense.
As he studied his friend, Johnny caught a motion at the corner of his eye. Rather than returning to his seat in the body of the courtroom, Will Hayford was moving towards the main doors at the rear of the chamber. Turning to look, Johnny could track Hayford’s head of brown curly hair, and the distinctive eye patch, as it moved above the faces of the seated spectators. Seated in the row of seats behind his son, Murdoch Lancer turned to follow Johnny's gaze. The two of them registered the newcomer at the same moment: standing at the back of the room was Mr. Harlan Garrett, Scott's grandfather. There was another, younger, dark haired man standing beside the elderly Bostonian. As the Lancers watched, Will Hayford grasped Garrett's shoulder, while nodding, unsmilingly, at his
<<Looks like he's aged ten years>> Johnny thought to himself.
at the front of the courtroom, Jelly Hoskins completed the oath, a hint of
defiance in his voice as he swore to tell the truth. Jelly took his seat
and awaited Marcus Webster's first question.
on the stand, nervously anticipating the prosecutor's first question, Jelly
Hoskins received a reprieve of sorts when Attorney Marcus Webster turned to
Judge Blackwell and requested that Court be adjourned, "in view of the late
hour and the unlikelihood of completing Mr. Hoskins' testimony today."
Judge Blackwell concurred with the request, rapped on the bench with his gavel
and soon exited the courtroom. The door had barely closed on the departing
judge when Johnny Lancer turned to his lawyer, his blue eyes blazing.
"What the hell was that all about?" he demanded angrily, "suggestin' that Scott maybe killed himself?"
Nicholas Reed fixed Johnny with an angry look of his own. "We'll discuss this in
private," he replied coldly, all too aware of the people still milling around the courtroom.
"I'm askin' you now," Johnny insisted, ignoring Jarrod Barkley's remonstrations.
Murdoch Lancer appeared at his son's side. "I want to know too," the tall rancher announced, glowering at Reed. In response, the white haired lawyer gestured towards a door off to the left. "I requested the use of a room where we can confer, before Johnny is taken back to his cell. Let's go there." "Please," he added, in a conscious effort to sound less angry.
Once Jarrod, Murdoch, Johnny and Reed were inside the small room, the defense attorney carefully shut the door. Facing Johnny, he directed his first comments to the still visibly angry young man. "Your father is paying me a very large sum to do my job. And I'm very good at it. I understand that you may have questions about my handling of your case, but,” he said, gesturing emphatically towards the door, “you will not question me out there, not in the courtroom. And if at any time you are unhappy with my work, you are both quite free to let me go."
Johnny stared back at Reed. He recognized that the man was good at what he did and that Reed had been upfront with him, at least so far. Willing himself to regain his composure, Johnny inhaled audibly, and then quietly, insistently, said, "You had no call to say that 'bout Scott."
Reed sat down at the small square table and indicated that the other men should also take seats. Johnny eased into the chair facing Reed. "Your concern for your brother's reputation is understandable, and admirable, Johnny. But you both need to understand this---," with a look, Reed included Murdoch Lancer as well as his son. "As your legal representative, you are my primary concern and I will do whatever is necessary to prevent you from finding yourself at the end of a rope. Which is where you could be headed."
"How will . . ?" Murdoch started to ask, and Johnny looked at Reed with the same question burning in his blue eyes. "If I can create even the smallest doubt in the minds of the jury as to whether your brother was actually attacked, then it becomes rather difficult for them to find you guilty," Reed explained.
"I'm thinkin' he sure was attacked, all right, by that so-called friend a his."
"That's certainly another possibility, which I also raised." All three of the other men nodded their heads in acknowledgement of this fact. "Given the makeup of the jury," Reed continued, "I felt it best to work my way slowly in that direction and not attack Hayford directly."
"So you attacked Scott instead," Murdoch observed bitterly.
Nicholas Reed sighed. It had not escaped his notice that Marcus Webster had also attacked the victim, in order to counteract the prosecutor’s own witness's assertion of Scott Lancer's positive feelings towards his younger brother. It was not something that Reed enjoyed seeing take place in a courtroom. He anticipated additional testimony along the same vein and realized that it was going to be very difficult for his client and his grieving family to hear.
"In my professional opinion, drastic action was needed. Johnny, despite all of the questions, the answers, the evidence, the witnesses, in the minds of the jury this could all come down to one issue-- your explanation of what took place against that of your accuser, in this case, William Hayford."
Reed leaned back in his chair. "I'm afraid that if it's simply your word against his, then you're destined to lose."
Both Murdoch and Johnny reacted angrily to that statement. "Please, gentlemen, listen to him," Jarrod Barkley urged his friends.
"A wounded war hero and a gunfighter," Reed stated bluntly. "There was no question in my mind which way the jury was leaning."
"Is there more to it than that?" Murdoch Lancer asked quietly.
"Mr. Lancer, I think that you know that there is," Reed replied seriously. "Johnny, those men on the jury can more readily identify with both William Hayford, and your brother, than with you, and for any number of reasons.” Reed slowly counted off his examples on the fingers of his left hand. “They are white, educated, reasonably wealthy, and, in their own minds at least, completely well-bred and utterly law abiding."
Johnny sighed. Jarrod Barkley had laid out similar concerns about a jury trial in Sacramento even before they had left for the city. "My word against his--that mean you're thinkin' of lettin' me testify in court?" he asked.
"No!" replied Reed, Murdoch and Jarrod in unison. "Johnny, we've talked about that," Jarrod reminded him.
"I want to have my say," was Johnny's stubborn response.
Nicholas Reed turned to Murdoch Lancer. "Mr. Lancer, I’ve been giving it careful consideration, and I believe that it would be best if you did not take the stand either. . . "
Court reconvened early the next morning, Jelly Hoskins was recalled to the stand
and reminded he was still under oath. Marcus Webster also reiterated for the
benefit of the jurors, as well as Judge Blackwell, that Mr. Hoskins’ status
was that of a “hostile witness.”
prosecutor began with several questions about “Mr. Hoskins’" background
and his association with the Lancer family, particularly his length of
employment and the type of work that he did on the ranch.
Once these preliminaries were completed, Webster moved a distance away
from the witness. “Mr. Hoskins, what kind of person was Scott Lancer?"
had noted that during the opening series of basic factual questions, Jelly had
started to relax; now it was clear that his old friend found the prosecutor’s
abrupt change of topic to be somewhat unsettling. “Scott?
waal, uh . . . Scott, I’d hafta say he’s jist a good man.
Like his brother, Johnny,” Jelly
replied nervously. "He's smart and he's...ah....
a right nice person. Wouldn't never do nuthin' ta hurt no one, never. An'
Scott'd give ya' the shirt offin' his back if ya' let em. Not that he ever done
that, a course, but leastways he sure did seem like he was always ready ta help
was he trusting? And loyal to his friends?" Webster asked.
yeah, he sure was, he was the only one didn't laugh at me when I got Hump.
He was a bull with a hump on his back, tha's how he got his name."
Jelly explained, his eyes glistening from the memory. "Scott understood
bout' me wantin' ta be somebody. Ta' do somethin' with my life."
sounds like Scott Lancer was a good, helpful, friend, Mr. Hoskins," the
prosecutor observed, looking at the witness sympathetically.
he was," Jelly continued. "Always ready ta help, and not just his
friends, neither. There was this one time, Scott...he almos' got kilt in the
desert an' these miners, well they helped im' and then Scott got em' some food
and medsin' fer the sick ones. But they was wanted for those shootins up at
Cripple Creek. So I went long' ta'
help im' cover his tracks. But Johnny...well...he's a real good tracker too an'
he was able to find us, course the main thing was that he figured out what Scott
was thinkin’. I tell ya' there ain't two brothers whats' clos'------"
Hoskins," Webster interrupted, smoothly changing the subject. "Some
other people that Scott Lancer helped were the members of an Irish Immigrant
family named . .” the tall
prosecutor paused, glancing down at his notes.
“McGloin, is that right?"
yeah," Jelly began. "They sure did pull the wool right over on Scott.
He thought they was down on' their luck."
trusted the McGloins and they took advantage of that trust, didn’t they?”
like I told ‘im, he’d bin taken before and he’ll be taken agin.”
Hoskins, Scott Lancer was often a * too* trusting person, wasn't he?"
Scott...now I’d hafta say that he sure . . .," discomfited by the
phrasing of the question, Jelly stumbled over his words.
simple yes or no will suffice," the prosecutor declared. "In your
opinion, was Scott Lancer * too *
...but it weren’t like that----." Jelly began, only to be interrupted
Hoskins," the Judge barked. "You will answer the prosecutor with a
simple yes or no."
yur honor," Jelly nodded. Webster
repeated his question.
had to hide a rueful little smile as Jelly shook his head and rolled his eyes
while saying in an exasperated tone that “Yes, Scott sure could be too trustin’.”
Jelly’s demeanor clearly conveyed to everyone in the courtroom his low opinion
of both the prosecutor and his questions.
confirmed that Scott Lancer was ”too trusting”, Webster next took Jelly through a similar inquiry about
Johnny, until the horse wrangler was forced to concede, with the same degree of
obvious reluctance, once more clearly evident to all present, that “Yes,
sumtimes Johnny has a temper.”
prosecutor next took considerable time to guide Jelly through a description of
the search along Grand Creek and how far downstream the men had hiked before
discovering a piece of fabric from Scott’s shirt. Once Jelly had identified it, the swatch was entered into
evidence. After being asked to
describe the strength of the current and the number of rocks, Jelly had no
choice but to conclude that there was little chance that Scott Lancer could ever
have survived. Watching as the grey-bearded man bowed his head in a futile
attempt to hide his emotion, Johnny felt his own stabbing sense of loss.
The prosecutor, however, allowed little time for either man to dwell upon
such thoughts, as he moved quickly to his next series of inquiries.
Hoskins, the day before Scott Lancer disappeared, you witnessed an argument
which he had with the Defendant, is that correct?"
Jelly answered unwillingly. In
response to further questioning, Jelly acknowledged that the argument had
started over an issue involving giving instructions to one of the men.
The voluble handyman explained in some detail how Johnny had wanted young
Andy Stovall to go work with his cousin Chad and that Scott had decided it was
better for Andy to go to town after supplies with Jelly. At his place at the
defense table, Johnny managed a sideways glance at Chad, seated behind him and
to his right, next to Teresa. He hoped that the prosecutor wouldn’t ask Jelly
to go into any details that would be embarrassing and hurtful to his cousin.
there more to the argument than that, Mr. Hoskins?”
there was. Johnny was tryin’ ta
tell Scott ta watch out fer that Hayford fella; seems he was askin’ lotsa
questions ‘bout Johnny’s past.”
that was upsetting to Johnny Lancer?”
course it was, ta have somebody nosin’ round like that!”
response actually garnered a few smiles from the serious gentlemen of the jury.
Johnny recalled that during the argument, Scott’s grandfather had also
been mentioned; he recollected asking Will Hayford if he was looking for
something to use against Scott. “Well, it ain’t gonna work,” he’d told his
brother’s one armed friend. “His grandfather already tried it.”
Scott had been about as angry as Johnny had ever seen him, and his temper
had been pretty equally directed towards both Johnny and Will Hayford. <<And
that’s when I said ta Scott, “well, at least he wanted ya.”>>
Johnny remembered regretfully.
Webster hid his annoyance at Jelly’s reply to his previous question.
He made sure to phrase his next inquiry as one demanding a ‘yes” or
“no” response. "Did the
Defendant, Johnny Lancer, threaten Scott Lancer?"
wouldn't ‘xactly call it a threat."
the Defendant threaten Scott Lancer, yes or no!” Webster demanded.
looked over at Johnny, then back at Webster. "No,” he said stubbornly.
“Weren’t a threat.”
prosecutor sighed audibly. “Mr.
Hoskins, can you recall the Defendant’s exact words in regards to ‘watching
his brother’s back’?”
was a short silence, while Jelly gathered his thoughts. Seated at the defense
table Johnny felt more deep regret. The
last words he’d ever said to Scott had been at the end of that argument, as
his brother was walking away. Something along the lines of how the Easterner
must really believe he could take care of himself, if he dared turn his back on
Johnny Madrid. Well, he hadn’t said exactly that, not in so many words.
But that’s what had been in his head and in his tone, when he’d been
speaking to his brother’s back. Scott
hadn’t turned around, hadn’t even thrown a glance over his shoulder.
They hadn’t said two words to each other the rest of the day and
evening and then the next day Scott was gone.
Webster stood motionless near the jury box, waiting for Jelly Hoskins’
response. This time, when he
finally spoke, Jelly kept his eyes trained on the floor. “First, Johnny, he
said that he’d keep on watchin’ out fer Scott. Then, Scott, he got kinda
mad, said he could take care of hisself. Then
Johnny said that Scott could just watch his own back, that Johnny weren’t
gonna be doin’ it no more. But he
never meant ---.”
prosecutor cut Jelly off once more. “Did
the Defendant say anything about having shot his brother at some time in the
pause. “Yes,” Jelly finally
answered, with obvious reluctance.
Hoskins, do you have direct knowledge of that incident; did either of the Lancer
brothers tell you anything about what happened?”
Jelly Hoskins said quickly. The shooting had occurred prior to Jelly arriving at
Lancer; Jarrod Barkley had carefully explained that Jelly could not be asked
about the incident since his information about it would be classified as
Hoskins, have you ever witnessed other arguments between the Lancer brothers?”
immediately recalled the time that Johnny had made a few joking remarks to Scott
about Miss Moira McGloin and the boys had almost come to blows. Jelly had even
stepped in between them, he’d been that worried.
they’ve had sum other arguments.”
further questions," the prosecutor stated, surprisingly giving way to the
defense attorney. On the witness
stand, Jelly looked even more concerned about the prosecutor’s sudden decision
to stop questioning him than he had been when he was anticipating the man’s
was well aware of his friend’s anxiety; Jelly had been, in his own words, as
“nervous as a cat in a room fulla rockin’ chairs” thinking about taking
the stand, afraid of making a wrong move. The
previous evening-- his family, Murdoch, Teresa, Chad and Jelly---had visited
Johnny at the jail after dinner, just as they had each day that they had been in
Sacramento. Jelly, who was just as much family as anyone, in addition to being
worried about having to testify and still sputtering angrily about the idea of
being called as a witness for the prosecution.
one had wanted to say much about yesterday’s testimony. It was an established
fact that none of them had a single good word to say about Scott’s friend Will
Hayford. It had been hard enough to
hear the man outline the evidence against Johnny, but each member of the family
had been greatly disturbed by Nicholas Reed’s intimation that Scott could have
considered killing himself, and by hearing Scott identified as what amounted to
a “trusting fool”.
Chad had brought his guitar. The
young Kentuckian had played and softly sung a few songs, providing a welcome
distraction. Nothing too sad, but
nothing too cheerful either; the tunes had seemed just right.
One song that Johnny had recognized was called “I Dream of Jeannie with
the Light Brown Hair.”
had taken advantage of the cover of the music to quietly question his father.
He had learned that Murdoch had not yet had any private conversation with
Harlan Garrett, having been loathe to approach his former father-in-law while he
was in the company of Will Hayford. Standing with his arms crossed over his
chest, leaning against the bars of his cell, he listened while Murdoch explained
that Scott’s grandfather was not staying in the same hotel as the Lancers.
The elderly man was registered in another establishment down the street,
along with the stocky young man accompanying him, who was a relative by the name
of Wade Garrett.
you heard from Cipriano?” Johnny asked, changing the subject.
raised an eyebrow in reply. “Johnny,
I’m not worried about the ranch, Cipriano can handle things.”
looked down at the floor. “I was wondrin’ if they’d found ‘im yet,” he
looked away. “Even if they do,
Cipriano won’t send word. I told him not to,” he added gruffly. Johnny
raised his head at that, staring hard at his father, waiting until the man
finally met his eyes. Seeing the
question there, Murdoch answered it, reluctantly.
“It won’t help your case to have confirmation that Scott is .
.dead.” Murdoch described
for his younger son the spot in which Scott’s body was to be buried, if and
when it was recovered, adding soberly, “We’ll have a memorial service once
we are all back at the ranch.” Fearful of being overcome with emotion
at his father’s words, Johnny had to look away once more.
know, Murdoch, I’d like it if you put me longside ‘im, if it comes ta
Murdoch remonstrated him, his voice clearly audible as the notes of Chad’s
song faded away.
said if it comes ta that--- now or anytime later,” Johnny repeated firmly,
then turned to Chad, complimented his cousin on his song and asked for another.
Reed carefully approached the witness stand, a reassuring smile on his face.
Jelly nodded his head emphatically. "I know ‘em both real well."
Hoskins, the prosecutor already asked you if Johnny Lancer threatened his
brother the day before Scott Lancer disappeared," Reed said, looking at the
jury. "And you have answered ‘no’. How did you interpret the comments
about ‘watching his back’?”
hardly no threat.” Jelly puffed his chest out. "Johnny was just mad, when
he was saying he wasn't gonna' watch Scott’s back no more. But he would’ve
looked out fer ‘im all the same. Those boys’re as close as any two brothers
I ever did see."
they have had arguments, have you ever seen either of them strike the
"No, never," Jelly declared.
Hoskins, do you believe Johnny Lancer would deliberately hurt Scott
way in tarnation!" Jelly exclaimed. "Those two were closer than any
brothers I ever did meet. Always, lookin' out for one 'nother."
next posed questions that allowed Jelly to describe several examples of the
“Boys” having been supportive of each other.
The experienced defense attorney stopped when he realized that the
members of the jury were showing signs of losing interest in following the
grizzled handyman’s sometimes convoluted stories. Marcus Webster had also
noted the demeanor of the jurors and kept his cross examination blessed brief,
while still underscoring Scott Lancer’s trusting nature and Johnny’s more
Jelly Hoskins finally stepped down from the witness stand, the grizzled horse
wrangler had to acknowledge to himself that he felt as if he been good and
trampled by a whole herd of animals . . . .
final prosecution witness called to the stand was Mr. Harlan Garrett of Boston.
As he watched Scott’s grandfather walk slowly to the front of the
courtroom, Johnny noticed again how much the man seemed to have aged.
Clearly, Scott’s . . death
had hit him hard.
Garrett’s visit to Lancer, when he’d tried to force Scott to return East
with him, Johnny had had the distinct impression that the man hadn’t thought
that anything or anyone out here in the West was good enough for his grandson,
himself included. Johnny could
pretty much imagine the opinion that Garrett must now hold of his grandson’s
half-brother. From his seat at the
defense table, Johnny stared hard at Mr. Harlan Garrett, waiting for the moment
when Scott’s grandfather would look his way, expecting to see pure hatred in
the elderly man was seated, Marcus Webster posed introductory questions that
allowed Garrett to be identified to the jury as a successful Boston businessman,
as well as Scott Lancer’s loving grandfather and childhood guardian. Webster
allowed the grieving grandfather the opportunity to describe his grandson’s
attributes and accomplishments in some detail.
Garrett, you raised Scott Lancer from infancy, did you not?”
Mr. Webster, I did.”
you and your grandson close, sir? Would you say that you knew him well?”
Garrett, the Defense has suggested that your grandson could have been despondent
enough over his difficult experiences during the War to consider taking his own
life. What is your reaction to
Garrett’s expression turned grim. When he spoke, it was with a voice filled
with barely controlled anger. “Mr.
Webster, it is only out of respect for the Court that I shall refrain from
clearly . . . .articulating my
views on that subject. The events
of which you speak took place over six years ago, sir.”
Garrett drew a breath. “Scotty did not survive the War,
. . .and a . . a year in that horrible place, only to come out here to
California and kill himself!” he concluded emphatically.
nodded sympathetically. “So you consider that theory to be highly unlikely?”
I most certainly do.”
me for pursuing a painful topic just a bit further, Mr. Garrett.
In your observation, prior to leaving Boston two years ago, was Scott
no. At loose ends, perhaps.
But not that.”
did not seem to be excessively troubled by thoughts of the War and his
experiences in the prison camp?”
noted with some displeasure that Garrett hesitated this time; some members of
the jury seemed to notice this as well. “Certainly, there were some rather
unpleasant memories. Scotty was not one who would easily forget his fallen
Garrett, do you know a man by the name of Lt. Dan Cassidy?”
distasteful expression crossed Garrett’s face.
“I’ve never met the man, but yes, I recognize the name.
I believe that he made some outrageous accusations against my
grandson,” he said slowly.
accused him of having betrayed an escape attempt at Libby Prison.
More than that, Mr. Garrett, are you aware that Lt. Cassidy actually came
out here to California with the intention of killing your grandson?”
Scotty wrote to me about that.”
did your grandson tell you about the outcome of that episode?”
sighed. “It seems that it was this Cassidy person who actually betrayed the
escape plan—he was delirious, as I understand it.”
do you know what your grandson did, once the truth was known?”
grandfather sat up a bit straighter. “He
protected the man from his former associates, men who were still intent upon
revenge,” he said with a hint of pride in his voice.
he seemed to have forgiven this Cassidy for traveling all this way to kill him.
Mr. Garrett, would you say that your grandson was an understanding,
nodded. “Yes, yes, I believe that
he . . was,” he answered, his
voice faltering at the end.
prosecutor waited a moment for the witness to regain his composure.
“Was he perhaps too forgiving, sometimes?”
elderly man hesitated. “I’m not
certain of that, Mr. Webster.”
Even though he helped a man who had traveled thousand of miles to kill him?”
the prosecutor inquired, apparently purely for the jury’s benefit, since he
did not allow Garrett the opportunity to respond.
“Tell me, sir, would you say then, that Scott was accepting of
very much so.”
with that response, the prosecutor then returned to asking questions about the
late Scott Lancer. His inquiries
were carefully phrased so that the responses would reinforce the idea that
Scott’s fall into Grand Creek had not been an accident; allowing his
grandfather to describe the young man as having been physically strong, a good
swimmer, and far from being “just a city boy”, but also a careful,
Webster painstakingly elicited information from the Boston businessman about the
provisions of his grandson’s trust fund and the other contents of his estate,
corroborating Will Hayford’s previous testimony.
took a few steps away from the witness stand, then turned to face the front of
the courtroom once more. “Mr.
Garrett, what did Scott tell you about his half-brother, the Defendant, and his
past?” The spare lawyer gestured
in the direction of the defense table as he posed this question, and the
witness’s eyes followed the movement. Still
watching intently, Johnny was surprised to see Scott’s grandfather’s
regarding him with an expression of deep sadness on his face.
elderly man sighed. “He wrote
that he had previously made his living as a gunfighter.”
the name ‘Johnny Madrid’?”
what was your reaction, sir?”
was concerned, of course.”
that your grandson might come to harm in the company of such a man?”
. . yes.”
Garrett, were you also concerned that your grandson might actually be
harmed by the Defendant?”
weren’t concerned that Scott might come to injury at the hands of a man with
such a violent history?”
received letters from Scotty on a regular basis and he assured me that there was
no need to be concerned on that score.”
Webster was uncharacteristically surprised.
Due to the Eastern gentleman’s recent arrival, he had not had much time
to interview Scott Lancer’s grandfather.
The prosecutor had assumed that the Boston businessman would be repulsed
by the idea of his beloved grandson having a half Mexican, unlettered gunfighter
as a brother, certain that the grief stricken man would be eager to see Scott
Lancer’s accused murderer severely punished. Instead of the anticipated
righteously angry diatribe against the Defendant, Webster was disconcerted to
note that this final witness for the prosecution was actually sounding a bit
sympathetic towards the accused.
blasé, the prosecutor surveyed the faces of the members of the jury as he
spoke. “And of course, Mr.
