Brothers by Blood
Part Three
by  Chris

Chapter 22

It was late afternoon and Teresa O’Brien was putting the final touches on her winter garden.  Gone were the fragrant flowers and vegetables that had flourished during the summer months.  The ground was now becoming hard as the land prepared itself for winter.  She had worked long and hard at this project, the physical labor easing the loneliness that was breaking her heart since the day the boys had left over 3 weeks earlier.    She missed them like she missed her father.  Even though her head knew they would be back, to her heart it was like they had slipped away and would not be returning - ever.  After receiving the initial telegram from Murdoch - and the subsequent updates, she had been living in a sort of limbo.  Her place was with them – especially since Johnny was injured.  It had always been her job to care for him when he was sick or wounded and it tore at her that he was so far away.  Murdoch’s notes had sent reassurances that Johnny was being well cared for, but part of the young woman wasn’t comfortable with just anyone caring for him.

Wiping her brow on the back of her sleeve, she startled when a familiar shadow was cast on the land.  “Murdoch!”  Rising to her feet she threw herself into the arms of her guardian.  She held him tight and let his strong arms enfold her in his comforting embrace.  Jelly had been good company, but he didn’t have the reassuring presence that Murdoch Lancer had in her life.  

Murdoch stroked her long brown hair and inhaled it’s slight fragrance.   He was home – though it was without his boys, he had finally made it.  “Miss Teresa, how I’ve missed you.”

Teresa pulled away and wiped at the tears that threatened to spill from her eyes.  “You must be awfully tired…”

“I’m fine, dear.  A little hungry, but I’m fine.”  He reassured her, giving her hand a gentle squeeze.

“Well, let me fix you something and you can tell me all about what happened…”  She paused turning very serious.  “Johnny - how bad is he?”

Murdoch’s face darkened and he shook his head.  “It was bad – but he’s strong.  I wouldn’t have left without knowing that he would be returning to us soon….”

“The boys are on their way home?”  Teresa asked hopefully.

Again, Murdoch shook his head.   “I’ve got a lot to tell you.  Why don’t you go and round up Jelly so that I don’t have to go through this twice.”

With a quick peck to his cheek, Teresa flew from the garden to the stables where the older man was working.  Slowly, Murdoch made his way back to the kitchen of the large hacienda.  Looking around, he could tell that physically nothing had changed.  But, in his heart, he knew that the house was different – different for not having the laughter of two young men to brighten its walls.  A shiver ran up his spine at the thought that one of those young men almost made the return trip in a box.  He knew that it would be a while yet before either young man graced the ranch with their presence, but he was confident that they would soon be home – maybe by Thanksgiving which was only a little over 2 weeks away.

Maria, the housekeeper greeted him as he entered the kitchen, taking his coat and pulling out a chair for him at the kitchen table.  “Senior?  Como esta Juanito?”

“I’ll tell you as soon as Teresa and Jelly get here.  In the mean time, I could sure use a cup of coffee.”

“Si, Senior.”  Maria backed away and quickly went about the business of getting Murdoch his coffee.

In no time, Teresa and Jelly entered the room and anxiously sat down at the table.  Maria joined them carrying a pot of coffee and several cups.  Quickly she poured coffee for everyone before taking a seat next to Teresa.  The younger woman grasped her hand and held it tight under the table, afraid of the facts they had been speculating about for weeks.

Murdoch took a quick sip of his coffee before beginning his story.  “From what we’ve been able to figure out, Harlan Garrett arranged to have Johnny kidnapped and murdered by one of Scott’s old friends…”  He paused as both Teresa and Maria gasped while Jelly sat in stunned silence.  “He had been missing for several days before Scott finally found him in the basement of his old fraternity house.  He had been...”  Murdoch paused, still angry at the thought of what had been done to his youngest.  “…He had been tortured and stabbed twice - left to die.”

“Oh God,” Teresa moaned putting a hand to her throat.  “How is he?”

Now that he was home, there was no need for sugar coating the news. “He damn near died.”  Murdoch spoke the words with undisguised bitterness.   “They had to operate on him – his liver had been damaged by the stabbing.  He’s got quite a few broken ribs and his left leg is hurt bad from a stab wound to his thigh.  They had to do a blood transfusion from both Scott and I…”

“But he is gonna make it?”  Jelly anxiously interrupted, his voice shaking with anger and fear.  He thought highly of the youngest Lancer and the fact that Johnny had been intentionally hurt didn’t sit well with him.

“Yes – I wouldn’t have come home if I wasn’t sure that he’d be alright.”  Murdoch reassured them.  “When I left, he was in the home of Jim Davis and was being cared for by the housekeeper.”

“What happened to the fella who hurt Johnny?”  

A small smile came to Murdoch’s lips.  “Johnny killed him – shot him to death right before the man was going to shoot Scott.”

Jelly smiled and nodded his approval of this outcome.  He normally didn’t like the thought of anyone being killed, but somehow, knowing that the man who had hurt his friend was dead made the entire situation a little easier to tolerate.

“What does Johnny say about all this?”  Teresa asked, concerned that Murdoch had started out by saying that he had to figure out what happened.

Murdoch frowned.  “He refuses to speak about the torture.  And, quite frankly, we never told him that Harlan was behind the entire affair.”

“But why if he done it?”  Jelly asked.  He had never liked the snobby Bostonian.  The man had almost destroyed his family - twice.  

“We didn’t want to upset Johnny more than he was.  We wanted him to focus on getting better rather than on seeking revenge.”

“How’s Scott taking this?”  Teresa asked, concerned for her oldest brother.

“He’s alright,” Murdoch took another sip of his coffee.   “He was scheduled to take the stand against Harlan on Monday.  He had physical evidence that proved that Harlan was directly involved in the kidnapping.  By now the trial should be over and Harlan should be in prison where he belongs.”


Scott spent the entire night pouring over his grandfather’s journal.   What he read scared him.  This journal started right before Harlan’s visit to the ranch.  Written on the pages, were his detailed plans for his failed attempt to bring Scott back to Boston.  It was all there, how he blackmailed Julie Davenport into using their prior relationship in an attempt to seduce Scott into returning to Boston; details of how he found and recruited the Deegan brothers as his secondary plan – in case he had to resort to blackmailing Scott into coming back to protect Murdoch.   According to the journal, his grandfather knew that Murdoch was innocent of the allegations he was making, but that didn’t matter.  Harlan was determined to do whatever it took to get Scott to come home.

There were entire sections devoted to Johnny.  Scott hadn’t realized what hatred his grandfather held against minorities – and Johnny in particular.  Harlan could only see Johnny as a half-breed gunfighter with no redeeming qualities - unsuitable to bear the same last name as Scott.   It was almost as if Johnny were an infection that Harlan was afraid that his grandson would catch – so he had to be eliminated from Scott’s life.  Scott couldn’t help but wonder what his grandfather thought of the Pinkerton report that was wrapped up in Johnny’s file.  He couldn’t believe that the man who had raised him found no compassion in his heart for Johnny.  How could Harlan hold such hatred against any person who had been orphaned at such a tender age and forced to live a life of poverty and violence?

With great interest, he read how the plan to lure him to Boston to attend Joshua’s wedding was formed on his way back to Boston after the disastrous visit to the ranch.  The journal detailed the meetings between Harlan and the others; his soliciting Reginald Pierce to kill Johnny after it was learned that Johnny was coming along on the trip.  There, printed on the pages, was Harlan’s sick reaction to the news that Johnny had been injured on the street – and that he was sorry that the young man hadn’t been killed then! Harlan had placed into words his delight that the ‘…half-breed had been captured…’ and was finally going to be ‘…forever removed from Scotty’s life’.  

Scott read his grandfather’s mocking account of his search for the missing Johnny.  The older man reveled in knowing that he had misguided his grandson – while he knew exactly where Pierce had taken the injured man to kill him.   Reading on, he came to the account of the confrontation with Murdoch at the hospital.  Harlan recognized his need punish Murdoch for the death of Scott’s mother by killing Johnny!    Again, Harlan expressed his disappointment in the fact that Johnny hadn’t died during the surgery and that Scott was foolish for risking himself to save his younger brother.  More than once, Scott nearly gagged while reading the vile words that his grandfather had written.  But, he was beginning to gain a clearer picture of who and what his grandfather had become.  

At dawn, he reached the end of the journal.  The last entry was written on the morning of the trial.  Harlan had written with confidence that he would be able to convince Scott not to testify and that his lawyer would be able to turn the tables on them all and have ‘…Johnny Madrid finally placed in prison where he belongs’. Harlan was convinced that in the end, he would remain untarnished by this unfortunate episode.  Turning the page, Scott’s breath was taken away by Harlan’s own plans for him!  It seemed that his grandfather was already placing into motion his plan to have Scott deemed unfit and placed into his legal custody! Reading the written words sparked Scott’s anger anew.  Closing his eyes, he could envision himself a prisoner in Harlan’s house.  More than ever, Scott realized that his grandfather needed help.

Blowing out the candle, Scott closed the book.  His mind was numb from the words of hatred for his father and his brother and the commitment plans Harlan already had in the works for Scott.  His heart was broken, for now he irrevocably knew that his grandfather was insane.  Taking off his clothes, he climbed into bed and curled himself into a ball.  He needed to rest before he went to see his grandfather again.  Closing his eyes, he once again wished to be back home – at Lancer.  Never again would he ever think of Boston has his home.


Linda Rae once again spent the night in Johnny’s room.  There was concern that the young man was developing a severe case of pneumonia.  He had begun to cough up blood the day before – blood that had collected in his lungs after his fall in the courtroom and later after he fell in the hospital.   At first he had managed to expel several thick red clots - but was left weak and in severe pain from the effort.  He refused the pain medication that would have made the coughing easier, so he began to suppress them.  As the night progressed his breaths became short pants.  A steam tent was made in an attempt to get moisture into his lungs to loosen the clots and phlegm – but there was little success.  In his weakened condition, his fever increased to the point where they again considered bathing him in ice water.  The doctors desperately wanted to give him morphine or laudanum to make it easier for him to cough for fear that he would tear the stitches that had yet to be removed.  It was only Dr. Kane’s strict instructions and Johnny’s staunch refusal that prevented them from doing so.

The young nurse devoted her entire night forcing fluids down his throat and helping him to expel whatever he could from his lungs.  It had been a long and hard fight, but it was definitely worth the effort.  By morning, his fever was reduced and he was breathing a little easier.  

Johnny smiled as she gently wiped the sweat from his face.  With closed eyes he murmured some words in Spanish and called her Teresa.  ‘His girl’ Linda Rae thought with smile.  She was glad to know that there was someone waiting for him.   When he finally fell into a sound sleep, she sat back in her chair and breathed a sigh of relief.

Henry Kane made his rounds at 7AM.  “I hear he had a rough night,” The doctor commented reading the chart.  Taking out his stethoscope he listened carefully to Johnny’s lungs, and then palpated the area around the incision.  Johnny unconsciously moaned but did not awaken.   He then lifted the covers and checked Johnny’s left leg.  The stitched laceration was healing well with no sign of infection.  “His breathing sounds better and it seems that all of the stitches are still holding.  You did a great job.”

Linda Rae smiled at the praise.  “It would be easier if he would take pain medicine.  I think his ribs are bothering him - making it very hard for him to cough.”

“I know.  But his brother asked that we not give him any more morphine or laudanum until Johnny specifically asks for it.  Have you seen Scott?”

“Not since yesterday,” Linda Rae commented stretching her tight muscles.  “The other nurses said that the last time Johnny was here, Scott never left his side.  I wonder what happened.”

The doctor could only shake his head.  “Alberta said that she would be back around 9AM.  Would you mind staying until then?”

“I’d be glad to.”  Checking her patient’s covers one more time, she went to the window and watched the sunrise.  She prayed that her patient had turned a corner and was now back on the road to health.

At 9AM, Alberta arrived with Jim Davis.  Johnny, who was now awake, looked anxiously past them for his brother.  A frown crossed his face when he realized that Scott had not come.  His face became a cold mask and his heart began to harden.  His brother had lied to him – he said that he would never let anyone hurt him again – and Scott – himself - had.  Well, Johnny knew how to make sure that he was never hurt again.  He had lived with a hardened heart for 23 years and going back was easier than letting anyone else in.  

Alberta noted the change in Johnny’s disposition.  When they first entered the room he had a look of quiet excitement at their arrival, but that had quickly changed to a cold mask of indifference that only compounded his sickly appearance.  “Mr. Johnny, how are you feeling?  The doctor says that you had a bad night.”

“I’ve had worse,” came the quiet reply.  

Jim Davis looked from Johnny to Alberta.  He was stunned by the response.  What had happened between the brothers that had caused both of them to change so quickly? “Johnny, Scott asked me to come…”

“Figures,” Johnny mumbled.

“Pardon, me?”  Jim asked startled by the interruption.

“I said that it figures that he ain’t here.”

“Now why would you say that?”  Alberta gently asked.

Johnny eyed the older woman and sighed.  He had promised himself that he wouldn’t be hurt again by Scott, but she had gone out of her way to kind to him.  “After yesterday I don’t expect him to be back none too soon.”   He turned back to Jim Davis.  “Why did Scott ask you to come?”

Again, Jim glanced nervously at Alberta.  “The State’s Attorney is coming to see you soon to discuss the appropriate punishment for Harlan Garrett.”

“Back home we have prisons to hold people who commit crimes.  What do you do to them here that’s so different?”

“That’s what Scott wanted me to talk to you about.  He thinks that his grandfather needs help…”

Johnny looked sharply at Jim.  “What do you mean - help?”

“He thinks that his grandfather may be incompetent…”

“You mean that he thinks ‘ol Harlan might be crazy?”  Johnny snorted and then began to cough.   Clenching his teeth he folded his arms across his chest until the spell passed.  Linda Rae, who had remained, held out a basin for him to spit the bloody mess from his mouth.  Johnny lay back, taking shallow breaths until he could move past the sharp pain and back to the constant pain that was now consuming him.  “What does Scott want?” He whispered breathlessly.

“Johnny, if you don’t want to do this…”

“Just tell me, what does Scott want?”

“He wants you to agree to have Harlan committed to a sanitarium for help….”

Johnny wanted to laugh out loud at the ridiculous request.  His brother wanted him to show mercy to a man who tried to have him killed; mercy for the man responsible for the torture he had endured.  Only his knowing that he couldn’t tolerate the deep breaths associated with laughter prevented him from giving into this desire.  “You can tell my brother, that I don’t care what happens to that old man.  He can rot in hell for all I care.”

“Mr. Johnny – your brother thinks that Mr. Garrett is sick…”

“Look around you,” Johnny indicated his room his voice rising with anger.  “I’m here because of Harlan Garrett and I’m supposed to care about him?  When has he ever cared about me – other than to see me dead?”  Johnny again started to cough, this time worse than before. Linda Rae’s eyes flashed in irritation at the visitors before helping to roll Johnny to his left side and gently rub his back until he was able to breathe a little easier.

He finally lay back with his eyes closed to hide the weakness that he felt.  Johnny hated to be sick and this weakness hurt him physically and morally. Bitterness was invading him that he couldn’t fight back any longer.  It was OK before the trial when he was focused on protecting his brother – but that was what had landed him back in the hospital.  For several long moments he lay with his eyes closed until he was composed enough to continue.  Opening his eyes he gazed at the people who only wanted to help him.   He was exhausted and had no more fight for this conversation.  “No,” he barely whispered.   “I can’t do it.”

“Not even for your brother?”  Alberta asked trying to reach whatever soft spot was left in his heart.

“You have my brother come and ask me.”  Johnny whispered in response, closing his eyes and falling into an exhausted sleep.

Linda Rae walked with Alberta and Jim to the door.  “He had a terrible night.  He’s not thinking clearly…”

“I think that he’s thinking very clearly.”  Jim commented looking back at the sleeping man.  “He’s right.  If Scott wants his help, then he’s going to have to ask for it himself.  I can’t ask a man to do something that I don’t believe in.”  Taking his hat and coat, he turned to leave.

“Mr. Davis,” Alberta asked gently tugging on his sleeve.  “Where are you going?”

“To have a talk with Scott Lancer.”  Jim left the two women with their patient.

Linda Rae gazed fondly at the young man she had been caring for.  She really didn’t know much about Johnny, other than he had been beaten and tortured, but there was something about him that she found compelling and dangerous.  “What’s going to happen with him and his brother?”  She asked the older woman before she left for the day.

“I don’t know,” Alberta shook her head.  She thought she knew Scott Lancer and couldn’t believe that he could simply ignore his brother when he needed him so desperately.  “You go home, child, and get some rest.  I’ll take care of him now.”


Jim Davis met Randall Coates as he returned home to speak with Scott. Randall wanted to speak with Scott before he went to speak with Johnny.   Jennings opened the door and let both men in – taking their hats and coats.

“Is Scott up yet?”  Jim asked Jennings before the older man left to care for the coats.

“I believe that he is getting dressed as we speak.”

“Would you tell him that I need to see him – now?”

Jennings raised an eyebrow at the request and nodded his understanding.

Jim showed Randall into the library where a fire was brightly burning.  “So, Randy, what brings you here this morning?”

“I wanted to speak with Scott.  I had the psychiatrist speak with his grandfather late yesterday afternoon…”


Randy shook his head.  “In laymen’s terms, he thinks that Harlan has lost his grip on reality – he’s crazy.”

“Not just crazy like a fox?”  Jim asked carefully.

“Believe me, it surprised me too.  I would have bet that the old boy was faking it…”  Randy paused, his face flushing, as he noticed Scott standing in the doorway.  “Mr. Lancer – Scott….”  The lawyer was at a loss on how to apologize for his comments.

“No… don’t.  I read my grandfather’s journal last night.”  In his hand he held up the leather bound book.  “I reached the same conclusion on my own.  So, what happens now?”  Scott moved into the room and took a seat in front of the fire.  

Jim and Randy both noticed the dark circles under Scott’s eyes, realizing that he must have spent the entire night reading the book.  The younger man looked and sounded exhausted. “May I see that?”  Randy asked extending his hand for the journal.

Scott briefly regarded the volume before reluctantly turning it over to the State’s Attorney.  “I think that this will only prove the psychiatrist’s case.”

Randy took the book and began to page through it, raising his eyebrows as certain sections caught his attention.  Clearing his voice, he looked back up at Scott.  “I already spoke with Trevor’s family.  They are agreeable with having Harlan institutionalized.  Now all I have to do is to speak with Johnny…”

“That could be a problem...” Jim started, aiming his words at Scott.

Scott’s eyes flashed at the comment.  “Why?  What’s happened?”

“First of all – your brother is not well.  He’s got pneumonia.  He fought a fever last night and is having difficulty breathing…”

“But he’ll be alright?”  Scott asked, voicing concern for his brother.

“Yes, in time, he should be fine, but for now he is a very ill and angry young man.  He’s angry at you, Scott.”

Scott frowned and looked into the fire remembering how his heated words hurt his brother the day before.  “I’m not surprised…”

“I don’t think that you understand.”  Jim sat down next to Scott.  “I spoke with him this morning.  I told him what you wanted him to do and he won’t do it…”  He paused as he saw anger rising in Scott.  “He said that if you want him to help Harlan that you’ll have to ask him yourself.”

Scott looked at Jim and then up at Randy - his eyes a mirror of the physical exhaustion and emotional weariness that he felt.  Scott was completely overwhelmed by all that needed to be done to help his grandfather and get Harlan’s affairs in order.   “Doesn’t he know that I don’t have time for this?  I have to go to the business and make arrangements for new management, take care of the house…”

“Take care of your brother.”  Jim interrupted in a firm voice.  “I don’t know what you said to him – but it’s hurting both of you.  Besides, you can’t do anything for your grandfather without Johnny’s help.”

“He’s right,” Randy added.  “He’s the last remaining holdup.  I can’t make the recommendation of institutionalization without Johnny’s approval.  He is the surviving victim and his word is going to carry a lot of weight with the judge.  It’s either prison or a mental institution. Go talk to your brother.”


It was a much calmer and more rational Scott Lancer who made his way through the marbled halls of the hospital.  Taking a deep breath, he knocked on the door to his brother’s room.  Alberta opened the door and smiled to see him.  “He’s resting.  You go on in and have a nice visit.  I’ll be just outside if you need me.”  She gave Scott a reassuring hug before leaving.  “Remember he’s hurting and that he loves you and you love him.”  

Silently Scott entered and walked to Johnny’s bedside.  The younger man was asleep, propped up with pillows so that he appeared to be sitting up. Glancing around the room he observed bloody rags in a pail beside the bed.  No one had told him that Johnny had been bleeding again. They said he had pneumonia, but hadn’t said anything about blood.  Taking Johnny’s hand he was startled by the coldness.  Bowing his head he realized his folly.  How could he have thought that Johnny would be alright while he stayed away?  Johnny was injured, and now ill.  Scott was ashamed that he had left Johnny alone when he probably needed him more than ever.  He had taken for granted that Johnny was strong enough to cope by himself while Scott tended to his grandfather’s affairs.  He was wrong - and now he had to ask Johnny to forgive him and his grandfather.  Scott frowned, knowing that he would have to understand if Johnny refused to help.  Sucking up his breath, and his courage, he squeezed Johnny’s right hand.    “Johnny?”  He whispered.

Johnny’s eyes slowly fluttered opened and focused on the specter of his brother.   A shiver ran down his spine, remembering the confrontation of the day before and his resolution not to be hurt again.  “Scott.”  He responded coolly pulling his hand from his brother’s grasp. “You come to yell at me some more?”  He began to cough and spit blood into a rag that he had clenched in his left hand.

Alarmed, Scott moved closer.  “Are you alright?”

Johnny closed his eyes and shook his head ignoring the voice of concern.  He had heard his brother’s concern yesterday and it had damn near killed him.  He was too tired for it to happen again.  “You got something on your mind?”

“I owe you an apology…”

Johnny opened his eyes and regarded his brother suspiciously.  “Is that right?  Why?”

“Oh, I don’t know… Because you went to a lot of trouble to try to help me and all I did was get angry at you…”

“Angry ain’t quite the word for it, Boston.”

Scott winced at the use of the old nickname.  “Alright then, I was madder than fire at you.  You nearly got yourself killed trying to help me and all I could do is yell at you.  Is that what you wanted to hear?”

Johnny considered the words, his mask remaining fully in place.  “I guess that’s about as close to an apology as I’m going to get – isn’t it.”

Scott looked away for a second and then turned back, knowing that he would have to face this eye to eye.  “I was wrong.  I was angry and I was wrong to take it out on you…”

“And now you need my help.”  It wasn’t a question.

“Yes, I need your help.”  Scott pulled a chair up beside the bed and sat down.  “Johnny, I wish you had known the man I knew when I was a child.  He was different then.  Sure, he was strict but I knew he loved me.  Something has changed in him. I can’t explain it, but I read his journal last night and I’m convinced that he’s not right…”

“He’s crazy?”  Johnny started to laugh and began to cough again.   

“Johnny, what can I do?”  Scott stood, alarmed that his brother might choke to death right before his eyes.  Seeing that Johnny wanted to roll to his left side, Scott helped him until the coughing subsided and then helped him to lie back against the pillows.  When he was sure that Johnny was able to breathe a little easier, Scott continued.  “Johnny, I know that I have no right to ask this, but I need your help.  I want Grandfather committed to a sanitarium where he can get help.”

Johnny eyed his brother, seeing the sincerity of his words on his face.  “You’re sure about this, Boston?  I mean, what if he gets out and hurts someone else? How are you gonna feel then?”

“Johnny, I promise.  Harlan is never going to hurt another person for the rest of his life…”

“I’ve heard your promises, Scott.  You’ve already lied to me once.  Why should I listen again?”

Scott gave his brother a puzzled look.  “I lied?”

“You promised that no one was going to hurt me again – and then you did it – you stabbed me right in the heart.  Scott, I can’t take no more broken promises.”  

Scott could see the small crack in the mask that his brother was wearing.  He knew that it was now time to give it his all or else he could lose his brother.  Taking Johnny’s hand in his own, he looked him square in the eyes.  “Johnny, I didn’t mean to lie and God knows that I didn’t mean to hurt you.  It was just that I was hurting so bad that I wasn’t thinking.  The one thing that has never changed is my heart. Always know that I love you.”

Johnny’s mask broke and a single tear began to make its way down his cheek.  Scott responded by gently taking his brother into his arms.  Johnny’s head rested on his shoulder and silent tears fell from both men.  It had been too close – one brother nearly loosing himself to the physical and emotional trauma that he had endured; the other brother nearly loosing himself to a guilt that was not his.  Scott held his brother until he sensed that Johnny was asleep. “It’s all right, Johnny.  No, I can’t promise that no one is going to hurt you like this again, but they’ll have to fight me if they do.”  Scott whispered his solemn vow to his brother and gently laid the now sleeping Johnny back on his pillows.


Henry Kane had entered the room just as Scott made his vow to his brother.  Johnny’s condition was deteriorating.  The physician knew that if Johnny was going to pull through that he would need the strength and support of his older brother.  It was good to see that Scott had realized his error of the day before and had come to make amends.  Quietly he went to Scott and laid a gentle hand on his shoulder.

Scott turned to look at the doctor, his face a mirror of Henry’s own concern.  “He’s worse…”

Henry nodded his head.  “He had a bad night last night and he’s exhausted.  We’re doing our best to keep him strong, but with his spirits so low…”

“Because of me…”  Scott whispered looking back at the pale countenance of his brother.  

“It’s not just you, Scott.  You have to understand – he’s been through so much – plus the nightmares – he’s not getting the rest that he needs.”

“What can I do?”  Scott was beginning to feel overwhelmed again.  He had so much to do for his grandfather and yet, his brother needed his just as much – if not more.

“You’ve taken the first step.  You’ve reassured him that you care about him.  I know that he doesn’t want you with him 24 hours a day – he understands that you need to be with your grandfather.  He just doesn’t need to feel forgotten or that you are punishing him.”

“Oh God,” Scott swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat.  That is exactly what he had done – he had punished Johnny for trying to help him.

Henry tightened his grip on Scott’s shoulder.  “You’re carrying a heavy load my friend.  You need to share it with your brother.  Don’t keep if from him – like you did with the trial. He needs to feel that you need him as much as he needs you right now.  I think that you’ll both be stronger if you both stop hiding from each other.  Now, let me do my job.”  Henry pulled out his stethoscope and maneuvered to the other side of the bed.

Scott watched anxiously as the doctor listened to Johnny’s breathing.  “Well?”  Scott asked as the instrument was removed from the doctor’s ears.

“His lungs are still congested.  Coughing is a problem – it aggravates the healing ribs and his other wounds.  I’d like to give him some morphine or laudanum to make it easier for him to cough and clear his lungs.”

Scott looked at his pale brother.  He hated having the responsibility to make decisions for the younger man, but in this case he felt the doctor was right.    Reluctantly he gave his permission.  “Alright….”

“Don’t worry - I’ll try to limit the doses to as little as medically necessary.”

“Any idea when he can go home?”

Henry’s eyes flashed remembering the last time he had a conversation like this with the Lancers.  “He can go back to the Davis house when he’s no longer coughing blood from his lungs – maybe by Saturday or Sunday.  As far as returning to California…”  Henry shook his head.  ‘I’m not sure that he’ll have the strength to endure that trip for several weeks yet.”

Both men looked at the sleeping patient.  Johnny had been so worn out that he had never budged during the examination.  It reminded Scott of the time after Pardee’s bullet had been removed from Johnny’s back.  The recovery seemed to take forever – but at least he had been at home – at Lancer.

With reluctance, he spoke again.  “I have to go and see my grandfather and his lawyer.”  Going to his brother, he laid a hand on Johnny’s shoulder.  “I’ll be back and we’ll talk some more.  I promise.”

Chapter 23

Scott left the hospital with a heavy heart.  Henry Kane was right, the burden he was carrying was heavy but he had no choice but to shoulder it and move on.  With determined steps, he went to his grandfather’s office where he had arranged a meeting with Harlan’s attorney and his assistant.

Entering the business was like entering a tomb.  All of the normal employees were there, but they went about their business in a quiet fashion – unsure of what would be happening in the days to come.  His grandfather’s assistant, Edward Wadsworth, saw him as he entered and quickly made his way to greet him.  “Mr. Lancer, good to see you again.  Mr. Emche is waiting for you in Mr. Garrett’s office.”

In silence, Scott followed the man upstairs to the office that he had broken into - what seemed to be a lifetime ago.  Edward had been in his grandfather’s employ since graduating from Harvard ten years earlier.  Scott was always aware that his grandfather was disappointed that he had not taken an interest in the business the same way that Edward had. After showing Scott to the office, Edward turned to leave, only to be called back by Scott.  “Mr. Wadsworth, I would appreciate it if you would stay.”

Both pleased and surprised, Edward nodded and closed the door behind him before taking a seat next to the lawyer in front of Harlan’s desk.

“Gentlemen, I have spoken with the State’s Attorney and he is going to recommend that my grandfather be committed to a sanitarium at the hearing tomorrow.”  Scott looked at the two men and was mildly surprised that neither expressed any opposition to this action.  “I spoke with my grandfather yesterday and found him…not himself.  I also went to his house and found his journal. What I read more than erased any doubt in my own mind that my grandfather needs help”

Benjamin Emche winced, imagining the words that Harlan had put to paper over the past several months.  “Mr. Lancer, what you’re proposing is to brand your grandfather as being ‘insane’.  Are you prepared to do that?”  

“Mr. Emche, I would prefer to see my grandfather branded anything as opposed to having him sitting in a prison and rotting for the rest of his life.  I believe that at an institution he will receive the treatment that he needs.”

“And your bother is unopposed to this?”  The attorney had seen Johnny Madrid Lancer and was skeptical that the young man would agree to Harlan ‘getting off easy’.  

“My brother is more understanding of this than anyone I know.  He will not oppose my grandfather being institutionalized.”

“And what about the business?”  Edward spoke up for the first time.  “Will you be staying on to run Garrett Enterprises, or will you be selling it?”

“Neither.  My life is in California with my family.  No, I would like to propose to the Board of Directors that you be named as interim president of the company until,” Scott paused reflectively before continuing – “until my grandfather is able to resume his duties….”  

“You realize that he could be institutionalized for the rest of his life?”

Scott frowned and bowed his head.  “I know that.  But I also know that there are a lot of people who depend upon this business for their livelihood.  It would be a travesty if more people suffer from the actions of my grandfather.”   

Both men nodded their understanding.  The lawyer stood and went to Scott.  “When are you going to tell him about what’s going to happen tomorrow?”

“I’m planning on going to the jail after I’m done here.  Can you come with me?”

“I’ll meet you over there.  I want to speak with the State’s Attorney first – just to make sure that there are no surprises.”  Ben shook Scott’s hand and left Scott with Edward.

The two young men regarded each closely.  “How long have you known that my grandfather was ‘not right’?”  Scott asked finally.

Edward turned away and looked out the window.  “Your grandfather is a brilliant businessman and a fine teacher.  But, he has always had a protective edge where you are concerned.  He never understood your need to fight in the war or to go out to the wilderness and find your father.  I guess that I was always aware of his ways, but in the last year - since you left – he became more and more unbalanced.  I’m sorry about what happened to your brother.  I never thought that he’d go that far…”

Scott took in this information and wondered if this man was the right person to take over the business. Had Edward known what Harlan has planned for Johnny?   Sensing Scott’s potential change of heart, Edward continued.  “Mr. Lancer – Scott, I’ve been with your grandfather for 10 years.  I know this business better than anyone.  I can promise you that I will do my best to honor the name of Garrett Enterprises and will endeavor  to return the trust that you have placed in me.”

Scott smiled, hearing the words of assurance that he was looking for.  His grandfather had chosen his successor well.  He extended his hand to Edward who grasped it firmly.  “Call a meeting of the Board.  I would like to meet with them next week and get this resolved.”


Scott and Ben Emche met at the Jail.  “Did you have a chance to speak to the State’s Attorney?”  Scott asked as the two men entered the building.

“Randy is meeting with your brother now.  I’ll check in with him later.  I just don’t want there to be any surprises tomorrow…”

“Like the trial?”  Scott smirked remembering how his brother had disrupted the proceedings.

Ben stopped and grabbed Scott’s arm.  “Your brother isn’t going to show up again – is he?”  The lawyer was very serious and anxious with this question.  His entire defense had been destroyed by the appearance of Johnny Lancer and he didn’t want to experience another defeat like that again – ever.  

A sliver of a smile crossed Scott’s lips.  The thought of having a well Johnny Madrid Lancer in the courtroom would have been amusing, but the man who lay in the hospital was anything but well.  “He won’t be there.  He’s very ill.  I just want to get him home for Thanksgiving – if I can.”

“Good,” Ben breathed a sigh of relief.    They continued until they reached the holding cells.  The lawyer spoke briefly to the jailer before they were let in and allowed back to where Harlan was.

“Garrett – you got company!”  The jailer called ahead letting the older man prepare himself.

Harlan was waiting for them, his eyes wide in anticipation.  He silently watched as the jailer pulled up two stools for the visitors and then returned to his desk.   “Scotty!”  He extended his hand through the bars to grasp the hand of his grandson.  “I see that you brought help this time, even though it is a traitor!”  He had not quite forgiven his attorney for changing his plea to guilty – but there was no point in arguing about it.  He had a new plan in the works.

Scott gave his grandfather a weak smile and studied him carefully.  He had no idea how his grandfather was going to respond to the deal that he had worked out with the State’s Attorney.  “Grandfather, we need to talk…”

“Yes, yes!   You’ve got news about the hearing tomorrow?”

“Well…”  Scot began, but looked to Ben to continue.

“Mr. Garrett, your grandson has been working very hard on your behalf and I think that he has found a solution that will be to your liking.  First of all, he has worked it out that you will not be going to prison…”

“I should say NOT!”  Harlan boomed.

“Keep it down back there!”  The Jailer called out in response.

Harlan shot a dirty look down the hallway, but lowered his voice.  “Prison is not an option!  So, what have you managed to work out – probation or perhaps a pardon?”  

Scott sucked in his breath at the thought of Harlan being pardoned.  That was never going to happen.  Given his grandfather’s apparent state of mind, he chose to ignore that comment and proceeded with a presentation of the only option available.  “It’s not quite that simple.  You met with the psychiatrist that the State’s Attorney sent here yesterday…?”

“Yes, a quite pleasant man.  He asked all sorts of questions and was very understanding of my answers…”

“Grandfather,” Scott interrupted, not wanting to prolong this part of the meeting longer than needed.  “The psychiatrist determined that you need help and that you belong in an institution rather than a prison…”

Harlan paused, his mouth open.  “Are you saying that he thinks I’m crazy?”  Scott glanced at Ben and together they nodded their heads.  “Why that’s absurd!”  Harlan began to shout, but lowered his voice – fearing the jailer might ask his guests to leave.  “There is nothing wrong with me!  I may have made a poor choice in befriending young Pierce, but crazy?”

Scott was now getting angry.  “Grandfather – I read your journal.  You deliberately contacted Reginald Pierce with the sole idea of killing my brother!  You deliberately sent Trevor to the fraternity house knowing that Pierce would never let him leave alive.  Your only options are to go to prison or to go to a sanitarium.  I have worked very hard to convince my brother that you are ill and don’t belong in prison.  He has agreed that you get help…”

“The half-breed...”  Harlan pouted not wanting to be beholding to Johnny.

“That half-breed is my brother!”  Scott stood, his anger finally peaking.  “You will stop referring to Johnny in such a demeaning manner!  He has agreed to spare your life when you tried to have him killed!”  Scott yelled at his grandfather aware that the jailer was coming to remove him.  “You must understand – we are doing this to save your life!”

“I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to leave - now – Mr. Lancer.”  The jailer was beside Scott and was physically pulling him from his grandfather’s cell.  “You too, Mr. Emche…”

“I need a minute with my client, but I’ll be right along.”

Scott caught Harlan’s eyes as he was being led away.  “Grandfather…”

Harlan watched until Scott was out of sight.  With a sigh, he turned to his lawyer.  “Well?”

“It looks like it’s the sanitarium for certain.  I can’t say for certain how long you may be there – but it’s a better choice than prison and, you’ll be able to get out sooner – once you’re deemed – ‘well’.  When I meet with Randall Coates I’ll make suggestions for your placement.”

The old man smiled.  His new plan was indeed coming together nicely.  He had spoken with Ben immediately after the disastrous trial and they had agreed that their next plan would be to find a way to keep him out of prison.   One of his investments was a sanitarium near Cambridge.  It was a place for the wealthy and he knew that he would be quite comfortable there until he was eventually released.  “You’ve done well.”

Ben smiled and nodded his head at the compliment.  “I still have a few details to iron out, but right now, it’s looking very good.”

“And the business?”

“Scott met with Edward this morning.  He will be asking the Board to approve Edward as the interim president until you are released.”

Harlan’s smile broadened..  “Is there any way you can convince Scott to stay in Boston?”  

At that request Ben frowned.  “No.  He is quite adamant on returning his brother home to California.  I don’t think that there is anything that will keep him in Boston now.”

“That’s too bad.”  Harlan frowned.  “He’s weak, like his mother and easily led.  No matter,” Harlan dismissed.  “Other opportunities will present themselves.  Right now, we must focus on tomorrow and the perpetuation of the business.  I’ll see you in the morning?”  Ben nodded his head.  “Can you arrange for a new suit of clothes for me?  I’ve been in this suit for 3 days now and I must look a fright.”

“I’ll have it delivered first thing in the morning…”

“One other thing,” Harlan caught the attorney’s arm just as he was heading to the door.  “How is the half-breed?”

Ben stepped back and whispered fiercely to his client.  “Mr. Garrett, I sincerely recommend that you stop referring to Johnny Lancer as ‘that half-breed’.  You must show remorse for what you have done, or you will never get out!”

Harlan nodded his head that he understood.  “It will take some trying, but I believe that I can manage it.  So, how is he doing?”

“He’s in the hospital.  He has pneumonia and is not well…”

“And his chances?”

“I don’t know.  You hurt him pretty badly back at the trial…”

“Excellent.  Then the hope remains that he will meet an unfortunate end from natural causes.”

“Harlan…”  Ben threatened.

‘Alright!”  Harlan acquiesced.  “I shall not speak of it again – until I am in the Sanitarium.  I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”


Randall Coates went to the hospital to meet with Johnny.  Alberta was there knitting while Johnny slept.  The State’s Attorney was skeptical that Johnny was going to be as agreeable as his brother indicated.  Lightly he knocked on the open door frame to the room - catching Alberta’s attention.  Looking up, she put down her knitting as he motioned for her to speak with him out in the hall.  “How is he doing?”  

Alberta shook her head.  “He’s holding his own.  His fever is down, but not gone. He’s still having difficulty breathing.”

“But he’s not going to die…”

Alberta vigorously shook her head.  “Not if I can help it he won’t.  You’ve come to speak with him regarding Mr. Garrett.”

“Yes.  Scott says that Johnny has agreed to having Mr. Garrett committed rather than going to prison.”

Alberta bit her lip before responding.  She knew that Johnny had told Scott that he would agree to a commitment, but she got the impression that he wanted something more for her former employer. “You had best speak with him.  I think….”

“What?  Is there something I should know?”

“Let me wake Mr. Johnny for you and you can speak with him directly.”  Randy followed her back into the room where she took a cool cloth to gently dab at Johnny’s flushed face.  “Mr. Johnny,” she called trying to rouse him from his restless sleep.

Vivid blue eyes fluttered open, but it took a moment for them to focus on the woman who was tending him.  “Alberta?”  He whispered, licking his parched lips.

Placing a glass to this mouth, she helped him to take a few sips of the tepid water.  When he indicated that he had had enough she withdrew the glass.  “Mr. Johnny – Mr. Coates is here so speak with you.”

For the first time, Johnny looked past the older woman to focus on the previously unnoticed lawyer.  “Mr. Coates?”  Johnny raised a trembling hand towards Randy.

Randy stepped to the other side of the bed and grasped Johnny’s hand.  He held it in his own - sensing that the man before him had been waiting for him.  “Mr. Lancer, it is good of you to see me…”

Johnny shook his head impatiently.  “I’ve been waiting for you.”  He rasped out, trying to catch his breath.  Johnny had been doing a lot of thinking about Scott and Harlan Garrett, and no matter what Scott said, he didn’t trust Harlan.  Johnny was looking for the State’s Attorney to agree to some assurances that nothing like what happened to him would ever happen at Harlan’s hands again.  

Randy pulled up a chair and sat down.  “I heard that Scott spoke with you and you’ve agreed to a commitment rather than prison….”

Johnny nodded his head and a slight smile reached his lips.  “Yeah, I agreed, but I was wondering if the judge would honor a few requests that I have?”

Randy looked puzzled.  “Requests?  I’m not sure that I follow.”

“Harlan’s going to get off light compared to the damage that he’s done.  I just want to make sure that he gets what he truly deserves.”

“And just what that might be?”

“You got a piece of paper?  I’d like to send a note to the Judge….”

Randall stayed with Johnny for a full hour, copiously taking notes on what Johnny had in mind.  Several times the attorney smiled at the cleverness of the former gun hawk.  Here was a man that he never wanted to cross.  Other times, he frowned wondering what Scott would think if he ever found out what Johnny had planned for his grandfather.  It took a long time for them to hash over Johnny’s requests.  Several times Johnny had to take a break to catch his breath or just take a rest.

At the end of an hour Alberta interrupted them stressing that Johnny, who was now a shade paler than he had been, needed rest.  Johnny thanked the lawyer for coming and indicated that he wanted a full report immediately after the hearing.  With heavy eyes he watched as the State’s Attorney left the room.

Alberta helped him drink some mint tea and made sure that he was comfortable before taking her place beside the bed again.  “So, what do you think is going to happen tomorrow?”

Johnny lay back with a hit of a smile on his face at the bitter aftertaste left in his mouth from the tea.  “Justice.  I expect justice – nothing more and nothing less.”

“And what about your brother?”

Johnny raised an eyebrow.  “Scott knows injustice when he sees and hears it.  He’s suffered at the hands of others when he was falsely accused of something that he hadn’t done.  Scott will understand that Harlan’s punishment must fit the crime….”  Johnny’s words trailed off as he fell into a sound sleep.  

While Johnny had been speaking with Randy Coates, Alberta had been speaking with Henry Kane.  The tea had been laced with laudanum, allowing the injured man to get the rest that he so desperately needed.  Alberta noticed that his breathing was definitely deeper and easier than it had been all day.  She hated the idea of tricking Johnny, but after seeing how much pain he was in and how it was inhibiting his ability to clear his lungs, she had reluctantly agreed.  It hadn’t taken much of the medicine to put Johnny out and for that she was thankful.


It was late when Randy Coates returned to his office with Johnny’s note and Harlan’s journal.  He had a lot of work to do if he was going to honor Johnny’s requests.  While he sorted through the papers, he was interrupted by Ben Emche.  “Ben!  What brings you here this late?”  

“I just wanted to go over the plan for the hearing tomorrow.  Did you meet with Johnny Lancer?”

Randy looked at his notes and shuffled them under some of his other papers.  “I met with him, and he is in agreement that Harlan be institutionalized rather than go to prison.”

“Excellent!”  Ben responded clapping his hands together before opening his brief case.  “I’ve prepared a list of appropriate sanitariums where Mr. Garrett can get the help that he needs.”  

Randy took the offered paper and quickly scanned it.  On the page were some of the most expensive and exclusive hospitals in the state. “Of course the State will be picking up the charge for this.  After all – the State would have paid for prison, so the State will pay for the hospitalization.”

Randy shook his head – Johnny had been right in his suspicions.  “Let me review these in the morning and I’ll let you know which one I’ll be recommending to Judge Wharton.”  Judge Wharton had been the trial judge and he definitely had his own ideas on what was to be a suitable punishment for a wealthy man who abused his money and his power to cause injury to others.  “He will, of course, have the final say on this matter.”  

“Of course – but with your stamp of approval I’m sure that he’ll send my client to the facility that will best suit his needs.”

“I’m sure,” Randy said with confidence guiding Ben to the door of his office.  “I have some briefs to complete for the hearing.  I’ll see you in the judge’s chambers at 9:30AM.”

Ben Emche left the State’s attorney’s office.  They had fooled them all.  Harlan Garrett was going to get away with murder and he had facilitated it!  Of course, the old man had paid a pretty penny for his services, but it was definitely worth it.  He had lost the trial, but now he was convinced that he had won the war.  


It was 7PM when Scott Lancer returned to the hospital.  Johnny was sound asleep and Linda Rae was once again entrenched in her role as his protector.  Putting a finger to her lips she guided the older brother back out into the hallway.  “Alberta got him to take some laudanum this afternoon.  He’s been sleeping ever since….”

“How did she manage to do that?”

“She slipped it into his tea.”

Scott winced at the thought of having to deceive his brother into taking the pain medicine, but if it helped him to get better – it was worth it.  “How is he doing?”   

“Much better - now that he actually resting.  His coughing has eased and his breathing is much better.”

“And his fever?”

Linda Rae frowned at that question.  “It’s better, but still not gone.  At least his wounds are not infected.”

“Can I sit with him a bit?”

She smiled and laid a gentle hand on his arm.  “I’m glad that you’re here for him.  I think he knows when you’re near.  I’m going to go for a walk and will be back in a bit.”

Scott gave her a half smile in return.  This was perhaps the best part of this hard day.  He had made peace with his brother and had secured an appropriate outcome for his grandfather.  Entering the room, he pulled the chair up closer to his brother’s bed.  Johnny’s color was indeed better than it had been.

To his surprise, Johnny opened his eyes and eyed him cautiously.  “You alone?”

Scott looked around and nodded his head.  “Just the two of us, Brother.”

Johnny smiled, relieved that the tension that had been between them was now gone.  “That was might sneaky of you, Brother, having Alberta put that laudanum in my tea.”

Scott raised his eyebrows and smiled.  “Me?”  He responded innocently.

“You don’t fool me – I sure as heck didn’t tell them to give it to me – so it had to be you!”  Johnny’s eyes flashed for a moment and then softened.  “Guess that I must have needed it…”

Relieved by his brother’s softening attitude, Scott gave his hand a gentle squeeze.  “You had us all worried, Johnny.  You need rest and this was the only way to make sure that you got it.  Henry promised that he would use as little as possible to effect a change.  So, how are you feeling?”

“Tired, but better.”  Johnny took a deep breath and gave a slight wince to demonstrate his new found ability to breath easier.  “Could I have some water?”

Scott went to the bedside table and poured his brother half a glass of water.

“No laudanum?”  Johnny asked before accepting the offered glass.

Scott smiled.  “No laudanum – I promise.”  Scott handed the glass to Johnny, noticing the slight trembling in his brother’s hand.  He remained nearby, not offering to assist – knowing that Johnny would want to start doing things on his own again.  When he was done, Johnny handed the empty glass back to his brother and then dropped his hand heavily on the bed as if exhausted.  “So, you’re not going to show up at court again tomorrow – are you? I think that Linda Rae has orders to tie you to this bed if you try to get up.”

Johnny smiled and began to laugh, only to wince at the discomfort in his chest.  “OK, OK.  I’ll behave tomorrow.  And you – will you be alright?”

“I won’t need anyone coming to my rescue – if that’s what you mean…”  Scott responded, trying to disguise the bitterness that he still felt over what had happened at the trial.

“No,” Johnny shook his head and caught Scott’s eyes.  “I meant that you’re alright with Harlan’s punishment?”  

“Johnny, my grandfather did a terrible thing.  He hurt you, he had Trevor killed and he …” Scott paused remembering the last paragraphs in the journal that were about himself.  “He is a very sick man – and he doesn’t belong in prison – he needs help.  I can’t tell you what it means to me that you will let this happen.”

Johnny closed his eyes and sighed.  “Scott, just so you know - this will never happen again.  Harlan is never going to be in a position to hurt you, me or anyone else ever again...”  The words trailed off to a whisper as Johnny fell back to sleep.

“Rest easy, little brother.”  Scott said tucking his brother’s covers in.  “Tomorrow is my job.”

Chapter 24

By 11PM Randall Coates knew how Scott Lancer had felt just 12 hours earlier.  He had just completed reading Harlan Garrett’s journal.  Not being related to Harlan, he had an entirely different perspective of the older man than Scott.  He felt for certain that Johnny was right – Harlan was slick as a ‘greased pig’.  The old man was hedging his case – feigning mental illness.  Reading the journal, he understood just how Harlan had wanted the original trial to be resolved – with the incarceration of Johnny Lancer.  Not that Randy ever believed that such an outcome was reasonable, but Harlan certainly thought it was.  Randy was particularly stunned by Harlan’s plans for Scott – deeming his grandson unfit and having him placed in protective custody in Boston.  The man was crazy like a fox.  There wasn’t time for the journal to be reviewed by the psychiatrist prior to the hearing, so Randy decided to pick out certain sections for the Judge to read for himself.   

Finishing the journal, he rewrote the notes he had taken when he had visited with Johnny at the hospital.  The young man certainly had a fair amount of legal knowledge for someone who had never had a formal education.  Randy supposed that it came from Johnny’s own brushes with the law.  He had the impression that the young man had danced very close to the edge of legality more than once in his lifetime.  

Gathering his materials he put them in his case.  His plan was to meet with Judge Wharton for breakfast where he could outline the State’s case.  There would be no fast track sentencing – not in this case.


Jim Davis accompanied Scott to the hearing.  They arrived at 9:30 for the 10 o’clock hearing.  The bailiff informed them that the Judge was meeting with the attorneys to iron out the details of the sentence.  At 10 o’clock, the judge was going to render his decision.

Scott found his grandfather waiting in an anteroom; a guard was posted outside the door.  The older man was dressed in one of his charcoal gray suits and looked the very image of Boston propriety.  Not a hair was out of place, not a whisker showing on his face.  If only Johnny could look so well, the blond haired man thought bitterly.  Scott felt conflicted by his desire for his brother to be avenged and for his grandfather to receive leniency.  “Grandfather?”

“Scotty!”  Harlan smiled and stood as his grandson entered the room.  “Fine day, isn’t it?”

“What?”  Scott could hardly believe that his grandfather was in such a good mood on a day that would see him committed to an institution for his crimes.  “You do know why you’re here – don’t you?”

“Certainly,” Harlan reassured the younger man.  “I didn’t realize that what I was doing was wrong – so I’m going to be getting the help I need to get better.  You’ll see.  In a year or so I’ll be back at home and at work as if nothing has happened….”  

Scott’s eyes flashed.  “You had a man killed!  You nearly killed my brother and you think that the judge will let you out in a year or so?”

“Scotty, surely you know that they don’t keep sick people in hospitals when they get better.  I’ll be out as soon as I am well.”  Harlan said the words with verbose confidence.  

“Don’t be surprised if it doesn’t work out that way, sir.”  Scott warned.  The young man had never envisioned his grandfather getting released in such a short period of time – people were sentenced to prison for far longer than a year for murder and attempted murder.  

Harlan frowned at his grandson’s concern.  “You must think positively, Scotty.  Once I’m out – perhaps you can come back to Boston for a visit…”

Scott didn’t even know how to respond to the statement.  There was nothing in Boston that he ever wanted to see again – and at the moment that included his grandfather.  “Look, I just wanted you to know that in spite of everything that has happened, I still…. well, I’m very grateful for all that you have done for me…”   

“I was your father for 25 years, Scotty!  It is not your gratitude that I want; it’s your love and loyalty that I deserve.”  Harlan gave Scott the withering look that as a child would have brought Scott’s world crashing down.  Scott was no longer that child.