Garrett, we can all understand that you must have wanted very much to believe
that your grandson’s assessment of the Defendant was accurate.” Webster faced Judge Blackwell. “Your Honor, I have no
further questions for Mr. Garrett at this time.”
the defense table, Jarrod Barkley and Nicholas Reed and been exchanging notes
throughout Harlan Garrett’s testimony. The
two attorney’s had been apprehensive about how best to handle Scott Lancer’s
grieving grandfather, and based upon the description of the man which they had
received from both Murdoch and Johnny, they had expected Garrett’s testimony
to be full of invective against their client.
They hastily adjusted their strategy in their scribbled written
was Jarrod Barkley who approached the witness stand. He began by offering his personal condolences to his
friend’s grandfather, then proceeded to pose his first questions.
Garrett, you mentioned that your grandson wrote you letters.
Did Scott speak favorably about his brother in his letters to you?”
Mr. Barkley, he did.”
sort of things did Scott say about Johnny Lancer?”
Garrett hesitated for a long moment. “When
he first came here, to California, Scotty was very happy to learn that he had a
brother,” he said softly. “He
said that he admired him, because of the things that he had overcome in his
at this response, Jarrod risked probing a bit further.
“Was there anything else, sir?”
my . .visit, Scotty wrote to me at
some length about Johnny Madrid . . . excuse
me, I meant to say Lancer,” Garrett said with a shake of his head. His next
words sounded as if he were recalling an exact quote. “He told me what an honorable, caring, person Johnny was,
and that he was . . that he was proud to call him his brother.”
the defense table, Johnny sat motionless, staring hard at the bare table top in
front of him, lifting his head only when he heard the name “Madrid.”
He considered the man in the witness chair carefully, and decided, much
to his surprise, that there had been no malice in it. As to the rest of what
Garrett had said, Johnny swallowed hard and tried not to think about it.
Barkley paused so that the jury would have ample time to consider Garrett’s
reply. “Mr. Garrett, when you visited your grandson, you attempted to
. . persuade him to return to Boston with you.”
elderly man gave the attorney a level look. “Yes, I did,” was his dignified
Lancer thwarted your effort to . .
convince . . Scott to return with
you to Boston. Sir, why do you
think that he did that?”
Calls for speculation.”
tried another angle. “Mr. Garrett, what was your observation of the
interaction between your grandson and his brother?”
shook his head sadly at the memory. “They
seemed quite close. Rather
affectionate. . . . joking as young
appeared to you that Johnny reciprocated Scott’s positive regard?”
. . .ahem,” Garrett cleared his throat. “I
would say yes, Mr. Barkley. He
seemed to be quite . .protective of Scotty.”
paced back and forth in front of the jury box, before addressing Garrett once
more. “Is it fair to say, sir,
that you are not completely convinced that Johnny Lancer is the man responsible
for the attack on your grandson?”
sir, I am not yet fully convinced of that.”
Harlan Garrett directed his next words to the defense attorney, but spoke
loudly enough for the entire assemblage to hear. “And I assure you, Mr.
Barkley, that I do not intend to return to Boston until I am
* entirely* certain that the man who committed this act has been
apprehended---- and punished.”
The elderly man bowed his and added, softly, so that only those near the front of the courtroom could hear him, “I owe that to Scotty.”
Jarrod Barkley wisely decided to end his questioning of Harlan Garrett after the older man's pronouncement that he did not intend to see his grandson's murderer go unpunished. The Stockton attorney believed that Scott Lancer's own grandfather expressing the opinion that the evidence against Johnny Lancer was, at best, inconclusive, would make a very strong impression upon the members of the jury.
The prosecutor, hoping that this witness might yet present some information that would implicate the Defendant, began his cross-examination by asking Garrett if Scott Lancer had ever told him that his brother had shot him.
The Bostonian's face assumed a very concerned expression. "No, Mr Webster, that was not something that Scotty ever mentioned to me, either in a letter or in person. But I'm sure that ----–"
"Thank you Mr. Garrett," Webster interjected quickly. Before excusing the witness, the prosecutor used a few additional questions to underscore the point that Scott Lancer had been a forgiving, trusting man, and reiterate that his trust had, in the past, sometimes been misplaced.
With Harlan Garrett's departure from the witness stand, the prosecution case was completed. After a brief recess for the midday meal, it would be time for the Defense to begin to present. Although Johnny and his supporters were amazed by the turn of events, there was little time to discuss Harlan Garrett's testimony. Murdoch Lancer, who had yet to speak privately with his former father-in-law, did strongly express his distrust of the elderly Bostonian and wondered aloud exactly what the man had hoped to gain by voicing doubt as to Johnny's guilt. Jelly shared the Boss's concern about Garrett's stated intention to see to it that whoever had attacked Scott would be apprehended and punished. Both men were convinced that, in the end, Garrett's apparent good will would not bode well for Johnny. Attorneys Reed and Barkley simply stated that they viewed the man's testimony as helpful to their client's case and proceeded to outline their strategy for the afternoon.
Once court was again in session, Nicholas Reed followed his habitual strategy of beginning slowly, his goal to slowly but surely chip away at the prosecution's case. Reed's assessment was that typically the jurors, after days of listening to prosecution witnesses, were convinced of the Defendant's guilt, and prepared to resent any attempt to change their minds. Once they had formed an opinion, jurors could be a stubborn lot; the experienced defense attorney therefore intended to first undermine the evidence by raising a few questions in the minds of the panel members, to weaken the foundation before launching a full-scale attack.
Dressed for court in a white shirt and brown leather vest, Young Walt Johnson was the first witness called. Reed's purpose in calling the ranch hand to testify was to counter two points in the prosecution's case. He hoped to cancel Andy Stovall's recollection of the conversation between the Lancer brothers as hostile by having Walt share his differing perspective. In response to the prosecution's assertions that Johnny Lancer had harbored animosity towards his brother, young Walt would be able to describe Johnny's participation in the search for Scott's body.
Walt's account of the previously mentioned discussion matched Stovall's as far as the content: Johnny had asked Scott if he had a will and then had inquired as to what the older man was going to leave him. When Scott Lancer pointed out that his brother could not inherit anything unless something fatal happened to him, Johnny had commented that he only needed to stop looking out for his sibling. In reply, Scott had then informed Andy and Walt that they were "witnesses", should anything unexpected occur. But the defense witness's impression of the overall tone of the conversation was distinctly different from Stovall's---Walt stated clearly that he believed that the brothers had, in fact, been joking. This point being made, Reed then proceeded to question the young man about Johnny Lancer's role in the search efforts along Grand Creek.
Taking his turn, prosecuting attorney Webster quickly made his own point: that both Walt and his father were Lancer hands and that each of them held Murdoch Lancer in high esteem-- the implication being that the witness was providing testimony that would be pleasing to his employer. Not that Marcus Webster said as much directly, being fully aware that Nicholas Reed would be ready to object.
Unable to shake the dark haired young man's conviction that the exchange between the brothers had not been serious, the prosecutor nevertheless forced Walt to admit that he had not actually spent much time in company with Murdoch Lancer's two sons and therefore had not had much opportunity to observe the interactions between them. Satisfied that he had cast doubt upon the Lancer hand's qualifications to judge the brothers' meanings, Webster moved on.
Where Reed had allowed Walt to describe in some detail Johnny Lancer's determination to find his brother, and his obvious concern for his older sibling, the prosecutor attempted to discount that information. When Walt repeated that Johnny had been very reluctant to turn back after a long day and many miles of searching, Webster seized upon that statement.
"But he did turn back?" he asked, in an arch tone.
"Well, yeah, but so did the rest of us."
"The rest of you were not looking for your allegedly beloved only brother," was Webster's smooth rejoinder. "No further questions."
Nicholas Reed made sure that Walt repeated for the jury his opinion that the Lancer brothers had been engaging in friendly banter about Scott's will as well as his view that during the search along Grand Creek, Johnny Lancer had been driven by his intense worry about Scott's fate. Finally, the young ranch hand was excused from the about the time that he had been shot by Sam Stryker; the time that he had taken a bullet intended for Johnny Madrid Lancer.
As the first female to take the stand, there was no question that the next morning, Teresa O'Brien was the center of attention in Judge Blackwell's courtroom. Bolstered by her determination to do her utmost to help defend Johnny, the raven haired young woman was much less outwardly nervous than several of the men who had occupied the chair previously.
Nicholas Reed wasted little time in preliminaries; after making sure that Miss O'Brien's position in the Lancer household had been made clear to the jurymen, he proceeded to ask Murdoch Lancer's young ward a series of questions about the relationship between the two Lancer sons. Teresa confidently described the brotherly affection shared by the men, described how close they had become over the past two years and explained that they seldom argued.
Pleased with her responses, Reed then moved onto the attack. "Miss O'Brien, what was your observation of the relationship between Scott Lancer and William Hayford?"
Teresa's expression became troubled. "Mr. Hayford said that he had known Scott for a very long time, since they were children. But he also said that he hated him."
"Really?" asked Reed, in feigned surprise. "Did he say why?"
"Yes, it was because Scott came back from the War . . uninjured."
"Was there anything else?"
"They were talking and Mr. Hayford mentioned that after the War he had started drinking and that Scott . . . that Scott wouldn't let him get drunk, that's what he said."
"So it sounded to you as if Mr. Hayford had a good deal of resentment towards Scott Lancer?"
"Yes, yes, it did. Because he had been hurt so badly. And because his own brother was killed in the War."
Teresa momentarily faltered here, but clung to the instructions she had received--to keep her eyes on Nicholas Reed's face. She was very much aware of Will Hayford's presence in the courtroom; the man with the distinctive eye patch was seated in the front row behind the prosecutor's table, next to Scott's grandfather and cousin. She felt that he was regarding her intently, but resisted the urge to glare at the man, to check his reaction to her testimony.
"Interesting that Mr. Hayford testified that he and Scott Lancer had been 'like brothers'," Reed mused. Miss O'Brien, in your observation, what was Mr. Hayford's attitude towards Scott's brother Johnny Lancer?"
"Oh, he didn't seem to like him at all. He accused Johnny right away. But Johnny wouldn't ever hurt Scott, I just know he wouldn't!"
As he slowly rose from his seat, the tall prosecutor regarded Teresa appraisingly. He paced towards the witness stand, pausing halfway, directly in front of the jury. Folding his arms across his chest, Marcus Webster posed his first question in a deliberately challenging tone. "Miss O'Brien, was the relationship between the Lancer brothers * always* as good as you * say* that it has been?" When the girl did not immediately reply, the attorney sternly reminded her that she was under oath.
"Well .. not at first . . . not when they first met, but that was just because they didn't know each other yet, and they were so different from each other . .." Teresa's voice trailed off and she looked guiltily at Nicholas Reed. The defense attorney had warned her to answer Webster's questions briefly, with a simple "yes" or "no" if possible, and here she was rattling along.
"You told Mr. Reed that the Lancer brothers `seldom argued'. When they did argue, what sorts of things did they disagree about?"
Again, Teresa hesitated. Webster quickly backtracked. "Miss O'Brien, have you ever witnessed an argument between the Defendant and Scott Lancer?"
"Would you please describe for us a specific argument that you remember?"
Teresa thought immediately of that first day, down at the river, after Scott had been attacked by some of Pardee's men in town, and Johnny hadn't helped him. When Johnny had shown up, he'd made a few comments to Scott and then Scott had hit him, sending newly met brother rolling down the slope towards the water. Under the circumstances, Teresa hadn't blamed Scott one bit, but now she considered that the story wouldn't show either of the young men in a positive light and wouldn't help defend Johnny. When Webster prodded her once more, the young woman managed a rather jumbled account of the incident.
"Did Scott Lancer take it upon himself to try to make amends to his brother?"
"What did he say, Miss O'Brien?"
"That they should be able to get along, since they . . .came to Lancer. . . for the same reason."
Noting the hint of dismay in the young woman's voice, and trusting his instincts, Marcus Webster risked asking the follow up question: "And how did the Defendant respond?"
Teresa bowed her head and closed her eyes.
"Remember that you are under oath," he said softly. Under the intense scrutiny of the jury members, Teresa regarded Webster with a pained look in her eyes. "Johnny took a twenty dollar gold piece out of his pocket and said that was why he had come. But he didn't mean it, not really, you see he thought that .. . .."
Webster cut her off. "So he said that he was there for money." Teresa just stared at him, a miserable expression on her face.
"Now, Miss O'Brien, as to this conversation that you overheard, the one in which Captain Hayford allegedly said that he 'hated' Scott Lancer, did you understand that the men were talking about present events or something from their past?"
"They were talking about the past, right after the War."
"I see," said Webster carefully, his eyes sweeping over the faces of the jurors. "And how did Scott Lancer react to Captain Hayford's statement that he had `hated' him at some time in the past? Did he seem surprised?"
"Did Scott Lancer seem angry?"
"So this statement by his old friend was not upsetting news to Scott Lancer?"
"No, . . . I guess . . not."
"It would appear then, that these two men, these two old friends, had long since settled their differences. . . Tell me, Miss O'Brien, did you also have occasion to overhear a conversation between Captain Hayford and Murdoch and Johnny Lancer?
And did you later have a talk with Captain Hayford about Scott Lancer, in which he told you some things about their childhood together?"
"Based upon those conversations, Miss O'Brien, would you say that Captain Hayford knew Scott Lancer very well? That he knew things about Scott Lancer that his father, his brother and you yourself did not know?"
Teresa had been looking directly at Webster as she gave her affirmative answers, but now she glanced uncomfortably away. Reluctantly, she responded. "It did seem as if he knew him very well, yes."
"So it appeared to you that Scott Lancer had confided some things to his friend Will Hayford, things that he had not shared with his new family?"
"Well, not yet," was Teresa's insistent response.
"Answer the question 'yes' or 'no' please, Miss O'Brien."
Teresa's "Yes" was accompanied by a fierce look directed at Attorney Webster.
At the defense table, Johnny listened to his surrogate sister with a heavy heart. He was well aware that some of her responses were not helping his case, and suspected that Teresa realized that as well. Johnny had tried to support her as best he could with a sympathetic gaze, but so far the young woman had kept her eyes trained upon her interrogator, Reed or Webster, giving Johnny only a view of her delicate profile. Now, listening to Teresa tell the court how well Will Hayford had known his brother, Johnny stared across the courtroom at the man. Hayford was watching Teresa intently, while beside him, Harlan Garrett sat with bowed head.
As he stared at Will Hayford, Johnny recalled that the one-eyed man had known the name of that guard at Libby, the one that Chad reminded Scott of; and that Scott had confided in Hayford about the Gatling gun. The stark, painful truth was that evidently Scott and Will Hayford had been like brothers, closer than he and Scott had been after their all too brief two-year acquaintance. The full force of his loss hit him again, and Johnny found himself once more staring fixedly at the tabletop in front of him. He swallowed hard and closed his eyes, but he could still see the pattern of the grain of the wood, every nick and scratch in the well-memorized surface. . . .
Meanwhile, Marcus Webster continued to question Teresa. As with Jelly, Webster's questions steered the young woman into acknowledging that Johnny Lancer did have a bit of a temper. But when she was forced to admit that the Lancer brothers had not been getting along well just prior to Scott's disappearance, she added in a rush that "Scott told me that he was going to try to set things straight with Johnny when he met him at the Creek."
"I'm sure that Scott Lancer intended to do just that Miss O'Brien," Webster intoned solemnly. "It's too bad that he never got that chance, too bad that the Defendant had other ideas." He shook his head sadly. "No further questions, your Honor."
Near tears as she thought about what had happened to Scott and stricken to think that she had helped the prosecutor in making points against Johnny, Teresa tried desperately to compose herself as Nicholas Reed approached once more. The defense attorney attempted to give the young woman the opportunity to reiterate her conviction that the brothers cared deeply for each other and also to describe examples of Johnny Lancer's gentle, caring nature, but it was a struggle for the now emotional young woman. Sensitive to the growing discomfort of the jury members, Reed wisely brought Teresa O'Brien's testimony to a close.
Chad Lancer approached the witness chair and was sworn in. The defense attorney led his third witness through some preliminary questions, such as his distant, convoluted relationship to Murdoch, Scott and Johnny Lancer, some aspects of their past history and how long he had lived at the ranch.
"Chad," Reed continued, "Tell us about your first meeting with Johnny Lancer."
"Well, I was playin my music in a saloon with my sista an' some folks started fixen on hurting me an' Johnny, waal he shot one of em."
"Did he kill him?"
"Oh, no. He jist shot his gun out of his hand," Chad replied.
"But Johnny rescued you and your sister from the men who were threatening you?"
"Now Chad, you and Johnny are very good friends aren't you?" Reed asked, standing next to the witness stand with one hand resting on the rail.
"Uh, waal....yes, suh," Chad replied nervously. "Johnny and I are reel close."
"Would you say that you two talk about things quite a bit?"
"Yeah, we talk bout lotsa stuff," Chad answered, looking at the spectators and back to Reed.
"Did Johnny ever tell you that he wished his brother would leave, or that he intended him any bodily harm?"
"Did he ever talk about the money he would inherit from Scott Lancer if anything were to happen to his brother?"
"No, suh. He never wanted ta talk `bout that a'tall."
"Do you believe Johnny murdered his brother?" Reed asked him.
"Waal . . . he had no call to do it," Chad replied evasively. "I mean I reckon Johnny would nevah kill nobody, less'n he had himself a reel good reason."
Less than pleased with this response, Reed elected to change the subject. "Chad, after Scott Lancer disappeared, did Johnny spend much time looking for him?" Webster asked.
"He shore did, "Chad responded nodding his head. "He went out every day til the sheriff arrested `im fer killin' Scott."
"Did he tell you that he missed his brother?"
"Waal, I magine he shore does, but he nevah wanted ta talk bout it," Chad drawled. "he still don't, cause when I try ta talk ta him he jist don't say nuthin."
"Thank you, Chad," the defense attorney said, "no further questions."
Marcus Webster approached the witness stand, stopping a few feet from Chad.
"Mr. Lancer, you claim that the Defendant hasn't said one word to you about Scott Lancer since he disappeared?" the prosecutor asked incredulously. "He hasn't said that he misses him, that he wondered what happened? Nothing?"
"Nah, and I didn't ask him nuthin' cause I was afeared I'd upset him agin."
"Were you afraid of his temper, that he might try to harm you?" Webster shot back.
"That's not what---" Chad replied vehemently.
Webster cut him off. "Mr. Lancer, it has come up in testimony that you and Johnny Lancer were recently involved in a fight in a local saloon. Is it commonplace for Johnny to get into that type of altercation?"
"Waal, no. Most people wouldn't wanta be startin' anythin' with Johnny. . . . and he...he wouldn't nary of hit him iffn that man hadn't insulted his mama." Chad glanced at Johnny apologetically.
"Most people wouldn't want to `start anything' with him because of his reputation?"
"Waal, `course. Everybody round these parts's heerd of Johnny . . .." Chad's voice trailed off uncomfortably, while Webster nodded and looked significantly at the jury.
"Now, we've also heard about the defendant's temper and arguments which he had with his brother. Prior to Scott Lancer's disappearance, Mr. Lancer, did the brothers seem to be arguing a great deal?" Webster asked, changing the subject.
"Waal, I don't recall bein' present to any fightin'."
"Did the Defendant ever mention his brother's will to you?"
"No, suh. Laike I a'ready said, he nevah wanted ta talk `bout that. Leastways, not with me."
"What about money matters, Mr. Lancer? Did the Defendant ever discuss his financial status with you?"
Chad looked puzzled by that question, and seemed to think long and hard before answering. "He did say a coupla times that he was goin' ta hafta ask his daddy for an advance on his wages. Whenevah we'd go inta town, it was always Scott that'd be buyin' the beers, cause, he Johnny nevah had any money."
"But Scott Lancer did. Did the Defendant have any other reason to resent his brother?" Webster asked, moving to the table, and then turning to face Chad as he accepted some papers from his associate.
"Johnny....well...we was tird of Scott always actin so . . . see, Scott he was collige edjucated, and it warn't like he was uppity or nothin'. But sometimes me `n Johnny didn't laike the way he always seemed ta be ta folks with no book learnin."
"I see. Did this make the Defendant angry?" the prosecutor asked.
"Well, yeah, kinda," Chad replied. "I mean not like he'd a hurt Scott or nothin. We jist didn't laike the way Scott was always takin' charge, tellin us what ta do. Thought he was the boss or somethin".
"What did the Defendant say in regards to his brother acting in this manner?"
"I don't rightly recall," Chad's forehead creased in concentration. "I believe he said somethin' bout talkin' ta him ta straighten `im out mebbe."
"Apparently he decided to do more than just talk . . . .Thank you, Mr. Lancer," Webster commented quietly. "No further questions."
Nicholas Reed approached his witness, stood next to the witness stand and attempted to undo some of the damage.
"Chad," Reed began. "Have you ever been afraid that Johnny Lancer would hurt you?"
"Ah....no," Chad replied nervously. "Johnny is....my frien'." He glanced nervously at Johnny, then back at Reed. The defense attorney meticulously took the young Kentuckian through a series of questions designed to show that Johnny Lancer was a caring, supportive, brother and cousin.
After court had adjourned for the day and everyone had left the courtroom, both of the defense attorneys, Murdoch and Johnny met once more in the small conference room.
"I want to testify," Murdoch began insistently.
"I can't let you do that," Reed replied, shaking his head. "You have only known your sons for two years. The prosecution would attack any testimony to their personal characters based on that short acquaintance."
"But....." Murdoch protested.
"Murdoch," Jarrod agreed quietly. "Putting you on the stand would not help Johnny at all. First of all they would discount your testimony based on personal bias. He is your son."
"I'm also Scott's father," Murdoch replied angrily. "And I would not be willing to defend Johnny if I thought for one moment that he killed his brother."
"All right. And what if they start asking you questions about Scott?" Jarrod asked, looking Murdoch Lancer directly in the eyes. Since Murdoch was a long-time friend of Jarrod's parents, he knew something of the Scotsman's family history. "What if he want to know why you left Scott in Boston all those years? Why you spent so much time and money looking for Johnny?" As Murdoch started to offer a heated response, Jarrod held up both hands to stop him. "I'm not asking those questions, I'm only saying that Webster might. Webster is capable of insinuating that you favored Johnny, and did not care about your older son--- and you could end up losing your temper and saying something that could be misinterpreted, something that could damage our case."
"I just want to help Johnny!" Murdoch responded in frustration.
"We know you do," Jarrod replied. "But you know too much. Webster would ask you questions about the Pinkerton reports you have at home, details of Johnny's career as a gunfighter."
"And it's not all about Johnny's past," Nicholas Reed added. "You also have first hand knowledge of the shooting from both of your sons; so far we've been able to keep those details away from the jury, it has been inadmissible as hearsay, but from you, that information will be allowed. Regardless of the circumstances, the fact is that Johnny shot Scott. That isn't going to look good to the jurors."
Jarrod picked up the thread. "They could ask you about the Foleys," he said, pausing to look at his notes. "Or the McGloins and the Cassidys, making Scott look once more like the trusting fool."
"My son was not a trusting fool!" Murdoch declared loudly.
"We know that," Reed said quietly. "But frankly Mr. Lancer, you would be more likely to be a liability to Johnny, not an asset. You know things that the prosecution could use against him in court."
"It's just so damn frustrating!"
"I know, Murdoch." Jarrod said sympathetically. "But there is no way in good conscience that we could allow you to take the stand. Not and expect to get Johnny acquitted."