“No, sir,”  Scott responded confidently.  “You will always have my love, but my loyalty?  I read what you had planned if you had won that trial.  You would have sent my brother to prison and made me a prisoner in your house.  You felt that I was no longer competent to make my own decisions - that I never recovered from my experience in Libby Prison.  For that and for what you did to Johnny, there is no forgiveness.  For you, sir, I have only pity and I pray that in some way you know that you have done wrong and will work hard to become well again.”  Scott gave his grandfather a final sad look.  “We’ll speak again after the hearing.”

Harlan stared after his grandson and silently shook his head after the door was closed.  The boy was hopelessly weak.  It was the influence of that half-breed and Murdoch Lancer.  They had taken his resilient grandson and had turned him into a weakling.  He would take care of them – one way or another- once he was out of the sanitarium.  He would have his grandson - his legacy, back by his side.  

At 10 o’clock, Harlan was led into the courtroom by the Sheriff. Once again, the courtroom was packed.  Harlan was led to the defense table and was surprised to see that his lawyer’s face was flushed.  “What?”  Harlan whispered concerned at the unhappy face.

Before Ben Emche was able to respond, the Judge was announced and every one stood.  A number of people, including Scott Lancer, looked to the rear of the room, in anticipation of the arrival of Johnny Lancer.  Scott breathed a sigh of relief that his brother had either decided to trust him or that Henry Kane had securely tied him to his bed.  Once the judge was seated, Ben leaned to whisper in Harlan’s ear.  Harlan’s face flushed and he began to protest, only to be interrupted by the sound of the judge’s gavel.

“Gentlemen, are we ready to proceed?”  The judge looked at both attorneys who nodded at the question.  “Mr. Harlan Garrett, you will stand with your lawyer while I pronounce your sentence.”  With little trepidation, Harlan stood to face the judge.  Ben, on the other hand knew that the news was not going to be what his client expected.
Judge Wharton shuffled the papers in front of him and then peered through his glasses to make sure that he had everyone’s attention.  “Mr. Garrett, you conspired with the deceased Reginald Pierce to murder Trevor Hawthorne.  For that you are to be sentenced to life in prison.”  Every one, except the lawyers gasped at this pronouncement.  The judge banged his gavel and called for order before continuing.  “You intentionally arranged the kidnapping and torture of your own grandson’s brother – Mr. Johnny Lancer.  At your direction, Mr. Lancer suffered severe and life threatening injuries from which this court prays that he will recover.  For that offence, you are sentenced to a second life sentence to be served consecutively with the first.”  

“No!”  Scott whispered, his face turning pale.  “It’s not supposed to be like this…”

The judge again used his gavel to bring the court into order.  He then picked up the leather journal that was on his desk and showed it to the defendant.  Harlan’s eyes flashed in recognition of his own book.  “Mr. Garrett I have read your vile words and know what was in your heart. You, sir, are a despicable excuse of a man – manipulating others to your will appears to come as second nature to you.  The State of Massachusetts has no tolerance for any one who would dance at the sight of another’s pain. You have a wanton disregard for life and that is a sign of severe mental illness.  Based on what I have read here and from the evaluation prepared by the State’s Attorney’s office, I am setting aside the original sentences.  It was only with the approval of the victims that I shall have you remanded to a psychiatric institution for evaluation and treatment.”  

Harlan, whose face was now beet red with worry, blew out his breath in a sigh of relief.  Ben Emche placed a steadying hand on his client’s arm in preparation for what was to come next.

The Judge continued. “Concerns have been expressed that your ‘illness’ may be one of convenience.  That, sir, is also a concern of mine, but you shall be treated like any other mentally ill prisoner of this state and are hereby sentenced to the Massachusetts Prison for the Criminally Insane at Ravenswood.”  

“No!”  Harlan protested.  He was supposed to be going to the sanitarium in Cambridge.  This was not possible!

“Yes.”  The judge insisted.  “You have committed crimes and have demonstrated by your actions that you are not a rational man.  You shall receive treatment at that facility until it is deemed that you have grasped a full understanding of the crimes that you committed and are repentant.  It is further ordered that at such time, the victims shall have the opportunity to appear at the final evaluation and have a say in whether you are to be released into the general public, or sent to prison to serve out the remainder of your original sentence.    It is further ordered that you are restrained from ever communicating with or directing any further manipulations against the Lancer family.  All communications with your grandson shall be processed through the State’s Attorneys office.  In particular, if you should direct anything to cause further injury to Mr. Johnny Lancer - your sentence shall be commuted and you shall immediately be sent to the prison at Rockview where you shall remain with no possibility of parole.   Restitution is to be paid to the Hawthorne family in the amount of $10,000 and you will be responsible for payment of the medical bills incurred by Mr. Lancer.”  The judge looked at Harlan Garrett who now appeared to have been struck a mortal blow.  “Mr. Garrett.  You committed crimes and you are being punished accordingly.”  He banged his gavel to punctuate his point.  “It is so ordered.  This case is finished.”  

The stunned courtroom stood while the judge turned and left.  Randy Coates smiled to himself.  The journal and Johnny Lancer’s letter were enough to push the judge to make the most serve punishment that he could pronounce under the terms of the compromised sentence.  In the letter that he had written for Johnny, the former gunslinger had asked the judge to serve justice and not the interests of Harlan Garrett.  In plain words he had expressed that he would expect no less of a sentence for Harlan than what he would have been sentenced to under similar circumstances.  Johnny also expressed his concern that Harlan would attempt retribution against the Lancers for the sentencing.  He wanted it made clear to the old man that there would be consequences to his actions.  Judge Wharton, after reading the excerpted journal agreed.  None of Ben Emche’s recommendations were ever considered.  There was no way that Harlan Garrett would be sent to a sanitarium where he could do more potential damage.  Ravenswood was a facility for the criminally insane and that is what Harlan was deemed – a criminal who was insane.  He would get psychiatric help there – at the States expense, but to Randall Coates, it would be worth every penny.  

The Hawthorns came forward and thanked the State’s Attorney for his efforts.  They too had been afraid of a light sentence – one that would allow Harlan to be freed after serving a minimal amount of time.  Now, they knew that justice would be served.

Scott Lancer had kept an eye on his grandfather during the entire hearing.  The judge’s words were strong and cruel – but were no crueler than the words that he had read in his grandfather’s journal - words that still haunted him.  He realistically knew that his grandfather would be punished and was not stunned at the pronouncement that Harlan would be sent to Ravenswood. Having served in Libby Prison, he knew that a prison for the mentally insane would be a far kinder and gentler place than Rockview.  

Two bailiffs came forward to take Harlan into custody.   “No!”  The older man said refusing to budge from his place behind the defense table.  “This is not what we planned….”  

Ben waved off the bailiffs and motioned Scott over.  “Please, give us a few moments here.”  He asked as they moved away.  “Harlan, listen to me you need to calm down…”

“Calm down!  They’re going to take me away to ….”

“To prison, Grandfather.  You committed crimes and that is where criminals go.  What did you expect?”  Scott looked at the man before him – a complete stranger.  At this moment, any thought of Harlan’s faking mental illness was gone.  The sentencing had truly sent the man over the edge.

“Scotty – you can’t let them do this to me!  I have a business to run…”

“Grandfather, you should have thought of that before you tried to kill my brother,” Scott whispered reaching out to touch his grandfather’s sleeve.

Harlan jerked away from Scott’s touch.  “This is his doing – he did this to me, that half.…”

Scott sadly shook his head.  “He couldn’t have, grandfather.  He’s in the hospital.  You did this all yourself and for what?  What was worth your going to prison?”  

“You were once, but not any longer!”  Harlan spat.  “Go and be with that ‘brother’ of yours.  You are no son of mine!”

Scott bowed his head.  “I never was.  I’m Murdoch and Catherine Lancer’s son, and you are my grandfather.”

Harlan stared at the blond-haired man before him as if seeing him for the first time.  This was his Catherine’s son and not his.  How had he ever forgotten that? As his mind began to slip into a fog of confusion, he smiled one last bitter smile at his grandson.  “I hope that your ‘brother’ is satisfied and when he dies, I hope he rots in hell.”  Quickly he turned away and allowed himself to be taken by the bailiffs to the holding cell before his transfer from Boston to Ravenswood.

Scott was left empty and stunned.  He had been prepared all along for his grandfather to be punished.  The outcome was what he had always anticipated.  How could his grandfather and his attorney have expected any less?

“Are you alright?”  Jim Davis asked coming forward to lay a hand on Scott’s shoulder.

“Yes, sir.  I’ll be fine.”  Scott responded, shaking his head.  “How could he have thought that he would not be punished?”

“Money and loneliness does strange things to a man.  Your grandfather has been alone for as long as I’ve known him – for as long as your life.  Perhaps now, he can get the help he needs.”

Scott looked at his father’s friend, grateful for the guidance and advice that he had offered.  “I guess that we had better go along and tell Johnny…”

“You go.  I have a few questions to ask Randy.  I promised your father that I would send him a telegram as soon as the sentence was pronounced.”

“Alright, sir.  I’ll see you at the hospital.”

Jim watched as Scott left the courtroom.  Initially the young man was confronted by several reporters asking for a statement, but the tall blonde deftly avoided them and made his way from the building as quickly as possible.  Jim was then joined by Randy Coates who was holding the notes from Johnny in his hand.  “Harlan was right about one thing, this was Johnny’s doing.”

“What do you mean?”  Jim asked taking the offered papers.

“When I met with Johnny yesterday, he had very strong feelings about justice and how it would be better served if the judge put aside the money and politics and looked at the evidence.  Johnny didn’t want the Judge to lose sight of the fact that Harlan had a man killed and that on more than one occasion Harlan had placed Scott’s life at risk.  Harlan is going to Ravenswood – that was Johnny’s selection out of all of the facilities available.  It is the most remote and toughest facility in the state.  It will be a very long time before he ever gets out.  There is also a codicil to the sentence that gives Johnny the final say on when Harlan gets out.  If anything should happen to him, Harlan will be there for the remainder of his life.”  

Jim smiled, admiring the cleverness of the injured man.  “Who knows about this?”

Randy shook his head.  “I think that Alberta may know – she was there at the hospital while this was being discussed.  But, the final decisions were made by the Judge.  When we spoke with Ben Emche we only told him the final decision and the codicil. He has no idea that Johnny actually chose the facility.”

“I guess that Johnny really was here, again, today.”

Randy smiled.  “He definitely had his own ideas on justice.  We were fortunate that Judge Wharton was willing to listen.”

“Now that this is over, I hope that he can finally get some rest, heal and go home.”

“That’s one man who doesn’t belong in this town,” Randy commented as he gathered up his belongings.  “I picture him on a horse riding across an open prairie….”

Jim Davis smiled, remembering his time at Lancer and how Johnny had spent every last second outside working with the men or riding his horse.  “That is where he belongs and with God’s blessing he’ll be again.”  


It was noon by the time Scott made his way to the hospital.  He had walked to the facility via the Common – taking time to be alone with his thoughts.   As much as his heart bled for his grandfather, his head knew that the older man had to be punished.  The young man understood that whatever happened to his grandfather would never compensate for what he had done to his brother and Trevor.  There was no amount of love that could forgive such cruel and inhuman acts.  But, it was love that gave Harlan the chance to possibly live free again – the love that bound two brothers together as much as the blood that flowed through their veins.

Reaching Massachusetts General Hospital, Scott was besieged by reporters anxious for a statement from him.  Sucking in his breath and ducking his head, Scott dove straight for the front door.  A guard was waiting, allowing him in and fending off the reporters.  “You’re quite the celebrity,” The guard commented as he firmly closed the doors.  

“Have they been here long?”  Scott asked taking off his overcoat and folding it over his arm.

“’Fraid so.  One of them even sneaked into your bother’s room…”

Scott looked up in alarm.  “Is he alright?”

“Right as rain,” The guard smiled.  “Doc Kane had him moved to another floor in anticipation of there being a problem.  He’s in room 202 now.  Up the stairs and to the right.”

With a smile, Scott took to the stairs, two at a time until he was on the second floor.  Room 202 was at the end of the corridor.  The door was open and he was greeted by the sight of his brother sitting up and eating his lunch.  

A smile crossed Johnny’s face at the sight of Scott.  “Tell me that you’ve come to rescue me – from this!”  

Scott leaned forward and peered at the unappetizing food on the tray in front of Johnny.  “Sorry, Brother – that’s up to the doctor, but I can’t say that looks very good.”  

“How am I supposed to get better when all they give me to eat is this?”  Johnny jabbed a spoon into a bowl of what appeared to be a thin gruel.  The two brother’s eyes met and they both grinned.  “So, how did it go?”  Johnny asked putting the spoon down and turning serious.

Scott sighed and pulled up a chair.  “They sent Grandfather to Ravenswood – an institution for the criminally insane.  He’ll be there for a long time…”  Scott’s voice dwindled to a whisper and his eyes had a far away look.

“Scott?”  Johnny asked, jarring his brother back to reality.  “Are you alright?”

“I don’t know how to answer that – not yet.”  He gave his younger brother a weak smile.  “How are you doing?”

Johnny’s lips formed a crooked grin.  “They haven’t gotten any more laudanum by me… Truthfully, I’m feeling better.”  

Scott looked closely at the younger man.  Johnny’s color was still very pale, but his blue eyes were once again filled with sparkle that had been missing for the past few days.  “I do believe that you just might make it.”  Scott pronounced a gleam in his own eyes.

“And I concur.”  Henry Kane stepped in the room accompanied by Alberta.  “I see that you survived the morning.”

“Yes,” Scott responded, his spirits dropping.  Alberta went to his side and took his hand in hers.  “It was one of the hardest things that I’ve ever seen.  He seemed so old and frail…”

“Mean and sick,” Johnny couldn’t help adding, bitterness evident in his voice.  Two sets of blue eyes flashed at each other – each understanding the hurt and need in the other.  “I’m sorry, Scott…”  Johnny laid back and closed his eyes.

“Don’t, Brother.   He deserved what happened…”

“And what you two need to do is move past this and think about going home.”  Alberta stepped between the two men making a bridge between them.

Henry took his cue and went to examine his patient.   Listening closely to Johnny’s lungs, he was pleased with what he heard.  There was a slight wheezing, but nothing compared to the harsh rasps of just 24 hours earlier.  “You’re making a good recovery, Johnny.  You should be able to leave here tomorrow…”

“And when can I leave Boston?”  He asked anxiously.  He had had enough pain and was bored from sleeping all day.  He was ready to move on and resume his life.

“That, my friend, depends on you.  You have a long trip ahead of you and you can barely standup straight or walk.  Your lungs are weak and so is the rest of you.  I’d like to see you on complete bed rest for a week and then another week working your strength back up…”

“But that means that we would be here through Thanksgiving,” Johnny calculated.  He had been hoping to be back at Lancer for the holiday.  Disappointment was written on his face.

Scott was disappointed as well, but he needed the two weeks to wrap up his grandfather’s affairs.  “Johnny – we’ll be home for Christmas.  The next two weeks will go by quickly and then we can head home.”


“There are no ‘buts’ here.”  Henry said firmly.  

Seeing that he was outnumbered, Johnny sighed and again picked up the spoon to play with his food.  “Can someone at least get me something that looks like food?  I’m starving here.”  

Chapter 25

Johnny was discharged from the hospital the following day with strict instructions that he remain in his bed for a week. The former gunfighter had agreed – with the thought that he would be on his feet in no time. Much to his surprise, he spent most of his time sleeping.  This was a blessing for the entire household.  It gave Scott the time he needed to tend to his grandfather’s affairs and it gave Alberta a break from the double duty she had been pulling while Johnny was in the hospital.

Scott spent the weekend in conversations with Jim Davis, Peter Wimbrow, Ben Emche and Edward Wadsworth on how to best handle the transition of management of Garrett Enterprises.  The young man was careful not to have any of the discussions in the room below Johnny’s – not wanting to run the risk of his younger brother getting himself embroiled in his affairs again.  What was happening was of no concern to Johnny and Scott wanted to make sure that it remained that way.  

Scott made it clear to all that he was not staying in Boston. After what had happened to Johnny, he had lost all taste for the city and was looking forward to the wide open spaces of the wilderness.   He would entrust the day to day operations to Edward Wadsworth, but his voting proxy would be given to Peter Wimbrow as his personal representative to the Board.   Peter would be paid a fee to send Scott regular reports on the business and updates on his grandfather’s condition.  As much as it hurt the young man, he had to abide by the court’s ruling that his grandfather not be given free access to contact him.  

Jim Davis took note of all that was happening and was sending Murdoch regular reports.  It was difficult to remain objective where the boys were concerned, he had learned much about his former competitor and to say that he despised Harlan Garrett was an understatement.    He had sent a telegram to Morro Coyo after the sentencing hearing, to let his friend know that the boys were safe and that Harlan would no longer be a threat to their happiness.  He also had let it be known that Johnny had suffered a setback, but decided that the circumstances would be better explained by the boys on their return.  

Sunday evening, Scott went up to his brother’s room to find Johnny fast asleep.  The sleeping man’s breaths were no longer the labored rasps they had been in the hospital.  It appeared that the young man was once again able to get the rest he needed.  As he was about to leave, Johnny began to twist and moan in his sleep – as if fighting off some unseen demon.  Jennings had reported that much of his brother’s sleep had been disturbed in this manner, but due to the business meetings, Scott had not been able to tend to Johnny as he would have liked.  Watching as Johnny moved, Scott went to his side and sat on the edge of the bed, taking the flailing arms and holding them still.  “Johnny,” he said firmly, waking his brother.

Instantly the flailing stopped and sapphire eyes startled opened.  “Scott?”  He looked at his wrists, now firmly held by his brother.

Scott let Johnny’s hands loose and watched as Johnny wiped his sweaty forehead on the sleeve of his nightshirt.  “You alright, Brother?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.  What happened?”

“You must have been dreaming…”

Johnny frowned and then sighed.  It wasn’t a dream – it was a nightmare.  He was once again back in the basement and it was Harlan Garrett who was there wielding the knife.  Scott had woken him just as the razor sharp blade was cutting into his chest.  “No – I think that it was something I ate…”

“You can’t fool me, brother.  You need to talk about what happened…”

Johnny looked away, his long fingers feeling the healing welts that remained on his wrists.  It would be along time before he would ever be able to share what had happened – the physical and emotional pain was too fresh.  He would come to terms with it in his own time –just like he had with all of the other hurts that he had survived in his life.  He would handle it alone.  How do you share this kind of pain?  He couldn’t fathom it.  “I’m fine…” he finally whispered.

Scott frowned and shook his head.  “No you’re not, and until you share it you can never be fine.”

The corner of Johnny’s mouth curled in a small smile.  “I’ve had a lot of practice dealing with pain like this, Brother.  I’ll be fine – I always am…”

“Well, just in case you decide that you do want to talk – I’m here for you.”  Scott looked his brother in the eyes making sure that Johnny understood what was being offered – his unconditional love and understanding.  “I probably won’t be around much this coming week.  I have meetings with the lawyers and the Board of Directors…”

“I know – it has to be done.  I guess that I’m just kind of anxious to get back h…- to the ranch.”

Scott caught the pained expression in his brother’s eyes as he tried to speak about their home.  The fact that Johnny had almost called Lancer ‘home’ was something.  Calling the place ‘home’ meant a strong attachment to something solid and real – an attachment that had eluded his brother for his entire life.  “Well, we’re not going anywhere until the doctor gives his full OK.”

“He’s coming to remove the stitches tomorrow…”

“I know,” Scott had wanted to be with his brother for that examination, he wanted to see for himself that the ugly open wounds that he had seen before the surgery were healing.  But, he was committed to the Board Meeting scheduled for the morning.  “Henry is going to give me a full report.  In the meantime, you get some rest.  Do you need any laudanum?”

Johnny shook his head.  They had not been able to get more than a teaspoon of the bitter liquid into him since Alberta had slipped it into his tea.  “I’ll be fine.  I don’t need no medicine to tell me to rest.”

Scott smiled at the response.  Perhaps, someday, his brother would share with him why he doesn’t like the medicine – maybe the day he tells him about his nightmares.  “Alright.  Good night, Johnny.  I’ll see you in the morning before I leave.”

Johnny continued to look after his brother long after the door had closed.  He had some unfinished business of his own to take care of before he left Boston and the sooner he could get out of bed, the sooner it would be done and perhaps his nightmares resolved.  He needed to confront what had happened to him, master it and move on with his life. That couldn’t be accomplished from a sick bed.  Closing his eyes, he turned his thoughts from Boston to Lancer – envisioning the wide open spaces, clear blue lakes and lush forests of his – home.  A sigh escaped his lips as he finally drifted off into a pain filled sleep.


Murdoch could not have been more pleased with the telegram that Jim had sent to him advising that Harlan had been sentenced to a prison for the criminally insane.  However, the second part of the wire alluded to the fact that Johnny was once again back in the hospital and that details would be forthcoming via the regular mail.

“What do you supposed happened?”  Teresa asked handing the telegram back to Murdoch.

Murdoch tried to make light of it, hoping not to disturb the concerned woman.  “Oh, Johnny probably pushed himself a bit too much and had a setback.  I’m sure that it’s of no concern or he would have told us so.”

“I just don’t like it,” Teresa said placing her hands on her slender hips.  “There’s still no word on when they will be coming home.”

“Well, how about we go to town tomorrow and send a wire of our own and ask?”

“Can we?”  The young woman’s smile brightened at the thought.  She had never sent a wire before and was anxious to see how it was done.

Jelly came in, his hands covered with saddle polish.  “Well, I finished takn’ care of that new saddle of Johnny’s.  I’ve even had it on Barranca a few times just so that he has a good feel for it and is ready for when Johnny gets back.  Cipriano said that you gotta telegram – news from the boys?”

Murdoch handed the man the telegram and watched as Jelly’s smile changed to a frown.  “I’m sure that if it had been serious that Jim would have let us know.” Murdoch explained easily reading his friend’s thoughts.

“What does this mean – ‘a prison for the criminally insane’?  They finally figured that ‘ol Harlan Garrett is crazy?”

“I don’t think he’s crazy, Jelly.  I think that he is very clever and has finally been see for what he truly is.  It should be interesting to hear from the boys…”  He paused taking the note back.  Two years ago he never thought that his heart could ever be so affected by the boys – not after the death of his first wife and heart break over his second.  He thought that his heart had hardened like ice.  He was wrong.  Every day since the boys return, he had felt that hard ice begin to melt..  Just thinking of Johnny back in the hospital tore him up; that Scott would have to watch as his grandfather was committed to an institution made him concerned for his eldest.

“Well, wherever he is, he’ll never have the chance to hurt them boys again,” Jelly declared sensing his friend’s change of mood.  “Any word on when they’ll be back?”

“We’re going to send a telegram tomorrow,” Teresa took Jelly’s arm and led him from the great room and back to the kitchen.  She had watched as Murdoch’s mood became pensive and realized that he needed to be alone in his worry for the boys.  They would talk later.  Perhaps after tomorrow, they could make ready for the boy’s return.


In response to Murdoch’s wire, Jim Davis sent a full report via express mail, including clippings from the newspapers about the sentencing hearing.  Henry Kane put together a medical report that was factual and honest in his assessment of Johnny’s condition.  The young man had been through a lot and was exhausted.  The recovery from the surgery was put back due to the falls and subsequent bout with pneumonia.  He felt that it would be a miracle if Johnny was able to leave by Christmas – but he didn’t know his patient’s stubbornness like his family did.

A week after having the stitches removed from his leg and side, Johnny had managed to get himself out of bed. On trembling legs he stood before the dresser mirror and stripped off his night shirt and removed the bandages.  Gently, his fingers touched the ugly red scars that now lined his chest and side.  He remembered how Pierce had dragged his blade across his upper chest - a laugh in his voice.  Seeing and touching the thin red scar made it all come back.  Swallowing hard, he tried to come to terms with what had happened.  His eyes then gazed at the large incision to his right side.  This line was marked with red crosses where the stitches had been placed.  The area was still tender and he winced as his fingers touched the rough raised flesh.

His thoughts were interrupted as Scott entered the room.  The elder brother froze in his tracks at the sight of the latest scars to his brother’s body.  “Johnny…. I….”
Johnny quickly pulled the shirt back on and did the buttons.  “Didn’t they ever teach you to knock when you enter a room?  You must be getting some bad habits from Teresa.”  He swayed, catching himself on the dresser before he crumpled to the ground.

“Easy there,” Scott said, helping Johnny to the chair.  How Johnny had managed to cross the room by himself was a mystery.  “And who told you to get out of bed?”

“I’ve had enough lying around.  It’s time I got my legs back and we get – home.”  Johnny’s eyes met his brothers.  “I’m ready.”

One look at his brother’s now pale features and Scott knew that as much as Johnny wanted to leave, he wasn’t physically ready.  “I know.  Just a few more days and I’ll have the business wrapped up.  I’m hoping that with the doctor’s approval we can leave next week.”  Johnny’s face fell.  Thanksgiving was just a few days away and he knew that Johnny had hoped to be far away from Boston by then. Sensing his brother’s disappointment, Scott knelt down to face him.  “Johnny, we can’t risk your getting sick or re-injured.  It’s going to be a lot harder going home than it was coming out here.  I’ve already made arrangements to have our belongings shipped so that we can travel as light as possible.  But you have to promise me to take it slow.”

“Any slower and I’ll be an old man,” Johnny groused.  “So what are you doing today,  another meeting with the Board?”

“Actually, they’re making arrangements to have Grandfather moved to Ravenswood on Thanksgiving.  Wednesday may be the last chance I’ll have to see him before we leave.”

Johnny digested this information with a nod.  “Can you do me a favor and have Doc Kane stop by?  I have a few questions for him.”

Scott raised his eyebrows at this request.  “Is there something I should know?”

Johnny gave his brother a grin.  “I just have a few questions.  Now, get along to your meeting…”

Scott stood and appraised his brother.  Johnny was up to something, but for the life of him he couldn’t figure out what.  At least he was going to consult with Henry Kane before he did whatever it was he was going to do.  With that bit of assurance, Scott left for his meeting.


An impromptu meeting was held in Johnny’s room.  In attendance were Henry Kane, Jim Davis and Peter Wimbrow.

“You want to do what???”  Henry exploded at his patient.

Johnny sat in his bed keeping his mouth shut as the doctor ranted.  He knew that his request was going to meet with some opposition – just like every request he had made since he had arrived in this town.  He was tired of being told ‘no’- tired of being sick and in pain.  He had the right to this request and the time was now or never.

“Henry,” Jim Davis intervened.  “This is his only chance…”

“He can barely walk to the commode and you expect me to let him go – there?”

“I’m going to go with or without your approval.  I just wanted to be straight forward with you.  I ain’t trying to run a race.  I just have to be able to walk from the carriage to the meeting.  I’ve been practicing.”  And to prove his point, Johnny threw off his covers and slowly swung his legs off the bed.  Using the cane that was leaning against the washstand, he stood up and moved cautiously to stand in front of the doctor.

“I told you to rest,” Henry said shaking his head.  “What do you need me for?”

“I have been resting – after I take a walk around this room I go straight back to bed.  It’s just that I might need something for the pain once I’m done.”

Henry looked at the other men and knew that he was out numbered.  “And when exactly are you going to pull this stunt?”

Johnny smiled, relieved that the doctor was finally agreeing to his plan. “The day before Thanksgiving.  Scott has a meeting all day and Mr. Wimbrow has agreed to stay with him.”

“You know, this could set back his recovery?”  Henry asked the others.

“It’s his only chance and he has a right to it.”  Jim Davis spoke up.  “The judge has allowed it.  Henry, we could have done this without telling you, but Johnny – well, we all thought better than to try to deceive you.”

Henry sighed resigned to the fact that there would be no changing anyone’s minds.  “All right, I suppose that if you are going to do this – I shall come along too.”  He would go to make sure that nothing happened to compromise his patient’s recovery.

“Not a word of this to Scott.”  Johnny directed his band of conspirators.  They all agreed.  The plan was set for the day after tomorrow – the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.


Scott Lancer left the Davis house early Wednesday morning.  His first stop was the City Jail for his last visit with his grandfather.  He as accompanied by Peter Wimbrow and Ben Emche.  They were drawing up the documents that would give Scott his grandfather’s Power of Attorney so that the management transition could be completed.  Scott was disappointed that his grandfather showed little interest in the business aspects of the meeting. Harlan was constantly turning the conversation to making an appeal for clemency so that he could resume his former life.  Both Ben and Peter attempted to make it clear that an appeal was not an option, but the older man simply refused to listen.

Once the paperwork was complete, Scott was left alone with his grandfather.  “Well, Sir.  Johnny and I will be leaving next week…”

Harlan harrumphed in response and his cold gray eyes bore into his grandson.  “You’ll regret this someday, Scott.  Your place is here, in Boston, at Garrett Enterprises…”

“We’ve been through this.  My place is at Lancer, but I will return to visit…”

“Soon?”  Harlan asked hopefully.

Scott frowned and shook his head, his long fingers nervously fingering the band of his hat.  “No.  Not for a long while.  But, I’ll write…”

“Don’t bother,” Harlan snorted.  “Get out of here.  I don’t need you…”

“Grandfather…”  Scott pleaded, trying to make his final words with the man who had raised him words of peace.

“Guard!”  Harlan shouted.  He went to the cell door and began to rattle the bars.  “Guard!”

The overweight guard came running up, panting for breath.  “What is it, Garrett?”

“I want him out – and if he comes back – I don’t want to see him!”

Scott stood and walked to his grandfather only to have the older man turn his back.  “Goodbye, Sir.  I….”  At a loss for what more to say, Scott exited through the open bars.  A chill ran down his spine at the sound of the lock turning sent the bolt home.  There was a finality in the sound that broke the young man’s heart.  This was not how he had envisioned this trip on ending - but it was done.  Slowly he made his way down the cellblock for the last time and into the sunlight of the glorious November morning.


Jennings helped Johnny to dress in the day suit he had worn his first night in Boston.  The clothing no longer fit the lean frame of the young man – it hung loosely – a testimony to the hardship that he had endured.  “Are you sure that you want to wear this?”  The manservant asked knowing that Johnny preferred his strange western wear.

“Yep.  I’m going to meet the devil on his own terms and if that means wearing this fancy getup then that’s what I’ll wear.”

Once Johnny was dressed, Jim Davis came and helped him down the stairs and into the parlor where they waited for the arrival of Henry Kane.  It took several long minutes for the injured man to traverse the staircase, and he was left exhausted.  “Are you sure that you are up to this?”

“I don’t have much choice.  It’s now or never.”  Johnny leaned back on the couch and closed his eyes.  The young man couldn’t remember when he had been so exhausted.  He knew that he had to get out of this town before it finally did him in – for good.

Jim met Henry at the door and spoke with him briefly in the vestibule.  He expressed his doubts in the soundness of Johnny’s decision to make this excursion.  Henry understood – for he too did not think it was a wise decision.

Their discussion was interrupted by the sound of an angry young man. “You gonna talk about me behind my back or are you gonna help me do this?”

Caught, the two gentlemen entered the parlor to face Johnny’s wrath.  “I just don’t think that you’re up to this.”  Jim explained, knowing that his concerns were falling on deaf ears.

“We’ve been through this,” Johnny hated to repeat himself.  They knew that he wanted to do this – that he had to do this.  He had not shared the ‘why’ just that he needed their help.   Johnny waited patiently as Henry picked up his wrist and took his pulse.  The doctor frowned.  Johnny’s heart was racing from the effort of coming down stairs.  “Well?”  Johnny asked knowing that the doctor had concerns to be aired.

“I’m sure that there is nothing I can say that will change your mind.  I would just like to caution you that you are not as strong as you think…”

Johnny smiled.  “I know, that’s why I asked you to come along.”

“How’s the pain?”

At this question, Johnny’s face fell.  His knew that his muscles would ache from inactivity, but he had hoped that his ribs and leg would be less painful by now.  “I’m alright…”

“You sure?  You don’t look well.”  The physician stood back and despite the fact that his patient was dressed in a proper suit, he still looked terrible.

“Ask me again in a hour or so.  Now, let’s get this over and done with.”


Harlan was mildly surprised when the guard returned to his cell a few hours later. “Mr. Lancer is here to see you.”  The door swung open and Harlan was motioned out.

 The older man smiled to himself.  Scott had returned!  He had changed his mind and was going to see about getting the ridiculous sentence changed!  With a light heart he followed his jailer to the room where he would normally meet with his attorney.  He was impressed that Scott now had that authority.  All of his hopes were dashed when he entered the room and his eyes gazed upon the ‘Mr. Lancer’ who was waiting to see him.  “You!”  He spat attempting to lunge at the man seated across the thick oak table.  The guard caught him before he was able to move two feet and forced him to sit in a chair.

The corner of Johnny’s mouth curled and his eyes twinkled in spite of his weakened state.  “Harlan,” he nodded, “it’s good to see you again.”

“I’ll bet it is, you devil!  You did this to me!”

“Did I?”  Johnny raised his eyebrows.  He had met many an opponent on a dusty street armed and ready to fight.  This was the first time that he had beaten his antagonist without a gun in his hand.  

“You know damn well that you did!  You and that show you put on at the trial!  You are the one who deserves to be behind bars – not me!”

“Many a man has tried, Harlan, but somehow the law just seems to be on my side – just like it is now.”

Harlan fumed at the comments.  Johnny was free and tomorrow, Harlan was going to hell.  “Why are you here – Madrid?”

“I just come to say good bye.  Scott and I will be leaving soon.  I just wanted to let you know that I’ll watch after him and keep him out of trouble.”  Johnny gave Harlan a wicked smile and chuckled a little.  “You sure did mess things up Harlan.  Up until the day you decided to have me killed.  Scott loved you with all of his heart and you went and destroyed that.  Now, his heart is filled with the same hate for you as mine.  You got what you deserved, old man, nothing more and nothing less.”

“Why you impudent…!”  Harlan began to rise only to have the guard press him back down into the chair.  “You’ve come to gloat!”

Johnny nodded his head at the comment.  “I won, old man, and you lost.  How does it feel to be the loser – again?  Just remember that it was me who put you away and it’s me that you’ll have to beg to get out.”

Harlan’s eyes opened wide at the words.  “You DID do this…”  He whispered, his suspicions becoming reality. The half-breed had beaten him at his own game.

Johnny’s smile broadened.  “Yep.  You can’t go and mess around in a body’s life and not expect there to be hell to pay.  Well, you’re gonna pay for what you did to me, to Trevor and especially to Scott.”  Johnny stood - no sign of weakness in his stance or on his face.  “Have a good life Harlan, rotting in the hell that you created for yourself.”

“Why you….!”  Harlan once again flew to his feet only to be spun away from Johnny by the jailer.  He was out the door before he had a chance to realize what happened.

Henry Kane and Jim Davis had been seated in the next room and were able to hear all that had transpired between Johnny and Harlan.  Once they were sure that Johnny was alone, they entered the room.  The false bravado on the former gunfighter’s face had melted into a pale shade of white.  Quickly Henry helped him to sit, handing him a small vile of laudanum.  “Drink this – now!”  He commanded recognizing the pain on his patient’s face.

Without a protest, Johnny drank the contents of the small vile and waited for the bitter liquid to work its magic on his body.

“Was it worth it?”  Henry asked as Johnny slowly succumbed to the numbing affects of the medication.

“Yeah,” Johnny responded softly.  “Take me back.  I’m done here.”

Chapter 26

Scott Lancer returned to the Davis residence a very exhausted young man. The meetings with the Board and the lawyers had been tediously boring – but necessary if he was ever to be free to return to Lancer. Between the meetings and his last visit with his grandfather he was left feeling empty and depressed.  All that had happened from the moment he had left Lancer to the moment his grandfather had thrown him out of the cell came crashing down on his shoulders.  With crystal clarity he saw that his grandfather had orchestrated everything with the scheme to keep Scott in Boston for the rest of his life.  With a vision that was now clear of any emotional ties, he looked back and saw everything as it had really happened. How had his grandfather ever thought that killing Johnny would make him willing to stay in Boston?  Thinking over the past few weeks, Scott knew that he had been tricked into returning to Boston; blinded to the fact that his grandfather despised his father and brother; misled in his search for Johnny; deceived by his friends into thinking that they would accept his brother as a peer; manipulated by two the men he loved most in the word; heartbroken that he had indeed lost his grandfather and had almost lost his brother.  It was all his fault.  The guilt was overwhelming.  He had to leave Boston, before it destroyed him.

Jennings greeted him at the door and immediately sensed Scott’s inner turmoil.  With care he guided the younger man to the study where a warm fire burned brightly.  The butler quietly shut the doors behind them.  Johnny and Mr. Davis had not yet returned and Jennings wanted to give Scott the chance he needed to relax and compose himself before being confronted by his brother’s latest misadventure.  

“Mr. Scott,” Jennings handed the young man a snifter of brandy.  “How did the meeting with your grandfather go?”

Scott took a large swallow of the amber liquid and winced as it burned its way to his stomach.  He sat dejectedly staring into the fire.  Finally, in a voice almost too soft to hear, he spoke.  “He said that he never wants to see me again….”

Jennings laid a hand on the shoulder of his young charge.  “That was to be expected…”

Scott raised his eyebrows at the comment.  “It was?”  He asked incredulously.

Jennings nodded and then took a seat beside the young man.  “Mr. Scott, I have known your grandfather for many long years.  He is a very complex man.  I have seen him at his best and at his worst.  Right now, he is at the bottom of his worst – almost to the same place he was after your mother left.  He disowned her too – until he received the letter that she was with child - you.  From that moment, he has thought of nothing more than of having you by his side for the rest of his life…”

“Surely he knew that someday I would want to know my father…”

Jennings sadly shook his head.  “Mr. Scott, you now know that your grandfather hates Murdoch Lancer enough to murder your brother.  It has always been that way.  This was not a new hate, but a bitter twisted incarnation of the hate he has been festering ever since your mother left Boston.  His obsession with you intensified when you left for California and became even worse when he returned to Boston without you a few months ago.  He set himself down this path – he did – not you.  You’ve got to let him go…”

“I can’t,” Scott whispered staring into the fire.  “If you had seen him today…”

“I’ve been watching him for 25 years, Mr. Scott.  This entire incident, the trial and the punishment have been a long time in coming.  He finally got caught and now he is going to pay the price, and – unfortunately so are you.”

“And Johnny,” Scott added looking up at the open heat register.  He wondered to himself if Johnny was laying in his bed listening to this most private conversation.  “I hope you’re listening, Brother!”  Scott shouted in misplaced anger to the vent.  A puzzled expression crossed his face when no response came.  Johnny had been spending more and more time awake, so Scott was surprised when his brother remained silent.  “I suppose that I had better go check on him.”

Jennings glanced out the window to see a carriage pulling up.  He tried to divert Scott’s attention, but it was too late, through the window the young man caught sight of his younger brother in the company of Jim Davis and Henry Kane.  The dark-haired young man was leaning heavily on both of the older men as they half carried him into the warm house.  “Johnny!”  Scott threw open the study doors and took charge of his brother, slipping a strong arm around his brother’s slim waist, supporting him to the couch in front of the fire.  “Where have you been?”  Scott demanded from the others as much as he did from his pale brother.

Johnny was shivering from the cold, in spite of the heavy woolen coat that he had been wearing.  Henry ignored Scott’s question as he worked to open the buttons to the coat so that the heat from the fire could warm his patient.  Jennings poured another brandy and handed it to the doctor who held it to Johnny’s blue shivering lips.  “Drink this,” Henry instructed as Johnny’s shaking hands took possession of the snifter.  Slowly he took a small sip through chattering teeth and was lowering the glass when the doctor again instructed him to take another drink.  Johnny’s eyes flashed at the order but he obeyed.   Even after the second sip, Johnny’s shivering had not diminished.

“Jennings, get me some blankets.  Scott, help him out of this coat and take his boots off.”  Quickly the men worked together, taking off the coat and then wrapping the shivering man in the pile of blankets that Jennings had provided.  By the time they were done, Johnny’s movements had quieted and he had fallen into an exhausted sleep.

“Now,” Scott demanded as they stood back and watched the sleeping man.  “Tell me what happened.  Where did you go?”

Jim and Henry looked at each other.  Henry shook his head.  It wasn’t his idea for Johnny to leave his bed – it was too soon and the weather too cold.  Jim pursed his lips and looked at Scott.  “You’ll have to ask Johnny.  It was his request; his doing.”

Scott looked at them alarmed.  “What is that supposed to mean?”

“It means that you will have to wait and ask your brother – when he wakes up.”  Henry instructed firmly.  “He needs warmth and rest.”  He shook his head thinking again how foolhardy his patient was with his health.  The physician had no idea how Johnny was to make it across the country if he couldn’t make it across town.  “I have patients to see – people who will listen to me.  Tell John that I’ll see him tomorrow.”

Jim Davis and Jennings followed the departing physician from the room, leaving Scott alone with his brother.  He watched the sleeping man.  For the first time in days, Johnny’s face did not bear the pinched lines of pain that had been so prominent.  It was then that Scott realized that Johnny must have been given medicine for the pain.  Reaching out, he brushed the fringe of black bangs from his brother’s brow.  Johnny made no movement.  After making sure that the blankets were securely tucked in, Scott followed the other men from the room.

Jim and Jennings were speaking in hushed tones and stopped as Scott approached.  Jennings quickly excused himself, knowing that he could not keep any secrets from the young man he had raised.  Jim turned to Scott, waiting for the onslaught of questions that he knew were coming.  

“We’re leaving the day after tomorrow,” Scott announced – stunning the older man.

“I’m not sure that your brother can travel.  We were barely gone three hours and he is done in…”

“It can’t be helped.  Winter is setting into the plains.  Either we go now, or we wait until spring.  I can’t see my brother staying in this town for four more months.”

“You could go by boat,” Jim offered.

Scott shook his head.  Johnny and the ocean did not mix.  There was no way that he could get his brother on a boat.  “Our best bet is to take the train and to take our time.  We’ve got to beat the snows before the mountains become impassable.”

Jim studied the man before him.  It was obvious that Scott had made up his mind and that once Johnny knew of the plan, there would be no arguing against it.  “All right then.  What can I do to help?”

Scott smiled.  “I’ve got the tickets already booked, if you could take care of shipping our things.”

“Consider it done.”  Jim smiled; glad that he could be of help.  “I’ll send your father a wire to let him know that you’re coming.”

“Thank you.”  Scott smiled in return and then looked back to the parlor where Johnny lay sleeping.  “Who gave him the laudanum?”

“Henry.  Johnny was in a lot of pain.  There was no way around it.”  Jim paused, not wanting to give away more of the details of their little adventure.

“Where ever you went - it must have been important – for Johnny to get out of bed…”

“It was very important – to him.  Scott,” Jim looked at the man before him.  Both of Murdoch’s sons were strong and vital young men.  Both had stubborn streaks that were miles wide.  One carried the burden of a perceived guilt while the other carried the scars of physical abuse and torture.  Without a doubt, both were in intense pain.  “You’re going to have to be very patient with your brother.  I’m afraid that his recovery is going to take a long time and he is not going to be a good patient…”

Scott chuckled.  “Mr. Davis – Johnny has never been a good patient.  Trust me; I know what I’m in store for…”

“Do you?”  Jim wondered aloud.  “What happened during this trip will stay with him for a long time, and no matter what he says, he will not be getting over it any time soon.”

Scott eyed the older man with growing suspicion.  “Just where did you go today?”

“Let’s say that your brother went to slay one of his demons…”

“And did he?”

“Only time will tell.”


Johnny awoke several hours later.  The fire was still burning brightly casting an orange glow about the room.  With a sigh he snuggled into the warmth of the blankets that covered him like a cocoon.

“Did you have a nice nap, Brother?”

From his vantage point on the couch, Johnny was unaware of his older brother who had been sitting on a nearby chair.  He attempted to crane his neck to look at Scott, only to find that the movement pulled at the healing ribs and skin on his chest.  With a moan, he stopped and let his body rest again.  “You watchin’ over me, Brother?”

“Somebody has to,” Scott replied, standing to move into Johnny’s line of sight.  “How are you feeling – hungry?”

Johnny nodded, feeling a rumbling in his stomach.  Hunger was something he hadn’t experienced for a long time.  He figured that it meant that he was on his way to recovery.  “Yeah, I could eat.”

“I’ll be right back.”  Scott left the room, returning a short time later with a mug of steaming soup.  He gently helped Johnny to sit up, before handing his brother the cup.  After taking a seat near the fire, he watched as Johnny slowly managed the heavy mug and its contents.  If they were to travel, he had to know how much his brother could handle.  From what he was observing, the trip was going to be a lot harder that he initially planned.  Johnny’s hands were shaking and he barely managed to drink the contents without spilling it on himself.

“What time is it?”  Johnny asked between small sips.

“Eleven o’clock.”

Johnny paused, realizing the medicine had robbed him of his sense of time.  “Sorry….”

“Don’t be.”  Scott answered quietly, and then in the next breath asked:  “Just tell me where you went today.”

Johnny looked up over the edge of his mug, nearly spilling the contents.  Obviously his companions had been true to their word and had not told Scott where they went on their little outing.  “I had something to do…”  

“And where did you go?”  Scott pressed.


“Johnny!”  Scott was exasperated.

“Boston, where we went ain’t important…”  Johnny paused.  It had been very important to him.  It was something he had to do.  But telling his brother, that was something he was loath to do.  He couldn’t be sure of Scott’s reaction and frankly he was too tired for an argument.

“It is to me…” Scott persisted, wanting to know what could have been so important that Johnny would once again risk his recovery.


“Because I have to know what you’re capable of when we leave here the day after tomorrow!”  Scott blurted, frustrated by his brother’s stubbornness.

Johnny’s face immediately brightened.  “We’re leaving?”

Scott smiled, temporarily forgetting his desire to know where his brother had gone.  He sat down on the couch and from the pocket of his coat he pulled out two tickets.  “I’ve made the arrangements for us to go home.”  Infected by Johnny’s smile, Scott smiled too.  It was the first time in weeks that a genuine smile had crossed his brother’s pale features.  The smiled faded as he read the doubt that was now in Johnny’s eyes.  “What?”

“Why now?  Why not next week like Henry wants?”

Scott sucked in his breath.  “I got the reports from St. Louis – winter is starting to set in.  Either we go now or we wait until spring.”

“No.”  Johnny said firmly.   “We go now…”

“We go slow.”  Scott affirmed.  “Obviously you’re not in any shape for traveling and this won’t be a picnic – for either of us….”

“But we are going.”  Johnny drank down the last of the soup and leaned back against the couch.  He could take the pain and discomfort of the trip – just so long as he was going – home.


Thanksgiving was a small quiet affair in the Davis house.  Henry Kane had been invited. The doctor was neither surprised nor pleased to hear that his patient would be leaving the following morning.  He did a complete examination of Johnny before the meal.  Scott was there so that he could see and understand what his brother was facing during the long trip home.  

The laceration to Johnny’s chest was the least of his injuries.  The long wound was healing, leaving an ugly red welt that would later fade with time.  The site of the surgical incision was another story.  The area was still tender and raw in some parts.  The doctor provided some salves and fresh dressings that would have to be changed on a daily basis to keep the area free of infection.  There was no telling how the internal injury was healing.  Henry felt that as long as Johnny didn’t push himself or do any strenuous lifting that his liver would ultimately be alright.  The doctor made sure that both brothers knew that re-injuring the internal organ could cause bleeding and the need for another surgery.  The ribs were beginning to knit together.  Tight bandages were wrapped around Johnny’s chest to support the fragile bones.  The young man still could not take deep breaths, but since he wasn’t supposed to be doing anything strenuous that shouldn’t be a problem.  Lastly, they examined the wound to Johnny’s leg.  This wound worried the doctor greatly.  The stitches had been removed, but despite his best efforts, the wound still oozed with a slight infection.  This more than likely accounted for the persistent low grade fever that Johnny was unable to shake.  Scott was instructed to watch this wound carefully.

Overall, Johnny had lost a lot of weight from his ordeal, making him a shadow of his normal healthy self.  He was pale and weak and in need of a few more weeks of rest.  Henry Kane knew that was not going to happen. There was no point in trying to argue the point with either of the Lancer men.  He gave Scott the medicines that Johnny would need to make the trip home.  He also included a bottle of laudanum for those times when the going was too rough for the injured man.  There was one thing in Johnny’s favor that Scott alone could appreciate – his brother was a fighter and a survivor.  Johnny would get better and would physically be on his feet sooner than the doctor’s pessimistic expectation.

After the examination, Johnny insisted on getting himself dressed while the others retired to the parlor to wait for the announcement that dinner was served.  “He’s a remarkable man,” Henry commented, keeping an eye on the stairs where Johnny would soon be appearing.

Scott gave the doctor a wry smile.  “You’re not the first doctor to say that about my brother.  You and Doc Jenkins should compare notes.”

Henry raised an eyebrow at this.  “You’re telling me that Johnny is a regular customer?”

“Let’s just say that Johnny is a magnet for trouble – usually ending with a trip to the doctor or the doctor coming to the ranch.”

“I guess that comes with being a gunfighter…”

“Former gunfighter,” Scott quickly corrected.  “He’s a rancher now – a son and a brother.  We try not to dwell on the past…”

“…not ‘till it rears its ugly hide.”  To everyone’s surprise, Johnny had made it down the stairs, leaning heavily on a cane.  Slowly he made his way into the room and accepted the glass of wine that Jim Davis offered.

“Well, I’d like to propose a toast.”  Jim held his glass high.  “Here’s to a safe, uneventful journey home to Lancer.”

“Here, here,” Henry seconded.

Scott and Johnny smiled knowingly at each other, accepting the good wishes of their host.  That was all that either of them wanted – this trip to be over and for life as they knew it to resume.

Jennings next entered the room to announce that dinner was to be served.  The men made their way into the formal dining room.  To his surprise, Johnny found several wrapped packages waiting for him at his place.  “What’s this?”  He asked eyeing the packages suspiciously.

Scott smiled and pulled out the chair for his brother and helped him to sit.  “It seems that everyone couldn’t wait for you to be leaving, so they’re giving you gifts!”

“Ha, ha, ha.”  Johnny mocked looking at the people who were now surrounding him – Scott, Henry, Alberta, Jim and Jennings.  “I don’t know what to say…”

“Open them, child.”  Alberta encouraged, handing a large package to Johnny.  “This is from me and Jennings.”

Johnny tore off the wrapping and opened the box to find a brown woolen sweater.  He immediately recognized the color of the yarn from the knitting that Alberta had been doing in his room at night.  “Thank you…” he choked out, giving a smile to the woman who had given her love and advice to him when he needed it most.

“It’s going to be a cold trip home to California, so I wanted to give you something to help keep you warm.”  She smiled and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek.  Turning, she and Jennings retired to the kitchen before her eyes began to leak.

Henry handed him the next package.  “I’m afraid that it won’t keep you warm, but it may occupy your time…”  The package contained a book – ‘The Execution of Jimmy Barcelona’ by Terence Bryant.  “The book is all the rage of Boston.  I think the author lives somewhere out west.  I’ll be interested in whether you think the story could be real or not.  It’s hard to believe that life out in the wilderness could be so rough on a young man…”  Henry stopped, realizing that perhaps the young man before him really had lived such a hard life in his short years.

Johnny looked the book over and smiled.  “I’m sure it might be interesting to see if the author is close to real life or not.  Thanks.”

Jim Davis came forward next.  “I’m afraid that this really isn’t from me – it’s from your father.”  In his hands were notes for both of the boys from Murdoch.  “He hated to leave like he did, but he had the world of confidence in you both.  I know that you make him very happy and that he misses you terribly.”  He handed each of the boys their respective notes.  

Johnny turned the sealed envelope over in his hands a few times before placing it in the pocket of his jacket.  He wanted to be alone when he read his father’s words.  Now wasn’t the time or place.   Scott agreed and stuck his note in the pocket of his own coat.  