"All right, all right," Murdoch said, resigned to the fact he couldn't testify.
Throughout this exchange, Johnny had been leaning against the wall with his arms crossed, listening and watching his father and the two attorneys. "Hey," he said softly. "It means somethin' ta me that you're willin', Murdoch." The big man looked at him, and after a brief struggle to keep his emotions in check, nodded his understanding.
"Okay, let's discuss our next strategy," Reed began, but Johnny interrupted him.
"I want to testify," Johnny stated quietly.
"Absolutely not!" Reed was adamant.
"Look," Johnny said firmly. "Those jurors are lookin' at me an' I know what they're thinkin'." He paused, looking down, then back up at his attorneys. "They think I'm a killer, they know that I killed a lot of people in my life and they're sure that I just did it again."
"You don't understand, Johnny," Jarrod said firmly. "The reasons why Murdoch shouldn't testify apply doubly to you. The prosecution will be able to ask you about all those things we just mentioned, including the shooting, the disagreements you'd been having with Scott. No matter how carefully and truthfully you answer, Webster will be able to twist your words. You've already seen him do it!"
"Johnny," Nicholas Reed added. "They will try in every way they can to get you to say negative things about your brother."
"Ain't no way they'll get me to do that," Johnny replied.
The dignified, white-haired defense attorney shook his head. "What if they ask you if he was too overbearing?" Reed demanded. "Or if you thought he was too educated, believed that he thought he knew everything, talked down to you?"
"Scott weren't like that!" Johnny replied angrily.
Both Reed and Barkley regarded him solemnly. Reed tried to explain. "Johnny, if you get angry and defend your brother, Webster will use that against you, as evidence of your temper, your inability to control it. If you don't defend him, it will be portrayed as proof that you didn't care about him. I'm afraid you won't be able to win, not against Webster."
"The evidence is circumstantial, Johnny," Jarrod pointed out. "There isn't even any definite proof of Scott being dead without a body, and further, no real proof that he was injured. You have to trust that the jury will see that there is a reason for doubt . . . .."
"Enough!" Johnny stood up, angrily. "I'm testifying, with or without your help. I told you—I see the way they're lookin' at me. They think I killed my brother.......... my best friend." He choked, looked away for a moment and then back at Reed, staring straight into his eyes. "You're askin' a lot if you're askin' me ta trust those men sittin' there. Now I know the two of you have done your best, and I appreciate it. But if there's a chance I'm gonna end up in prison or hangin' from a noose I want to at least have had my say. I need to. I want them jurors, and everyone else ta hear from me that I didn't kill Scott."
and Chad spent the evening visiting with Johnny at the jail while Murdoch and
Teresa joined the Garretts, Harlan and Wade, for dinner at their hotel.
Scott Lancer’s father and grandfather solemnly, wordlessly shook hands
and then took their seats.
Garrett assisted Teresa with her chair and then extended his hand to Murdoch
Lancer. “Mr. Lancer, I’m Wade
Garrett. I . .I’m very sorry for
Lancer looked up and nodded at the short, stocky, bearded young man and then
accepted the proffered handshake. Inclining
his head towards Teresa, he introduced the young woman; “This is my ward,
O’Brien,” the younger Garrett murmured politely, then took his seat opposite
Garrett looked across the table at his former son-in-law. “Have they found
him, yet, Murdoch? Have they found
shook his head. “I haven’t had any word, Harlan.”
throughout the meal was sparse. No
one at the table was especially eager to talk about Scott’s death, or
Johnny’s ongoing trial. Wade
Garrett valiantly attempted to initiate discussions about life on a ranch, the
attractions offered by city of Sacramento, the train trip across country which
he had made with the senior Garrett, but received only halfhearted responses
from his dinner companions. When
Wade made a reference to “Uncle Harlan”, Murdoch did pose a question about
the actual relationship between the two.
is my late cousin Walter’s son,” the elderly man explained.
“Given the differences in our ages, ‘uncle’ seemed an appropriate
form of address. Wade has been in my employ for quite some time, even before . .
. Scotty . . .left
to come to California. The
two of them worked together . . . for a while..”
the mention of Scott’s name, Wade Garrett nodded solemnly. “I can’t say
that Scott and I were close friends, Mr. Lancer, but he was a fine man and Uncle
Harlan had every reason to be proud of him.”
followed this statement. It was not
until they began to take their leave that Murdoch finally attempted to express
his appreciation to his older son’s grandfather for the testimony that he had
given in court, testimony that had seemed supportive of Johnny. Harlan Garrett
waved his hand, as if to ward off the tall rancher’s thanks. “What I said in
court, Murdoch, was the truth, as I believe it to be.”
The Boston businessman accepted his hat from Wade and then looked up at
Murdoch Lancer. “I did mean what
I said, Murdoch, that I intend to see whoever . .did this . .pay.
No matter who it is.”
wasn’t Johnny! He would never hurt Scott!” Teresa said insistently.
grandfather turned towards the dark haired young woman.
“I hope not, Miss O’Brien,” he said in a serious tone, “I
sincerely hope not.”
next day was to be a short one, as Timothy Blackwell had other cases to be
adjudicated in the afternoon. Defense
attorneys Reed and Barkley alternated in presenting a series of ‘character
witnesses’, people who could testify to Johnny’s many positive attributes.
The two lawyers, who wished to insure that these witnesses would not be
able to verify details of their client’s gun fighting past, had carefully
vetted these individuals. Family friend Dr. Sam Jenkins had been eager to
testify in Johnny’s behalf, but had been scratched from the list due to his
extensive knowledge of various bullet wounds and other injuries sustained by the
Lancer brothers. Sheriff Val Crawford had also been removed, due to his in depth
knowledge of Johnny’s gun fighting abilities; Reed also had reservations as to
how Crawford would come across to the members of the jury.
Cognizant of the poor impression that the horse wrangler had made upon
his initial appearance in court, the defense attorney was also reluctant to
recall Jelly Hoskins to the stand as a defense witness.
who did testify: Pony Alice’s guardian, Miss Florida, school teachers Catha
and Ben Cameron, and missionary Laura Thompson--
each had a tale to tell about Johnny Lancer’s giving, caring nature.
Nonetheless, prosecutor Marcus Webster was able to negate much of the testimony
by succinctly pointing out that none of the witnesses had known Johnny very
long, none of them had ever known him as “Johnny Madrid” and that none of
them had witnessed any interactions at all between Johnny Lancer and his late
brother. And, in the case of the female witnesses, Webster was also successful
in very subtly suggesting that their testimony could be biased in favor of
Johnny due to a particular “affection” that they might possibly feel for
around the table in the small conference room once more, the members of the
defense team were each aware that, despite the best efforts of people who
sincerely admired and believed in the young man, the morning had not been
terribly productive in supporting Johnny’s case. Nicholas Reed once more
braced himself to face down the renewed insistence upon testifying that he
expected from his client. He was
gonna have ta let me have my say,” his client announced matter-of-factly to
Reed before the door to the tiny room was even fully closed.
To Reed’s chagrin, he could see from the expressions on Murdoch Lancer
and Jarrod Barkley’s faces, that today, they were more sympathetic to
Johnny’s view than they had been even the day before.
with his hands resting on the back of a chair, the experienced defense lawyer
patiently explained once again the myriad reasons why it would be unwise for
Johnny Madrid Lancer to take the stand. “Even if we rest our case now, there
are still the closing arguments. I
will have the final say, and I’m confident that I can raise enough questions
in the minds of the jurors to create a reasonable doubt.”
thumbed through a number of papers, his white head bent over the stack until he
located the sheets for which he was searching; pages which contained notes for
the summation which he had been preparing ever since the trial began.
Taking a seat, he motioned for the other men to do likewise as he
outlined his strategy. He reminded
them once more that since his body had not yet been found, there was as yet no
definitive proof that Scott Lancer was in fact dead. “At this late date, even
if the body were to be found, it’s unlikely that anyone would be able to tell
if he were struck or even shot,” Reed stated bluntly.
“Which still allows the possibility that your brother simply slipped
and fell.” Johnny stared darkly
at Reed, a challenge in his eyes, daring the man to say something, anything
about Scott maybe going willingly into that Creek. Wisely, Nicholas Reed did
is no clear motive; I would argue that a few disagreements between brothers and
some questionable statements about your brother’s will are far from sufficient
cause to commit murder. And yes,”
Reed said, holding up a hand to ward off Johnny’s objection, “I know that
Webster has emphasized that you have killed before, killed professionally.
Johnny, we’ve looked into the backgrounds of some of the jurors; quite of a
few of them came out West to start new businesses, new lives. I believe that at
least a few of them will be able to appreciate the things that I plan to say
about a man being entitled to put his past behind him in order to make a fresh
to the evidence, I will point out that it is circumstantial, remind the jury
members that you never denied being present at the damsite. Your principle
accuser is William Hayford. Rather
than attacking him directly, I will simply indicate the role which he has
consistently played throughout and suggest to the jury that perhaps he has been
. . .somewhat . . . overzealous . . .
due to his desire to see someone punished for his good friend’s
*want * to testify," Johnny insisted, still staring straight at
Reed. "And those people want to hear....no, they *need *
ta' hear somethin' from me."
looked at Murdoch Lancer. The tall
rancher sighed. “We’ve heard your advice, Mr. Reed. But in the end, it has to be Johnny’s decision.”
asked Reed, certain that his protégé, at least, would side with him.
have a tendency to agree with Johnny," Jarrod admitted reluctantly.
"Some of those jurors are looking at him as if he is a cold-blooded killer.
If he takes the stand and testifies, I believe they will be favorably impressed.
At least they will be able to see that there is more to Johnny than what the
prosecution is making him out to be."
Reed sighed resignedly, mentally throwing his hands up in defeat. "But,”
he said firmly, “Johnny, if you testify, it will be Jarrod who will do the
questioning. I am not going to be a party to helping the prosecution with their
okay with me," Johnny replied evenly.
I will count on you to advise me," Jarrod commented quietly, secretly very
much relieved at the slight nod of Reed's head. The senior defense attorney
riffled through his stack of paperwork once more, located and then handed a
sheaf of papers to his co-counsel. Jarrod glanced at the top page and smiled,
slapped the pages against his open hand, shaking his head in appreciation of the
thoroughness of Reed’s preparations.
ready for a very long afternoon," Jarrod warned Johnny.
all that?" Johnny asked, pointing to the papers in young Barkley's hand.
a list of questions I’ll want to ask you and others that you’re bound to be
asked by the prosecution," Jarrod explained patiently. "We're going to
go over these questions until I'm satisfied that you know exactly what to
expect. We don’t want your
responses to sound rehearsed, but we need to have some idea of the answers
you’ll be likely to give." He turned to Murdoch. "You might want to
ask the guard if we can have some cups and a pot of coffee sent in here."
Murdoch nodded, heading for the door. Jarrod, sitting on the edge of the table,
started with a list of do’s and don’ts, carefully explaining to Johnny what
he should and should not say and then suggesting how he might say it.
next day, Johnny Lancer was sworn in and took the stand. He knew that everyone
in the courtroom was staring at him, that most of them were assuming that he was
guilty of murdering his brother, and he was determined to face them all down.
Barkley was pleased to note that as Johnny raised his right hand and swore to
tell the truth, his voice conveyed a quiet conviction. Taking one last glance at
his notes, Jarrod rose to approach the witness stand. At the prosecutor’s
table, Marcus Webster reacted with mild surprise to the revelation that it would
be Jarrod Barkley, rather than Nicholas Reed, interrogating the Defendant.
before you came to Lancer, what did you do for a living?" Jarrod walked
over, resting his hand on the rail of the witness box.
was a gunfighter," Johnny answered calmly.
you still consider yourself to be a gunfighter?"
I put that part of my life behind me when I decided to stay at Lancer,"
Johnny replied quietly.
Webster, scribbling notes on the pad of paper before him, paused briefly in
appreciation of what he recognized as a solid defense strategy—to confront
Johnny Madrid Lancer’s past head on.
Barkley went on to lead Johnny Lancer through a series of questions concerning
the facts about his arrival at Lancer and his initial encounter with his
previously unknown brother. Johnny’s
replies were brief and to the point, all uttered in the same calm, quiet voice.
In response to Jarrod’s queries, Johnny acknowledged that he had known
and worked with Day Pardee in the past and that he had not intended to kill his
former associate when he’d shot him.
later on, Scott shot and killed Day Pardee?”
that’s right. After I told’im
to look out.”
were you angry at your brother for killing your old friend?”
couldn’t be, seein’ as how Day was about to kill one or both of us, if Scott
hadn’t shot him first.”
the prosecution’s suggestion that you might have killed Scott Lancer in order
to avenge the death of this Day Pardee is . . “
Mr. Lancer,” Judge Blackwell admonished him.
Judge.” Johnny looked at Jarrod.
“Let’s just say that idea ain’t too smart.”
turned his face towards the floor, in order to hide a smile. From the corner of
his eye, he could see a few members of the jury smiling as well.
Buoyed by the hope that Johnny was making a favorable impression upon the
jurymen, Jarrod tackled the next difficult topic.
Mr. Reed and I both warned you that if you testified in court, you would no
doubt be asked about the time that you shot your brother.”
nodded. “That’s right, you
did.” He turned to look directly
at the twelve men seated in the jury box. “I’d
do it again,” he stated firmly.
us what happened,” Jarrod suggested. Johnny
outlined the essential elements of the story involving the Velasquez brothers
and their desire for revenge on Johnny Madrid.
He carefully explained that it had been his intention to wound Scott,
that he had been convinced that if he hadn’t dropped him, that Gordon—the
Velasquez’ brothers’ accomplice on the roof--- would have put a bullet in
his brother’s back. Jarrod’s follow up questions required Johnny to give
some hint of the depth of his concern in the aftermath of the event, his fear
that his brother might not have survived.
let’s turn to some more recent events," Jarrod began. "You were
supposed to meet your brother the day he disappeared, is that correct?"
you explain to the court what happened that day, starting with when you arrived
at Grand Creek?”.
when I got to the dam I saw that Scott hadn't been there yet," Johnny
began, his voice low and quiet, yet it easily carried in the courtroom which had
become so still that one could have heard the proverbial pin drop. "I
tethered my horse and looked around at the dam while I was waitin’ for
Scott...." He paused. "Only he.....Scott....never showed up."
long did you wait?" Jarrod asked.
forty minutes," Johnny responded. He looked over at his father and then
back at Jarrod. "I thought he must have gotten held up workin’ somewhere
else so I left."
where did you go?"
went for a ride," Johnny explained, a flicker of pain crossing his face.
"I wasn’t too happy. I wanted ta' talk to Scott and I wasn’t too happy
when he didn’t show up."
you see your brother at any time during the day?"
nodded. Shifting topics, he tackled
another of the points raised by the prosecution. "Johnny, tell us about the conversation you had with
your brother about his will."
were out workin’ on the fenceline and Scott mentioned somethin' about havin’
his will done while he was visitin' his lawyer friend here in Sacramento. So I
asked him what he was leavin’ me."
what did he say?"
first he said he’d left me a picture of himself...." Johnny said with a
slight smile.. "I figured it was the one of him all fancied up in his army
uniform.” He paused, recalling that conversation. “He mentioned a coupla
other things and then he said somethin’ bout his trust fund. I asked him what
that was and he told me.”
that the end of the conversation, Johnny?”
Johnny said with a sigh. “I asked him if there was a lot of money and he said
there was enough." Johnny stared at his hands as he continued on, willing
himself to stay under control. "Scott said that the only problem was he'd
have to die for me ta collect anythin’.
only problem’?” Jarrod asked. “Scott
did tend to have a dry sense of humor, didn’t he?”
Johnny agreed softly.
prompted him. “So, how did you respond to Scott’s remark about there only
being one problem?”
looked directly at Jarrod. In the
same calm, quiet voice, he forthrightly answered his attorney’s question.
“I told him that all I'd have ta do was stop keepin’ him outta
trouble. Walt and Andy heard me say it. Then
Scott said somethin ta' Walt and Andy 'bout bein’ witnesses and . .
and then we all went back to work."
you and Scott joke like that a lot?"
....well, I mean not about his will, but other things."
it true that lately you and Scott had been having some disagreements?"
Johnny replied, reluctantly. Even though Jarrod had prepared him for all of the
questions he had posed so far, Johnny still was not eager to address their
arguments and especially that last exchange that he had had with his brother.
they due to typical sibling rivalry, normal competition between brothers or was
there more to it than that?"
looked down for a moment. "Me
and Scott.....well, we had our share of disagreements. But he wasn’t all that hard ta get along with most of the
he sometimes do things that made you angry with him?”
Nothin’ big. He brought up a mistake I made in the books in front of his
friend over there....." Johnny looked straight at Will Hayford. "and I
didn’t like that, got pretty mad at ‘im."
about the argument which took place between the two of you the day before Scott
disappeared?" Jarrod asked.
was a bigger one,” Johnny admitted reluctantly. "But, like Jelly would
say, it was mostly just horns and rattles . .
words. It seemed like lately
Scott was makin' all the decisions and expectin’ me ta follow orders.”
Johnny lifted his head and looked directly at the jurors again. “I
admit I blew up at ‘im, and said some things I’d like ta take back, but I
didn't mean anythin' by it. I would never have hurt Scott......." He
paused, and looked out over the courtroom. "And I would never have let
anyone else hurt him, either."
walked away from the witness stand for a moment, then turned to face Johnny once
more. After a brief pause, he fired
one last question across the courtroom. "Johnny, did you kill your
Johnny responded, a sad look on his face, he looked at Will Hayford, then at
Harlan Garrett and finally toward the jury. "I did not kill Scott.”
you, Johnny. No further questions, your Honor."
prosecutor casually leafed through his papers, slowly standing. "Mr.
Madrid....ah....excuse me, Lancer. You used to go by the name of Johnny Madrid,
Johnny answered, keeping his face expressionless.
Webster fired more questions at him. "Is it true that you worked as a hired
gun? Is it true that you killed for
guess you --”
simple yes or no," Webster interjected quickly. "Did you kill for
Johnny replied firmly.
the reason that you initially came to the ranch solely because your father,
Murdoch Lancer, paid you to come? He offered you one thousand dollars for one
hour of your time?"
that’s right...but..." Johnny began.
were aware that your brother had signed a will which left you as his principal
heir, is that correct?"
already said I knew that," Johnny retorted. Nicholas Reed’s head came up
at the slight note of irritation in his client’s voice.
Johnny noticed the movement out of the corner of his eye; he kept his
gaze fixed upon the tall prosecuting attorney, and renewed his resolve
not to allow the man to provoke him.
addressed Judge Blackwell. "Your
Honor," he requested, "A simple yes or no."
Lancer, you will respond with a simple yes or no," Blackwell instructed
sir," Johnny agreed with a nod, still keeping his gaze locked on Webster.
stated earlier that you waited forty minutes for your brother," the
prosecutor said, glancing at his notes. "Are you certain that it wasn't
more like twenty minutes---or an hour?"
was forty minutes," Johnny replied, pulling out the pocket watch his father
had given him. "I had this watch with me."
after waiting for him, you just went riding?"
never went back to check on him . . . . . Now, Mr. Ma—Lancer, we've had
testimony that a button from the shirt you were wearing the day Scott Lancer
disappeared was found at the dam site," Webster continued. "But you
denied that it could have fallen off while you were there—waiting for your
button was missin' when I got dressed in the morning," Johnny answered
see. And why would you wear a shirt
with a missing button?"
was the only clean shirt I had," Johnny explained. "The rest of my
clothes were in the wash.”
see," Webster murmured thoughtfully. “And
of course you have no idea how the button could have gotten to that clearing
beside the Creek . . .” he added ironically.
actually, Mr. Webster, I do have an idea ‘bo---“
Webster interrupted the witness, smoothly changing topics. "Mr. Lancer, do
you believe that Scott Lancer could sometimes be too trusting?"
he could be," Johnny agreed, with obvious reluctance.
then proceeded to ask Johnny questions in about Polly Foley, the McGloin family
and, finally, about the Cassidys, Dan and Sarah. Johnny was forced to admit that
he himself would not have helped those individuals, that, in fact, he had at the
time disagreed with his brother’s decision to aid them. No matter how hard
Johnny tried, the prosecutor still made it sound as if he was saying that Scott
had been an extremely poor judge of character and that he was very often far too
stated earlier, Mr. Lancer that you only shot your brother to keep him from
the only other person who could corroborate this is the man you claim was on the
roof, is this correct?"
Johnny agreed once more.
it true that you were friends with this..." He paused leafing through his
papers. "This Gordon, the man who you say was going to kill your brother if
you didn't shoot him?"
answer, yes or no, Mr. Lancer," The prosecutor reminded him. "It
appears that even after you were forced to shoot your brother, you remained
friendly with this Gordon. Didn’t
you let him get away?"
Johnny admitted grudgingly.
truth is," Marcus fired back. "that you wanted Scott dead even
Johnny insisted angrily. "I was a gunfighter, remember.
If I’d wanted him dead, he woulda been.”
paused dramatically, his eyebrows raised. “Please try to control your temper,
Mr. Madrid,” he said mildly.
glared at him. “It’s Lancer,”
he ground out. He knew, because he could feel their eyes on him, that Nicholas
Reed and Jarrod Barkley were watching him very closely from the defense table.
to remain calm, Mr. Lancer,” came the admonishment from Judge Blackwell.
half turned to look up at the Judge. “It’s
kinda hard ta sit here and be accused of doing something I wouldn’t ever have
Judge looked over his glasses at Johnny. “Just
answer the questions, Mr. Lancer,” he said sternly. “You’re doing fine.
Proceed, Mr. Webster.”
prosecutor tried a different tactic. “Tell, me, Mr. Lancer, didn’t you
always resent your brother--- his education, his privileged upbringing?”
I never held any of that against ‘im.”
you found out about his will, you wanted his money didn't you?"
button off your shirt was found at the river wasn't it, Mr. Lancer?" Marcus
Webster asked, again abruptly shifting the direction of his interrogation.
you really expect this jury to believe your button was missing in the
morning?" the prosecutor asked, his face the image of disbelief. "And
then it somehow mysteriously appeared at the river!"
what happened!" Johnny retorted.
truth is you lost that button in a struggle with your brother," Webster
stated theatrically. "You hit him over the head with that piece of wood and
threw him in the river didn't you?"
I didn’t kill him,” Johnny insisted. Then
looking down, he swallowed, hard. “I
didn’t kill Scott," he repeated softly.
Mr. Madrid? After all, what’s one
more victim to a killer for hire?”
Jarrod Barkley shouted angrily. Behind him, Jelly shook his head in frustration
while Teresa choked back a sob. Grim-faced,
Murdoch Lancer could only pat her hand. Chad clenched his big hands into fists
as he continued to study his cousin intently.
further questions, your Honor." The prosecutor quietly took his seat.
cautiously approached the witness stand, where his client sat with bowed head.
He knew that he had to try to undo the damage that the prosecution had done.
slowly raised his head, a weak, lopsided grin tugging at his lips.
“Well, I thought he was some just Easterner dandy, that he wouldn’t
amount ta very much.”
I was wrong.”
did you come to respect your brother?"
I sure did," Johnny replied softly.
would you say that you admire Scott Lancer?"
Johnny agreed once more with conviction.
Jarrod asked simply.
started slowly: "Scott was a hard worker, and never afraid to try
anything." Then he looked at Will Hayford and Harlan Garrett, seated side
by side in the first row behind Marcus Webster and thought about what he wanted
to say to the two men who had been privileged to know his brother for so many
years. “Scott wasn’t that easy to get to know, but
. . .Johnny stopped, then started again.
“The thing was, almost right from the beginnin’, he accepted me as
dark head bowed again, as Johnny Lancer struggled to maintain his composure.
Jarrod Barkley was giving him the chance to tell the court how he felt
about his brother and damn if he wasn’t going to get it out, so everyone could
hear. “Scott always tried ta do the right thing.
It wasn’t that he was too trusting, just that he was
. . . honorable . . . and expected other men to be the same.
He was willing to give anyone a chance. And sometimes more’n just one,
if they needed it." At that, Harlan Garrett looked up and met Johnny’s
gaze, holding it for a long moment.
you wish him any harm?" Jarrod asked.
Johnny stated emphatically.
last question, Johnny," Jarrod said gravely. He eyed his friend
speculatively, wondering how he would react to the unexpected query.
"Did you love your brother?"
looked at Jarrod, and an expression of great sadness washed over his features,
but he did not look away. "Yes,"
he said softly.
Barkley waited a few beats, until the echo of that reply had faded entirely in
the silent courtroom. Then,
finally, "No further questions your Honor," he said. Jarrod walked back to the defense table, looking at his
co-counsel, both of them knowing this had not gone quite as well as they might
have hoped, but also not as badly as they might have feared.
Jelly and Chad exchanged a worried look of their own, while on the other
side of the courtroom, Harlan Garrett looked meaningfully at Will Hayford, who
Blackwell adjourned for the day, instructing them that court would reconvene the
next morning, promptly at 9:00 a.m. Reed
and Jarrod quietly pulled Johnny into the familiar conference room and Murdoch
followed them in.
didn’t go as well as we could have hoped,” Jarrod observed with a sigh.
doesn't matter," Johnny said quietly. "I wanted the jury, my family
and friends to hear me say under oath that I didn't kill Scott."
already knew you didn't kill him," Murdoch protested vehemently.
turned to his father, smiling sadly. "Thanks, Murdoch."
four men seated themselves around the small table. Jarrod and Nicholas Reed began to explain what they expected
to happen the next day during the closing arguments.
Hoskins walked slowly from the Court House back towards the hotel in which he
and the other members of the family were staying. The grey bearded man was
sharing a room with Chad Lancer; Chad, Murdoch and Teresa had already gone on
ahead to get ready to meet the Camerons for supper. Jelly shook his head; it was sure beyond him how anybody
could be thinkin’ of eatin’ much of anything with this blasted court case
about ta come ta an end the next day. Jarrod
and that Reed fella was workin’ hard on their
. . . .’closing argumints’ was what they’d called ‘em. Johnny had done a real fine job testifyin’, real fine, but
Jelly was worried sick that it weren’t gonna be near good enough ta convince
them city slickers on the jury.
had just about reached a small park opposite a few of the other hotels, when he
recognized two men seated on a bench a short ways up ahead.
It was Mr. Garrett, Scott’s grandfather and that damned Hayford fella,
lookin’ pretty deep in conversation. Jelly
stopped, looked around and then headed over to another bench nearby and took a
seat. He wasn’t sure if the two
men woulda noticed him if he’d just walked on past, they seemed like they was
in the middle of some kinda serious discussion, but he wasn’t about ta take
any chances. The last thing he
wanted was ta have ta say anything to the likes of them.
one of the clerks came out of the hotel opposite, and hurried down the stairs,
calling out “Mr. Garrett! Mr. Garrett!”
watched with some curiosity as Scott’s grandfather slowly rose to his feet and
turned in the direction of the approaching clerk. "Yes, yes," the elderly man barked. "I'm
have a telegram from Boston for you, sir." The young man handed him the
telegram, which Garrett accepted. The
white haired gentleman pulled a coin purse out of an interior pocket of his
jacket, extracted a coin and sent the clerk on his way.
Then Scott’s grandfather resumed his seat next to Will Hayford and
opened the telegram. Even from his distance, Jelly could see that as the
Bostonian read the message, a big smile spread across his lined face. He watched
as Garrett showed the contents of the telegram to his companion.
Jelly’s eyes narrowed and he shook his head in disbelief as he saw the
joy on Hayford's face---the man almost threw his one arm around Harlan
Garrett’s shoulders. Here Scott
was dead, his brother Johnny was on trial for killin’ ‘im, and Scott’s
grandfather and his so-called friend still seemed ta have somethin’ ta
celebrate. Jelly was so anxious to find the Boss and fill him in, that it was
all he could do to stay on his bench until the two Easterners had hurried off
down the street.
in his cell for the evening, while his family ate supper at their hotel and his
attorneys, Barkley and Reed prepared for the next day’s closing arguments,
Johnny was relieved to finally be alone. After the full day of questioning, he
felt emotionally drained. Uncertain
as to whether or not the men on the jury had believed him, he reminded himself
that it wasn’t what was most important. What
was most important was that along with the jurors, his family and friends had
heard him say, under oath, that he hadn’t hurt his brother. Oh, he knew that
they’d all been nothing but supportive right from the start, but it still
mattered. It meant something, that he’d had his say.
aching, heart aching, arms folded across his chest, Johnny leaned against the
bars of the cell. He thought about
some of the things that had been said in the courtroom since the trial began.
The prosecutor had described, repeatedly, how Scott had been waiting at the
river to meet his brother. “The
unsuspecting Scott Lancer” was how the attorney had referred to him, over and
over. Webster had speculated that there had perhaps been some sort of struggle
before Scott had ended up in the water. Scott
was lean, but he was strong----the man could pack a punch, Johnny knew that
first hand. Anyone who had tried to
go after him would have had a fight on his hands.
other theory was that “the unsuspecting Scott Lancer” had been taken by
surprise, struck from behind. Johnny
went over to the cot and flung himself down on it. He tended to lean towards
that second theory himself, that Scott was much more likely to have ended up in
Grand Creek if he hadn’t ever seen it coming.
Which meant that Johnny had to wonder what might have been going through
Scott’s mind as he fell into the current.
It was bad enough to know that the last words he had exchanged with his
brother were angry ones, to be worrying about how Scott might have interpreted
the things that Johnny had said to him, but what was most disturbing was the
knowledge that Scott had been there waiting for him and therefore it was likely
that Scott had, in his last moments, believed that it was his brother who had .
. . Johnny sighed and threw his arm
over his face. He didn’t want to
think about the possibility that Scott could have gone into the creek believing
that it had been Johnny who had attacked him. More than anything, Johnny wanted
to slip into a deep sleep, to escape for a while the aching in his heart and in
his head, to avoid those painful thoughts.
he was enveloped by the cool darkness, the throbbing in his head almost
unbearable. Slipping from
consciousness would have been a relief. Yet, somehow he still managed to
struggle to maintain his awareness. It
helped that there was an urgent voice inside his head. “Put yah feet down
rivah. Always remembah, if yah fall
outtah th’ canoe, put yah feet down rivah.”
knew that he had to somehow obey that command.
The words of the crusty Maine guide had been firmly imprinted upon the
mind of a small boy awed by the white water of the mighty Kennebec.
As his face broke the surface momentarily, he gasped for breath, pulling
desperately needed air into his lungs before being drawn under once more.
properly positioned, Scott Lancer ordered himself to relax, tried to hold his
arms in close to his body, and waited for the next time that he felt air on his
face to take another breath.
had always been a strong swimmer, but there was no fighting this current,
especially when still dazed from what had to have been a blow to the head.
Bumping, scraping, tumbling, struggling to keep his feet pointed downstream and
his face turned in what he thought was the direction of the sky, he could only
wait for the next opportunity to breathe. All he could do was try to ride it
out. It was a swift, wild, ride.
the current finally slowed, it was some time before he realized it, lying on his
back in the cool water, heart pounding ferociously, taking in gasping, achingly
deep breaths. Floating down stream,
looking up into the blue sky at puffy white clouds, Scott felt drained. He lay
there as if suspended in time, lacking the strength to move, hearing only the
beating of his heart and his own raspy breathing.
The current continued to carry him gently along until he finally summoned
the energy to turn over into a swimming position, to lift up his head in an
attempt to survey his surroundings. <<You
need to get to shore, get to shore, Boston.>> he told himself.
Although it had been a few years since Scott had done any serious
swimming, he found himself automatically striking out for shore, albeit with
shaky, painful strokes. Only the
“shore” seemed to be a sandbar in the middle of the river.
But it would do. He used his aching right arm to pull his bruised and battered
body up onto the soft sand . . . .halfway was the best he could do before his
strength gave out. Lying with his
face resting on the sand and his feet still in the current, he concentrated on
trying to slow his still labored breathing.
And then blessedly slipped from consciousness.
later, Scott finally woke up, shaken into awareness once more by the tremors
wracking his body. He was cold and
damp and shivering violently. He tried to lift himself up off of the sand, but
his left arm didn’t seem to be working properly, didn’t seem to be working
at all, actually, so instead he simply rolled over onto his back. Looking up at
the sky through half closed eyes, he realized that the sun was setting; he must
have been lying here for hours. The sand under his back felt warm, but not warm
enough to quell the trembling. Slowly, and with great effort, he bent his knees,
bringing his booted feet up out of the water.
leaned on his right arm and pulled himself into a reclining position.
He looked up stream; the current was moderate up to the next bend, which
was as far as he could see. As he
stared at the flowing water of Grand Creek, impressions of being swept along by
the rushing water flashed through his mind, images that he put aside with a
shudder caused by more than just the chill from his wet clothing.
shaking with the cold, Scott heaved himself upright, until he was sitting
cradling his impaired left arm in his right hand. He recognized that he was still wearing a glove on that left
hand; it seemed so very long ago that he’d taken the right one off up at the
damsite, tucking it under his belt so that he could more easily remove the lid
from his canteen. That right glove
was long gone. Now the drying leather clung tightly to his left hand, but when
he tried to remove it, the first tug caused a sharp pain to shoot up his arm,
leaving him gasping.
felt numerous other pains as well, but it was the throbbing in his head of which
he was most conscious—he’d been struck from behind, he was sure of it.
That’s what must have sent him into the creek. But by whom?
And why? More dark thoughts to be pushed aside.
Now was not the time to try to figure out the answers to those questions
. . . . .. right now, what he needed was a fire, warmth.
Some food. Perhaps a shelter
of some sort. Scott dully forced
himself to take inventory and recognized that he had precious little besides the
damp clothes he was wearing, and even those seemed to be quite tattered. There
were visible rents in several places along his black trouser legs and his beige
shirt was also torn in several places that he could see, as well as having
precious few buttons remaining. For now he simply refused to investigate the
condition of the skin beneath those tears.
He had the one glove, a now empty holster, no jacket, no hat.
He slowly pushed himself to his feet, wavering a bit once he was standing
upright, gritting his teeth as he realized how much it hurt to place any weight
at all on his right leg. Walking
any distance was clearly going to be difficult, if not impossible.
that there really was anywhere to walk to . . . This is a sandbar, he decided, looking around.
He was not on shore, but rather on a sandbar in the middle of the stream.
as Scott stood there, holding his left arm and facing downstream, still shaking
and dazed, he saw it—a light glowing not too far away.
Someone making camp? Or was it perhaps a cabin? A fire meant much needed
warmth, but how to get there? The
thoughts had barely formed in his mind, when he knew the answer: that the
quickest means of traveling down stream would be to float in the current once
more. With grim resolve, he hobbled
painfully to the water’s edge.
returned once more to the creek, floating on his back downstream, trying to stay
close to the shoreline until he reached the vicinity of the cabin. Grasping at
roots emerging from the banking, Scott hauled himself out of the current and
limped slowly onto the shore. Dripping creek water, he forced himself to make
his way towards the cabin, following the beckoning light.
Fortunately, the log structure was only a very short distance from the
creek’s edge, albeit up a slight incline which left the agonized young man
gasping for breath. The final step up onto the low plank porch required a
tremendous effort, his concentration so focused that it never occurred to Scott
to call out to whoever might be inside. Using
his right hand as a guide, he edged past the front wall, bumping his way along
until he reached the door. Utterly
drained, he paused there for a moment, his weight resting on his right shoulder
against the logs of the cabin, unable to move his left arm, barely able to
stand. He noted dispassionately
that at some point his body had started shivering violently once more.
the cabin’s sole inhabitant had just finished his solitary supper and was
about to rise from the rough hewn table in the center of the one room.
Alerted to the possibility of a visitor by the scraping of a stool
against the planking of the platform stoop, he grasped his shotgun and quickly
stepped over to the door.
the other side of that door, Scott Lancer thought vaguely that he should try,
somehow, to knock. The young man
was not sure how much longer he could stay on his feet. Placing his right hand
against the smooth bark of the logs, he struggled to push himself upright, the
weight causing the muscles in his arm to quiver uncontrollably.
Then suddenly the door opened and light streamed out into the rapidly
descending darkness. Scott weakly lifted his head, and a feeling of stunned
surprise came over him as he stared at the curly-haired silhouette of the person
who emerged from the cabin. Barely
able to form the name through his chattering teeth and blued lips, Scott
attempted to speak to the man standing in the doorway.
he murmured, but before he could finish the thought, he slipped once more
towards the black void .
man in the doorway had lived in this cabin along the edge of Grand Creek for
some years now, and valued his solitude. Although
surprised by the name on the stranger’s lips, the cabin’s occupant still
reacted quickly enough to catch the blond man as he started to slump towards the
porch floor, in the process allowing the shotgun to clatter to the planks at
their feet. Grasping his soaking wet and shivering visitor around the waist
while pulling the blond stranger’s right arm over his own shoulder, he managed
to maneuver the barely conscious man inside.
was only vaguely aware of being eased to the floor and just felt the blessed
warmth of the fire before losing consciousness altogether. The log cabin’s
sole inhabitant, a tall man with iron grey curly hair and a large mustache of
the same color, hastily tossed a few additional logs on the fire, then returned
to the still open door to retrieve his shotgun.
He paused for a moment to quickly scan the looming darkness, before
withdrawing to the interior, pulling the door closed behind him.
rapid assessment showed him that the first order of business was to remove the
stranger’s wet clothing. He made
quick work of what was left of the beige checked work shirt, noticing the
multitude of scrapes and bruises which covered the lean torso. Some of the injuries would require treatment—later.
He noted with interest as well the older scars that the young man bore,
marks whose significance the grey haired man recognized all too readily.
of the sodden leather boots proved much more difficult; when the right one
finally came free, it revealed an ankle swollen to impressive size. Stripping
the pants away showed that the right knee was badly bruised as well, but the
heavier fabric of the stranger’s dark trousers had afforded his skin much more
protection from the rocks of the creek bed than had the thin cotton of the
shirt. Once the young blond man was
rolled into a blanket before the fire, his host readied a kettle of water.
He knew that he needed to get something warming inside of his unconscious
visitor. Next, he pulled some extra
blankets and quilts to the floor with the intention of forming a makeshift bed.
Finally, he rummaged through his trunk until he located a woolen union
with approval that the tremors which had convulsed the young man’s body were
already easing a bit, he removed the damp blanket and cast it aside; he set
about forcing first one, then the other of his unexpected guest’s legs into
the long underwear. Just as he was
about to grasp one arm, he recognized that the left shoulder was dislocated.
Calling upon his past training, he efficiently popped the shoulder back
into place and then methodically finished dressing the young stranger.
Once the buttons were fastened, a dry wool blanket was placed over the
throughout the night, he arose from his bed to tend to this person who had
washed up on his doorstep, so abruptly invading his solitude.
He crouched beside the young man lying on his floor, keeping the fire
stoked and trying to force sips of warm tea or broth between his patient’s
lips. Listening to the torment in
the stranger’s voice, trying to understand the slurred words, the grey haired
man was able to discern several names, names which would be repeated often over
the next several days as the blond stranger lay consumed by fever, reliving
unknown struggles in a fitful sleep. Johnny.
Drago. Grandfather. Carter. Murdoch.
Those were the names that were mentioned most frequently.
There were others: Will, Julie, Cassidy.
But most often, the name that he heard was Johnny.
believing that his guest must have been carried downstream by the raging waters
of Grand Creek, the grey haired man heard enough to begin to suspect that the
fall had not been an accident. He could not help but wonder which of the people
whose names had been murmured just might have played a role in initiating such a
was several days later that the two strangers came, calling out a greeting to
the inhabitant of the isolated cabin. When
its occupant appeared on his small plank porch, shotgun in hand, the two men in
cowboy hats explained that they were looking for a friend who had been swept
away by the current. They said that
the missing man’s name was Scott Lancer and that they had been sent by his
family to search for his body. Perhaps they were telling the truth.
Perhaps not. Refusing to
take any chances with the young man’s life, he told them he had not seen
anyone for quite sometime, and sent them on their way.
Turning back into the interior of the cabin once more, he addressed his
unknowing guest. “So, Mr. Scott
Lancer, who do you think sent them?” he asked the sleeping young man. “Well, at least now I’ve got a name for ya.”
man who lived alone in the cabin beside Grand Creek was not a man who trusted
easily. He had seen things, especially during the War, things that had changed
his life forever. He no longer felt comfortable living among a lot of people,
which was why he had built this isolated cabin. Occasionally someone would pass
by, but pretty much he was on his own, alone with a few animals that he kept.
He liked it that way.
the fever finally broke, it was still another day before Scott Lancer began to
be aware of his surroundings. While
still unconscious, he had been maneuvered with difficulty into the only bed in
the small cabin. The owner of the
cabin had also carefully bound and elevated Scott’s badly swollen ankle and
had partially immobilized Scott’s injured left arm which would also ease his
Upon first regaining awareness,
Scott blinked, once, then twice, and then slowly looking around the one room,
taking in the table, the fireplace. His eyes narrowed in confusion at the
unfamiliar surroundings. He was just struggling to ease himself into a sitting
position when the door to the log cabin opened and he saw a man, a tall, grey-haired
stranger, walking towards him. The man wore a dark shirt, the sleeves rolled up
to reveal another pair of grey sleeves beneath. He stood at the foot of the bed,
looking down at Scott with his arms folded over his chest.
Scott croaked, his throat dry and scratchy.
in my home, which sits alongside Grand Creek.”
Scott considered that piece of information.
you remember how you got here?”
he responded slowly, “not exactly.”
I do believe you got here the hard way.”
shook his head-- he had no recollection of arriving at the cabin, didn’t have
any idea, in fact, as to how he had come to be here. “The hard way?”
Not comprehending immediately, it was only another moment before snatches
of memory began to return to him. Suddenly,
it all came flooding back: the images of water, the flashes of sunlight, the
sensation of being carried along helplessly in the rapid current of Grand Creek,
the echo of the words of that long-ago guide, the advice about how to go “down
rivah” reverberating in his head, then drowned out by the sound of water--
rushing, churning water.
grey haired man pulled up a chair, took a seat, crossed his arms once more and
waited. Leaning back against the
pillows, Scott started slowly. “There’s
a dam up above, quite a ways, I’d guess.
It’s part of our ranch.” The stranger nodded in comprehension.
heard it’d been breeched, my father wanted us to check on it, Johnny and I.”
explained that he was supposed to meet Johnny at the dam site, how when he’d
arrived, he’d seen the tracks from Johnny’s horse, but no sign of his
brother. He told this stranger that he’d gone to fill his canteen at the
water’s edge and had heard a noise behind him. He’d started to turn,
thinking it was his brother. The
last thing Scott remembered was getting hit on the head from behind.
grey haired man nodded thoughtfully, his suspicions confirmed.
While treating some of the more serious cuts, scrapes and bruises, he had
even found the large lump on the back of Scott Lancer’s head.
And the oft-mentioned “Johnny” was, apparently, Scott Lancer’s
you didn’t see who did it?”
you think it could’ve been your brother?”
Scott said, shaking his head. He still felt somewhat confused about a lot of
things but he was certain that Johnny would not have tried to kill him. Another
concern came to mind, however, and he expressed it aloud, almost without
realizing it. “Whoever attacked
me might have . . . might have
gotten to my brother first.” Scott paused, his mind running through what had
happened to him, trying to recall every detail of what he had seen and heard at
the dam site.
stranger’s voice startled Scott, breaking his concentration.
“Oh….ah, my name is Lancer….Scott Lancer.”
I know your name. There were two men who came here looking for you. They claimed
your family sent ‘em, said they were searching for a body.
I didn’t have any way of knowing if that was true, so I didn’t let on
to them that you were here. I figured it was possible that what they were
looking for was to finish the job.”
one of the men a bit shorter than you?” Scott asked, regarding the man
intently. “Young, with very dark hair and blue eyes?”
the grey haired man replied. “One
of ‘em was a big, heavy set Mexican and the other one was an older man, about
my age. I didn’t see their hair or eyes too well though; they were both
mind reeled at this information, that two unknown men, had been searching for
his . . body. He had to consider
the possibility that his family might very well believe that he was dead. He was
now even more concerned that something might have happened to Johnny; otherwise
his brother would certainly have come looking for him. As Scott felt these
worries wash over him, he also felt a great need to be home. He struggled to sit
upright, looking around for his clothes. “I’ve got to get back to the ranch,
find out what happened.”
it easy,” the stranger advised. “You’re in no condition to go anywhere.”
I appreciate your taking me in, Mr.
…..ah…who are you? What’s
your name?” Scott asked, suddenly realizing that he knew nothing about this
benefactor leaned forward, with his elbows resting on his knees.
“You called me John when you first showed up here the other night. Do I
remind you of your brother?”
not really.” Scott stared at the
man seated beside him. He really
didn’t see any similarities at all between this man and his younger brother.
But, to his great surprise, he did recognize a slight resemblance to John
Hayford, Will’s late brother. All of the Hayfords had had brown curly hair,
and perhaps in the darkness . . . “You…you
remind me a little of a friend of mine, whose name was John.
I may have mistaken you for him.”
from around here?”
No. He was . . killed at
unreadable flickered across the older man’s face. He rose abruptly to his feet.
“Well, Scott, looks like you’ve found yourself another John.
John Jones is the name.” He
extended his right hand. Scott
grasped the hand, while carefully masking his skepticism.
He didn’t feel certain of very much at the moment, but he would have
wagered a great deal that John Jones was not his host’s true name.
more days passed before Scott had regained enough strength to move about very
well on his own, still favoring his tender right ankle and knee.
It seemed likely that he had jammed his leg hard against a rock during
his journey down stream. John Jones pointed out that Scott had been extremely
fortunate that the water level was unusually high; that fact, added to the
breech in the dam, had meant that the current had carried him over, rather than
into, most of the many rocks and boulders which filled the bed of Grand Creek.
he did not learn anything more about the background of his reticent host, Scott
found himself responding to the man’s questions with rather detailed stories
of his own life in Boston, his travels in Europe, his arrival at the Lancer
ranch and newly formed relationships with his father and brother.
Scott was typically reluctant to reveal so much of a personal nature, but
as Jones appeared to be very interested, it seemed the least that he could
do--to repay the man for all that he had done by providing him with some mild
form of entertainment.
topic of conversation was, of course, the probable explanations for the event
that had transpired at the dam site. At
one end of the spectrum was the possibility that the attack on Scott had been
part of a random act of robbery by a passing drifter; at the other, that there
had been a conspiracy to eliminate both Lancer brothers in order to take control
of the ranch itself.
the two of them made plans to return Scott to the ranch, Jones emphasized that
the younger man should keep in mind that some unknown person had most definitely
tried to kill him.
can’t just go riding back into the ranch as if nothing happened.