With all of the packages having been opened, everyone sat to wait for Alberta’s presentation of the turkey.  They were not disappointed.  She opened the door from the kitchen so that Jennings could enter and place the enormous bird in front of Jim Davis.   Everyone clapped at the nicely browned entrée.  Johnny leaned and whispered to Scott, “You’d think she was fixin’ to feed an army…”

“No,” Alberta interrupted hearing the comment.  “I’m trying to put a little meat back on your bones!”

Everyone had a good laugh until Scott stood and raised his wine glass.  “I’d like to make a toast – to our host – Mr. Davis.  Thank you for the safe haven that you have provided for our family.  To Dr. Kane – thank you for the care that you gave to my brother, saving his life.  To Alberta and Jennings, old friends, thank you for your love and support.  And, to my brother,” Scott turned and raised his glass to Johnny.  “Thank you for saving my life in that basement and for being here today – I am truly thankful.”

Everyone raised their glasses and chimed them together.  The brothers chiming their glasses last – basking in the glow of the fellowship that had sustained them so far.  Now, all they had to do was survive the trip home.

Chapter 27

Jim Davis accompanied the Lancer brothers back to the railroad station – the place where the entire misadventure had started.  The brothers had said their good-bye to Alberta, Jennings and Henry Kane back at the house.  Henry had wanted to see them off at the station, but was due at the hospital for rounds and couldn’t get away.  The ride was a quiet affair, a far cry from the jovial mood that had surrounded them when they first arrived.  Jim worried for them and was going to send a telegram to Murdoch, sharing that concern.  

Johnny had stubbornly refused any pain medication before leaving the house.  He had slept well the night before and felt confident that he could manage the discomfort of his injuries without it.  He was dressed warmly in his brown jeans and the sweater that Alberta had made for him. There was no complaint when Scott insisted that he wear the thick woolen overcoat, hat and gloves.  The trip to the jail just days before had been enough to convince the cowboy that the Massachusetts winter weather was far different from the mild winters he was used to.  Johnny, however, had insisted on illustrating his new found independence by walking alone, leaning heavily on his cane.

Scott was focused entirely on his brother, making sure that the younger man’s wounds and ribs had been properly dressed.  He kept a keen eye on Johnny, wary that the young man not overexert himself.  Scott hovered about Johnny like a mother hen, protecting Johnny from everyone – including himself.

Jim could see that Scott was refocusing on his brother now that his concerns about his grandfather and the perpetuation of Garrett Enterprises were now resolved.  He was concerned that the young man had not addressed the loss that he had surely sustained – the loss of the man who had raised him – his grandfather.  

At the station, Jim saw to the shipment of their luggage while Scott checked them in at the ticket office.  Slow and steady, Johnny made his way through the crowded station to the loading platform, cautiously avoiding the other passengers as much as possible.  Unfortunately an older lady toting several large packages slammed full into him, sending him reeling against a pillar.  She kept walking, unaware of the damage she had done.  Johnny slowly righted himself, feeling the fresh pain in his ribs and leg.  “Damn,” he swore to himself trying to catch his breath.

Scott and Jim were not too far behind Johnny, but neither had seen the incident.  Johnny, not wishing to further burden his brother sucked in his breath and presented a smile.  “We all ready to go, Boston?”

“Your luggage is checked through to Stockton,” Jim handed Scott the baggage stubs.  Extending a hand, he shook hands with both of the boys.  “I’d say come back and visit, but I don’t think that’s likely.”

“Not hardly,” Johnny murmured grasping the offered hand and returning the firm shake.

“Thank you, Sir,” Scott said pumping Jim’s hand firmly.  “You’re always welcome at the ranch.”

Jim smiled at the offer.  “I just might take you up on that!  Melissa seems to have grown quite fond of California.  I imagine that once she learns that you have extended a standing invitation that she’ll want to return.”

Johnny smiled at this.  He had liked Melissa and her stubborn independence in the face of her father’s protective wishes.  “You tell her to come out anytime.”

The train whistle blew, sounding the ‘all aboard’.  “I guess this is it.”  Scott and Johnny headed to the waiting train to board. Climbing up the steep steps, they found two seats near the window facing the station and waved their final good byes to Jim Davis and Boston.

As the train slowly pulled away from the station, each of the boys was overcome with a sense of relief.   Johnny was glad to be putting this latest chapter of his life behind him, while Scott was left to wonder about what could have been that was now gone forever.


Jim Davis sent a very detailed telegram to Murdoch.  He reported on Johnny’s condition and how the doctor did not feel that it was wise for him to be on his feet yet.  He also reported that Scott was functioning, but was avoiding dealing with his personal losses.  The note indicated that Scott had taken his grandfather’s betrayal very hard and appeared to be at a loss on how to come to terms with what had happened.  

“Damn,” Murdoch muttered, running a hand through his thinning gray hair.  He stood and looked out the window to survey his property – their property.  Yesterday had been Thanksgiving and he had given thanks for the blessing of his sons and prayed for their swift return home.  Now he wasn’t sure that was what he really wanted.  He wanted them home, but not at the cost of their health.

“Is that a note from Mr. Davis?”  Teresa asked coming from the kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron.  Cipriano had come through the kitchen after delivering the latest message from Boston to Murdoch.

“Yes,” Murdoch groused, crumbling the note in his hand.

Teresa looked alarmed by the response.  “Bad news?”

“What?”  Murdoch looked at the crumpled note.  “No and yes.  Jim put the boys on the train home this morning….”

“That’s wonderful news!”  A delighted smile filled her face.  With eyes aglow she was already planning a welcome home dinner for her two brothers.  The smile faded when she saw that this news did not make Murdoch happy.  “What’s the matter?”

“The doctor doesn’t want Johnny traveling – it’s too soon, but Scott was concerned about the winter snows and insisted on leaving now…”

“He’s right, isn’t he?”

Murdoch sighed.  Scott’s thinking was correct, as usual, but to try to come home when Johnny wasn’t ready? “He’s right, of course…”

“How long before they’ll be home?”

“I don’t know.  Jim says that Scott was planning on taking the trip slow so as not to push Johnny too hard.  It could be one week or three weeks.  Hopefully, Scott will let us know.”

Teresa came to stand beside her guardian and laid a gentle hand on his shoulder.  “It will be alright, you’ll see.  They’ll be home before you know it and we can make them both well again.”

The older man listened to the sage advice of his teenaged ward and smiled.  It was her optimism that so many times had seen them through as a family.  “I just might keep you to your word.”

The girl smiled at the challenge.  “Well, I just hope that Scott remembers that Christmas is just 4 weeks away.  We’ve got a lot to do before the holiday arrives.”


The further the train traveled from Boston, the further apart the Lancer brothers seemed to become.  Johnny quickly became tired of his brother’s over protective nature.  Like a caged animal he felt that Scott was becoming more his keeper than his brother.  The stop in Philadelphia had been disastrous for their relationship.  When Scott wasn’t babying Johnny – making sure he had rested enough, Scott was pestering him for answers to questions about what happened in the basement at the fraternity house.  In response, Johnny shut down, even refusing to let Scott help him care for his wounds.  Henry had bound Johnny’s ribs before he left Boston and the wrappings remained secure, leaving Johnny with the task of changing the bandages to his side and his leg. He also refused to take any of the medicines that Henry had provided – especially the laudanum.  If he was going to get well, it was going to be on his own terms and in his own way – just like it had always been.  The medicines had a way of dulling his senses and to him that was a weakness.   The part of him that was Johnny Madrid knew full well that to show any sign of weakness could be the death of him, so the closer they got to their final destination the more and more his inner voice warned him that he had to be prepared.  In Kansas City he had demanded his gun back and had worn it on his hip ever since.  

The young man was also having difficulty in coming to terms with what Scott had gone through and was going through.  When they had been in Boston, his focus had been on how to spare Scott the pain of losing his grandfather.  Harlan was now gone from Scott’s life – he had helped see to that – and yet Scott couldn’t get over it.  It was as if Scott was now determined more than ever to make everything that had happened to Johnny and to Harlan ‘his fault’. Johnny was tried of trying to convince him otherwise.  He had tried to encourage Scott to speak about Harlan, but the elder brother refused, always wanting to question Johnny about what he had experienced or how he was feeling.  Johnny felt that Scott was asking only to add to the unjustified guilt that he was already piling on his shoulders. The constant questions nagged at the younger man.  There was no point in reviewing what had happened in the basement – it served no purpose but to add to his brother’s emotional pain and Johnny couldn’t take any more of that.  He had to cope with his own physical pain - like he always had.  Any emotional pain would be locked in his memory.   There was no desire to lay out his experience for his brother’s inspection.  

The result was that he stopped speaking to Scott.  Asked questions were answered in either a clipped response or no response at all.  

From his window he gazed upon the changing landscape.  It was hard to believe that 5 weeks had passed since they had left home.  The landscape was now devoid of any signs of life – the autumn leaves had fallen from the trees and the landscape was left barren and gray.  Johnny reflected that was much the same way that he was feeling inside.  He was tired of the constant pain in his chest and leg. It was time to resume his life and put this episode as far behind him as possible.

Johnny fingered the note that Jim Davis had given him from Murdoch.  His father must have sensed the coming inner turmoil that Johnny was now experiencing.  In his note Murdoch reassured Johnny that he was not to blame for what had happened and that he should be strong, not only for himself, but for his brother.  Murdoch reminded him that he was wanted and needed back at Lancer and that everyone was looking forward to his return – especially Barranca.

 Johnny realized that the only ‘good’ thoughts in his troubled mind were his thoughts of Lancer.  He tried keep his focus there, refusing to let his mind dwell upon what had happened, placing the memories in the back of his mind behind the locked door that held all  the bad memories of his life.  The only problem was that when he slept the door would crack open and spill into his unconscious dreams.  The times that he was able to sleep were spent fighting old memories that refused to die.  True sleep and peace eluded him adding to the misery of the trip.

Glancing at his brother he knew that he had Scott worried, but he was too tired to care anymore.  Scott would be fine once he got back to Lancer and could talk to Murdoch.  Johnny just had too much on his mind to try to deal with his brother.  He felt himself slipping back into the old familiar ways he did things when he was on his own – the solitary ways of Johnny Madrid.   Like an old familiar coat he wore the mantle of Johnny Madrid to keep himself safe.   The former gunslinger was retreating into himself, the same way he would in preparation for a fight.  He had to be focused he if he was to survive the trip and the constant pains that were assaulting his body.


Scott watched the transformation of his brother from Johnny Lancer to the cold and indifferent Johnny Madrid and was growing increasingly concerned.  There was no talking to Johnny about the nightmares that plagued him whenever he tried to rest.  Johnny stopped trying to sleep. On the nights that they would stop and take a hotel room, Johnny would spend the time slowly pacing the floor until his leg became bothersome – then he would sit and stare out the window.   Dark circles were once again forming under Johnny’s eyes and he stubbornly refused the medicine that would ease his physical pains.  Gone was the easy smile.  It was replaced by the hard line that now formed Johnny’s mouth.  It appeared to Scott as if some inner defense mechanism was driving his brother to push him away.  The more he tried to help the further Johnny retreated.  

There was so much that Scott wanted – needed – to know about what happened in the basement at Harvard. Scott had seen the basement prison but was left to his own imagination to figure out what had transpired there.  Somehow he had the impression that his own dark thoughts didn’t come close to what his brother had really experienced.    He needed to know exactly what had happened to Johnny so he could come to terms with what his grandfather had done.  Johnny had never said – not even to the doctors or lawyers.  He had let his wounds speak for themselves.  Only briefly during his convalescence had Johnny shared with Scott  the fact that he had almost given up, but that it was the threat of what Reggie was going to do to Scott that had kept him alive.  

The entire motivation for the trip had been to show Johnny how the civilized world lived – a world without prejudice.  Johnny now bore the scars of how wrong Scott was – and for that the blond could never forgive himself.  Watching Johnny struggle for a moment’s peace tore at Scott’s heart and weighed heavily on his mind.  No matter what he tried, Johnny mulishly refused to discuss the matter.   

The older brother desperately wanted to find a way to restore the easy rapport that had been the hallmark of their relationship, but he was confronted by the stone cold mask of the gunfighter who refused to relinquish his hold on his brother.  What Scott didn’t know was that it wasn’t the mask of Johnny Madrid that was he was facing – but the pain of Johnny’s past that was threatening to burst through that door in the back of Johnny’s mind.


In Colorado there was a sudden change in the weather and it began to snow.  Crossing the plains had been relatively mild compared to the cold frigid air of the Rockies.  With fascination, Scott had watched the landscape as it became covered with a deep blanket of white.  Johnny was seated beside him, huddled in a thick coat, leaning against the cold window rather than against the warmth of his brother.  He was shivering from the bitter cold that seeped into the train car.  Scott had tried to pull his brother away from the window, but quickly stopped - meeting Johnny’s obstinate resistance.

It was late afternoon when the train rolled into the Denver station the conductor advised them that the track ahead was buried in snow and that they would not be able to start out again until this latest storm passed, perhaps in a day or two.

“Is there a hotel nearby?”  Scott asked aloud, knowing that his brother would prefer to wait it out on the train or in the station.

“About two blocks from here is the finest hotel in town.  You may as well go and get a room and make yourselves comfortable.  The railroad will send a messenger to let you know when we’re ready to leave again.”

“You hear that, Brother?”  Scott asked looking into the glaring eyes of his brother.  “We may as well get a room and relax…”

“I ain’t goin’.”  Johnny responded stubbornly, huddling further into his coat.  “You go.  I’m fine.”

Scott gave an exasperated sigh.  “You heard what he said.  It could be a long time before this storm lets up.  We may as well get comfortable. I don’t know about you, but I could use a good meal, a hot bath and a warm bed.”  Scott stood stretching his leg.  He extended a hand to his brother.  “Come on, I’ll help…”

“Don’t need no help,” Johnny grumbled as he resigned himself to his brother’s decision.  He was tired and the idea of a warm bed secretly appealed to him – even if it was only to change his body from being seated to lying down. He knew that he wouldn’t sleep.  It was a struggle, but finally he got to his feet and made his way to the exit of the train.  Negotiating the other departing passengers and the steps was difficult as his leg was throbbing fiercely.  He watched with envy as Scott easily descended the stairs and waited for him at the bottom.  “Where’s this hotel?”  Johnny asked as he determinedly kept pace with his brother through the crowed station.

“Two blocks.  I stopped there on my way out to Lancer.”

“Is that a fact?”  Johnny commented dryly, trying hard not to compare the circumstances of the trips each had traveled to the ranch.

The storm was blowing a gale and there was no transportation to the hotel on the impassable roads.  The two men slowly trudged their way through the thickening snow for what seemed to be an hour.  The icy wind nipped at their exposed faces and made the going that much more difficult. Scott slowed his pace so that his struggling brother could keep up.  One glance at Johnny told Scott that his brother was in trouble.  Lines of pain were etched on pale features.   Perhaps the hotel wasn’t a good idea, but it was too late, they were almost there.

“Can you make it up the stairs?”  Scott shouted above the howl of the storm as they finally arrived at the brightly lit structure.  There were ten snow covered steps that led up to the porch and main entrance.

“You go check us in and I’ll be there shortly.”  Johnny forced out through clenched teeth.  With his bare hand he grabbed the metal handrail and used his cane for balance.  Blowing out his breath, he prepared himself for the difficult climb.  After the first step he realized the foolishness of his pride and wished that he had asked Scott for help.  A grin turned up the corner of his mouth.  It wasn’t the first time that he had gotten in over his head due to his own arrogance.  With grim determination he made it up to the porch only to have two young boys come bursting out the door of the hotel - anxious for a snowball fight.    Johnny desperately tried to get out of their way, but to no avail.  The larger boy slammed headlong into the injured man sending him backwards down the steps and into a snow drift – knocking Johnny out cold.

Chapter 28

The boys stared at the unmoving form in the snow before dashing back into the building.  Within seconds a group of men, including Scott Lancer, came out to take stock of the situation.

“Johnny!”  Scott yelled, flying down the stairs to kneel beside his brother.  There was no movement and no obvious sign of injury, but the man was out cold.  “Help me get him inside!”  

Three other men descended the stairs and together they gently lifted the injured man and carried him into the warm building.  The hotel manager met them at the door and guided them to a couch in front of a blazing fire.

“We’re so sorry,” a young well dressed couple came forward, the two boys hidden behind them.  They watched as Scott did a quick examination the unconscious man.  “Our sons were just anxious to go out and enjoy the snow, is there anything we can do…?”

Scott ignored them, focusing on his brother.  His long fingers detected a lump the size of a goose egg on the back of Johnny’s head.  “Is there a doctor?”

The manager’s eyes widened.  “Y…Yes, I can get one.  Is it serious?”

“He’s unconscious and has a large lump on the back of his head. I’d like to get him moved to our room…”

The manager snapped his fingers and several of the porters came forward.  “Help Mr. Lancer and his brother up to..,” He paused as the father of the two boys whispered in his ear.  “Take them to the Presidential Suite.  Mr. Lancer, I’ll get the doctor myself.”

Scott followed as the men carried his brother up the grand staircase and to a door at the end of the hallway marked:  Presidential Suite.  The room was enormous and grandly appointed.  Johnny was carried to the main bedroom and was gently placed on the largest feather bed that Scott had ever seen.  One of the men lit the gas lights while another started the fire in the fireplace.  “Sir, there is a water closet in the next room that has a boiler full of hot water if you need it.”

Scott pulled off his own hat and coat before tending to his brother.  Stripping clothing off the unconscious man proved to be quite a chore, but Scott prevailed and seized the opportunity to check Johnny’s other injuries.  Johnny had refused to let him tend his wounds since their stay in Philadelphia, but since Johnny was now unable to stop him Scott went ahead.  He didn’t like what he found. The wound to Johnny’s left leg was once again red and swollen – the infection no better than it had been when they left Boston.  How Johnny had been walking on the leg was a mystery to Scott. Laying a hand on his brother’s brow, it felt unnaturally warm.  “Oh, Johnny…”  Scott whispered as he set to work, cleaning the infected wound and treating it with the medicines that Henry Kane had insisted they use.  The wounds to Johnny’s chest were healing with no sign of infection, and for that Scott was grateful.  As he removed the bandaging Henry had placed around Johnny’s ribs, he found a large deep bruise that had not been there before.  “When did this happen?”  He wondered aloud.  

“A…a final parting gift from Boston.  S..some lady pushed me into a pole or s..something,” Johnny groaned through chattering teeth, his eyes still closed.  “C…c..cold..”

Scott wanted to smile at the response as he covered his brother with blankets.  It was the first time in days that Johnny had spoken to him in a civil tone.   “How’s the head?”  Scott asked pulling the covers up over Johnny’s chest and tucking them in around his neck.

“H..hurts,” Johnny’s eyes opened slowly, the pain was palpable. “What happened?”

“You were cut down by a youngster,” Scott grinned.

Johnny’s eyes flashed and he looked closely at Scott.  “Cut down?”

“Let’s just say that you where in the way.”

Johnny tried to look around but had to close his eyes tight to keep his head from spinning. He was in a proper bed in a room.  Hadn’t they been on a train?  “Where are we?”

Scott frowned; the bump had disoriented his brother.  “We’re in Denver at a hotel until the tracks are cleared of the latest snow.”

“Snow?”  This didn’t make any sense, hadn’t they just left Boston?  “How long have I been out?”

“About 30 minutes,” Scott was interrupted by a knock at the door and went to see who was there.  Scott opened the door to find two bellmen; one was carrying a tray of medical supplies, while the other carried a tray of hot food.

“Compliments of the Ligget family, the doctor should be here shortly.” One of the men commented before leaving.

“Henry’s here?”  Johnny winced at the pounding that was increasing in his head.  As much as he liked Henry Kane, he had been hoping not to see him or any other doctor for a very long time.

“Henry?”  Scott realized that his brother was disoriented from the fall.  “Your leg is infected and you have a bump on the back of your head from a fall.  I told the manager that I wanted you checked out by a doctor before anything else happens.”  Scott was firm in his response, making it clear that there would be no argument.  To his amazement, Johnny smiled – causing further concern in the older brother.   “What’s so funny?”

“What more can happen on this trip?”  Johnny murmured, fighting the beckoning darkness.

Scott smiled, shocked by this unexpected response.  “Well, little brother, I always did say you were a magnet for this sort of thing…”

“S..s..story of my life,”  Johnny sighed, giving up the fight and closing his eyes.

Scott frowned, concerned that Johnny was drifting off.  He went and inspected the trays of food, perhaps a good meal would help.  “You hungry?  There’s plenty of food here.”

Johnny shook his head and swallowed hard.  The normally wonderful smells had just reached him and he felt his stomach begin to rebel.  “D…don’t think so, don’t feel so g….good…”   Concussion, he knew he had a concussion - again.  Relaxing, he felt himself drift into unconsciousness.

Shaking his head, Scott tucked his brother in, adding an additional comforter for warmth.  Johnny had lost a lot of weight as a result of what had happened and his lean body had no fat to burn.  The dark circles under his brother’s eyes added to Scott’s concern that Johnny was exhausted.  Perhaps the snow storm was a blessing in disguise, but the fall was not.

After making sure his brother was safely tucked in, Scott went to sample some of the food on the plates.  The rumbling in his own stomach reminded him that it had been quite a while since he had anything of substance to eat.  His brother had been eating like a bird – existing only on soup and crackers, refusing to try any solid food. Not quite what the doctor had in mind for rebuilding lost strength.  

Just as he finished his meal, a knock came at the door.  Scott opened the door to an older man who seemed to be in a rush.  What happened here?”  He demanded entering the room, throwing off his hat and coat.  

“Are you the doctor?”

“And just who else were you expecting to make a house call in weather like this?”  Came the snippy response as the man hurried towards the bed and his new patient.  

Scott grabbed the man and turned him around.  “Listen here – if you’re not here to help my brother then you can leave now!  I don’t want anyone’s help who isn’t prepared to give my brother their full attention.”

The doctor puffed up his cheeks and chest at the sharp comments and then quickly deflated, looking at his toes.  “My deepest apologies, sir.  Yes, I am the doctor and I’m here to help.  What happened?”  The man slowed his pace and walked to the bedside.

“My brother – he fell down the front steps.  There’s a lump on his head…”

“Has he woken up yet?”

“Briefly., but then he went right back to sleep.”

“Did he seem alright when he was awake?”

“No, he was disoriented.”  Scott paused as the doctor started to lift the covers from Johnny’s chest.  “Wait, before you start, you have to know something.”  The doctor stopped and waited.  “My brother was recently injured and is still recovering.  He has an injury to his left leg that is infected….”  

The doctor smiled patiently.  “Let me do my job and we’ll see what we find.”  For the better part of an hour, the doctor inspected all the recent and old wounds wondering how the unconscious man had been injured so many times.  The leg wound was infected, but Scott had adequately applied the medicines and changed the bandages.  He gently palpated the surgical site to Johnny’s side and was pleased that there appeared to be no tenderness – no indication of an additional injury.  The deep bruise to Johnny’s chest was only a bruise and not a fracture.  Lastly, he examined Johnny’s head.  Johnny wasn’t asleep, he was unconscious.  His eyes reacted equally to light and his reflexes appeared to be normal.  Once the examination was over, the doctor stood and straightened his aching back.  “I’d say that your brother has a concussion, besides being dehydrated and in need of rest.  How long were you planning on staying here?”

“We’re anxious to get back to our ranch in California…”

The doctor shook his head.  “If he were my brother, I’d try to keep him here as long as possible.  He needs rest…”

“I can rest when I get home.”  Both men turned in surprise at hearing Johnny speak.

“Mr. Lancer,”   The doctor addressed his patient.  “How do you feel?”

Johnny rubbed his forehead with his right hand.  “I got a pounding in my head like two miners workin’ a vein of silver.”   

“I’m sorry about that, son, but I can’t give you any medicine to ease the pain.  You need to lay as still as possible and rest.  You also need to drink plenty of water.  It while help flush that infection from your body.”  The doctor spoke, looking into Johnny’s tired eyes.  He could see that his words were not new ones to his young man.

 Scott walked the man to the door.  “Thank you for coming…”

“Mr. Lancer, I am quite serious, keep him in bed. He needs to lie still.  Try not to let him sleep too much.  If he does - wake him periodically to make sure that he’s still oriented.  Have the manager come get me again if his headache gets worse or if he begins to vomit.  I’ll be back in the morning to check him again.”

Scott shut the door behind the departing man and returned to sit beside his brother on the bed.  He was well aware of the sapphire eyes that watched him as he moved.  “Well, little brother, it’s just you and me.  Truth, how do you feel?”

Johnny considered not saying anything, but he figured that it was his silence that had gotten him into this latest scrape.  “Tired, I’m tired Boston.”  

Scott smiled and his eyes met his brother’s.  He was tired too, but the doctor said not to let Johnny sleep.  “The doctor wants me to keep you awake…”

Johnny snorted softly.    “I don’t want to sleep anyhow.”

“Why?”  Scott was now seated beside his brother, his long legs stretched out on top of the large bed.

A long sigh escaped Johnny’s lips.  “You know why…”

“The nightmares?”

“Yeah.  They come and I ain’t got the strength to fight ‘em anymore…”

“Anymore?  Johnny, tell me about your dreams…”  Scott urged knowing that it would be easier to keep his brother awake if Johnny was actually doing something.

“I don’t have dreams, Boston.  I have visitations from every man who tried to kill me and lost.  They come to me in my sleep and keep trying their luck. Sometimes they win and their bullets…”  Johnny paused, a bead of sweat rolling down the side of his face.

Scott wiped the moisture with a cool cloth and encouraged his brother to continue. “You once told me that you always sleep good.”

Johnny smiled with a blush, remembering the words he had said to his brother on that first morning at Lancer.  He had been full of bravado – wanting to impress the eastern dandy - his new found brother.  “I fibbed…” was the simple response, making both men laugh.   

“Johnny, tell me about Boston,” Scott asked, knowing that he was asking a lot of his weakened brother.

“My worst nightmare, come true…” the words escaped Johnny’s lips before he had a chance to take them back.  He felt Scott stiffen and was immediately sorry.  Closing his eyes he signed.  “T…t...tired….”  Letting the softness of the bed envelop him, Johnny gave into the overwhelming urge to sleep

“Not yet, Johnny, I need to know - Johnny….?”  Scott desperately tried to rouse his brother, but there was no awakening the now sleeping man.  Carefully Scott crept off the bed and went to stand before the fire.  He had wanted to know, and now he had part of an answer.  What had happened was even more horrible than Scott could apparently imagine.  He looked back at the sleeping man.  Johnny had suffered so much in his short life while Scott had lived a life of apparent ease.  Why hurt and torment had to follow his younger brother was a mystery.  Never in his life had he met anyone who embraced life more than Johnny – and yet, fate had handed him the role of a gunfighter, killer for hire.  How ironic and sad.

Remembering the note that his father had sent, Scott retrieved it from his jacket.  He had read it a dozen times or so since they left Boston.  Unfolding the worn piece of paper he read the words that had given him the strength and comfort he needed for the trip home:

     I’m trusting you to bring your brother home.  I’m confident that the two of you will make it if you work together.  Remember he holds no ill thoughts towards you for what happened, and neither do I.  I’m proud of you son.  You did so much to rescue your brother and save his life.  What happened with your grandfather – well, only time will be able to heal that wound.
     Just remember that your brother is not as strong as he thinks he is.  He’ll take all of your strength and patience – and then some.  We’re waiting for both of you to come home to Lancer.  
Be safe.

Carefully Scott refolded the note and returned it to his jacket.  He didn’t know what Murdoch had written to his brother, but somehow he was sure it was very similar.  Looking at the falling snow he wished they were back home, at Lancer, and that this nightmare was finally at an end.

Turning from the window, he looked toward the bed where his brother lay sleeping.  Scott would need to wake Johnny again, soon.  But until then he would let the man sleep.  Taking off his boots and jacket, he climbed into the bed beside his brother.  Even beneath the heavy blankets, Johnny was icy to the touch.  Gently he maneuvered the injured man so that Johnny’s head now rested on his shoulder.  Protectively, Scott wrapped his arms around his brother.  Closing his eyes he whispered:   “Rest easy, little brother.  I’ve got you now.  I’ll fight those nightmares while you rest.”


Johnny awoke to find himself lying on an enormous bed in a strange room.  His body felt uncomfortably heavy and he hadn’t the strength to lift himself off the soft mattress. Ceasing his attempt to get up, he lay back letting his eyes take stock in his surroundings. He vaguely remembered being carried into the room - after a fall?  Scott had been there along with a strange man – another doctor?  There was the usual poking and prodding and the standard instruction that he not move too much lest he aggravate his injuries.  Johnny snorted, amused that by now he knew the standard instructions provided by every doctor who had ever tended to him.

It was morning and from the bed he observed a fire burning brightly in the fireplace, but strangely it threw no heat.  Looking at the windows, he could only see frosted panes of glass.  It had to be daylight as there was no other source of light in the room.  Closing his eyes, he snuggled into the warmth of the bed, letting himself relax for the first time in what seemed to be an eternity.  The trip to Boston had been well intended, but it had nearly killed him.  He resolved that it would be a long time before he ever let Scott talk him into taking another trip.  Opening his eyes, he realized what was missing – his brother.   Since they had left Boston, Scott never let him out of his sight, well, almost never.    He did insist on going to the outhouse by himself - he had made sure of that in Philadelphia.   Scott’s absence nagged at him, the same way that the heatless fireplace did.  Something was wrong.  

With resolve, he struggled to get out of the bed only to find himself firmly bound into its depths.  Struggling only seemed to make the matter worse.  The blankets themselves were now wrapped around him, pinning his arms to his sides.  He stopped struggling and tried to make sense of what was happening.  Where was Scott?  Why would he leave him in such a state?  Frantically he looked about the room sensing he was no longer alone.  

The light from the windows dimmed as the doors to the room few open.  A group of pale faced men entered the room, their bodies covered with blood.  Slowly they surrounded the helpless Johnny.  “What do you want?”  He demanded as their circle tightened around him.  Trapped in helpless horror, he watched as they collectively raised their fists.  “No!”  Johnny screamed, unable to avoid the fists that were striking his body.  With each blow Johnny screamed in agony.  From the corner of his eye he saw Harlan, Pierce and Scott standing – laughing…..  “Scott, nooooo!”


Scott Lancer had been dozing when Johnny began to struggle in his sleep – his breaths coming in gasps and his chest heaving.  “Scott, no, no…” escaped Johnny’s lips, and his face winced in pain.  Scott tightened his grasp on his brother thinking that holding him closer would help – it didn’t.  Johnny’s struggles increased as he fought to loosen himself from the arms that would give him shelter.  A stream of Spanish erupted from Johnny as he began to struggle more violently.

“Johnny!”  Scott yelled at his brother, afraid that if he held the injured man any tighter he would hurt him.  

Johnny’s struggles seemed to weaken as sapphire eyes opened and looked frantically about the room.  “Ayúdeme, por favor…”  Johnny whispered breathlessly. “Help me, please….”

“I’m here, Brother.”  Scott cooed, at a loss on how to respond.  Johnny’s chest was heaving and sweat was pouring from his brow, matting his dark hair to his forehead.  He looked at Scott with eyes that did not seem to recognize the elder Lancer.  In that briefest of looks, Scott realized that Johnny was in the throes of a nightmare.  “Shhh,” Scott whispered, trying to settle the trembling man the same way that Johnny would gentle a wild stallion.  He had once been told that it could be dangerous to abruptly awaken a person in the midst of a nightmare, but with all of the fight that Johnny seemed to have in him Scott wondered who was in danger more.  “I’m here Johnny, you’re safe.  Everything is alright…”

The frightened eyes continued to look at him.  “Ayúdeme, por favor….”

“I’ve got you,” Scott whispered, relaxing his hold on his brother.  

Johnny responded by relaxing too.  “Gracias….”  He whispered falling back into a troubled slumber.

Scott blew out his breath, realizing that he was now sweaty from his efforts to contain his brother.   He had only just drifted off for a few moments before the nightmare began.  It now made sent to Scott why Johnny was avoiding sleep.   Gently he eased Johnny back on the pillows and then slipped out of the bed, tucking the blankets around the sleeping man. Walking to the window he observed that it was still snowing with no sign of it letting up.  Crossing his arms in front of his chest he studied his predicament.  

His brother was sick.  The travel was proving to be too much and Johnny had been re-injured twice since they had left Boston.  Rest was the best medicine – only true rest was eluding the injured man.  Scott realized that somehow Johnny would have to come to terms with what was bothering him so that he could get the rest he so desperately needed.  The other alternative was to give him a sleeping powder, and knowing how his brother despised medicine, he didn’t think that would be feasible.

He continued to gaze out the window. It was around midnight and it was still snowing.  There was no way that the train would be going anywhere in the morning or perhaps the entire day.  Looking back at Johnny, Scott realized that it was a good thing.  They both needed a rest.

Too wound up to go back to bed, Scott checked on his brother and then grabbing his shaving kit and a robe, headed to the water closet and for a long soak in the tub.  

After placing a Do Not Disturb note on the door to the suite, Scott found the private water closet.  The room was grand compared to the room in his grandfather’s house.  A large tub with gold fixtures was the centerpiece of the room.  He drew a hot bath and eased himself in for a short soak.  Closing his eyes he let himself become one with the water; fluid and relaxed.  This was one of the few times that he had been truly alone in the past few weeks.  All of the other times he had either been in a rush to attend a meeting or to take care of his brother.

Taking several deep breaths, Scott tried to clear his mind and think of what it would be like to be back at Lancer and away from the misery of this trip.  Snorting, Scott could only think of how foolish he had been to thinking that he could show his brother a better way of life.  All he had managed to accomplish in the past 5 weeks was to get his brother nearly killed – more than once.  Some ‘big brother’ he had been.  He laughed at the absurdity of the title.  ‘Big Brother’ – some joke he had turned out to be!  He was so wrapped up in himself he had failed to see the warning signs that Johnny had clearly recognized.  His ‘brothers’ had changed – though he refused to see it.  They had plotted against his back to kill Johnny.  Even Harlan had sent out warning signs when they first arrived – signs that screamed warning to Johnny, but meant nothing to Scott.  

Raising a fist he splashed it into the water.  “Stupid!”  He shouted at himself.  In hindsight his vision was 20/20. He had so much to answer for and here he was pushing his brother for answers to questions that Johnny clearly could not speak about yet.  What damage had he done to his brother in his blindness?  Would Johnny ever forgive him?  Johnny had said that him that he wasn’t responsible, but those words hadn’t been spoken for several weeks.  Had Johnny changed his mind?   

He even began to feel guilty for taking this little time to himself when he should be looking after his brother.  Something was clearly bothering the younger man.  The nightmare he had must have been horrifying.  He has seen the look of fear on his brother’s face, a look that he had never seen before.  Had the torture in the basement been too much for even the stoic Johnny Madrid?   Scott caught himself up short thinking of his brother that way.  Johnny wasn’t Johnny Madrid anymore.  He is Johnny Lancer.  It is Johnny Lancer who needs his help and somehow he would have to find a way to reach that man and bring him home.  


Johnny awoke a short time later.  He was soaking wet from his own sweat, his head pounding terribly.  Looking about, he realized that he was alone.  Bracing, he prepared himself for another visitation from the faceless men who wanted to harm him.  After a few moments, he gave a sigh of relief, realizing that this time he was actually awake.  With a struggle he sat up and wrapped himself in a blanket.  Someone had seen fit to remove all of his clothing, leaving him as helpless as possible.  Getting to his feet, he tottered to the couch by the fireplace and placed his left leg up on the table to give it a rest.  He leaned back against the high back of the sofa and gazed into the fire.  

So much had happened not only to him but to his brother.  The time was coming to clear the air so they both could do some healing.  He had never been a believer in talking out his troubles, but his brother did and if that was what it would take for him to get a decent night sleep, he would give it a try.   He had never had anyone in his life that he trusted enough to confide in so he had no idea if it could help.  At this point he was willing to concede that it couldn’t hurt.  Afraid to sleep, he kept his focus on the fire – determined to stay away to speak with Scott.  Unfortunately the injured man became lost in the fire’s hypnotic depths and could no longer fight the beckoning slumber.

Chapter 29

Scott was just getting out of the tub when he heard a commotion in the next room.  Grabbing a robe, he ran to the large bed only to find it empty.  Frantic eyes scoured the remainder of the large room until he spied a heap of blankets on the floor near the couch.  “Johnny?”  He called softly, oblivious of the hair that was now dripping cold water down his neck.

He found his brother, huddled in the blankets, trembling like a leaf, “Johnny!”  He called sharply trying to waken the dreaming man.  Unfortunately, once again Scott’s words had the opposite effect.

Johnny was caught in the dream world of the 6 year old he had once been, hiding from his stepfather and the beating that he knew was coming.   His mother had warned him to stay clear of the man, but somehow his hiding places were never good enough.  In his dream, he heard the drunken man calling to him – his voice full of violence and rage.  It was always worse when his stepfather had been drinking.  The drunken man would get a green stick from the wood pile and come after him – grabbing Johnny by the hair with one hand and in the other wielding the stick across the tender flesh of Johnny’s exposed chest and back.  The beating would just go on and on until his mother could finally gather her courage to distract the man away from Johnny and focus it on something else.  “Irse machrse!”  Johnny whispered repeatedly in a desperate high pitched voice while trying to make himself small as possible. “Leave me alone!  Go away!…”  

Scott was stunned.  This was a side of his brother he had never seen before.  Johnny was, for all intents and purposes a child and somehow he was reliving an event from his past.  Realizing this, Scott changed his voice and spoke very softly to the frightened boy.  “Don’t be afraid, Johnny.  I won’t hurt you…”  He repeated the words over and over until the dream passed and Johnny’s eyes fluttered open.  

Johnny collected himself, realizing that he had fallen off the couch.  Looking into Scott’s worried eyes, he realized that something was wrong.  “What happened?”  He croaked his throat unusually dry.

“Let me help you up,” Scott extended his hand and helped Johnny back up on the couch, recovering him with the blanket.  “You had a nightmare.”

Johnny closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the couch.  Running a hand through his damp hair he laughed.  “Nightmare?  It weren’t no nightmare…”

“What was it?”  Scott asked softly.

Johnny turned and looked him in the eyes.  Maybe it was time.  He couldn’t keep the door closed any longer.  The space was filled with ghosts that refused to die, of hurts that refused to heal.  Maybe it was time to let some of them out.  “A memory.  Something that had happened so long ago that I thought it was gone…”  
“But it came back.”

Johnny smiled, and pointed to the bottle of sippin’ whiskey on the table.  “Give me a shot of that…”

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea, with your head and all…”

Johnny laughed with an edge of tired hysteria.  “Scott the best it could do is kill me!  Now give me a drink!”

Scott poured two glasses, giving the smaller glass to his brother.  Johnny realized this, but didn’t comment.  Instead he raised his glass in a toast.  “Here’s to killin’ what ails me!”  He drank the drink down in a gulp, wincing as his empty stomach rebelled at the arrival of the bitter liquid.  He looked at his brother and gave him a half smile.  “You ain’t drinkin’ to my toast, Boston.  What’s the matter with you?”

Scott took a small sip of his drink to appease his brother.  “Johnny tell me what happened?”

“What happened?  When?”

“In your dream…”

Johnny sighed.  It was time.  “Boston, have you never been just plain not good enough?”  Johnny eyed his brother knowing the answer to the question.  For his entire life, he had never been good enough.  His mother told him that Murdoch had kicked them out because they weren’t good enough.  His stepfather, loved his mother, but Johnny wasn’t good enough to be his son.  It was a pattern that repeated throughout his entire life and he was confident that it would continue.  It even took his own father months to come to terms with him and accept him as being ‘good enough’ to be a Lancer and allow him to claim his own birthright!  How wrong was that?  Sure, he and Murdoch had come to terms, but it had taken a lot of work and a lot of sucking up that Johnny Madrid never would have done.  Johnny had a belly full of it and was sick and tired of just not being good enough. At least as a gunfighter he knew that he was ‘good enough’; if he weren’t he’d be dead.  

Looking at his brother, he knew that Scott would never know what it was like not to be good enough.  He was everything that a man could want in a son or grandson – just look at the extremes that Harlan went to keep him from Murdoch all those years; the way that Murdoch accepted him right from the start.  Nobody had ever fought for Johnny that way.  He was always the expendable one.  Harlan saw him for what he was and didn’t hesitate to try to kill him just to keep Scott in Boston.    

The more Johnny thought of this, the more he became angry and bitter – emotions he hadn’t allowed himself to feel for a very long time.  These were the emotions that could get you killed in a gunfight.  But, he wasn’t in the middle of the street and the only gun he was shooting off was his mouth.  “You want to know what’s wrong?”  He asked in response to Scott’s inquiring eyes.  “I’ve never been good enough for anyone my entire life!  My stepfather only saw me as being good enough to beat – the same way those men in San Francisco wanted to beat me just because I’m mestizo!  I’m not good enough to be gringo and not pure enough to be Mexicano.  Think of it – your grandfather and Pierce tried to kill me just because...”  Johnny stopped and looked away.  The anger and pain were now hurting his soul more than the physical pain ever had.  He hadn’t meant to say these words to his brother. Scott didn’t deserve them.   He didn’t know where they were coming from, but he knew that he had to stop before he said something he’d regret later.

Scott was stunned.  He had never thought of his brother this way, and the realization that Johnny did shocked him even more.  “Johnny….”

“Don’t say nothin’,” Johnny whispered, turning away from his brother trying to fight the anger that was to building inside.

“You’re wrong…”  Scott reached out and touched Johnny’s shoulder only to have his hand shrugged aside.

“Am I?”  Johnny turned and faced his brother, his eyes a reflection of the anger and resentment that he could no longer contain. “Why’d you bring me to Boston?”

“Because I wanted to show you a world where life was different than in San Francisco…”

“What made you think that if I weren’t good enough for ‘Frisco that I’d be good enough for Boston?  Was it because I’m your brother? Think about it Scott.  You took me to Boston as your brother – not as Johnny Lancer.  As Scott Lancer’s half-breed brother I would be accepted – no problema.  But you were wrong!  Look what they did to me!” Johnny held out his scarred wrists and pulled the blanket away from his scared chest. “Now, tell me that I’m good enough to be your brother!”  

Scott stared at the fresh scars that would permanently mark Johnny’s body.  His mouth moved, but no words came out.  The corners of his eyes began to fill, and he fought hard to hold them back.  “I’m sorry….”  He whispered in a voice so soft that Johnny could barely hear him.

“Sorry?  That don’t touch it Scott. It don’t even come close!”  Johnny wrapped himself back up in the blanket trying to recapture the emotions that he had let get the better of himself.  Slowly he limped his way back to the bed.   

Silence ruled the large room.  Johnny sat heavily on the edge of the bed, his stomach churning.  He was ashamed of the words he had just said to his brother.  He had no idea where they had come from, but they were wrong and he knew it. The sad truth hit him like a runaway train, he really wasn’t good enough to be Scott Lancer’s brother. With a heavy heart and a pounding headache he could no longer fight the torment that had been building in his stomach.  With shaky hands he removed the pitcher from the wash basin and violently threw up. The whiskey burned his throat a second time as it left the same way it came.  The retching continued well past the point where his stomach had anything more to give.  He was left feeling drained, hot and miserable – wishing only for a bullet to put him out of his misery.  Instead, gentle hands moved the basin aside and pulled him in a warm hug.  He fell into that embrace and began to shake.  “I’m sorry…  I’m sorry…”  

Scott gently stroked his brother’s hair.  “You have nothing to be sorry for, Johnny.  Nothing at all….”

“You don’t know what I’ve done….”

“…And you haven’t told me anything that merits any of the misery that has been inflicted on you….”

“Scott….”  Johnny whispered, desperately wanting to take back the words he had said.  Instead, he fell into a troubled sleep in his brother’s arms.

Silent tears ran down Scott’s face as he held on to his brother.  Brother, the word implied that they grew up together, that they knew each other – like he knew his other ‘brothers’.  He knew them and yet he really didn’t know them.  If he had, he never would have brought Johnny to Boston.    Johnny, his true blood brother was a virtual stranger and yet Scott intrinsically knew him better than any man he had ever known in his life.  Johnny was a man of his word, of his honor.    What troubled Scott was that there was so much he didn’t know about Johnny.  Sure, he had an idea of the life that Johnny had lived, but he had no idea how it had affected him.  He always looked at his brother as a ray of sunshine or as a candle that burned so bright that you had to look away.  Was it all a mask? A charade?  The man he was holding in his arms was a different incarnation of Johnny Madrid Lancer, a version he had never seen before.  In his arms wasn’t a man.  In his arms was the child who had so desperately wanted to be accepted, wanted and above all – loved.  The child who had only suffered at the hands of others, tormented for his mere existence - the child who had grown up to be Johnny Madrid – a gunfighter with a conscience and a smile that could light up the darkest of rooms.  

His brother, a part of himself that he had never known.  Is that who Johnny was, the other side of his own personality?  A sob hitched in his chest as he hated himself more now than he did just hours earlier.  Now he realized the depths of the fresh wounds that the Boston trip had inflicted on the child in his arms. They went far deeper than the scars to Johnny’s body.  They went to his soul and beyond.   No child deserved the life that Johnny had lived.  No man deserved the torment that Johnny had just survived. Were the nightmares that Scott had witnessed this night just a small fraction of the secrets that Johnny kept hidden from his family?

Wiping his eyes on the sleeve of his robe, he gently laid Johnny down and recovered him with the blankets.  The fever was back, and Johnny was once again flushed – hot and sweating.  Would it never end?  “Rest easy, Brother.  We’ll talk again in the morning.”

Scott returned to the water closet for his clothing.  Peering in the mirror, he could barely recognize the face in the looking glass.  His visage was looking as depressed as he felt.  In a few hours it would be morning and all of the pain would start anew.  Perhaps if the storm continued, he and Johnny would be forced to face their demons and exorcize them – hopefully forever.


He had climbed back into Johnny’s bed to be close to his brother in case Johnny had another bad dream.  As Johnny tossed and moaned in his sleep, Scott reflected on what other secrets lay hidden in the fevered mind of his brother. As a result, he didn’t get much rest.  It was so easy to see Johnny as Johnny Lancer and forget that he had once been Johnny Madrid.  The younger man was very clever in hiding his troubles and his true feelings.

Lying in bed, Scott wondered if Johnny still forgave him for his part in what had happened in Boston.  Johnny’s earlier words had cut him like a knife.  In many ways, Johnny was right.  In his arrogance, Scott had assumed that Johnny would be accepted in Boston society just because he was his brother.  Scott now knew how terribly wrong he had been and how Johnny was now paying the price.  He would trade places if he could - to take this terrible new hurt away.

Only one other time had Scott tried to place himself in Johnny’s boots – a group of bandits had come to the estancia looking for Johnny Madrid.  Foolishly, Scott had said that he was the infamous gun hawk and paid a steep price for his deception.  After being beaten and threatened with a Gatling gun he realized how unglamorous Johnny’s former life had been.    Scott reflected that his brother’s life as Johnny Madrid was steeped in legend.  It was so easy to forget that behind that legend was the painful life of a troubled young man.   Johnny had become so adept at hiding behind that legend that the truth was hard to find.  For once, Scott was being confronted with that truth and he wasn’t sure if he could handle it.


Scott  awakened by a knock at the door to the suite.  Glancing at his still sleeping brother, he got out of bed and pulled on his robe. “Yes?”  He asked opening the door a crack.  

The doctor was back and behind him was a waiter with two breakfast trays.  “I’ve come to see my patient.”

“What time is it?”  Scott asked opening the door, allowing the men into the room.

“8AM,” the doctor responded looking at the dark circles under Scott’s eyes.  “Are you alright?”

“Rough night,” Scott muttered, following the doctor to the bed where Johnny lay curled into a tight ball.  

The doctor frowned at what he saw.  “How was he last night?”

“He threw up once.  When he slept he had nightmares…”

“He has a fever…” the doctor had laid his hand on Johnny’s brow.  “Mr. Lancer?”  He softly called to the sleeping man.  When there was no response he called again.  “Mr. Lancer?”

Johnny stirred, slowly unraveling himself and opening his eyes.  “Scott…?”

“I’m here, Brother.”  Scott now stood beside the doctor so that Johnny could see him.

Sapphire eyes focused on the two figures in front of him.  “Doctor, right?”

The doctor smiled.  “That’s right, Mr. Lancer.  How are you feeling this morning?”

Johnny closed his eyes and swallowed the bile that was building in the back of his throat.  His mouth tasted like horse dung and his head pounded like a herd of stampeding cows. “Awful,” Escaped his lips as his stomach once again decided to erupt adding to his misery.  Quickly, a waste basket was brought to the bed as dry heaves wracked Johnny’s weary body.  Once he was done he laid back trying to control the moan that threatened to escape his lips.  The heaving had aggravated both his headache and healing ribs.  He was left feverish and exhausted.

Scott and the doctor looked at each other, concern was written on both of their faces.  The doctor pulled Scott aside.  “We need to get his fever down and fluids in him before he dehydrates even more. I’ll go down to the kitchen and have some herb tea brought up.  I’ll also have them prepare a medicinal broth that should help with the nausea.”

“I guess that it’s a good thing that it’s still snowing.”  Scott had glanced out the window.  The snow had let up, but was still falling.

“Mr. Lancer, even if the sun was shining and the tracks were clear, I’d still tell you to keep your brother in bed for at least the next 24 hours – 48 would be better.”  The doctor was stern in his instruction.

Scott glanced down and then up into the eyes of the doctor.  “I know.  But we need to get home…”

“I’m sure that your folks would think that it was more important that you get home in once piece.  Take some advice Mr. Lancer.  Rest.  You need it as much as your brother.”

Scott gave the older man a sheepish grin.  “Well, I’ll rest when we get home.”

The doctor shook his head at the stubborn young man in front of him.  “I’ll have the kitchen send up the tea.  In the meantime you eat.”

Scott let the doctor and the waiter out and returned to his brother.  Johnny was once again curled into a ball, shivering under a mountain of blankets.  “Johnny?”  Scott asked tentatively.

“Yeah,” Johnny responded without moving, afraid that if he did his stomach would rebel again.

“We’re going to spend a few days here…”

“Scott, I can be ready anytime….”  Johnny responded, starting to sit up.  He was determined not to be the cause of any further delay in their getting back to Lancer.

“NO.”  Scot said firmly sitting on the edge of the bed and pushing his brother back against the pillows.  “We need to rest.  Besides, it’s still snowing.  The tracks probably won’t be cleared for a few days anyway.”

Johnny relaxed and closed his eyes.  “Why didn’t you just say so to begin with,” he responded testily.

It was a fair question and Scott had no answer.  “About last night…”

 “Not now, Scott...” Johnny whispered rolling away from his brother.  “Head h..hurts too much…”

Scott watched as Johnny drifted off to sleep again.  With a heavy heart, he picked up a breakfast tray and took it to the couch by the fireplace.  The waiter had stoked the fire so that it was blazing warmly.  Slowly he ate the tasteless food, again fretting about their latest predicament. He needed to get Johnny to talk some more.  They had to come to terms with what was bothering his brother – then, perhaps, he could come to terms with what was troubling him.


At 1PM – a rider made his way to the Lancer ranch.  In the pocket of his vest was the latest dispatch from Scott Lancer to his father.  Murdoch smiled at the approaching man.  Like clock work, Scott had sent his father a telegram from every stop they had made.    “How are you today Owen?”  Murdoch asked the man as he dismounted.

“Just fine, Mr. Lancer.”  From his vest he pulled out the latest note.