I didn’t spend all this time fixing you up just to have you go get
yourself shot or something right on your front doorstep.”
nodded soberly. Although he
wasn’t eager to accept Jones advice that he “shouldn’t rule out anyone”,
he certainly owed this man a great deal for “fixing him up”. In addition to nursing him through a fever, tending to his
various injuries, feeding him and even giving up his own bed, Jones had sewn up
the tears in Scott’s pants and loaned him a shirt to replace the one that he
had been wearing on his ill-fated trip down stream. The remains of Scott’s
beige work shirt had in fact been torn into strips and used to bind up his
injured ankle. Since Scott’s left
arm was still resting in a black fabric sling, it was Jones who was working on
his boots with a knife. The soaked
leather had tightened as it dried; it would be impossible for Scott to get his
feet into them without strategically placed slits. Fortunately, he had several
virtually identical pairs waiting for him back at the ranch.
I were you, I’d try to keep that arm in the sling for another few days at
least,” Jones said as he handed Scott the first boot. “Here, give this one a try.”
As Scott accepted the footgear, Jones started to work on the right one,
opening up space around the ankle. “One
thing about that sling,” Jones added, gesturing towards Scott’s arm with his
knife, “It could be a good place to conceal a weapon.”
could be,” Scott agreed readily, “if I had a weapon.” His own gun had, of course, been lost when he’d fallen into
the Creek. Although he was wearing his black belt with the silver buckle, the
leather of both it and his gun belt had been badly water-soaked, scuffed and
only reply was a nod of his head. However,
once the man had handed Scott the second boot, he crossed the room to rummage
through a large trunk that was pushed against the far wall. Intent upon tugging
at the resisting footwear with one hand, Scott was not aware of what the man was
doing until he stood beside him, holding out a gun. Scott
immediately recognized the weapon as a US Army issue sidearm; he accepted the
gun without comment and then checked to see that the chambers were loaded.
intended to leave the cabin very early the next morning, long before first
light, using Jones’ draft horse and cart. The two men had roughly estimated
the time that they expected it would take to travel to the Lancer ranch, and
hoped to arrive mid-morning, a relatively quiet time under normal circumstances,
since everyone would be about their daily tasks. Once they entered the grounds,
the plan was for Scott to remain concealed in the rear of the cart until Jones
could assess the situation.
he paced back and forth across the cabin floor, breaking in his “remodeled”
boots, Scott fervently hoped that the next day would bring a happy reunion with
his family and tried very hard not to think about the worst that he might find
when he returned to the ranch.
concentrated on trying to walk without favoring his injured right leg.
After a few passes across the small cabin floor, both his pacing and his
thoughts about what the immediate future might hold were unexpectedly
interrupted by a question about his past.
. .which unit were you in?”
halted in surprise. Jones was
standing near the cook stove with his back to him, pouring himself a cup of
was a cavalry unit. The 83rd.”
nodded thoughtfully, stirring the hot liquid in his cup, the metal spoon making
a soft clinking sound against the enameled edges. Scott went back to the chair in which he’d been seated,
lowered his head and began to try to remove his right boot.
gonna work for you?”
Scott replied with a nod, looking up at Jones from beneath uplifted brows.
“And thank you.” As the younger man returned his attention to his footwear
once more, his host threw out another question.
was it you were held?” Jones asked. Eying
his guest closely, the grey haired man noted that Scott Lancer paused
momentarily at that, then continued to use his one good arm to tug at the
tightly clinging leather on his right foot.
Libby,” was the terse reply.
paused more noticeably at that one, lifting his head, but still presenting a
profile to his interrogator. “A
little over a year,” he answered, then grunted softly as the right boot
finally came free.
year. Jones exhaled audibly in
response, then set his blue enamelware cup down on the table and went over to
toss another log into the fireplace. It
wasn’t particularly cold in the cabin, but he liked to sit and watch the
flames. He drew the second chair
into position near the fire before settling into it, blue mug clasped tightly in
two hands, the ankle of one leg resting on the other knee.
Staring into the hearth, he responded to Scott Lancer’s unasked
question. “You said a few things,
while you were sick.”
Scott felt . . . exposed.
He’d answered Jones’ queries about Boston—the man had recognized
his northeastern accent. He’d
even volunteered more information than he typically would have revealed about
his recently formed relationships with his father and brother.
But the former cavalry officer had made no mention at all of his military
service. Thus far, he had
scrupulously respected Jones’ apparent need for privacy, assuming that the man
had good reasons for wishing to keep his own identity a secret.
Scott was more than grateful for Jones’ assistance and recognized
refraining from probing questions might be some small form of partial repayment.
however, he stared hard at Jones’ grey curls, at the suspenders criss-crossing
the man’s blue shirted back. As if in retaliation, Scott fired his own
questions. “What about
you?” he asked, rather more harshly than he’d intended.
“Were you a doctor?”
grey head bowed over the cup he held in his hands. Jones expelled another audible breath. “Hhhh. I
suppose some would say so.” The head lifted again, and, keeping his eyes fixed
on the burning logs in front of him, he took a long sip of his coffee.
When he spoke, it was with deliberate emphasis. “Some might say
‘butcher’. . . . Amputations
became my specialty.” Silence
filled the small cabin, until Scott’s second boot fell to the floor with a
to stand in his stockinged feet, Scott lifted his chair with one hand and turned
it to face the hearth, still remaining somewhat behind Jones. Resuming his seat,
he struggled to adjust the knot of the black sling, trying to place it in a more
comfortable position against his neck. He watched as the pile of wood shifted, setting sparks
dancing in the open fireplace. “I
have a friend ..” Scott said finally. “The
doctors took his arm, to save his life.”
I’m sure he was eternally grateful.”
looked down at the cabin floor, then back into the flickering flames,
remembering. “No, he wasn’t,
not for long while . . . but there were others who were. And I was one of them.”
a few moments, Scott’s thoughts shifted back in time to the end of the War and
his return to Boston, a time when he had wanted to forget everything about his
role in the conflict, and especially his time in Libby Prison.
Despite an awkward reunion, his youthful friendship with Will Hayford had
been renewed and then strengthened. Although
the two men had had quite dissimilar wartime experiences, they had found
themselves connected by the difficulties that both of them were having in
attempting to gather up the threads of a former life.
What they had also had in common were the painful memories of a recent
history that stood in dark contrast to the pleasant routine of everyday events
in Boston. Each of them had been
willing, even grateful, to share a portion of that story with an old friend, one
who was capable of imagining the nightmare.
doing very well, now,” Scott concluded softly.
Jones nodded his head and stared into the fire.
No more words passed between them and a short while later they bid each
other good night.
next morning, the two men set out before dawn in the small cart to which Jones
had hitched his draft horse. They
had decided that Scott would ride up front beside the driver until they neared
the ranch, then climb into the back and hide beneath a few old army blankets. Scott glanced
at Jones and then looked doubtfully over his shoulder at the bed of the wagon.
It had seen better days; a few of the boards were splintered, a few had pieces
from a reluctance to resume the previous evening’s conversation, neither man
had very much to say, other than to offer brief comments about the route that
they were traveling. Now that they
were finally on their way, Scott could no longer avoid worrisome thoughts about
what might have befallen his family and the other people at Lancer. Of course,
there was no way of knowing what they would find when they arrived at the
hacienda. He hoped to discover that the ranch remained immersed in its ordinary
routine, and that only his sudden disappearance, and now fortunate return, had
been the sole departures from the usual round events. Scott was still very
concerned that his brother might also have been attacked by the unknown
assailant and …. Scott shook his head and tried not to dwell on the worst that
could have happened.
they had expected, it was late in the morning when Scott announced that they
were getting quite close to the ranch.
it’s time for you to get in the back.”
looked at Jones for a moment. “I
do hate the thought of hiding in the back of the wagon,” he admitted, more to
himself than to his companion.
sure you do,” the older man replied. “But it’s best to err on the side of
caution. You might not be able to do your family or anyone else any good if
you’re spotted before we can assess the situation.”
know,” Scott agreed, with a sigh. “You’re right, . . John.”
Elijah,” the older man stated quietly, without looking at Scott. “Name’s
Elijah Morse.” With a gentle “whoa, now” to the horse, he reined the
animal to a halt.
to jump down from the cart, Scott paused for a moment, surprised by the man’s
revelation, but also struck by a vague sense that there was something familiar
about that name. Unable to place
it, he simply extended his hand towards his benefactor. “Thank you, Elijah,” Scott said sincerely. “I— I
wouldn’t be here without your help.”
nodded and accepted Scott’s handshake. “You
just be careful, now,” Morse urged him. “And remember, don’t rule anyone
out. Someone wanted you dead, and they could still be here.”
hope we meet again.”
we will,” Elijah replied gruffly. “You
do know where I live.”
smiled at that, and then carefully climbed down from the cart. He entered the
wagon bed from the rear, lay down and covered himself with the blankets. He was
still in possession of Morse’s army revolver, at least until they reached the
stable. The plan was for Scott to
exit the cart when they passed the stable doors.
He knew that there would be a few shotguns or carbines hanging inside.
Once armed with his own weapon, he would be able to leave the borrowed pistol
with his friend. Scott planned to circle around and enter the hacienda from the
before they reached the Lancer arch, Morse softly informed his hidden passenger
that there were two men approaching on horseback. Lying on his back against the rough boards, shielded from
view by the blankets, Scott kept a firm grasp on the handgun. He knew that Morse had a shotgun close beside him, but the
younger man also realized that he would be the one with the advantage of
surprise, if gunplay were to become necessary. Scott listened intently to the sound of hoof beats that
were much lighter and quicker than the plodding steps of the now weary draft
horse. The riders neared them, then
evidently continued on past, one voice bidding Morse a friendly “Good mornin’.”
peered out from under the blanket, and realized that the departing ranch hands
were the Johnsons, young Walt and Walt Senior. “You recognize ‘em?” Morse
asked. Lifting the blanket away from his face, Scott identified the two men and
expressed his certainty that all must be well at the ranch, since the father and
son had so casually greeted a stranger. But
Elijah insisted that Scott stay under cover until they arrived at the stable as
planned, stressing to the younger man that he had most certainly been attacked,
even if the ranch had not. He urged Scott once again not to be too quick to
trust anyone until he found out who it was who had tried to kill him.
Scott agreed to remain out of sight in the rear of the wagon.
Of course he had invited his friend to stay on for a time, if all was
well at the ranch, but Morse had declined.
“In that case, I’d just leave you to your family reunion,” the man
had said, implying that he would have remained to help, had there had been clear
signs of trouble. The reclusive Morse was unlikely to have changed his mind,
Scott decided, and would most likely depart as soon as possible.
expected, there was very little activity immediately outside the hacienda, and
no one exited the house to offer a greeting as they drove past the front
entrance. Elijah pulled the wagon up close beside the stable doors. He looked
around and gave Scott the signal that all was clear---- that he could get out of
the cart unseen. Surveying the area as he walked the length of the wagon bed,
Scott was relieved that he did not see anything that seemed out of the ordinary.
It appeared that all of their precautions had been unnecessary, after all.
“Hello?” he asked of the dim interior of the stable. Hearing no reply, and
after a cursory examination from the entrance, Scott deposited the Army revolver
on the seat of the cart and tried to thank Morse once again.
The older man waved the words away.
“You know where I live,” he repeated.
that, Elijah Morse flicked the reins and the big draft horse moved off. Standing
in the shadow of the stable doors, Scott watched him for a few moments, then
entered the empty building to retrieve a weapon, although he now believed it to
be quite unnecessary. He quickly moved towards the tack room where he expected
to find a selection of long guns, but was halted by a familiar nicker.
Greatly pleased to see Brunswick, he immediately went over to him,
returning the horse’s greeting by stroking the white blazed face and speaking
softly to the animal. It was with a
frown of concern that he noticed that Barranca was standing in the stall next to
Brunswick. At this time of day, Johnny should be out working. .
. . this did not look good. Scott hurried into the tack room and, grabbed
a carbine. In order to load it, he
had to withdraw his injured arm from the sling; although his movements were
stiff, he decided to forego the sling for the time being. Bunching up the piece
of black fabric and stuffing it into the right pocket of his borrowed shirt, he
placed additional ammunition for the gun in the pocket on the left side.
Slipping out the back door of the stable, Scott headed for the rear of the
hacienda, planning to enter through the kitchen door.
neither saw nor heard anyone en route. Once he reached the door of the Lancer
kitchen, Scott found it slightly ajar, allowing the aroma of baking bread to
escape. He slowly pushed the door
with his right shoulder, keeping the weapon ready.
Through the narrow opening, he glimpsed Maria, dressed all in black,
except for a large light blue apron. She
was seated on a kitchen chair with some embroidery work in her ample lap. The
Mexican woman was busily winding a small skein of brightly colored silk thread
into a tight ball.
easing his way into the room, Scott turned to lean the carbine against the wall
before softly shutting the door. When
he faced Maria once more, he was greeted by an expression of shocked,
open-mouthed surprise on the woman’s face. She rose swiftly to her feet,
frantically murmuring in Spanish and crossing herself as the embroidery
materials that had been in her lap cascaded to the stone floor of the kitchen.
The tiny ball of red silk that she had been holding rolled under the
table, leaving a long tail of scarlet thread in its wake.
concern evident, Scott approached her, motioning with his right hand in an
effort to calm the obviously startled woman. “¿Cómo . . usted
clutched at Scott’s extended hand, “It is really you?” she asked, as her
tears began to flow freely down her round cheeks.
he replied, nodding reassuringly down at her, “it’s really me. .
.. Maria, where is everyone? Is
Johnny all right?”
weeping, Maria released Scott’s hand and shook her head.
At this negative response, he felt an empty feeling starting in the pit
of his stomach, but rather than pressing her for more information, Scott
urgently posed another question. “Where’s
is in Sacramento. Senorita Teresa too.”
disconcerted by this information, Scott instantly decided that there had to be a
story there. “Here, sit down,”
he urged the woman. After helping Maria settle heavily into her seat once more,
Scott crouched before her. “Now, just tell me what’s been happening, why are
they in Sacramento? . . . . And what happened to Johnny?”
Using his good arm, he started to pick up the embroidery hoop and skeins
of silk thread scattered at the woman’s feet, and place them on the table
are there with your brother. At the
court. For the trial, Juanito’s
in his task, Scott’s initial relief at learning that his brother was still
alive was immediately replaced by confusion as to why Johnny would be on trial.
His troubled blue eyes searching her face, Scott took Maria’s hand in his once
more. “Senora, you need to calm
down and tell me,” he said forcefully. “I
need to understand what’s happened.”
nodded and took a shaky breath. In
rapid, accented English, she explained that when Scott had not returned for
supper, a group of Lancer men had ridden out to the dam site.
Scott nodded in acknowledgement; it was to be expected that the search
would have started there. In response to the woman’s concerned questions as to what
had happened to him, Scott quickly explained that he had been waiting for Johnny
to return; his brother’s tracks had indicated that he had reached the spot
ahead of him. He told Maria that
while he was at the water’s edge, he had heard someone behind him; he’d said
his brother’s name, but had heard no reply, then been struck from behind and
gone into the water, without ever seeing his assailant.
was not Juanito!”
I’m sure it wasn’t, “ Scott agreed, looking up at her from his crouching
friend, that Senor Hayford, he says that it was your brother who struck you!”
slid his glance to the floor, and then slowly rose to his feet.
He was extremely dismayed by this news, though he could hardly claim to
be completely surprised, given Will’s repeatedly expressed concerns about
Johnny and his past. Maria continued speaking in an aggrieved tone, explaining
that it was Will who had seen to it that Johnny was placed under arrest, and
insured that there would be a trial.
fact that it had come to that, to a trial, gave Scott pause. He had always had a
great respect for the law, faith in the legal system.
As confident as he was that his brother could not possibly have been the
assailant, Scott couldn’t help but wonder about the sort of evidence that
could have brought all this about. “Why?
Do you know what reasons he gave?”
says that Juanito killed you for your money!”
stared down at Maria, shaking his head, in total disbelief.
Then, because that was not quite the question that he had meant to ask,
he tried a second time. “What I
meant was, what proof did he think he had against Johnny, that was enough to
bring about a trial?”
said something about arguments, about tracks, something about a button, mixing
Spanish in with her English and speaking so quickly that Scott couldn’t
decipher it all. But he understood
exactly what she meant when she said that if he was found guilty by the jury in
Sacramento, Johnny could hang. He felt a flash of cold fear for his brother,
followed by one of hot anger towards Will, both quickly tempered by his
compelling need for more information.
Maria, have you had any news from Murdoch? Do you know what’s happening in
Sacramento? Tell me, please, and slowly . . .”
drew a deep shaky breath. “Senor
Lancer, he promised to send word as soon as the jury decides.
Senor Johnson’s son, he was there, he came back, he says that the
trial, it will end on Thursday—that is in two days!”
gave a quick nod and turned to exit the kitchen, heading towards the main part
of the hacienda.
Scott, where are you going?”
Sacramento,” he answered in a matter of fact tone. “I’ll need to get a few things together.
But I’ll come back down here before I go.”
nodded, rising from her seat and waving her hands at him to leave.
“You go, I will prepare some food.”
the doorway, Scott turned back towards her.
don’t tell anyone I’m here.”
went directly to the Great Room and opened the cash box to retrieve some money.
He frowned at the small amount that remained, then realized Murdoch would have
had to pretty much deplete the house funds for his own trip to Sacramento. As he
headed upstairs, Scott wondered how much cash he had available in his room.
in his bedroom, he went to the armoire, quickly removed clothes for the trip,
and laid them on his bed. Scott limped over to his dresser, opening the top
drawer and found his money pouch. He sighed in relief, remembering that he had
received a gift of money from his grandfather for his birthday and that he had
put it aside for a rainy day. Clothes, money, . . . . Scott paused for a moment,
remembering what Elijah’s warnings. There might be someone out there who still
wanted him dead; he needed a gun.
crossed the hall and entered Johnny’s room. Looking around, he was first
surprised, then dismayed to see his brother’s gun belt hanging on the bedpost.
Scott thought about taking the gun from the holster, but hesitated at using the
one that Johnny typically carried. He walked over to Johnny’s armoire. He
opened the left door and saw a couple of clean shirts, neatly folded; opening
the right door revealed several intricately tooled leather belts. One in black
leather caught his eye, as it had a matching gun belt, both with silver buckles
similar to what he was wearing, and both were devoid of design.
His own belt was scuffed and torn from his trip down stream; his gun belt
with its empty holster had been left behind at Elijah Morse’s cabin. And, of
course, his gun was somewhere on the bottom of the creek bed. He frowned as he
remembered that that gun had been his first gift from Murdoch.
decided to borrow the matching black leather belts; although the holster was
empty, the gun belt was already supplied with a row of bullets.
As he removed them from the cabinet, he noticed that there were in fact
some designs incised in the leather, small stars and a good sized Lancer “L”
on the left hip. He smiled thinking that he’d have to ask Johnny if he’d
done that so he could keep track of his left and right.
smile quickly faded from the elder Lancer’s face when he thought of where his
younger sibling was. Although certain that his brother would have several other
weapons secreted about his room, Scott decided not to waste any more time in a
search. Seizing Johnny’s gun from
the belt hanging on the bedpost, Scott hurried back into his own room.
there, the young man stripped out off his borrowed shirt and, moving carefully
so as not to aggravate his injured arm, he put on a dark blue one of his own.
It took a few moments of concerted effort to remove his boots, but
finally Scott tossed the cracked and slitted leather aside and selected another
pair from his wardrobe. Next, the mended black pants he was wearing were
exchanged for a pair of dark brown ones, with the new black leather belt
slipping easily through the waistband loops. It was quickly joined by the
matching gun belt, with Johnny’s six gun secure in the holster.
After pulling his boots on with one hand, Scott then crossed to the
armoire once more and removed his caramel colored jacket.
As he slipped it on, he winced in pain at the twinge in his left arm. He
decided that perhaps he should keep his arm in the sling until he reached
Sacramento. Thinking that he would ask Maria to help him readjust it, he grabbed
the square of black fabric from the pocket of Morse’s plaid shirt.
He quickly packed a few additional items and then headed towards the
Scott entered the room, carrying a pair of saddle bags, he was surprised to find
Cipriano Sanchez waiting there in the kitchen with Maria.
“Senor Scott,” the Lancer Segundo greeted him, relief flooding his
features as he extended a hand towards the younger man.
“Dios mio. It is true.” Scott dropped the saddlebags on the kitchen table in order to
grasp the older man’s hand, but shot a questioning glance towards Maria.
She hastily moved forward to reassure him.
“Senor Sanchez was with those who were searching . . he can tell you
more what happened…”
nodded and withdrew the black sling from the pocket of his jacket.
“Por favor . ,” he murmured, handing the fabric to Maria and then
holding his left arm in position. As
the older woman hastened to comply with his unspoken request, her eyes filled
with concern, Scott looked expectantly at Cipriano.
than supplying Scott with information, it was Cipriano who quickly posed several
questions. “Senora Alvarez says that you were hit from behind, that you did
not see anyone?”
that you were carried down with the Creek, a great distance?”
shook his head sadly. “We
searched on foot for a very long way, Senor, we could not believe that you would
still be alive. The men, they have
still been looking for . .for your
nodded soberly as Maria reached up to fasten a knot at his neck. He had
certainly considered that possibility back at the cabin, that his family and
friends would most likely assume that he had perished.
But the Segundo’s next words sent a chill through him.
thought that you were dead; Senor Lancer even sent word to Bos-ton
to . . . su abuelo—to your grandfather.”
grandfather was informed?” Scott asked with considerable dismay.
a telegram. I myself carried the
message to town.”
had only a few moments to consider this information and the impact that such
news would likely have had upon the elderly man. Since his grandfather’s disastrous visit to the ranch, and
the stunning betrayal of his blackmail attempt, the two men had communicated in
a few short, stiffly worded letters. But Scott still knew that despite the rift
between them---or perhaps because of it---his grandfather would have surely
taken the news very hard indeed.
Cipriano was intent upon discussing a matter of more immediate concern—the
accusations against Johnny and the trial taking place in Sacramento.
“The trial will end on Thursday, that is in two days,” he informed
Scott, repeating the same information that Maria had shared.
certain of that?”
the Segundo replied. He explained that young Walt had been in Sacramento to
testify and that the ranch hand had returned with the news. Scott raised an
eyebrow at the angry tone that the older man used to impart this information.
assume that Walt testified on Johnny’s behalf?”
nodded in affirmation. “But there
was another one, Stovall, he goes to the court to speak against your brother.”
Is he here now?”
big foreman shook his head quickly. “No,
Senor, that one, he did not return.” After a short silence, it was once more
Cipriano’s turn to ask a question. “And you, you did not see who it was?”
he asked again.
I didn’t,” Scott confirmed. “What
more can you tell me?” he asked, again regarding Cipriano expectantly.
did not do this thing! He did not!”
was aware of Maria, standing on his other side, nodding emphatically. <<Do
they really believe it is necessary to persuade me of that?>> he
wondered. Aloud, he posed a
question to his father’s Segundo.
do you suppose that it might have been a robbery, perhaps some one just passing
foreman shook his head, explaining that there had been no sign that any of
Scott’s possessions, including his carbine, had been tampered with. Scott
nodded in quick comprehension; he had seen Brunswick safely in his stall and
surely a thief would have taken the horse.
While he was considering this, however, he almost missed something else
that Sanchez was saying: “we could find no other tracks . . “
regarded the older man intently. “There were no other tracks?”
Senor. Your footprints only, and
Juanito’s . . and the tracks of
your two horses.”
there had to have been some sign that someone else was there.”