“Why don’t you go around to the kitchen, I think that Teresa has some lemonade.”

“Much obliged,” Owen responded with a tug of his hat.

With anxious fingers, Murdoch tore open the envelope to read the latest news from his eldest son.  He wasn’t completely surprised by what he read – though news of Johnny falling was heartbreaking.

“Whatya got thar, boss?”  Jelly asked as he walked toward Murdoch from the barn.  He had seen the familiar rider as he approached the house and made sure that he would be around for the latest news.

“A telegram from Scott.  They’re holed up at a hotel in Denver until the tracks are clear of a heavy snow.”  Murdoch then sighed and added, “And Johnny has had a fall.  Scott said that he’s got a concussion.  The doctor has told him to wait a few days before traveling”

“Dang,” Jelly swore.  “Ifn’ them boys haven’t had some sour luck.”  He hated the idea of the boys being so close, and yet so far.  He almost had a mind to go to Denver to help, but if the tracks were snowed in…  

“Well, they’re almost home,” Murdoch smiled, trying to put a good spin on the latest bad news.  “It could be less than a week before we see them.”

Jelly tried to smile, but couldn’t.  “Have ya told Teresa yet?”

Murdoch smiled.  Jelly was wrangling for an invitation to lunch.  “Why don’t you join us for lunch and we can discuss our plans for the boys home coming.”

The older man immediately brightened at the invitation and the thought of planning something special for the return of the boys.  “Don’t mind ifn’ I do


Johnny slept the remainder of the day, only waking when Scott tried to ply him with the tea that the doctor had prescribed.  It was a mildly sweet herbal remedy that Johnny was actually able to keep in his stomach.  By dinner, Johnny was wide awake and well rested.  His stomach was settled, the pounding in his head had receded and the throbbing had lessened in his leg.   Looking around the room he spied Scott staring out a window.  “Still snowing?”  He asked trying not to startle his brother.

“I think it’s just about done.”  Scott turned and smiled at the question.  “You feeling better?”

Johnny gave his brother a genuine smile.  “Yeah, I might make it.”

Scott helped Johnny to sit up and handed him a fresh cup of tea.  “That stuff must agree with you.”

Johnny downed the warm liquid and handed the cup back to his brother.  “Seems to do the trick.  So, when do ya think we can get outta  here?”

Scott eyed his brother suspiciously.  Just six hours earlier Johnny looked like death warmed over.  Even though his color hadn’t improved much, his spirits had.  “The hotel manager checked with the railroad.  The track should be clear sometime tomorrow.  But, we can’t go until you’re cleared by the doctor…”

“Scott – I’m ready.  I don’t need no doctor to tell me…”

“Yes you do.”  Scott pulled up a chair.  “Besides, we didn’t finish our conversation from last night….”

The smile on Johnny’s face fell and he looked away.  Part of him had hoped that he had just dreamed of the conversation he had with his brother.  Obviously he was wrong.  “Scott, about last night… I said some things…”

“That you felt were true.”  Scott finished.  “That may have been once, but not any more.  Johnny you are best man I know and I’m proud to call you my brother…”

Johnny looked down at the hands in his lap.  “Not if you really knew me….”  He made fists of his hands and clenched them tightly.  “I’ve done things in the past, bad things.  You just don’t know…”

“Don’t I?  You were a gun for hire.  You did what people paid you to do...”

“I didn’t have to.  I had a choice.  I chose to kill…”

“Or be killed.”  Scot interrupted.  “That’s in the past.  That’s where it needs to stay.”

“That’s what Murdoch said that first day at the ranch.  He was wrong then and you’re wrong now.  My past is always going to be haunting me…”

“Your dreams…”

“Yeah, my dreams, but also the family.  My past jeopardizes everything I love.  That’s a fact.”

“Your past has nothing to do with what happened in Boston.”

“How can you say that, Scott?  Pierce told me that he was rescuing you from me – Johnny Madrid! You’re wrong.  It just wasn’t my past it was just me - ‘cause of who and what I am.”

“Despite of what you think, little Brother, it wasn’t because of you that those terrible things were done to you.  It was because of me!”

Chapter 30

Johnny could scarcely believe his ears.  Scott was once again trying to take blame for what had happened.  “Scott, that’s not true and you know it!  You had no control over Pierce or your Grandfather.  They were crazy men…”

“I know, but don’t you see, none of this would have happened if it weren’t for me?  The only reason that Grandfather even contacted Pierce was because of me!  He wanted me back and he was willing to kill you to get me to stay.”

Johnny adamantly shook his head.  “Scott, haven’t you learned anything over the past weeks?  Your grandfather was loco!  And it wasn’t just because of you!”  Scott opened his mouth to protest, but Johnny continued.  “I heard the stories, all of  ‘em.  His madness started before Murdoch met your mother.  Over the years it only got worse.  You’re try’n to tell me that you’re the reason that he hates Murdoch, or that he blackmailed Julie Prescott knowing that her father was sick?  I suppose that you were the inspiration that made him hire a man he knew was kicked out of the army for torturing Mexicans!  Scott he’s just a hateful old man who would lie and cheat just to get what he wants…”

“Enough!”  Scott stood angrily, knocking his chair back and pointing a finger at his brother.  “Don’t you dare say another word!  I won’t listen!  He raised me and I can’t overlook all the years we spent together!”
“Why can’t you?”  Johnny responded raising his voice as well.  “Scott, he may have provided you with a grand house and everything that money could buy, but did he really raise you?”  Scott turned his back, not wanting to hear the words coming from his brother.  “Scott, you were surrounded with people who loved you and cared for you – made sure that you never went to bed cold or hungry.  People, who read to you, cared for you when you were sick.  Which one of those people was Harlan Garrett?”  

Scott bit his lip knowing that Johnny was right.  “I know he loved me…”

Johnny hung his head and closed his eyes.  “My mother loved me too, but that didn’t prevent her from doing some God-awful things to me or because of me.   At least Garrett surrounded you with people who cared…”

“Jennings and Alberta,” Scott whispered thinking back to his childhood.  Some of his fondest memories were of the times that he spent with the butler and the cook.  He then remembered the times when he would try to go to his grandfather only to be brushed aside by the busy man.  Shutting off his memories he turned to his brother.  “He did the best he could.  I knew that he was busy, but I also knew that he loved me….”

“And he still does, Brother.  But that don’t make you responsible for what he did to me.”  Johnny looked at his brother, realizing that for the first time Scott was coming to terms with his own past and his grandfather’s future.

Scott sat on the edge of the bed, his back turned to Johnny.  “Why didn’t he listen to me or try to understand what I wanted?  Why couldn’t he understand that I loved him even though I decided to stay at Lancer?”

“You told him that when he was at the ranch.  Don’t you see, Brother, he never saw you as a man.   You’re not the little boy he raised.  You showed him that when you joined the Army and fought in the war.  He wanted something that you couldn’t be for him anymore.”   

Scott’s mind was whirling.  Since when had Johnny gotten so wise?  Everything that Johnny said was making sense and that both confused and angered him.  Just the night before he had been feeling responsible for everything that had happened to Johnny.  Now Johnny was placing all the blame on his grandfather.   Part of Scott was relieved that his brother still didn’t blame him, but the other part was still angry – angry at Johnny?  If he hadn’t brought Johnny along, none of this would have happened.  He would have managed to say goodbye to his grandfather and gone back to Lancer.  Now, he just didn’t know.

Johnny watched as Scott’s shoulders went from slack to straight as a rod.  “Scott?”

Scott responded by standing and going to the window.  “I don’t want to talk about this anymore.”

“Why? Because it’s the truth?”  Johnny challenged knowing that there was more going on with Scott than just his anger at Harlan.  He watched as Scott clenched his fists.  Everything he had said was the truth, so why was Scott angry?  Remembering how Scott had pushed him the night before, Johnny chose to continue.  “He’s gone Scott, I say good riddance!”

“No!  You didn’t know him; you have no right to say that!”

“He tried to kill me!  I have every right to say that!”

“If it weren’t for you he wouldn’t be in that place – locked away…”  Scott stopped horrified at the words that he had just said.  “Johnny, I’m….”   

Johnny looked away from his brother.  He wasn’t surprised to hear the words, only surprised that Scott had finally admitted it to himself and had said it out loud.  “It’s the truth, isn’t it Scott.  If I hadn’t come along, none of this would have happened.  Harlan would be out walking the streets of Boston and all of your friends would be alive and living their lives.  Isn’t that it?”

“No, Johnny…”  

“It’s alright.  I understand.  You’re stuck with me while your grandfather rots in that prison…”

Scott swallowed hard.  There was no denying that was how his felt about his grandfather, but not about his brother.  “No Johnny, I’m not stuck with anyone.  I’m with my brother – where I belong.  None of this was your fault.  My God, you were the innocent pawn in all of this…”

“Just like you.”  Johnny looked at his brother, his blue eyes catching and holding Scott’s.  “We were both pawns.  They used us for their own ends.  We just got the worst end of it…”  Johnny’s strength was waning.  “I’m sorry that you lost your grandfather.  I know what its like to love someone and lose them.  You’ll get over it in time…”

“Like you got over the death of your mother?”

Johnny gave his brother a crooked smile.  “Whoever said that I got over it?”  He whispered the words as his eyelids slowly slid shut.

Scott pulled the blankets up and tucked Johnny in.  He looked around the room and realized that he needed some fresh air.  Giving his brother one last glance, he picked up his coat and headed out.

It had finally stopped snowing.  The air outside the hotel was crisp and cold, striking Scott in the face like a bucket of frigid water.  Johnny had made him admit to himself that he wasn’t at fault for what had happened.  He felt that part of the burden he had been carrying had been lifted from his shoulders.  He hadn’t liked yelling at Johnny, but Johnny had provoked him for his own good.  Scott smiled, realizing how crafty his younger brother really was.  Scott had started the talk to finish up what was bothering Johnny and the former gunfighter had deftly switched the conversation to Scott.   There were stories that Johnny Madrid could talk the rattle off of a rattlesnake, Scott now believed it.  

Taking in a deep cleansing breath, Scott watched as he exhaled a plume of frosty breath.  The air between him and his brother was being cleared, but there was still more that he needed to know.   Until Johnny was ready to talk about what happened, a cloud would remain between them.  

Scott’s ruminations were interrupted by the approach of another man.  “How is your brother?”  Craig Liggett had been keeping a safe distance from the Lancers, unsure how to approach them.  He had been concerned by what had happened – especially to Johnny.  The doctor told him that the younger Lancer had been ill before he fell and that the fall may have aggravated healing injuries.   At his wife’s insistence, he went to speak with the older Lancer.

“He’s doing better, Sir.”  Scott responded blowing on his hands.  

“I wanted you both to know how sorry and concerned we are…”

“I appreciate that,” Scott responded accepting the man’s kind words.  “The room is more than generous.”

“It was the least we could do under the circumstances.  The boys…”

“Were being boys,” Scott grinned.  “My brother and I know what that’s like…”

Craig smiled.  “I hope that my sons are as close as you are to your brother when they get older.  They’re as different as night and day and sometimes I have my concerns. Seeing you and Johnny together, makes me see that perhaps it is their differences that will bond them when they get older.”

Scott inwardly grimaced at the words.  That’s what he and Johnny were – as different as night and day, and yet he felt a bond with the younger man that he had never felt with any other man  – not even his fraternity brothers – men he had known for years.  “Tell them from me that there is nothing more important than their being together – especially as they get older.”  

“I will.”  Craig extended his hand and Scott shook it warmly.  “I’m glad that you’re brother is getting better.”

“Thank you.  Good night, sir.”  

Scott returned from the hotel porch to find Johnny deeply asleep.  It was the first time in days that the injured man was not tossing or turning – haunted by his dreams.  Relieved, Scott climbed into bed beside his brother and fell into a restful slumber.

He was awakened in the morning by the sounds of singing from the water closet.  Struggling out of bed he entered the tiled room to find his younger brother soaking in a tub of water and singing at the top of his lungs.  “…Buffalo gal won’t you come out tonight, come out tonight, come out tonight, Buffalo gal won’t you come out tonight…”   Scott stood in the doorway of the room enjoying the soothing sounds of Johnny’s tenor voice, wondering how the injured man had gotten from the bed and into the tub without waking him.  It took about 30 seconds for Johnny to realize that he was no longer alone.

 “Scott!”   Johnny blushed, surprised by the appearance of his brother.  “Did I wake you?”

“Me and half of the hotel,” Scott grinned stepping closer.  “You’re in a good mood this morning, Brother.”

“Had a decent night’s sleep for a change.”  Johnny smiled lathering his lean body.  “We need to get one of these water closets in the house.”

“I’ll tell Murdoch to get right to it when we get back.”  Scott lowered his eyes, trying not to stare at the scars that now marked his younger brother.   He noted that Johnny had lost quite a bit of weight as a result of his illness and injuries.  Hopefully it wouldn’t take too many of Teresa’s meals to fill Johnny out again.

“You do that, Big Brother.  He’ll listen to you before he’ll ever listen to me about somethin’ like this.”    The brothers smiled at each other knowing that Johnny was right.  Their father always took Scott’s ideas more seriously than Johnny’s.  

“How’d you manage to get in here by yourself?”

Johnny smiled.  “I needed a bath and you were asleep.  I made do.”  

“You must be feeling pretty good.”

“Fit and ready to go.”

Scott seriously doubted that.  As happy as his brother appeared to be, his face was still pale and his eyes reflected an inner pain that made Scott suspicious.  “The doctor will be back this morning.  We’ll have him check you out….”  Scott paused, interrupted by a knocking on the door to the suite.

“I don’t need no doc…”  Johnny started, but Scott was gone.  With his brother out of sight, a frown crossed Johnny’s handsome features.   He had hoped to fool Scott into leaving town today if the trains were running.  He was restless and wanted to go, only he was afraid that his body wasn’t ready.  With white knuckles he held on to the tub rail while he climbed out.  Inspecting the wound to his leg, he didn’t like what he saw.  The area was still bright red and oozing.  It hurt like the dickens, but he had every confidence that once he was home Teresa would have him fixed up in no time.

Carefully he dried himself and pulled on the robe that he had found in the bedroom closet.  Leaning heavily on his cane, he made his way out to the main room of the suite.  For the first time, he took notice of the grand room and whistled.  “Oh boy, Murdoch is going to be mad when he sees what you paid for this…”

Scott was sitting in front of the fire sipping a cup of coffee.  On the coffee table were two breakfast trays.  “It didn’t cost us anything, Little Brother.  This is courtesy of the Liggets, the parents of the boys who knocked you down.  Seems they own the place.”

Johnny raised his eyebrows at the comment and then sat heavily on the couch next to his brother.  Scott handed him a cup of coffee after he got settled.  “Well I’m glad to know that something good came of this stop.”  Taking a sip of the hot brew, Johnny savored the taste while his stomach rumbled in protest.  “Have you checked with the railroad?  Are the trains runnin’?”

“I’m waiting on the doctor.  How’s the leg?”

Johnny was tempted to say fine, but he knew that would raise his brother’s suspicions further.  “Needs some tending to…”

“Let me take a look.”  Scott gathered the medical supplies that he had brought and took advantage of the supplies the Liggets had sent up the first night.  Johnny bared the wound and Scott sucked in his breath.  The area was still inflamed and oozing a red puss.  “I don’t know about this Johnny…”

“Just put on some of that salve that Doc Kane gave you and patch me up.  I’ll make do until we get home.  I’ve had worse…”

“But you’ve never been hurt like this before, Johnny.”  Against his better sense, Scott applied a thick layer of the salve before wrapping the wound.  He watched from the corner of his eye as Johnny held his breath as he gently applied the medicine.  The slightest touch seemed to cause his brother exquisite pain.  He would have to discuss this with the doctor knowing that his brother never would.

“You OK today?” Johnny asked after Scott finished tending to the wound.  Scott had been quiet, more quiet than usual.

“I’m OK.  I did a lot of thinking after our little talk last night.”


“And you were right about a number of things.  My grandfather was having problems for years.  I know that now.  But, I’m still going to feel responsible for what happened…” he raised his hand knowing that Johnny didn’t agree.  “Johnny, that’s just part of who I am.  I’m always going to feel that I should have done more to protect you from harm…”

“Scott, there ain’t no one who’s ever protected me from harm ‘cept for me.  Don’t go takin’ on a role no one has ever been successful at.”  

“You’re wrong, Johnny.  We’re family – brothers.  We look out for each other.  You warned and tried to protect me from Pardee.  You’ve been watching over me ever since I arrived at the ranch…”

“ ‘Cause that’s what I do…”


“What do you mean why?  I just do.  You ain’t no greenhorn, but you’re no vaquero either.”  A smile crossed Johnny’s face.  “I’m just doin’ what I do best.”

“Placing your life at risk…”

“You’re my brother…”

“What about Chad or that woman – ‘Mrs. Lancer’?  You didn’t now either of them and yet you were willing to sacrifice yourself for their safety.  Why?”  .  

Johnny squirmed and looked away.  “They needed help.”

“What about when you need help?  Who do you turn to?”

Johnny knew where Scott was going with this.  He wanted Johnny to admit that there were times when he needed help – times when he couldn’t handle situations on his own.  It was still hard for him, this concept of ‘family’.  They were all strangers, thrown together like characters in a stage show -   each vying to find their proper role; Murdoch called the tune, Teresa cared for them, Scott – he was good with the book work, leaving Johnny to provide the manual labor that needed to be done.  Initially that ‘labor’ was the protection he could provide with his gun.   Johnny secretly felt that was the true reason that Murdoch had initially sent for him.  Once that duty was fulfilled, Johnny had a hard time trying to fit in.  Here it was, a year later, and he still felt that way.  Looking at Scott he knew he didn’t have the answer that his brother was looking for.   Johnny still couldn’t admit to himself that  if he needed help that he could truly rely on anyone other than himself.  “Brother, I know what you’re gett’n at…”  

“Do you?  You said the other night that I didn’t know what it was like not to be good enough.  I don’t think that you appreciate the fact that you are.  Why else would you keep sacrificing yourself…”

“Don’t!”  Johnny stood and immediately regretted it - his leg protesting at the sudden movement.  Grinding his teeth, he went to look out the window.  

Scott wasn’t going to let him get away so easy.  “You sacrificed yourself for the children on the street back in Boston.  You nearly got yourself killed trying to save that woman who took the Lancer name, and what about Pony Alice?  Murdoch told me how you just stood in the street and let her uncle take shots at you.  Why?”   Johnny held his silence, having no answer for his brother.   “Johnny, you never see yourself the way we do.  We worry for you.  You deserve better than your past.  Don’t you see – you are good enough.   You deserve to have a life that is free of pain and persecution…”  Scott stopped.  He looked at his brother, standing by the window with a tear running down his face.   Concerned, he went to his brother.  “Johnny…?”

Johnny squeezed his eyes shut trying to block out the only memories he had of ever being ‘good enough’.  Scott was wrong.  The only times in his life he had ever been good enough were when someone needed a hired gun or wanted a Mex to whip.  “Stop, Scott – no more…”  Johnny whispered looking out at the snow covered town.

“Johnny, I don’t want to see you hurt like this ever again.  You didn’t deserve what happened in that basement…”

Johnny turned away from the window - turned away from his brother.  Suddenly he was overcome with a tiredness that bit down to his soul.  “That may be true, Scott.  But it don’t mean that it won’t happen again.”

Scott’s eyes followed Johnny as the injured man went back to the bed.  Pain and hurt were written all over the handsome features.  “Johnny, tell me what they did…”

“You sure you really want to know?”   Johnny responded, his eyes getting a faraway look.  “Why?”

“I have to know what lengths they went to….”  Scott swallowed.  How could he explain that he needed to know the true depths of his grandfather’s illness.  He knew that he was being selfish in asking Johnny for details, but he had to know.

“Well, Scott,” Johnny started, his voice tinged with sarcasm.  “It didn’t take long for your friends to figure out what I was good for.  Not a bit.  They cornered me outside that grand City Hall of yours like I was some kinda filthy dog.   When I tried to get away, ‘ol Reggie he came at me.  At first I defended myself with my boot knife, but it didn’t take ‘em long to get the upper hand.  You want to know what your fine Boston friends did?  The kicked me and beat me like I was nothin’!  I guess that after awhile I was out ‘cause the next think I remember was bein’ on that basement floor trussed up like a calf, my hands and feet tied.”  Johnny raised his wrists, the red scars fading.  “I got free and tried to escape, but Reggie, he had the upper hand.  I was hurt Scott and he just kept beating me!  I never had a chance!  Then he hung me from the joist.  Did you know that he had a Bowie knife that he used to cut Mexicans?   He took that knife and carved up my chest…”  Johnny’s long fingers played across the scar that now marked his chest.  “When he was done laughing he cut my leg and left me hang’n in the dark…”

Scott found himself swallowing hard, trying to keep the contents of his stomach from escaping.  “What happened to Trevor?”

Johnny smiled.  “I liked Trevor; at least he tried to help.  He cut me down and was going to get help when Reggie came back.  They argued some and Trevor pulled that stupid derringer…”  Johnny gave a short laugh at the image of the tiny gun in Trevor’s shaking hand.  “He shot the blamed thing and missed!  Reggie came after him.  I tripped Reggie  – trying to give Trevor the time he needed to get away.  That’s when I got this….”  Johnny’s hand moved to the large scar to his right side.  “He meant to kill me.  He did kill Trevor.  Threw that knife and hit him square in the chest….”  Johnny’s head was bowed, deep in thought.  “I spent that night or day, whatever time it was, thinking I was with my dead mama.  It was just like how it was when she was killed. We were alone in the dark – both of us bleeding….”  The words stopped.  Johnny had wrapped his arms around himself, fighting the memories that threatened to consume him.  Scott went to his brother and tried to put an arm around him.  “Don’t.”  Johnny hissed.  Scott moved away, startled by the sharpness of the words.  “Don’t ever say that you can help me or protect me.  ‘Cause you can’t.  People like your grandfather and Pierce will always be able to find me an’ do this.  No matter what you think.”  

“Johnny, I’m so sorry….”

“You ain’t got nothing to be sorry for, Scott.  It was them, not you.  Besides, I got justice…”  

Scott looked at his brother.  Justice?  When had Johnny gotten justice?   “Johnny, what did you do?”  Johnny ignored his brother and lay down on the bed, pulling the covers up.  He was cold and tired again.  He had enough of Scott’s questions - digging up a past that he quickly wanted to forget.   Only, Scott wasn’t to be put off so quickly.  “Johnny, what did you do?”

Chapter 31

The following day, snow had stopped and the tracks to Sacramento were cleared.  The doctor reluctantly released Johnny, advising that he still felt the young man needed additional rest to fight the persistent fever and stubborn infection in his leg.  After assurances from both brothers that they would be careful and that they would be stopping each night for a proper rest, he let them go.  As they left the hotel he once again expressed his concern over Johnny’s apparent lack of appetite and growing listlessness.   Scott was concerned as well.  Johnny seemed to be getting worse.  He tried to convince himself that it was because of the cold weather, but he was beginning to think that there was more going on than Johnny would tell him.  He attempted to get Johnny to speak some more about what had happened or even talk about his past, but Johnny steadfastly refused to discuss anything except when they were going to get home.   Scott’s frustration mounted as he waited impatiently. He wanted an explanation of the ‘justice’ that Johnny had alluded to.  It was that unanswered question that hung between them like a stone wall.  

It took 5 days for the Lancer brothers to make it from Denver to Moro Coyo.  The remainder of the trip was made in companionable silence.  True to the promise he made to the doctor, Johnny accepted Scott’s help and Scott tried not to coddle his injured brother - too much.  They both acknowledged the fact that Johnny was sick and that the only way he was going to get better was for him to be at home – at Lancer.  The stage ride from Stockton to Moro Coyo had been grueling.  Despite the coolness of the December weather, the coach was crowded and hot.  There was no room for Johnny to stretch his throbbing leg.  For hours on end he endured the pain and discomfort, knowing that the wound was festering more and more.

The stage pulled into Moro Coyo at 5PM.  Scott tried to get Johnny to take a room in the hotel, but his brother refused, arguing that it would be dangerous for them to stay.  If word got out that Johnny Madrid was holed up in the hotel – sick- every young gun itching for an easy reputation would seek him out.  Instead, Scott hired a carriage so they could carry what luggage they had back to the ranch.  After making a false show of strength in front of the livery, Johnny quickly melted against his brother once they were out of sight of the town.  Again, Johnny’s fever rose, leaving him shivering against Scott as the warmth of the day quickly faded into a cold night.  Scott covered his brother with an old blanket he found stowed under the seat.  He tried to make the journey back to the ranch as smooth as possible, but the rutted road made the going difficult.  Every so often he would hear Johnny gasp as they went over a particularly rough part, but finally, Johnny fell into an exhausted sleep.  Scott worriedly eyed the pain etched face that leaned against his shoulder.  “Just a few more miles, Brother…”  He would whisper whenever Johnny seemed to be coming round.

When they reached the mesa above the ranch house, the mesa where Teresa had stopped on their first time out to the ranch, Scott woke his brother.  “Johnny, we made it!”

Johnny awoke and looked through the night until his eyes focused on the ranch house so close and yet so far.  The building was lit up, inviting them home.  “Best sight I’ve seen in weeks.”  Johnny whispered exhaustedly.   He tried to sit up straight, only to find that the muscles in his back had cramped.  “Let’s get going, Boston.  I can hear my bed ‘a callin’.”  

Scott grinned in the dark and clicked to the horses, slapping the reins on their rumps.


Inside the brightly lit estancia, Teresa and Jelly were making their final preparations for the welcome home that they were planning for the brothers.   Teresa was concerned about the physical condition of both of the young men.  She had made sure that she had plenty of the medicines and bandages she might need to care for Johnny’s wounds.  When Murdoch had told her of the extent of Johnny’s injuries she had cried herself to sleep for a week.  The thought of him injured and deathly ill so far away had broken her heart.