Senor,” the big Mexican repeated, shaking his head. “There was nothing that we could find.” “It was not su
hermano who did this!” he hastened to add, disturbed by the troubled
expression on Scott Lancer’s face.
someone did,” was the quiet response.
he thinks that he knows who it was who struck you.”
head lifted at that, a hopeful expression on his face, as he waited for Cipriano
to elaborate upon Johnny’s theory, an expression that disappeared quickly when
he heard the Segundo’s reply. “He
fears that it was your friend, Senor Hayford. Right away, he makes sure that
Juanito is put in jail, it is Juanito that he says did this thing.”
know that,” Scott said unhappily, “Maria told me. But Johnny actually thinks that it was Will who tried to kill
shook his head. “I can’t
believe it was Will . . I’ve known him for a very long time . . . he stopped in mid sentence,
stunned by the fierce expression on Cipriano’s face.
The big man actually spit on the stone floor of the kitchen before he
unleashed an angry stream of Spanish—something about a “gringo” being
believed before a Mexicano.
could only stare at the older man in silence, quickly arranging his own face
into a carefully neutral expression, while on his other side, Maria launched
into her own a torrent of rapid espanol, apparently demanding to know, amongst
other things, how Cipriano could speak in such a manner to Senor Scott?
all right, Maria, “ Scott said quietly, placing his right hand upon her
shoulder. Looking Sanchez directly
in the eye, he slowly explained that his doubt that Will Hayford was the
assailant did not mean that he believed Johnny to be the guilty party.
“Johnny is my brother. I
trust him,” he stated firmly. “But
you need to understand that Will and I . . we grew up together, and
. . .and I trust him as well.” Only then did Scott remove his hand from
Maria’s shoulder and allow his gaze to glide away from the foreman’s face.
“Now it seems that they’ve accused each other.”
in turn placed her hand on Scott’s arm. Looking
up at Scott, she spoke quickly, earnestly.
“Even though you did not share your boyhood, you and Juanito, you are .
. .” she stopped and sighed, searching for the right words.
“Usted son de verda hermanos del corazón.”
puzzled expression, she translated slowly. “You are true brothers
. . .brothers of the heart.”
expression brightened momentarily at the phrase, and she could see that the
small smile reached his eyes before he lowered his gaze to the floor.
Thus encouraged, Maria continued, in a motherly tone. “I cannot speak
for your . . for your friend; that
is for you to say. But, for Juanito . . . you go, you will see.”
Then, more insistently, she added, “You go and see your brother, you
will know that he could not have done such a thing.
Go to Sacramento.”
he replied slowly, meeting her eyes once more. “I intend to do just that.”
Still stung by Cipriano’s accusation, Scott gave the Segundo another
long look. “I plan to pick up the
stage in Morada—no one will recognize me there,” he informed him. “I’ll
leave my horse in a stable. Perhaps, Cipriano, you can send one of the men after
Scott was addressing the foreman, Maria retrieved from the sideboard the food
that she had packed for the young man’s journey. Now she pressed the package into his free hand.
Placing her own hand on his chest, where it was crossed by the black
sling, she spoke reassuringly once
more. “Hermanos del corazón,” she repeated.
“You will know, when you see him, you will know in your heart.”
looked down at her and, although he nodded his agreement, she was dismayed to
glimpse an immeasurable sadness in the light blue eyes.
sure you’re right, Senora, I know you’re right. Its just that . . .” Scott turned away, and started towards
the door, burdened with worry about Johnny, Will and his grandfather. His mind
was filled with troubling thoughts: of his brother’s anger and the heated
words that had passed between them, of his friend’s distrust and the
persistent questions he’d been asked, of his grandfather, sitting alone in the
big house in Boston, holding that telegram.
concern followed him. “What? What is it?”
stopped, but did not look at her. “It’s
just that . . . . . .
he said, then sighed. “My
heart’s been wrong before,” he finished softly. Picking up the carbine, he
walked out through the kitchen door towards the stable.
Maria watched him for a long moment, holding her apron and sadly noting
both his slight limp and the weary slump of the young man’s normally erect
shoulders. She turned to Cipriano,
handing him the forgotten saddlebags and fiercely instructed him to go and help
the saddlebags, Cipriano Sanchez obeyed Maria’s instructions and followed the
patron’s eldest son into the stable. The
usually stolid Mexican already regretted his uncharacteristic outburst.
It was simply a miracle that Senor Scott had survived being carried so
far downstream--- un milagro verdadero!-- and he in no way could be blamed for
any of the events that had taken place after his disappearance: the hours of
fruitless searching, and then the bewildering speed with which Johnny had been
arrested and turned over for trial. If
he was found guilty, Johnny’s life could very well be forfeit, so the big
foreman had wanted very much to travel to Sacramento to speak on Juanito’s
behalf. He had swallowed his anger in the face of Senor Barkley’s
reluctant explanation that the Segundo’s testimony would not be likely to be
as helpful as that of others who would be perceived as having more in common
with the members of the Sacramento jury. Cipriano
had understood exactly what the lawyer from Stockton was trying so very hard not
to say directly, and it had only fueled his conviction that Juanito himself
would not fare well in the trial, if he was to be judged by such men.
there was no reason to be angry with Senor Scott, who had, after all, been the
one who had nearly been killed. Not
only had the blond Senor Lancer never been known to distinguish in any way
between Mexicans and Anglos, but he had also, despite Johnny’s notorious past,
always seemed supportive of his younger brother. Even today, after he had
learned that there was no evidence that anyone else had been at the clearing,
Senor Scott had still repeatedly expressed his conviction that Juanito could not
have been the one who had struck him. But
the lack of other signs had concerned Cipriano, who had come to believe that the
elder Lancer had not been attacked at all, but had somehow simply slipped and
fallen into the current.
Senor Scott was here, and he had clearly stated that he had been attacked, hit
from behind. Something that only a coward would have done!
If only he had seen something which would help to identify the true
criminal. The young man was doing
the right thing, Cipriano thought with approval, going immediately to
Sacramento, to try to stop this trial. Cipriano did question Scott’s plan to meet the stage in
Morada, when there were several closer stops, but, as he stepped into the dim
interior of the stable, the grim realization flashed.
“No one will recognize me there,” that was what Senor Scott had said.
Cipriano berated himself that in his joy that the elder Lancer son had
returned home alive, and his fear that the life of the younger son remained in
jeopardy, he had overlooked the very real possibility that Senor Scott himself
could still be in danger. Whoever
had attacked him might very well do so again, once it became known that he had
eso, I will do that,” Cipriano said gruffly.
Scott was standing just outside Brunswick’s stall, about to remove his
left arm from the black sling. Their eyes met briefly as Cipriano handed over
the saddlebags, but neither man uttered another word. Removing the horse’s
bridle from its place on the wall, Cipriano approached the animal and set to
work. Scott stood by quietly and
watched while the Lancer foreman efficiently saddled the chestnut horse.
When the time came, Scott slipped the carbine into the boot; Cipriano
then fastened the saddlebags in place. It was only when the Segundo began to
attach a bedroll that Scott finally spoke.
won’t be needing that. I plan to
ride through the night, sleep on the stage.”
nodded and tossed the bedroll aside. Scott
grasped the bridle and began to lead Brunswick out of the stable.
“Thank you,” he said sincerely, looking back over his shoulder.
Scott, . . .I should not have
spoken as I did.”
nodded in turn, but made no other reply. Even in the dim light, Cipriano could
see from the expression on his face that the younger man was still puzzled by
that forceful reaction.
they were out in the daylight, Scott turned to his father’s Segundo and
finally asked the question that he had been so reluctant to pose.
“Tell me, Cipriano, did anyone see my friend Mr. Hayford riding out
towards the dam that day?”
Senor, I have asked the men and there is no one who says that he has seen
nodded. Glancing around the yard,
he commented on how quiet it seemed. “Where’s
Jelly?” he asked.
is in Sacramento, to speak in the Court.”
in Cipriano’s tone gave Scott an inkling of what might be bothering the
foreman. “You didn’t go,” he observed mildly.
older man shook his head. “Senor
Barkley, he says that the others, they are enough to speak for Juanito.”
see,” was all that Scott said in reply, but the look that passed between them
led the Segundo to believe that perhaps he did.
good that you’re here, to keep an eye on things.”
brother, he needs you. You must go
that reminder, a cloud settled over Scott’s fine features once more. He shook
the foreman’s hand, then climbed aboard Brunswick; encumbered by the sling and
his other injuried, his mount sadly lacked its usual fluid grace.
Once astride his horse, Scott Lancer gave Cipriano a final nod, then
cantered off, riding purposefully away from the hacienda and beneath the Lancer
arch. Cipriano watched him
for a moment, turning when he heard the footsteps behind him.
It was Senora Alvarez, holding another package of food.
“You are going?” she asked him in Spanish.
“Si,” he responded as he accepted the small sack and headed off to
saddle his own horse.
Lancer was true to his word; he did ride through the night, keeping Brunswick at
a moderate, mile-eating pace, as he unknowingly traveled under the watchful eye
of Cipriano Sanchez. The Lancer
foreman maintained enough distance to avoid detection, yet remained close enough
to be of assistance should Senor Scott encounter any trouble.
Once in Morada, he watched as the young blond man dismounted at the stage
depot and went inside to pay for his trip to Sacramento.
Apparently, he also made arrangements to stable the weary Brunswick, as
an unknown man soon appeared to collect the horse and lead the animal off down
the street. Sanchez noted with interest that Scott also visited the telegraph
office before heading over to the nearby saloon.
Cipriano had wondered whether or not he himself should send a wire on to
Senor Lancer in Sacramento, but apparently now Scott had done so. The foreman could not specifically recall telling the young
man where his father was staying, but perhaps the son knew of a preferred hotel.
Cipriano continued to wait patiently for half an hour or more, until the stage
finally rumbled in, and he could be assured that Senor Scott was safely inside.
Once the coach had departed, leaving a cloud of dust swirling down the main
street of Morada, Cipriano rode off in search of the stables.
the stage, Scott nodded a weary greeting to his three fellow passengers and then
leaned his head against the inside wall of the coach and closed his eyes.
He was all too well aware of the multitude of aches and pains that were
souvenirs of his journey down Grand Creek, now exacerbated by the long night in
the saddle. Somewhat fortified by the bit of breakfast which he had purchased at
the saloon in Morada, he saved the remainder of the biscuits and other staples
which Maria had packed for later in the day.
Scott knew that his chances of being able to sleep while being jounced
around inside the noisy vehicle were small, but he was more than tired enough to
try. Just as they had throughout the night, the same questions
plagued him; he’d only been able to escape his troubling thoughts during the
early morning hours, when the mind numbing rhythm of Brunswick’s movement had
finally lulled him into a dull trance. Now
the same questions were again bouncing around inside his skull. How could
Will—or anyone else—have believed that Johnny would actually try to kill
him? Did Johnny truly believe that Will had been the assailant? How could there
have been enough evidence against his brother to warrant a jury trial?
And why hadn’t there been any signs of anyone else having been at the
dam site? Just as they had
throughout the night, the same questions remained maddeningly unanswered, until
Scott Lancer finally drifted off to a fitfully light sleep.
that afternoon, just as Scott was nearing the Sacramento city limits, Jelly
Hoskins was shaking his head as he watched Harlan Garrett and Will Hayford walk
down the street away from him, still deep in animated conversation.
The Lancer handyman hurried off towards the hotel at the far end of the
street, thinking that he might as well join the Boss, Teresa and Chad in the
dining room with the Camerons. Perhaps
the company would somehow manage to distract him from his worries about the next
day in court and those “closin’ argumints”.
the corner and down a side street, Jarrod Barkley exited the jail after having
spent some time visiting with his client. The
lawyer from Stockton had great faith in the abilities of his mentor, Nicholas
Reed, and was actually feeling quite optimistic about the closing argument that
would be presented in court the next day. But
he was disturbed that during their visit just now, Johnny had seemed so
downcast. The younger man had been
quite pensive and had said some rather surprising things.
was even more surprised to look up and see Scott Lancer’s grandfather
approaching him. He was more than a little displeased to see that the elderly
gentleman was accompanied by Will Hayford.
stopped and politely returned the man’s greeting. “Hello, Mr. Garrett,” he
said, sparing Hayford only the briefest of nods.
Barkley, it is imperative that I speak with Johnny Lancer immediately!”
was taken aback. While it was true
that both he and Reed believed that Garrett’s testimony had helped rather than
hurt Johnny’s case, Scott’s grandfather was still a
witness and it would be highly irregular for him to engage in
conversation with the defendant while the trial was still ongoing. “Well, Mr.
Garrett,” he said slowly, “I’m afraid that . .”
Hayford interrupted him. “Mr.
Barkley, I have already explained to Mr. Garrett that, as prosecution witnesses,
we would not be allowed to visit with Johnny Lancer---unless he requested to see
us and unless, of course, one of his attorneys was present.”
true,” Jarrod said, addressing Harlan Garrett.
yes, I understand; as he said, William explained all that.”
defense attorney was still more than a little perplexed and made no effort to
hide it. “What exactly was it that you wished to talk to Johnny about, Mr.
have important information about my grandson-“ Garrett began forcefully.
Mr. Garrett would really like to speak with Johnny in person,” Hayford
interjected, placing his hand on the older man’s arm.
would be most appreciative, Mr. Barkley, if you might see your way to assist me
in this,” Harlan Garrett concluded in a dignified tone.
inside the jail, Jarrod relayed the startling request to Johnny.
“I have a feeling that Nicholas would not be in favor, Johnny, but
since you just finished telling me that you would like a chance to speak with
Scott’s grandfather, . . .
‘preciate that, Jarrod,” Johnny said softly. He leaned against the bars of
the cell, his arms folded across his chest. “Ever since he testified, I’ve
been . . I’ve felt like I maybe
might like ta talk with the man . . about
nodded in understanding.
now he’s here and he says he has somethin’ to tell me, I guess I’m willin’
t’ hear what he has ta say.”
Johnny, you realize that I will have to be present while the two of you talk.”
indicated his acceptance. “If that’s the way it has to be.”
don’t mind telling you I’m concerned about what this ‘information’ that
he has for you might be.”
where I’m sittin’ I don’t see that there can be much harm in it.”
sighed. He felt pretty certain that
Nicholas Reed, who was even now hard at work polishing the final draft of his
summation, would greatly disapprove of the meeting that his co-counsel was about
to arrange between Johnny Lancer and his late brother’s grandfather.
Murdoch Lancer had been a close friend of Jarrod’s own late father and,
after Tom Barkley’s death, the tall rancher had remained in contact with the
family. Once his own sons had
arrived, Murdoch had been more than proud to introduce them to the Barkleys and
Jarrod had hit it off particularly well with Scott. While he knew that it could
not begin to approach the degree of pain that Johnny must be feeling, Jarrod
Barkley was keenly aware of a personal sense of loss.
He also couldn’t help but think of the close relationships which he
enjoyed with his own three siblings, and he had therefore been sympathetic to
Johnny’s wish to have the opportunity to talk about his older brother with the
man who had known Scott longer than anyone else, his grandfather.
just that they . . well, they just didn’t seem to want to tell me anything
about what this information is. I
have a feeling that what they really want is to witness your reaction to it.”
is with Garrett. Of course, he isn’t going to be coming in.”
thought about that for a moment. “Why not?” he asked, his voice taking on a
hard edge. Because I sure can think
of a few things I’d like ta say to him.”
his attorney said firmly. Johnny sighed, knowing that he really shouldn’t try
to change Jarrod’s mind.
he finally disembarked from the stage in Sacramento, Scott Lancer realized that
it was too late for Court to still be in session, and immediately asked for
directions to the jail. Fortunately,
it sounded as if it wouldn’t be that far on foot, but Scott still arranged to
leave his things at the depot for the time being. He hurried down the city
streets, through the shadows of buildings cast by the declining sun, until, at
long last, he came upon the city jail. Once
inside, he informed the young man at the desk that he wished to see one of the
prisoners, Johnny Lancer. The
jailer replied that visiting hours were be over in another half hour and
gestured to the log book lying open on his desk, indicating that Scott should
sign his name at the top of the freshly turned page. It was the thought of
seeing his name written so prominently on the new page that prompted Scott to
identify himself as “Scott Garrett.” While
the visitor slowly unfastened his gun belt with one hand, the guard glanced down
at the name on the register, commenting that there was a relative already
inside, visiting with Johnny Lancer. <<Murdoch?>>
Scott wondered hopefully.
Scott had relinquished his weapon, the man opened the door to the cellblock.
Inside another guard, a pleasant faced older man with greying hair stood to
greet Scott and in response to his query for “Lancer?” pointed to the left,
adding “He’s all the way at the end.” Immediately, Scott heard the
unmistakable sound of his brother’s voice, speaking to someone with low
intensity. Intent upon his goal,
Scott did not realize that the guard had followed partway, not until he heard
the man’s voice cheerfully announcing, “Right there, there you are.”
turned and looked in the direction of the newcomer, and then very slowly reached
out to grasp the bars of his cell with both hands.
Scott felt that there were other pairs of eyes in the room, he could feel
that they were locked upon him, but for the moment he saw only his brother’s
eyes—startlingly blue and gazing at him in wonder.
Scott Lancer stared back. And
he saw at once that Maria had been right. <<Hermanos
del corazón.You are
true brothers of the heart>> As soon as he looked at Johnny, Scott did know the truth; his
eyes confirmed what he had, in his heart, already believed.
And with a heartfelt smile, he offered up a mild greeting. “It’s good
to see you, Brother.”
Johnny breathed, his voice barely a whisper, his knuckles white as his grip on
the bars tightened. “Is it really
you, Boston?” Scott simply nodded
wordlessly; when he did open his mouth to speak, he was interrupted by the sound
of his own name.
and then suddenly, improbably, it was his grandfather walking towards him, hands
out stretched. Startled to see the
elderly man here, Scott nonetheless hastened to approach him.
“Grandfather, it’s good to see you, Sir,” he said as the two of
them shook hands affectionately. “I never expected you to be in California; I
sent a wire home, so that you wouldn’t worry,” Scott added with concern.
“Yes, yes, it was forwarded to me here from Boston,” his grandfather
assured him. “As soon as I
received it, I came straightaway to tell your brother.”
Jarrod Barkley stepped forward, the look of wonder on his face giving way to a
welcoming smile as he offered his own handshake. “Scott, it’s
. . it’s good to see you.
Welcome back! Are you all right?”
Scott greeted the attorney warmly. “Yes, yes, I’m all right.”
had never in his life been so happy to see anyone—not even that Pinkerton
agent, the one who had rescued him from the Mexican firing squad.
Johnny had spent plenty of time thinking about Scott over the past few
weeks, imagining him showing up, walking in .
. now that he was here, Boston sure was a sight for sore eyes.
Didn’t seem too much the worse for wear, either.
Had one arm in a sling, but other than that . . .
Studying Scott a bit more closely, Johnny could not only see a fading
bruise on the older man’s cheek, almost hidden by a day’s growth of dark
stubble, but also a weariness in his brother’s eyes, greater than any he had
ever seen there before.
his voice sounded tired. Scott
approached the bars, reaching through them to lightly touch Johnny’s forearm.
“The first thing that we need to do,” he said, “is get you out of
happened?” Johnny demanded. “Why couldn’t we find you?”
Garrett and Jarrod Barkley joined Johnny in regarding Scott with eager
curiosity. Scott stood near the
bars of his brother’s cell, one hand resting lightly on his hip, his other arm
still cradled in the black sling. “Well,” he began, “I was carried
downstream, quite a ways . . . ..
you fall, Scott, or were you attacked,” Jarrod asked.
looked directly at Jarrod. “I
did you see who it was?”
me,” Johnny said firmly, eyeing Scott carefully.
know,” Scott replied quietly. Gripping
the bars with his right hand, Scott addressed the attorney.
“Jarrod, I assume that since I’m here, and since I haven’t been
murdered, the charges against Johnny will be dropped.”
sighed. “Well, Scott, the charge
is actually attempted murder,” Jarrod explained slowly. “So your being alive does not close the case.
The final arguments are scheduled for tomorrow.
Nicholas Reed is the lead attorney on the case, and he had hopes of
creating a reasonable doubt by suggesting that you simply
. . had an accident and fell into the creek.”
I should have stayed away a few days.” Scott commented dryly.
at all, I didn’t mean that,” Jarrod quickly replied. “But the surest means of getting the charges dropped would
be if you could identify your true assailant.”
shook his head ruefully. “As I
told you, I didn’t see anyone; in fact, I never saw it coming.”
we need to figure it out, Scotty!” his grandfather declared. “Who could have
hated you enough to try to kill you?” The other three men regarded Scott
speculatively; until Harlan Garrett ventured another question. “Do you think
that it could possibly have been related to that escape attempt?”
shook his head. “No, Sir. Dan Cassidy wrote to the families of the men, he
explained to them what really happened. He
took full responsibility and cleared my name.”
was surprised to hear that Cassidy had done that; he hadn’t been all that
impressed with the man. But he had
a question of his own, for Scott’s grandfather.
“Something I was wondrin’ about, Mr. Garrett.” The dark haired young man paused momentarily, then forged
ahead. “How come you’re so certain I didn’t do it?”
Scott watched somewhat apprehensively, the elderly gentlemen drew himself up.
“You heard my testimony, did you not?” he asked Johnny severely.
“It has been made quite . .
.clear to me that Scotty holds you in high regard. And he has often mentioned
how clever you are.” Seeing that
Johnny was not altogether satisfied with this answer, Garrett continued.
“Johnny, if you were going to kill
your brother, how would you go about it?”
if you were going to do so?” Harlan
suppose you want me to say that I’d shoot ‘im,” Johnny said coldly.
thought that he sensed where his grandfather was going with this.
“Somewhere remote, out on the trail,” he suggested lightly. “When
we were alone, far from home.”
Johnny conceded, his dark eyes unreadable. “That would be easy enough, say it
was someone else---”
I don’t think that explaining how you would go about killing your brother
would be a good defense strategy,” Jarrod couldn’t help commenting.
point is,” Garrett said with a dignified air, “that Scotty has several times
described Johnny as being rather intelligent. Leaving evidence behind certainly
Hayford had told Mr.Garrett that he would take a walk around the jail to “try
to clear his head” while the older man was inside visiting with his
grandson’s half-brother. Eager to
resume his conversation with the elderly gentleman, Hayford now entered the
jailhouse to see if there was any sign of Harlan.
sandy haired young man at the desk greeted him in a friendly manner.
“Hi there, Captain Hayford!” Since Will had been in practice with a
prominent firm in Sacramento for several months now, he was of course easily
recognized by almost everyone who worked in the city’s legal system.
Ben Howell was another transplanted Easterner and had been employed at
the jail for a little over a year. Howell
had signed on as a very young Union private for the final months of the War and
had been fascinated to learn that “Captain” Hayford--- as he insisted on
calling him--- had actually been on the battlefield at Gettysburg. So far,
however, Hayford had had very little to say about any of his experiences during
the War, to Howell’s great disappointment.
the jailer’s greeting politely. “Hello, Ben.
How are you this evening?”
fine, sir.” Ben noticed that the
one-armed ex-soldier seemed to look rather tired. “Long day in court, sir?”
he asked sympathetically.
might say that,” was Will’s weary reply as he sat down in the chair in front
of the desk. “There was a great
deal of . . very . . enlightening . .testimony.”
Howell made some response, but Will Hayford did not hear him.
As he glanced done at the visitor’s register lying open on the desktop
in front of him, he saw, in very familiar handwriting at the top of the page the
name “Scott Garrett”. He quickly stood up and reached for Howell’s pen, hastily
signing his own name below Scott’s. “Well, I’d better get in there and see
my client,” he told the young guard with a smile.
“Perhaps we can sit and exchange a few war stories when I’m
thing, Captain,” Howell replied with a pleased grin. “Didn’t know you had anybody back there tonight. You just
go right on in.”
Will hurriedly approached Johnny Lancer’s cell, he could see that Scott was
there, talking with his brother, his grandfather and Jarrod Barkley. Johnny
noticed him first, his eyes narrowing as he took in Will Hayford’s happy
Will exclaimed jubilantly.
acknowledged him coolly. “Hello, Will.”
good to see you!” Will said, coming up on Scott’s right, between Scott and
the bars of the cell, so that he could place his hand on Scott’s shoulder, and
see him clearly with his one good eye. “What happened? Were you attacked?”
Hayford asked with evident concern. Accepting
Scott’s affirmative nod, he plied his friend with more questions. “Are you
be better, if this trial wasn’t being held.”
gripped the bars tightly. “Go
ahead, Hayford,“ he ground out. “Go on and tell Scott all about how you
railroaded me in here!”
turned towards Will, leaned against the cell door and looked at his old friend
expectantly. Johnny stood directly behind Scott, the only thing separating them
the black vertical bars of the cell. Harlan Garrett watched and listened intently as well; behind
him Jarrod Barkley was also taking in the scene. The Stockton attorney was
accustomed to standing in silence as his clients conferred, commiserated or
argued with their friends and family members; he anticipated that the discussion
which was about to take place would rival any of those to which he had
previously been a party.
Hayford met the united gaze of the Lancer brothers. “I was only doing what
I’m trained to do, which is to look at the evidence.” He looked from Scott
to Johnny and back to Scott. “It pointed to your brother---though I do
question that now. But you have to understand that there were parts of his story
which . . . just didn’t seem to ring true.”
met Will’s gaze. “My brother doesn’t lie.”
gratification at hearing his brother’s quiet assertion went a long ways to
helping Johnny keep his rising anger under control. “He suspected me right
from the minute we got ta the dam!” he stated, giving Will a long cold look.
said he’d been there waiting for you, and that you never showed,” Will
explained carefully. “But when we
reached the clearing, your horse was the first thing that we saw.
I was hoping that perhaps the Sheriff would be able to tell by looking at
the tracks which one of you had been there first.”
might be possible to read that from the signs out on the trail,” Scott
acknowledged. “But it would be virtually impossible even for Val to tell from
the prints in a clearing.”
wasn’t Val,” Johnny informed Scott, from his position behind his brother.
The older man looked over his shoulder to regard his brother quizzically. “It
was Sheriff Sam . . . .Sam Jayson.”
this announcement, Scott made a softly derisive sound, and Johnny couldn’t
help shooting his brother a knowing look.
certainly didn’t realize at the time that the Sheriff was
. . .less than competent,” Will said defensively.
ya should have asked me,” Johnny retorted. “’Stead of pointin’ at me
from the start.”
Will replied, turning to the dark-haired Lancer.
you figured out he wasn’t all that smart, you sure made good use of it,”
Johnny charged, raising his voice. “You got him to get an arrest warrant for
me real fast.”
this true?” Scott asked Will with a frown.
there was more than one cause for suspicion,” Will explained. “There was
other evidence, including a button from the shirt Johnny was wearing. I picked
it up off the ground, I was standing there holding it in my hand and yet he
claimed that it had been missing when he put the shirt on back at the house that
morning. Your brother had the opportunity, and at the time I believed that he
had the motive. . .”
were wrong,” Scott said forcefully.
agree. I don’t think he was the
one who attacked you.”
someone did,” Johnny stated meaningfully.
nodded, turning towards his brother Johnny. “Who do you think did it?”
might not like it but my first choice would be him,” Johnny replied, gesturing
told me that you suspected Will,” Scott revealed, casting a challenging look
in Will’s direction.. “What do you have to say?”
you don’t really expect him to just tell you he did it, now do you?” Johnny
asked in an angry tone.
it would be simple enough to find out if anyone saw me out riding that day,”
Will said calmly.
addressed his reply to his brother. “Cipriano
said that no one saw Will on horseback that day; he’d already asked the
Will quickly pointed out, “I never was a great horseman and even less so now.
Someone would have had to saddle a horse –or harness a team--- for me.
They surely would have remembered that.”
looked down at his own arm in the sling, remembered the difficulties it had
that, Will reached out to grasp Scott by the arm. “Scott, the point is, can
you look me in the eye and tell me that you could believe for more than a moment
that I might actually want you dead?”
Will, I can’t, no more than I could believe that of Johnny.”
Scott pushed himself away from the bars, standing erect between the two
men. Looking from one to the other, he asked, “Now, do I need to spend any
more time convincing the two of you or can we concentrate on other things, like
figuring out what really happened?”
Hayford started to offer an apology. “Johnny,
I was wrong and ---
glared at the one armed man, but his words were directed at Scott.
“He set me up. He’s got people believing’ I wanted you dead.
You’re asking a lot if you expect me to forget about it.”
you, Scott?” Johnny asked with dark intensity.
Scott’s eyes narrowed as he felt some of the heat of his brother’s
understandable pent-up anger now turned towards him. “That Cassidy came all this ways just to kill you,”
Johnny continued, “and then you turned around and helped him.”
eyes stared at blue eyes for a long moment before Scott finally responded.
“That was different; Dan and I had a history.
We were like—“
say it,” Johnny warned harshly. “Don’t
say you were ‘like brothers’. Just
like you and Hayford here. I figure you’ll be forgivin’ him pretty quick.
Seems like you’re just a lot better at forgettin’ than I am.”
took a deep breath. Johnny had no
reason to feel anything other than hatred for Will. His old friend’s efforts to explain his reasoning
couldn’t alter the fact that it had been his accusations that had put
Johnny’s life in jeopardy.
pained expression on Scott’s face took some of the heat from Johnny’s voice
as he finished saying his piece. “Seems
like you can manage ta forget about what Murdoch did . .or didn’t do.
What he,” here Johnny gestured towards Scott’s grandfather, “tried
to do to ya. Well, I ain’t made that way, Scott.”
pressed his lips together and cast a quick glance towards his grandfather, just
in time to see the elderly man lower his own gaze in the face of Johnny’s
assertion. “Gr-,” he started to say, then abruptly decided that he had to
finish this with Johnny first. “Johnny,
I’m not asking that of you, to forgive or forget. . . .And, for the record, even for me, this is
this time, it wasn’t just about me.”
stared at the floor, wondering what else, if anything, to say, to Johnny; what
he should say to Will. He drew a
long breath and then decided it would be better to direct the conversation to
more practical matters. He turned to address Jarrod Barkley.
The defense attorney had stood with Scott’s grandfather as a silent
witness to the exchange between the three young men. Jarrod knew that he should
have protested Will Hayford’s entrance to the cellblock; as a prosecution
witness, in fact the chief prosecution witness, Hayford should not have been
allowed to speak with Johnny Lancer, even though it now sounded as if the
one-armed man was having second thoughts about his accusations.
assume that you’ll want me to testify, ” Scott said to Jarrod.
obligated to inform the Court that you’re here,” Jarrod replied, “and
you’ll have to confirm that you were, in fact, attacked. But it doesn’t
sound as if you have any evidence to present, since you didn’t see the man who
I didn’t,” Scott agreed. “But
I can testify about Johnny, tell the jury that he didn’t do it.”
how do you know that, Scott?” Johnny asked softly.
just know you. And I trust you.”
greeted this statement. Scott
looked at each of the other men in turn, but he couldn’t read what was in
their eyes. Finally Johnny broke the stillness.
“You sayin’ you trust me might just put the last nail in my
Scott asked him, puzzled, but Johnny glanced away. Scott looked searchingly at
his grandfather, at Jarrod and finally at Will Hayford and decided that his
friend seemed to be the most uncomfortable.
“What is it? Will? What aren’t you telling me?”
just that . . .,” Will began uneasily, but Johnny interrupted him.
just that the prosecution’s been doing a damn fine job of making you look like
a trustin’ fool.”
afraid my testimony has helped lead to that assumption.”
that what you think of me, Will?”
was more the prosecutor than him,” Johnny explained quietly. “He just knows
how ta twist things.”
other men looked at Johnny in disbelief, surprised that he seemed to be
defending Hayford. Johnny shrugged his shoulders. "The man tried to get the rest of us to say the same
thing, worked sometimes too, even though none of us believe it."
Then, he added, looking meaningfully at Jarrod. "I've got a pretty
damn good lawyer myself. . . but he's said some things you ain't going to like
stood a minute looking from Will to Johnny and then turned his penetrating gaze
back to Will Hayford. “We’ll talk about this later.” Johnny had to hide a
small smile when he saw his older brother give his friend the look that Johnny
himself knew so well. He had been the target of that look and that promise from
Scott on more than one occasion; he knew that it most definitely would be kept.
That hint of a smile disappeared rapidly when the focus of that look expanded to
include him as well.
that Scott had many questions about the testimony, Jarrod asked the guard for a
few chairs and urged Mr. Garrett to take a seat. After Scott explained that he had been on a stagecoach the
entire day and preferred to remain standing, Jarrod settled in the second chair.
Scott leaned against the bars of the cell and Johnny stood close beside
him, while Will leaned against the opposite wall, crossing his left arm over his
chest and tucking it under what remained of his damaged right arm. The defense
attorney wondered again if he shouldn’t ask Hayford to leave, but he realized
that the damage, if any, had already been done. Both he and Will Hayford, as
members of the bar, might have something to answer for, and if a mistrial was
declared because of contact between prosecution witnesses and the defendant,
then at least that kept Johnny safe from the noose.
Jarrod proceeded to outline for Scott some of the key elements of both
the prosecution’s case and of Johnny’s defense.
He explained that the prosecuting attorney had emphasized the contents of
Scott’s will, had stressed the arguments that had been witnessed between the
brothers, and made much of Johnny’s past as a gunfighter. Scott was dismayed
to learn that the incident with Gordon and the Velasquez brothers had been used
against Johnny as well. The
prosecutor, Marcus Webster, had tried to imply that there had not really been a
man on the roof, that Johnny had made him up and had simply, willfully shot his
that Scott would be appreciative, Jarrod shared Johnny’s response: "I was
a gunfighter, remember. If I’d
wanted him dead, he woulda been.”
watched his brother carefully and saw the grey-blue eyes cloud over.
Unlike other people, Scott had never been one to shy away from
conversations about Johnny Madrid, but having to face the gunfighter had been a
very disturbing incident. Their relationship might not have survived the
shooting, if it had not been for Scott’s trust, but Johnny knew that it
couldn’t have been easy.
Scott looked up at Johnny with a very serious expression. “Which bothers you
more, little brother,” Scott asked, a twinkle in his eye. “Being accused of
inventing Gordon or of being a poor shot?”
looked back at Scott, startled for a moment, then he relaxed. All that worrying
that Scott would think he had tried to kill him had been for nothing, he now
knew for certain that everything was really all right between them.
Jarrod concluded his outline of the evidence, Scott sighed and then expressed
his concerns. “Are you sure that this Reed is justified in being optimistic
about the verdict?” Scott
shot his brother an apologetic look.
“It certainly seems as if the prosecution has presented a great deal of
evidence against Johnny.”
his spot against the wall, Will Hayford spoke.
“That’s because there IS a lot of evidence against him----perhaps too
much. We’re looking in the wrong direction.” Will exclaimed. “We’ve been
thinking all along that it was Scott who was the target, wondering who it was
would tried to kill him.” He paused for a moment, pushing himself away from
the wall, fastening his one-eyed gaze upon the Lancer brothers. “Johnny is the
real target,” he stated with conviction. “Someone was trying to frame
him.” Will addressed the dark haired brother directly. “So who would have a
grudge against you?”
snorted at that. “Ya want me ta make a list?” Johnny replied, shaking his
Scott said, thinking about Will’s theory. “No . . it would not be someone
from your gun fighting days. They would call you out, not frame you for
why would they choose Scotty?” Harlan asked. “They could have killed
had to be someone who hated Johnny enough to want him to go through this
trial,” Scott stated. “To hang for killing me.
whoever it was could be long gone by now,” Johnny observed, as he paced in his
I don’t think so,” Jarrod responded. “If someone went to all that trouble,
they would still be around.”
want a front row seat,” Will agreed.
the hangin’. Which could still
happen if we don’t figure out who did it.” The silence in the room was
deafening as Johnny finished speaking. “You
sure did pick a helluva time to be late, Boston,” Johnny informed his brother
as he leaned his head against the bars.
wasn’t late, I was actually early….though I was surprised to see that
you’d been there before me.”
you talkin’ about?” Johnny grumbled. “I was there at noon, waited forty
minutes, you never showed.”
never ‘showed’ because I was told that the time had been changed, that you
wouldn’t be there until two o’clock.”
Johnny asked, eyes narrowing. Suddenly he knew that the answer to that question
would be crucial in solving the case. Harlan Garrett, Will Hayford and Jarrod
Barkley all seemed to share that belief and each man joined Johnny in regarding
Scott expectantly. “Who told ya that?”
hand on his hip, Scott looked down at the floor, then up at Johnny again, with a
perplexed expression on his face. “It was . . . Senora Maria.”
revelation that “It was . . . Senora Maria” who had told him to meet Johnny
at Grand Creek at two o’clock was met with consternation from those men
present who were not at all certain who she was.
Johnny was momentarily stunned by the news. He recovered quickly,
however, and demanded to know exactly what the beloved Lancer cook had said.
wearier than ever, Scott stood lost in thought, trying to recall the details of
what Maria had told him that morning, a moment in time that now seemed to be so
very far distant. He pensively rubbed at the growth of beard decorating his jaw
line as the recollection slowly returned, along with a growing certainty that
his brother was not going to welcome what he had to say.
Looking up at Johnny with a guarded expression, Scott slowly explained.
said that Chad had been looking for me, that Murdoch had sent him to tell me
that you’d be somewhere else at noon, and that our meeting time would have to
be later. At two.
Maria knew that I’d be coming into the kitchen to get the lunch she’d
made and . . .well, I assume that she offered to pass the word along.
Which she did.”
huh?” Johnny said, turning away.
quickly stepped closer to the bars of his brother’s cell.
“That’s what Maria told me, Johnny. I’m not saying that Chad was
the one who . .”
been,” Johnny interrupted harshly, turning back to stare at his brother.
“Murdoch sure didn’t know nothin’ ‘bout a time change. I mentioned it
enough, how I’d been there right at noon.
And Chad was workin’ by himself the whole day, riding the fence
line—I remember cause . . “
Johnny paused, folded his arms, and looked down at the floor.
“Cause I was kinda glad ta see that Murdoch was givin’ him some
responsibility, . . . trustin’ ‘im,” he finished in a harsh tone.
still doesn’t prove . .” Scott began again, but Johnny interrupted him.
“Scott, did you see Chad at all that mornin’?”
thought for a moment before he replied. “No, I didn’t.”
he saw you. When we found a piece
of your shirt in the creek, Chad was the only one of us could say for sure what
color shirt you’d been wearin’.”
men considered the significance of that information for a moment, until Will
Hayford broke the silence with a question. “This cousin of yours, he does live
in the main house, right?” he asked Scott.
his room is next to Johnny’s.”
he could have taken the button from his shirt, dropped it in the clearing.”
you hadn’t picked it up off the ground, Chad probably would have,” Scott
Scott, I guess Chad’s smarter’n we gave him credit for,” Johnny said
grimly. The brothers
exchanged a look, but whatever response Scott had in mind was drowned out by a
series of questions from the other three men.
what would this Chad person have against Scotty?” Harlan Garrett demanded.
what I was wondering, too,” Jarrod quickly added from his seat beside
why would he go to so much trouble to make it look as if Johnny was the guilty
party?” Will asked. Fixing his
one-eyed gaze directly on the man in the cell, he added, “The two of you
seemed to be quite close.”
Scott also regarded his
brother intently. “You do know him better than I do,” he said, in a mildly
apologetic tone, preferring to hear what Johnny had to say on the matter before
offering his own opinion.
Johnny looked down at the
floor, avoiding the scrutiny of the other men.
“I’m guessin’ it hasta be because of Callie. He must still hold it
against me that she got shot.”
“And who is Callie?”
Scott’s grandfather demanded. The elderly man seemed rather exasperated by the
introduction of yet another unfamiliar name into the conversation.
With a sigh, Scott
explained. “Callie was Chad’s sister.”
thought it was me comin’ after ‘im, and he shot her by accident,” Johnny
Barkley did not hide his surprise at this information. “So Chad has tried to
kill you before?” he asked, rising from his wooden chair and stepping closer
to the cell.
nodded, grasped the bars loosely with both hands and thought about how to
. . she and I, well, we
kinda had a misunderstandin’; somehow
she got the idea I was in love with her. When
she found out that weren’t the way it was, she was real angry, told Chad some
things ‘bout me. He thought he
was . . defendin’ her honor or somethin’, tryin’ ta get
even with me.” Although he
addressed Jarrod, Johnny’s gaze swept over the other men.
“She was runnin’ to tell him the truth, when he shot her,” he said
still clearly remembered Callie’s dying words, what she had told Chad. 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.” He softly
explained to his listeners the news that Chad had heard from the “sister” he
still clearly remembered Callie’s dying words, what she had told Chad. 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.” He softly
explained to his listeners that Chad had learned his true identity from the
“sister” he had killed.
the other men listened attentively to the story, the dark haired young man
tilted his head and continued. “Chad
took it hard. But he said he
didn’t blame me. Murdoch and me convinced him he should stay on at Lancer.”
Looking directly at Scott, Johnny added one more piece. “Looks like you were right, not ta trust him.”
his motive was revenge,” Will said musingly.
“He killed his own . .
.”sister”, but blamed you for her death--- and then he tries, fittingly he
thinks, to make it look as if you killed your brother.”
guess,” was all Johnny said in reply, but his thoughts were whirling through
the events of the past few months. His
cousin sure had acted as if all had been forgiven. Johnny remembered how supportive Chad had been ever since
Scott’s disappearance, but before that, he’d had a lot to say against Scott.
Calling him “uppity”, “bossy”, a “Yankee”, and telling some
stories that probably hadn’t been true. Even though Johnny agreed that he’d
most likely been Chad’s real target, he figured that Chad probably hadn’t
minded hitting Scott over the head one little bit. He now mentally berated
himself for being taken in by Chad’s seeming gratitude, but knew that he had
to hand it to his “cousin” for doing such a good job of biding his time and
hiding his anger. Though now that he thought about it, Johnny had gotten a few
good glimpses of that rage inside of Chad, first with the events surrounding
Callie’s accusations and her death, and again, when Johnny had destroyed that
foolish flying machine. He recalled thinking even then that it was a good thing
Chad was usually so even tempered; the memory of the look in his cousin’s eyes
left Johnny without any doubt that Chad could be the would-be killer.
this man needs to be taken into custody,” Harlan huffed impatiently.
turned back to look down at the seated man with a nod of agreement before asking
a question of Johnny. “Is he
staying at the hotel with Murdoch?”
with Murdoch an’ Teresa n’ Jelly,” Johnny informed him.
fired a question at the other brother. “Scott—did you send a wire to your
regarded Will with an expression of mild surprise, then slowly shook his head.
“No, I was coming directly here and, well, I wasn’t sure where he was
good,” Will assured him. “Then Chad doesn’t know you’re here, that you
agreed, but his next words immediately reawakened his grandfather’s concern.
“No, he doesn’t . . .not unless Cipriano sent word after I left the
this Chad knows that, then Scotty could still be in danger!”
true, Mr. Garrett,” Will acknowledged.
“But even if Chad knows that Scott survived, he doesn’t know that
Scott realizes who changed the time for the meeting. You know, Chad can’t even
be certain that Scott didn’t catch a glimpse of him before he went into
thought that he could see where his old friend was going with this. “Then,
perhaps if I could take him by surprise, he might say something, give himself
was also following that line of thinking. “That’s
the surest, quickest means of getting Johnny released, a confession from the
would be best if it was in front of witnesses, several of them . . .” Will
mean tomorrow, in court?” Johnny asked.
shook his head. “No, too many
people, I think, the focus needs to be on Chad.
And trying to get him angry or worried enough to make a mistake. It would
be best if we could have someone official present, Scott when you confront
Chad—like say, Judge Blackwell---.”
Harlan exclaimed with displeasure just as Johnny spoke to his brother with quiet
intensity. “Scott, I wanta be there.”
nodded. He knew that he would feel
the same way if the brothers’ roles were reversed.
“What if we sent word now, asked Chad to come here?” he asked,
addressing his inquiry to Johnny as well as the two attorneys.
hours are almost over and we still need to talk to the judge,” Will pointed
offered another concern. “I would think also that we don’t want to do
anything to make Chad suspicious.”
like sendin’ ‘specially for him . .” Johnny had to agree, but he knew that
he would risk alerting their cousin if it was the only way that he could be
present when the ‘confrontation’ took place. Not only did he share some of
Harlan’s concerns for Scott if his brother were to face his attacker alone,
but Johnny needed his own opportunity to face Chad.
Scott goes to the hotel to confront Chad . . .” Jarrod started to say.
Johnny won’t be there.”
afraid you’re right, Scott. But I
can’t see the Judge letting him leave the jail, even if he is in custody.”
was a brief silence. Evidently,
Will Hayford had been formulating a plan, which he carefully proposed to Scott.
“What if. . . you were at the courthouse early tomorrow, if Mr. Barkley
told your father that Johnny wanted to meet with him and your cousin before the
session began. That way it’s not
just Chad who is being sent for, and your brother would be there as well.”
the judge?” Scott asked, while his grandfather hastily added “And some
officers to take this Chad person into custody!”
might work,” was Jarrod’s assessment. “We could probably get permission to
bring Johnny over to the courthouse early.”
Mr. Barkley, what if you go and confer with Mr. Reed—he’ll know how to get
in touch with Marcus Webster. I’ll
bring Scott to Judge Blackwell’s residence.
If the Judge is agreeable, then you can convey the invitation to
Mr.Lancer. Of course the Judge will
need to talk to you, Scott, but after that, you’ll have to stay out of
come back to the hotel and stay with me,” Harlan said quickly.
expressed one concern. “If by
some chance Cipriano did send a wire, then Jarrod will find that out when he
talks to Murdoch; and that could alter our plan.”
Will agreed. “Let’s assume for now that he didn’t.”
Murdoch had any news ‘bout Scott, he’d be here.” Recognizing the truth of Johnny’s assertion, the men
prepared to set their plan into motion.
Jarrod Barkley headed towards the door leading out of the cell block, Scott
stopped him. “Jarrod,” he said
quietly, When you do talk to Murdoch, perhaps you can speak to him privately,
let him know that I’m here—“
might not be a good idea,” Johnny said, interrupting his brother. In response
to Scott’s questioning look, Johnny explained.
“Murdoch’d wanta tell Teresa n’ Jelly right off,.. . . .”
nodded in quick comprehension. “Chad would find out.”
if Jarrod tells Murdoch why he can’t let Chad know, there’s no tellin’
what he might do ta Chad.”
a good point,” Scott conceded.
men prepared to go about setting their plan in motion.
Will Hayford started towards the exit in conversation with Jarrod
Barkley, outlining directions to the judge’s residence in the off chance that
Barkley was unable to quickly locate Nicholas Reed and inform him of the
startling new developments in the case. Looking
back over his shoulder, the man with the eye patch told Scott that he would wait
for him outside and politely told “Mr. Garrett” that he would see him back
at the hotel. Will looked for a moment as if he wished to say something more,
but finished by simply stating “We’ll talk.”
It was not completely clear which of the three men he was addressing, but
it was Scott who replied. “Yes, we will.” The blond man with the black sling
stood motionless, watching even after Will Hayford had disappeared from view.
a small shake of his head, Scott turned back to his brother, who was leaning
against the bars of his cell regarding him intently. It struck Johnny once
more—how tired Scott’s eyes looked, and how sad.
Well, there sure wasn’t much for ‘im to be happy about, not at the
moment. Johnny addressed his older brother in a soft, drawling voice.
“Looks like you could use some rest, Boston.
You get back from talkin’ to the judge, maybe you’d better just let
your grandfather here take care of ya.”
Garrett rose slowly and somewhat stiffly from the wooden straight backed chair
in which he had been ensconced. He
regarded Scott expectantly, although the elderly man waited for his grandson’s
reply with uncharacteristic patience.
be out of there soon, Johnny,” Scott said, seemingly as much to reassure
himself as his younger brother.
startin’ ta look that way,” was Johnny’s quick rejoinder, voicing more
confidence than he truly felt. After all, Chad had fooled every one of them so
far, he might somehow manage to continue to do so—assuming, of course, that he
‘d really been the one to attack Scott in the first place.
Scotty,” Harlan said in a concerned tone, grasping Scott’s good arm.
“While you and William go to see the judge, I’ll make arrangements at the
hotel. I’m sure you’ll want a
bath, something to eat.”
looked gratefully down at his grandfather.
“I could use a drink,” he said, a slight smile playing about his lips
as he heard the echo of Murdoch’s voice in his own words.
have one for me, too,” Johnny instructed him jokingly, then regretted it as
Scott’s mouth resumed its grim line. “Bye, Scott.
See you in the morning.”
night, Brother,” was Scott’s reluctant answer.
The blond man turned to leave, looking down at his grandfather and then
somewhat tentatively placing his right hand on the older gentleman’s shoulder,
gently guiding him towards the door.
watch your back, now.”
exhaled. In a characteristic motion, he glanced briefly at the floor, before
looking up to meet Johnny’s gaze. “I think I can manage to do that—for
another few hours at least.”
eyes glimmered in understanding and he softly bid his older brother a good
The next morning, Jarrod
Barkley was standing outside the doors of the courtroom waiting to intercept
Murdoch and Chad. He greeted the
two men and then told the senior Lancer that there were a few papers for him to
sign. “And then Murdoch, I’d like to have a word with you in private.”
Ignoring Murdoch Lancer’s raised eyebrow, Jarrod turned to Chad.
“Chad, why don’t you
go on inside; Johnny’s waiting for you.”
thing, Mista Barkley.”
the large courtroom, Johnny Lancer was seated alone at the defense table,
dressed in his dark suit. Johnny drawled a greeting and Chad responded in kind.
Chad’s booted footsteps echoed in the empty room as he walked up the
it’s closin’ argumints taday, Johnny?”
Chad my lawyer even has a big surprise.”
got a special witness....judge even approved him.”
“Well, Chad, you remember Scott . . . .”
door to a small conference room opened and Scott Lancer stepped into the
courtroom. Chad stared openmouthed,
looking as if he had seen a ghost. Only
where ghosts were usually pale white, this one had blond hair, a blue shirt and
had one arm cradled in a black sling.
“Scott! . . .yur. . . yur. . . alaive!”
you happy to see me, Chad?”
a course Ah am!” he replied with a big grin. “Ah mean, I allas said you
weren’t half bad for a Yankee!”
Chad smiled in a
conspiratorial manner at Johnny. “Ol’
Scott’s kinda hard ta take sometimes, but we shore are glad ta have him back,
ain’t we Johnny?” Chad started
towards Scott. “Corse I’m glad
ta see ya again, cuzin.”
Well, you were the last one to see me. .
. . at two o’clock.”
looked from the cold blue eyes of one Lancer brother to the other.
It was Johnny who finally spoke. “I sure wish you’d told me about the
change in time, Chad. Then I could have been there to watch my brother’s back.”
rage colored Chad Lancer’s handsome face.
“Oh yeah, you and yur precious brother.
Who thinks he’s jist better’n alla tha rest of us!”
Chad,” Johnny said, as he slowly rose from his seat. “I don’t believe
Scott was the one you were really angry at. I’m guessin’ it was me.”
right! Yur nothin’ but a cold blooded killa!”
The tall Kentuckian’s angry voice reverberated off the walls of the
you know I didn’t kill Callie,” Johnny said quietly.
all because of you that she’s daid!”
the one pulled the trigger. But we
all know it was an accident, Chad. Besides, you even told me that you didn’t
hold it against me.”
“Mebbe I lied to ya, Johnny. Did you really think I could fergit Callie that easy?"
know you haven’t forgotten her, Chad. But your problem was with me, you had no
call to go after Scott.”
neva fergit Callie, she was kin! An’ us mountain folks’ve got long memories,
‘specially when it comes ta kin. Don't matter how long it takes.
Ain’t you neva heard of an eye fer an eye, Johnny?
Ah wanted you ta know what it felt laike.”
over, Chad.” Johnny spoke quietly. “There are a couple-”
ova fer you!”
reached to his waistband and pulled out a gun. Scott Lancer, who had been
listening to the exchange in silence, quickly yelled at Johnny to “look
out!” Johnny dove to the floor as the weapon discharged. Before Chad could aim
a second bullet at his brother, Scott swiftly returned fired with the gun he had
had hidden in his sling. A stunned look crossed Chad’s face as he staggered
backwards and then fell against the judge’s bench, slowly crumbling to the
lawman burst in from a side room, as Jarrod and Murdoch hurried in through the
main doors. Nicholas Reed, Marcus Webster, Will Hayford and Judge Timothy
Blackwell had also been in the wings and had heard the entire exchange between
Johnny Lancer and his cousin. The law officers holstered their weapons as they
realized they were too late.
Murdoch greeted his elder son, squeezing his shoulder. “I’ve never been
happier to see you.” He nodded towards Jarrod Barkley. “Jarrod already
filled me in . . ”
you, sir,” Scott replied. “It’s good to be back.” Murdoch and Scott
slowly walked over to where Chad was lying on the floor. Johnny was standing
over him, and Scott noticed that there was blood on his brother’s sleeve.
“You were hit.”
nothing, just a graze,” Johnny replied. “I’ve had worse. Good shooting,
Brother.” A gleam of recognition entered Johnny’s blue eyes as he noticed
the familiar gun dangling from Scott’s right hand
took that boy in,” Murdoch said, looking at Chad’s still form. He shook his
white head. “Gave him a home.”
why don’t you take Johnny over there to sit down,” Scott suggested, a
concerned look passing between father and son. This had to be very difficult for
the youngest Lancer. After all, he had considered Chad a friend and he been
betrayed by him.
attorneys and Judge Blackwell were already discussing the process of having all
charges against Johnny Lancer dropped. Will watched as Johnny and Murdoch turned
away from the body, and then came up to stand beside Scott.
that’s the answer to the last question,” Will commented after a moment.
there weren’t any other tracks,” Will stated, gesturing at Chad’s booted
had paused and turned back at Hayford’s words, and looked down at Chad’s
feet at the same time as his older brother.
“So, how many pairs of those boots you got, Boston?”
less pair now.”
Lancer exited his hotel room, looking up to see Johnny leaning against the wall
across from his room, his hat in his hand. His brother was attired in his
familiar rose- colored shirt and silver buttoned black pants. Johnny hadn’t
seemed to be the least bit dismayed that Chad’s bullet had ruined the jacket
of his black “court” suit.
his side, Johnny noticed that Scott was dressed for dinner, in his tan jacket,
white shirt and black string tie. The
black sling was missing.
your shoulder, Johnny?”
brother shrugged. “Fine. You heard Teresa say she was glad ta bandage me
Scott smiled. “She said it had been so long, she was afraid of getting out of
practice.” Dealing with the
aftermath of Chad’s death and the remaining legal details of Johnny’s
release had still allowed Scott ample time for a joyful reunion with both Teresa
you waiting for someone?” Scott carefully inquired, pulling the door shut
heard yur goin’ to dinner with that so-called friend of yours,” Johnny
meeting Will for a drink,” Scott corrected him. “I’m having dinner with
dropped his head, then looked back up his eyes dark with concern. “I don’t
like it, Scott. He’ll try an’---“
“Try and what?” Scott interrupted, with that sad look in his eyes. “Try and convince me you’re no good.” He shook his head. “'Will would never try to do that now, but even if he did, there is no way he could convince me of that. All he would succeed in doing is destroying whatever chance there might be to save our friendship.”
has a lot to answer for, Scott,” the dark haired Lancer declared. “He’s
going to use that Harvard education of his ta try and talk his way out of what
he did ta me.”
don’t you go with me?” Scott inquired. “Will asked to talk to you earlier,
he even sent a note.”
unconsciously turned his hat in his hand. “I already told ya’ as angry as I
am, I ain’t sure what I might do.”
walked over, leaning against the wall, next to his brother. “Johnny,” he
said quietly. “There are some things I have to discuss with Will, some things
I want to make clear.”
I don’t like it.” Johnny declared, putting his hat on his head, he pushed
away from the wall. “Just make sure you’re there ta meet us at six.”
be there,” Scott assured him, and started to head down the hall.
Boston,” Johnny called after him.
turned, waiting as Johnny quickly walked up to him. “Yes?’
threw one arm around Scott’s shoulders, pulling his brother towards him.
Scott was momentarily startled by the brotherly embrace and then
responded in kind. As they moved apart, each one looked searchingly at the
need ta make a deal,” Johnny stated seriously. “We got a problem with each
other, we talk about it.”
sounds like a great plan to me,” Scott replied, slapping his brother on the
arm. “Well . . . .I better get going or I’m never going to make it to
yur friend I said----“ Johnny drawled, a twinkle in his eye. He paused,
changing his mind at the look in Scott’s eyes. “Never mind, I’ll see ya in
a while.” He watched as his brother walked down the steps, shaking his dark
head as he strolled towards his father’s room. Scott would always and forever
be a peacemaker, but it would take a lot of time and space before Johnny would
be able to stomach bein’ in the same room with Will Hayford.
Scott entered the restaurant, he looked around until he spied Will sitting at a
table in a secluded corner. He walked over and took a seat opposite his friend.
whiskey,” Scott said to the waiter, turning to Will. “Will?”
all set,” Will answered, picking up his glass. “I’m meeting Webster and
Reed for dinner in an hour.”
change fast,” Scott commented, raising an eyebrow. “Yesterday they sat on
opposite sides of the courtroom and you were a witness.”
the courtroom, we’re all friends,” Will explained quietly. After a brief
pause, he added, “I was hoping that Johnny would join us, Scott.
There are some things I’d like to say to him. . .
I’d like to at least try to apologize.”
too angry to talk to you right now,” Scott began, pausing to carefully gather
can understand how he must feel . . ,” Will began.
you?” Scott asked with angry intensity. “If I had been more seriously
injured, taken longer to get back, I could have come home to find that my
brother was dead.” He paused, giving Will time to reflect on his words. “And
I would have also discovered that you had played a major role in his being
wrongfully arrested and hung for my murder.”
don’t know how much I regret that,” Will said softly. “There’s no denying, that if your brother had hung, I
would have been the one to blame for that.”
that his friend seemed to be truly remorseful, Scott offered up a dry comment.
“Well, Chad did have something to do with it.”
Although he took no pleasure in the memory, Scott had no remorse about
shooting his ‘cousin’ in order to save Johnny.
wasn’t just the evidence that he planted, Scott. I would have seen through it that much sooner if I hadn't
. . . . gotten carried
watched his friend carefully. Will
sat staring at the changing level of the whiskey in the glass he was grasping
between the thumb and forefinger of his left hand, tilting it slowly back and
forth. As usual, the bottom of Will’s right sleeve was pinned to the shoulder
of his jacket. With his blind side turned towards Scott, the other man’s
expression was unreadable. As he
examined the damaged face of his childhood friend, Scott thought about how much
Will had overcome and how he admired him for it. Somewhat to his own surprise, he heard himself say as much,
then add, in a regretful tone, “Apparently you don’t think very highly of
kept his brown curly head bowed during Scott’s expression of regard, Will now
looked up at him in surprise. “What do you mean?”
should have listened to what I told you about my brother, when I told you that I
trusted him and he trusted me. Then perhaps you wouldn’t have been so quick to
I did listen,” Will confessed. Seeing Scott’s expression clouded with
disbelief, Will pressed on. “That’s
what angered me, what drove me to . . .to go after him. If you could put that
much trust in Johnny, and he betrayed you, I had to make sure that he paid for
he didn’t betray me,” Scott reminded him. “Will, I’d like to believe
that you honestly thought Johnny was guilty, that that was your motivation.”
About to continue, Scott stopped as the waiter appeared with his drink. “Thank
you.” Once the man had departed, Scott looked at Will once more. “I suspect
that everything you did, Will, was because you thought that you
*needed * to protect me.”
wasn’t like that,” Will protested.
think it was,” Scott replied, determined to get his point across. “You’ve
been so used to the idea of ‘taking care’ of me all these years that you
don’t know how to let go, but you have to. Part of the reason I left Boston
was to get away from my grandfather’s ……over protectiveness.”
know you’re right,” the young lawyer finally conceded. “But if I had to do
it all over again, given the same set of circumstances, I’m afraid that I
might do the same things.”
a moment, Will continued speaking. “You know, Scott, Chad’s goal wasn’t to
kill you, it was to get revenge on Johnny. Not that that would have made you any
less dead, if Chad had had his way.”
eyes showed his understanding. “Just as your goal wasn’t to kill my brother,
but to avenge my death. Not that that would have made Johnny any less dead.”
And you can’t think that I’m proud to find myself to be
. .to be similar to someone like Chad.”
a short silence, Scott resumed the conversation. “This isn’t Boston,”
Scott informed him. “Things aren’t always as black and white out here, there
are a lot of grey areas and my brother falls into one of them.” He took a sip
of his whiskey. “Though I closed my eyes to it, it does seem to me that you
never liked Johnny, never gave him a chance.”
not true, Scott.”
think it is,” Scott said sadly. “You looked for only the negative things.”
The blond haired Lancer twirled his glass, watching the liquid splash on the
sides. “You even hired someone to investigate his past.”
only did that after you told me about Drago,” Will said, defending himself.
“And the Gatling gun. Scott, you almost died simply because your
brother is--- or was--- Johnny Madrid, and I wanted to know if it was likely to
happen again.” Surprised by this
explanation, Scott regarded Will thoughtfully.
did come up with a good plan, to confront Chad.”
doesn’t undo anything.”
realize that this has changed our relationship,” Will added, his expression
filled with regret. “That it will be hard for you to forgive this….I knew
that before you made that statement to Johnny at the jail.”
is different this time,” Scott told him. “It’s harder to forgive
when it involves my family.” “And
I know,” he added, holding up a hand to ward off an objection that, on second
glance, did not appear to be forthcoming. “I haven’t known them very long.
It’s only been a few years since I learned of Johnny’s existence. And, you
did spend a lot of years listening to me . . .
talking about how much I hated my father, how he didn’t care about
nodded, but when his friend did not offer a comment, Scott continued. “Now I
know that he does care. So does Johnny. And I care about them, Will, very
can see that, now. And, I know now that if I’d seen it sooner, I might have
worked with them to figure out what had happened. But instead, I acted as if I was the only person that you
mattered to . . “
glad that you can see that, Will.”
not blind, Scott.” His friend
grimaced wryly, rubbing at the edge of his black eye patch. “Though I can be
single focused, in more ways than one. . . . Actually, it was your grandfather
who helped me to see how things are. . . .
really does seem to understand, Scott, how you feel about Johnny . . . . and
expression did not alter, but something in his light blue eyes changed, showing
how much he valued that piece of information. “That’s good to know,” he
the way, Murdoch, Jelly, Teresa and Johnny entered the hotel dining room.
As a concession to its formality, Johnny had donned a black bolero jacket
over his brightly colored shirt. He paused in the doorway to survey the room,
and spied Will and Scott in their corner. As the others headed to a table,
Johnny sauntered towards his brother. “You
slowly rose from his seat. “This
isn’t the time, Will,” he softly admonished him, and was somewhat relieved
to see his friend nod in agreement.
stopped a short distance from their table, sliding his sharp blue-eyed gaze over
Will Hayford without allowing so much as a flicker of an expression to show on
his face. He looked directly at
Scott. “You comin’?”
Scott looked down at Will. “I’ll be in Sacramento a few more days, to spend
some time with Grandfather … and
Wade.” He squinted down at his
old friend and then added lightly, “You might have told me about Wade.”
Scott had been surprised the previous evening, when he’d encountered Wade
Garrett at the hotel, to see how much
the other man had changed. Wade had lost weight, his bad complexion was masked
by a fine growth of beard and he now exuded a far greater self-assurance than
Scott had remembered.
exhaled softly and a slightly ironic smile touched his lips.
“He certainly is no longer ‘The Toad’ he once was.”
curiosity already piqued, Johnny failed to prevent the question from slipping
smiled ruefully at his younger brother. “It
was an unfortunate nickname that we had for Cousin Wade, when we were boys,”
he explained. “I’m not sure who invented it, but I don’t believe that Wade
pushed his chair back and stood up. “Oh, he knew. And it was my brother John
who coined the phrase,” he added, his gaze including both Lancers.
“Wade heard John say it once. Of
course, my brother John, . . . he told Wade that you’d made it up.”
eyes widened in dismay at that information, then he shook his head.
“No wonder he never liked me much.”
something I *can *
fix, Scott.” He looked at Johnny,
then back at Scott once more, but again seemed to be addressing both of the
brothers. “I know what it is to lose a brother. I wouldn’t be very willing
to forgive me either.” About to
extend his left hand, Will apparently thought better of it, and simply reached
up and lightly patted Scott’s shoulder. “I
hope we’ll talk some more, before you leave,” he said, as he moved away,
towards the door.
nodded his acceptance. “I’d like that. Good night, Will.”
Placing his own hand on Johnny’s shoulder, Scott steered his younger
brother towards their waiting family.
was relaxing, but fairly quiet, once Scott had told his family what he could
recall of his stay with Elijah Morse and described his stealthy return to
the ranch. The Lancers and Jelly
were not eager to rehash the events of the trial, and to Johnny’s relief,
Scott did not inquire about any of those things that Johnny had said he wasn’t
going to like. Everyone at the
table also studiously avoided mention of the names “Chad” and “Will”.
Murdoch Lancer turned the conversation to the ranch, and the work that would be
waiting for them there. The Lancer
patriarch made no secret of his desire to return home as soon as possible, a
wish which Jelly and Teresa clearly shared.
informed Murdoch of his intention to remain in the city for a few days in order
to spend time with his grandfather, and then waited for the older man to make
his displeasure known. He was
pleasantly surprised to find that that was not the case. Murdoch simply nodded
and said that he had expected that. There
was not a hint of resentment in his tone, or a flicker of annoyance on his face,
not even when Johnny announced his intention to remain behind as well, in order
to accompany Scott home.
to his word, Murdoch Lancer departed Sacramento the next day, after taking
leave of Nicholas Reed and Jarrod Barkley, and
expressing his deep appreciation of everything that they had done on Johnny’s
behalf. Once back at the ranch,
Murdoch also sent Walt Sr. and Alfonso to Elijah Morse’s cabin with some
supplies and a note of thanks for the assistance the man had rendered to Scott.
Reed and Morse were extended open invitations to visit Lancer; Murdoch
assured Jarrod Barkley that he would be in touch with Jarrod’s mother,
Victoria soon, to plan a joint gathering of the two ranching families.
Scott spent a pleasant few days in the company of his grandfather and Wade, and also had lunch with Will Hayford. Despite Scott’s repeated invitations for Johnny to join him, the younger man preferred to spend time on his own, restlessly exploring the city, trying not to let Scott see his great impatience to head for home. Both brothers were fairly quiet on the stagecoach trip back to Morro Coyo, spending much of their time traveling in companionable silence.
they cut across the stream and turned their horses west, Scott and Johnny rode
within sight of the small Lancer ranch cemetery. A week earlier, Chad had been laid to rest beside Callie. The
brothers had not objected to Murdoch’s reluctant decision, after all, the man
had to be buried somewhere. But none of the Lancers had been present when the
ranch hands assigned to the task had lowered the coffin into the grave; no
prayers had been recited at the graveside.
of hate died with im.”
how sometimes you can’t tell by lookin’ at a man that he’s all eaten up
doubt he was always like that, Johnny.”
prob’bly not. Maybe just since
its harder to be the one that lives.”
gave his older brother a long look. “Maybe.
. .I guess I just can’t understand bein’ willin’ to go to all that
trouble,” he said slowly.
eyed Johnny speculatively. “No .
right. I had a problem, I’d have
it out, face to face.”
paused at that. “Not necessarily.
But, yeah, that's what I did you know.
It’s one way ta settle things.. .”
you ever get used to it?”
sighed. “It’s like anything else, you do it often enough or see it. .
yeah, in a way, you get used ta it.
In other ways, you don’t.” Johnny
wasn’t sure he was making any sense, but he noted that Scott nodded in
understanding. He had no way of knowing that his older brother was thinking
about that interminable year at Libby.
mean, you can’t think about what you’re doin’, you just have to do it. You
can’t be standing there ready ta face someone’s gun and be afraid of killin’
. . .or of dyin’.”
have never been as afraid as I was when I thought you might hang for killing
me,” Scott admitted uncomfortably
as scared as I was,” Johnny replied. “At the thought of never seein’ you
rode on in silence for a ways. Johnny
slid a glance over at Scott. His
blue-grey cropped jacket accentuated Scott’s erect posture.
His brother’s head was up, eyes forward, shaded by the brim of his hat.
Impassive expression. Scott
sure was hard to get to know. Johnny
remembered those first few hours after the older man had come up missing, how
one of the first things he’d thought of was how much he still didn’t know
about Scott and the cold fear that he was never going to get another chance.
I was most afraid of dying would have ta be down in Mexico, just before
Murdoch’s Pinkerton man showed up.”
could feel Scott’s gaze on him, all attention, just listening, as he slowed
Brunswick up a bit to match pace with Barranca. But Scott didn’t ask any
questions and Johnny didn’t look up at him.
He figured that now that he’d started, he might as well finish it.
“There was all kinds of things I was thinking about while I was sitting in
that cell, just waitin’, but when I was kneelin’ on the ground, and they
shot the man in front of me, all I could think about was would I be able to
stand up, stay on my feet. But, I guess it’s hard ta know til it’s time.”
I guess no one really knows,” was Scott’s guarded response.
another long pause, Johnny finally asked a question. “You ever been scared like that?”
times, during the War.”
thought about adding more to that, but he’d never felt successful, trying to
describe what it was like to be in the middle of a battlefield, to someone who
hadn’t been there. He thought about that dark year at Libby and how he had yet
to share any of the details with his family. The episode with Dan Cassidy, Lewis
and Hardy, had revealed a part of that year, had dragged his past out here to
cast a shadow over his new life, but there was still so much more that had been
left behind, memories which he was reluctant to expose to the light of day here
there was something, a moment from his new life, something that he’d discussed
with Will, which perhaps he really should have entrusted to his brother before
you remember Drago . . . .
nodded in appreciation. “Yeah,
Scott,” he said in an encouraging tone. “I
remember ‘im . . .”