Murdoch watched from his desk while the unlikely pair made their happy plans.  He would be satisfied just seeing his sons again.  Scott’s last telegram had been from Sacramento – over 3 days ago.  He had hoped to see the boys yesterday and was just holding his breath knowing that they could arrive at any time.  He reread the notes that Jim Davis had sent to him, including the medical chart that Henry Kane had provided as well.  Johnny had done a lot to manipulate the outcome of the trial and the sentencing.    It was a fine line that his youngest had walked and it had nearly killed him.  He could only pray that Scott would never find out.

Murdoch’s thoughts were interrupted as Cipriano strode into the great room via the French doors.  “Senor, a carriage is coming down the road!”

Excitedly, everyone came to their feet and ran outside to stand on the veranda.  Through the darkness, they could make out a carriage that held two occupants.  “It’s got to be them!”  Teresa exclaimed, her hands holding tight to Murdoch’s arm.  It seemed like an eternity before the carriage pulled up to the house and the occupants could finally be seen.  “Johnny!  Scott!”   Letting go of Murdoch, she ran to the carriage only to stop short at what she saw.  Johnny was leaning heavily against Scott and appeared to be sound asleep.  His face was pale and gaunt.  It took her breath away and brought tears to her eyes.  “Johnny?”  She asked reaching a tentative had out to touch the sleeping man.

Johnny’s eyes fluttered open and a smile warmed his face.  “Teresa?”   Looking beyond the girl he saw his father, Jelly and Maria - all waiting for them.  He turned to his head to speak to his brother.  “Ya didn’t tell me we were this close!”

Scott smiled.  “I told you five times, Little Brother, but you just kept sleeping.”  Handing the reins to Cipriano, he gently helped his brother to the side of the carriage where Murdoch was waiting to ease Johnny down.

“Good of you two to finally show up!”  Murdoch beamed as he helped Johnny.  His initial excitement faded as he desperately tried to hide the shock he felt grabbing hold of his youngest.  If it weren’t for the thick wool coat, he would have sworn that Johnny was nothing but skin and bones.  It took all of his fortitude not to just pick the young man up in his arms and carry him into the house.  His eyes finally caught Johnny’s and he could see that his son was more than exhausted, but desperately wanted to stand on his own – returning home the way he had left.  

Murdoch embraced his youngest, once Johnny was out of the carriage. “It’s good to have you home, Son.”  He whispered as Johnny weakly returned the hug.

“Well, you know that I’m just like a bad penny, I was bound to show up again…”  Johnny broke the hold, his eyes catching his father’s.  A silent knowing look passed between the two men before Johnny’s attention was diverted.  He nearly hadn’t made it and the relief of just being ‘home’ was more than either man could express.

“Johnny!”  Teresa went to him and gave him a gentle hug.  She too had difficulty in dealing with the man she was now holding.  He seemed to be more a shadow of Johnny Lancer than the man who had left over two months ago.  “I missed you,” she said placing a tender kiss on his cheek.

Scott jumped down from the carriage and was embraced by his father.  “I did the best I could,” he offered glancing at his brother.

“You’re both home, that’s all that counts….”  Murdoch gave his son a slap on the back before they all made their way into the house.

Johnny walked alone with the aid of his cane while Jelly walked beside him fussing all the way.  Once inside Johnny stopped and surveyed his surroundings.  It was just how they had left it.  He had made it.  He was home.

“Tired son?”  Murdoch came up behind his youngest, watching as a silent tear rolled down Johnny’s pale cheek.

“What?”  Johnny quickly wiped the moisture away and looked at his father.  “Yeah, I guess…”

“You must be hungry!”  Teresa took his hand and tried to pull him further into the room.  She frowned when he resisted.  

“Yeah…”  Johnny continued to look around as if he was awakening from a dream.

Sensing his brother’s mood, Scott went to him.  “We made it, Brother.  You’re home where you belong.”  He caught Johnny’s eyes and made the silent connection that had served them well during the past week.  Scott instinctively knew that Johnny was at the last of his strength.  “Let’s get you upstairs and in bed, you can eat tomorrow.”    Scott waved his hand to the others, a signal for them not to follow.

Johnny gratefully nodded and slowly made his way up the stairs to his room.  Half way up, Scott slipped and arm around Johnny’s waist, allowing Johnny to lean heavily against him as they made it to the top and down the hall. Sure that Scott’s wave didn’t mean him; Murdoch followed the two men.  He watched as the brothers interacted with each other.  This Johnny was a different man than the one he had left in Boston. Gone was the feistiness and false bravado.  This Johnny was like a tree that had been broken by the wind.   Murdoch once again silently cursed Harlan Garrett for the tortures that he had inflicted on both of his sons.  

Hurrying, he caught up with the two as Scott was helping Johnny out of his overcoat.  “Scott, why don’t you do downstairs and get something to eat.  I’ll help your brother.”

Johnny looked up at Scott and smiled.  “You’ve been replaced, Boston…”

“You sure, Johnny?”

“Get out of here!”  Johnny waved his brother away and waited until he was gone from sight before collapsing on his bed.

“Johnny?”  Murdoch rushed over to check on his crumpled son.

“T….tired.  I’ll be OK.”   Johnny murmured already half asleep.  

Murdoch undressed his son and tucked him into his bed as he had when Johnny was a child.  The scars were not as red and inflamed as they were when Murdoch had last seen him, but Johnny had lost a lot of weight.  Laying a large hand on Johnny’s brow, he could feel a slight fever.  With a sigh he made a note to have one of the hands go to town and fetch Doc Jenkins in the morning.  The injuries were over six weeks old and any fever should have been resolved by now.   “Sleep well, Son.”  Murdoch whispered blowing out the lamp and softly closing the door.

Downstairs, Scott, Teresa and Jelly were in the kitchen. Scott was picking at a bowl of stew that Teresa had placed in front of him.  For the first time, Murdoch got a look at his eldest.  If Johnny looked terrible, then Scott just looked miserable.  The hardship of the trip was telling on his son’s face.  Dark circles formed rings around tired blue eyes.

“Scott was just telling us about the trip,” Teresa said as Murdoch took his chair.

“I’m proud of you Son, you brought Johnny home, safe…”  Murdoch paused not quite able to bring himself to use the words ‘and sound’.

“I brought him home, that’s about it.”  Scott sighed and ran a hand through his hair.  “That boy has more grit than any man I’ve ever met.  There’s no reason in the world why he should be on his feet.  He’s barely eaten in the past few days and that damned fever….”

“We’ll get him well, you’ll see,” Teresa said with more confidence than she felt.

“Well, I know fer sure that he’ll git better!  He jus needs some rest and good cookin’!”  Jelly declared.

“You’re probably right, Jelly.”  Murdoch agreed.  “It’s his emotional state that I’m concerned about.  How is he, Scott?”

Scott shook his head.  “He opened up to me a little in Denver, but since then he’s been as quiet as a clam.”

“You think he needs time?”

“I don’t know.  I thought that I had him going, but…”  Scott looked tiredly at his father.  “You don’t know what they did to him.  I’m not even sure that he told me everything.”

“What did he tell you, Scott?”  Teresa asked anxiously not daring to look at her guardian.  Murdoch had been very reluctant to tell her the full extent of Johnny’s injuries.  It left her thinking that the wounds were more serious in nature than even she could imagine.

Scott looked at his father and proceeded only after getting a nod of approval.  “I’m not sure how much Johnny would want you to know, but once you get a look at him, you’ll have a good idea.  They tortured him – used a knife to cut him; used a board to beat him.  But he still tried to save Trevor – that’s when Pierce stabbed him…”

“Scott,” Murdoch interrupted, stopping the bitter words as they came streaming from Scott like an open wound.

Scott looked at the distraught faces and realized that perhaps he had been a little too graphic.  Teresa was now openly crying while Jelly was doing his best to keep the moisture from leaking from his own eyes.  “Sorry, I guess I’ve said too much…”  Faking a yawn, Scott came to his feet. “I’m beat; I think I’ll turn in.”

“You did a fine job, Son.  Go on and get some rest.”  Murdoch stood and went to his eldest.  “Welcome home.”

Scott smiled, liking the sound of his father’s voice.  Home.  He was home.  Making his way upstairs, he couldn’t help but stop to check in on his brother.  Peeking into the room, he could clearly see by the moonlight that illuminated Johnny’s face.  Scott looked and marveled that for the first time in weeks, his brother seemed to be at peace.  “Sleep well, Brother.”  Relieved that he no longer had the sole responsibility of his brother on his shoulders, Scott went gratefully to his own room and closed the door.  

Alone for the first time in weeks, Scott sat on the edge of his bed and surveyed the familiar surroundings.  It seemed like a lifetime ago that he had last been in the room.  A lifetime ago since he had set out on the trip to Boston with his brother – a healthy Johnny Lancer, not the physically depleted man in the room next door.  The full weight of all that had transpired came crashing in on him.  Scott sank to the floor and began to cry.  He cried for his grandfather, the man who had raised him and had loved him in his own way.  He cried for Trevor Hawthorne, a man who had been like a brother to him.  He cried for all that had been lost – his past, his future with his grandfather, and his sense of belonging to Boston.  Then his thoughts turned to his brother.  His best intentions had nearly cost Johnny’s life.  Sitting in the kitchen he had looked into the stunned faces of his family and realized what he had done to them as well – he had caused them worry and heartache.  Never before in his life had Scott ‘not been good enough’.  Now, for this brief moment, he thought that he understood how Johnny felt.  Scott had not been good enough to take care of his brother and was now reaping the heartache that his actions had sown.  


Murdoch was five minutes behind Scott.  He too, paused to look in on Johnny.  His youngest seemed to be sleeping peacefully.  He then went to check on Scott.  Leaning close to the door before opening it, he paused, unsure of the sound that he was hearing - crying?  Opening the door, he saw Scott on the floor, his head on the bed, his body quaking with deep sobs of despair.  The elder man entered the room and made his way to his son.  Sitting on the bed, he placed a reassuring hand on Scott’s shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze.  Scott responded by looking up at his father; looking for forgiveness.  “I’m sorry,” He whispered trying to regain control of his emotions.  “I never meant for this to happen…”  Scott took the handkerchief that Murdoch handed him and quickly wiped his face.

“Come here, Son.”  Murdoch helped Scott to sit next to him and put a protective arm around Scott’s shoulders.  “It wasn’t your fault. I know and Johnny knows….”

“…But Teresa and Jelly….”

“They know too.  They know how much you love your brother…”

“But I failed….”

“No, Son, you didn’t fail.  Your grandfather and your friends – they failed you.”

“Johnny said as much in Denver, but I’m still not convinced…”

“You want to talk about it?”  Murdoch offered, sensing that Scott might need a shoulder to lean on.

Scott shook his head.  “Not yet.  There’s so much I don’t know and Johnny still won’t tell me everything…”

“Maybe you don’t need to know everything,” Murdoch offered.  “Johnny has been on his own for a long time and he has his own way of dealing with things that upset him. He might not be ready to talk about it yet.   Just because you need to hear, doesn’t mean he needs to say…”

“No,” Scott insisted, shaking his head.  “You didn’t see him – the nightmares that haunt him.  When I was in Libby Prison and later after I was released - I learned that you have to talk about these things if you’re ever going to master them.  He’s still haunted by what happened when he was a child…”  Scott paused catching the hurt reflected in his father’s eyes.  “He told me some stories…  It must have been awful, and yet here he is.”

“Yes he is – and so are you.”  Murdoch stood and placed his hands on Scott’s shoulders.  “Get some rest, Son.  We’ll talk again in the morning.”

“Good night, Sir.”  


Cipriano rode into town to get Sam Jenkins first thing in the morning.  When Murdoch asked him to have a man go and fetch the doctor, Cipriano had volunteered to go himself.  He hadn’t liked the way that his amigo, Juanito, had looked the night before.

Sam Jenkins heard through the grapevine that the Lancer brothers had returned to Moro Coyo the night before.  The report was that Johnny was fine – a fact he found hard to believe after the story that Murdoch had shared with him just two days earlier.  Peering through his curtains at the sound of approaching hooves, he wasn’t surprised to see Cipriano.  Shaking his head he surmised the reports that Johnny was fine were false. The doctor opened the door before the Segundo had a chance to knock.  “Cipriano,” the doctor admitted the dust covered man into his office.  “Johnny?”

“Si, it is bad…”

Sam shook his head.  “Tell Murdoch that I’ll be straight out.”  As Cipriano turned, he had a second thought.  “How is Scott?”

“Mr. Scott, is very tired.  Por favor, come soon.”  Cipriano’s eyes met Sam’s – concern was clearly evident.

“I’ll be there as soon as I can.”


To no one’s surprise, Jelly had spent the night in Johnny’s room.  He had snuck upstairs and pulled a chair close to his friend’s bed, to be there when the nightmares came and to chase them away.  Throughout the night, he sought to bring comfort to his ailing friend – gaining new respect for Scott as well.  If this was a sample of what the two had been going through, then Scott deserved as much rest as Johnny.

When the sun came up, Johnny awoke to find Jelly fast asleep in the chair to his left.  A smile crossed his face. He knew that his friend would be by his side.  Looking to his right, he was dismayed to find that his brother had once again come to join him in bed.  

Scott had come into the room around 5AM, concerned that no one would be with Johnny to fight the nightmares.  When he saw that Jelly was already there – but asleep, he decided to resume the spot that he had become so familiar with during the trip home.  He awoke to the feeling that someone was watching him.  Opening his eyes, he smiled to see Johnny’s sapphire eyes laughing at him – the first time in weeks.  “Ya know, Boston, you keep this up, people are gonna be talkin’ ‘bout us.”

The two men began to laugh, waking Jelly with a start.  “There somethin’ ya need to be tellin’ me?”  He asked once the laughter had stopped.

“No, Jelly.”  Scott replied, slipping out from Johnny’s covers.  “I guess that I was walking in my sleep and ended up here.”

Jelly snorted, not fooled for a second.  “Ya think that I’d let yur brother alone his first night back?”

“No, Jelly, I didn’t.”  Scott responded soberly.  “Thanks.”

“I should say!”  Jelly huffed, stretching and coming to his feet.  “I guess that I’ll go ‘fetch breakfast.  You OK, Johnny?”

“I’m fine,” Johnny reassured his friend with a smile.  “Git!”

“No reason ta get sassy….”  Jelly mumbled exiting the room.

Scott took Jelly’s seat and looked closely at his brother.  “Truth, how are you feeling?”

Johnny struggled to sit up by himself, feeling spent from the effort.  “I just need some more sleep and then I’ll be right as rain…”

“You need more than sleep.  Murdoch is sending for the Doc to come and check you out first thing…”

“I’m fine…”  Johnny started to protest before realizing that his brother was right.  “OK.  I’m not – but I will be soon….”

“I know you will, Brother…”

They were interrupted as Teresa entered carrying a tray followed closely by Jelly.  “Good morning,” she sang as she placed the tray in front of Johnny.

“You shouldn’t have…”  Johnny started with a smile which quickly changed to a frown when she lifted the napkin off.  “You shouldn’t have,” he repeated his voice dropping. On the tray was a bowl of mush, not quite what he was hoping for.

“What?”  Teresa asked, upset that Johnny’s spirits had faded so quickly.

“I think that my brother had enough of that when we were in Boston.  I’d also say that he had his heart set on something more substantial…”

“Oh?  Like what?”

“Bacon, eggs…”  Johnny suggested hopefully.

Teresa shook her head.  “You need proper nourishment and this is what is best for now.  If Sam says that you can have bacon and eggs, then you shall have them.  Until then…”  She pointed her finger at the bowl “Eat.”

It was then that Murdoch appeared in the crowed room.  He surveyed the light hearted mood and the pale figure of his son on the bed.  Johnny was looking at a bowl of oatmeal like it was his last meal.  The forlorn face almost made Murdoch break out in a laugh, but for Johnny’s sake, he kept his face straight.  “I see that breakfast has been served.  Why don’t the rest of you go downstairs and I’ll see that our patient eats.”

Slowly Scott, Teresa and Jelly left the room, leaving father and son alone.  Murdoch looked at Johnny and smiled.  “What’s the matter, Son?”

“I know that she means well, but I can’t eat this…”

“Why?”  Murdoch asked taking the tray away.

Johnny bowed his head, not wanting to look at his father.  “Too many bad memories…”  He had mush in Boston, mush in prison in Mexico, mush as a child when there was nothing more for his mother to make for him to eat.  He had enough mush in his life during the bad times that now that he was home, he wanted something to make him think of the good times again.

“Of Boston?”

 “That would be one of them…”

“And the others?”  Murdoch asked hoping for some of the insights to Johnny’s past that Scott had been able to glean during the trip home.

Johnny leaned his head back against the head board and closed his eyes.  “Just bad memories…”

“I’ll see if I can’t talk her into fixing you something else.” Murdoch lifted the untouched tray and turned toward the door.

“Thanks.”  Johnny opened his eyes and looked gratefully at his father.  After Murdoch left, he swung his legs over the side of the bed and slowly stood, putting as little weight as he could on his leg.  Grabbing his cane, he made his way to the window and surveyed the ranch.  It was winter and the trees that had been green when he left were now stark and barren – like the trees in Boson.  The grass was now a winter brown.  His eyes scanned the landscape for some kind of life until they caught the flash of a blond mane in the pasture just north of the house.  His injured leg and exhaustion left him as he threw open the window and stuck two fingers in his mouth and whistled hard.  A horse, a half mile away, came to a complete halt, turned and made a full gallop for the house.  With a jump, Barranca easily cleared the fence that separated the pasture from the residence grounds.  Johnny laughed aloud as his horse came running up to the house, oblivious of the other animals and working hands in his way.  The animal skidded to a halt just outside the courtyard and reared up on its hind legs as Johnny whistled again.  “Hola, Barranca!”  

The animal continued to prance for his master until Jelly and Scott came rushing out from the kitchen to see what all of the commotion was about.  Scott took a look at Barranca and then swung his gaze up to the second story of the house where his brother was leaning out of his window.  Shaking his head, he had Jelly take the horse to the barn while he went upstairs to check on Johnny.

Johnny was still leaning half out the window when Scott entered the room. The room was now ice cold.   “Johnny!”  He scolded, pulling his brother from the open window and quickly closing the panes.  

“What?”  Johnny laughed, his cheeks a bright red from the cold air.

As much as Scott hated to admit it, this was the best that Johnny had looked in days.  “Are you trying to catch your death of cold?”

“Naw, tried that in Denver – didn’t work!  Help me back to the bed, Boston.”  

Scott slipped an arm around his brother and guided him back to the bed.  Johnny sat with a happy sigh and smiled at his brother.  “He remembered me.”

“Of course he remembered you!”  Scott snorted, tucking Johnny back under the warm covers.  “Now if you expect to get well enough to go out and visit with him, you need to get your rest…”

“I’ve had enough rest to last me three lifetimes.  I need to get back to work….”

“Not until I say so, young man.”  Sam Jenkins entered the room, his deep voice interrupting the brother’s conversation.  Murdoch entered just after Sam and had only overheard a bit of the conversation between the brothers.

“Sam, you made a wasted trip…”  Johnny started to protest.

“Let me be the judge of that!”  Sam put his bag on the night stand and started to pull out his equipment.  “Murdoch, you said that you had records from the doctor in Boston?”

“Yes, they’re on my desk.”  Murdoch turned to Scott.  “Son, can you go and get the records off my desk?  They’re in an envelope from Jim Davis.”

“Right,” Scott headed out of the room to retrieve the documents his father requested.  There were two envelopes from Jim Davis on the desk.  Opening the first, Scott started to read a letter that Jim had written advising Murdoch of what had happened in Boston.  He became still as he began to read Jim’s concerns for himself and Johnny.

Dear Murdoch,

It disturbs me to write and inform you of what transpired at Harlan Garrett’s trial and sentencing hearing.  Your stubborn son, Johnny, made it out of his sick bed to go and testify.   I am torn between saying that it was the most courageous or stupid act that I have ever witnessed.  For whatever reason he single handedly sent Harlan Garrett to prison for the rest of his life….

“Scott!” Murdoch shouted from upstairs.

Scott stopped reading, stunned by the words and realizing that he was supposed to be fetching the medical records for Sam’s review.  Making a mental note to return, Scott picked up the second envelope and ran upstairs.  His mind now filled with more questions than answers.

Chapter 32

Scott entered Johnny’s room with the medical records, but was anxious to return to his father’s desk and finish reading the letter he had found.  “Here you go, Sam…”  he said handing the papers over to the doctor.

“Now, why don’t you two go downstairs while I have a chat with Johnny?” Sam instructed, dismissing the concerned father and brother.

Murdoch frowned, he wanted to stay, but after getting the ‘eye’ from Sam, he decided to follow Scott downstairs.  Scott wanted to head straight for his father’s desk, but apparently so did Murdoch.  If his father noticed that Jim’s letter had been moved – he didn’t show it.  Instead, Murdoch took the letter and placed it in the bottom drawer where he kept the Pinkerton report on Johnny.  With a wince, Scott watched as the drawer was locked and the key returned to his father’s pocket.

Murdoch looked up at his son, reading disappointment as concern.  “I’m sure that Sam won’t be too long.”

Scott tried to smile, but failed miserably.  He was desperate to find out what was in the letter.  “Um, Murdoch, did Jim Davis write to you about what happened in Boston after you left?”

The elder Lancer frowned, thinking of the letter that he had just locked away - a letter that he never wanted Scott to read.  “He sent reports on what happened at the trial and how your brother was doing…”

“So, you know that Johnny showed up at the trial?”

“A darn foolish thing to do,” Murdoch swore, sitting down in his chair.  “It’s so hard to know what is going through your brother’s head sometimes.  Jim wrote that Johnny was put back in the hospital for a few days.  He said that Johnny showed up to spare you from testifying against your grandfather….”

“That’s what he told me.  It still made me angry!”  Scott responded clenching his hands into fists.

“Angry?”  Murdoch’s eyes flashed at this news.  Jim had said nothing about Scott being angry.  “Why were you angry?”

Scott ran a hand through his hair before sitting in one of the chairs in front of his father’s desk.  “I was angry at Johnny for not trusting me to testify against grandfather…”

“Scott, you know that wasn’t the reason.”  Murdoch leaned forward and studied his son.  Obviously Scott still had some issues about what happened to his grandfather.  “Jim wrote that Johnny felt that no one should have to testify against someone they love – that he did it to spare your feelings…”

“Spare my feelings?”  Scott stood and began to pace, his emotions were like a powder keg ready to explode.  “My feelings?  Do you know what I’ve been through?  First my ‘friends’ kidnap Johnny and try to kill him.  They then almost kill me!  I’ve donated blood; watched my brother nearly die; watched as a man that I love….”  The words stopped, catching in his throat, but the anger continued to build.

Murdoch stood and halted his son’s pacing by taking hold of Scott’s shoulders.  “Scott, no one knows what you’ve been through.  My God, I admire you for handling it the way that you have so far…”

Scott looked up at his father and then dropped his head.  “You wouldn’t say that if you knew what else I’ve been feeling.”

“And what are you feeling?”  

“Oh, I don’t know – you name it and I’ve felt it.  It’s all so confusing.  I’m angry, at myself, for what happened to Johnny, not protecting him; angry with Johnny for risking his life to keep me from testifying.  Betrayed…”


Scott moved away from his father to look out the window that provided such a magnificent view of the ranch.  “My friends betrayed me.  My grandfather – he betrayed me twice – once by trying to kill Johnny, and once by thinking that he could have me committed to stay in Boston….”  He stopped and looked at the stunned face of his father.  “I read it in his journal.  If he was acquitted, he was going to have me committed on the grounds I had never recovered from the time I spent in Libby Prison.”  Scott shook his head.  “I know he wanted me to remain in Boston, I just didn’t know how desperate…”

“He’s ill, Scott.”  Murdoch said quietly, placing a comforting arm around Scott’s shoulders.  “I think he has been for a long time.”

“That’s what Jennings and Alberta said.  It’s just that I loved him….”

“And you still do – just like I’ve always loved you and your brother.  Nothing will ever change that.  Is that all that is bothering you?”

Scott gave his father an apprehensive smile before turning back to the grand window.   He needed some space to finish expressing his feelings.  Dropping his head, he whispered.  “I felt that Johnny betrayed me too.”  

Murdoch wasn’t sure that he heard correctly.  “Scott, you’re not making any sense.  Johnny would never betray you…”

“He went behind my back to testify at the trial and he hasn’t told me everything that happened in that basement.  He also hasn’t told me where he went before Thanksgiving…”  Scott paused and turned to look hopefully at his father.  “Do you know?”

Murdoch knew, but dared not let Scott know that he did.  “What are you talking about?”  he responded unconvincingly.

“The day before Thanksgiving, Johnny, Jim and Henry went somewhere.  No one has ever told me where they went or what they did.”

“Have you asked your brother?”

“He won’t tell me.  I’ve asked, but he just refuses to discuss it.”

“Then I think that you should let it drop.”  Murdoch sat down behind his desk again.  “Let me ask you, Scott.  If something happened to you that was so terrible that you had a hard time handling it – how would you respond if the people you love kept after you, pressing you to tell – not for yourself but for them?”

Scott stopped his pacing and stared at his father.  “Is that what I’ve been doing – pressing?”

Murdoch gave his son a sad smile.  “Think about it, Son.  When you were released from that prison camp, how long did it take for you to be able to speak about it?”

“Months…”  Scott whispered, finally.

“How long has it been since all this happened to Johnny?”

Scott swallowed hard before answering.  “Weeks….”  He sat down heavily and placed his head in his hands.  “He needs to speak about what happened…  I thought I was helping…”

“And you have.  You’ve kept him alive.  Got him to talk a little about what happened…”  Murdoch stopped and looked at his eldest.  “Give him some time.  I’m sure that he’ll tell you what you need to know in his own time.”

‘But, will he tell me what I want to know?’  Scott chided himself for thinking as a shiver ran up his spine.


Upstairs, Sam was having a different sort of talk with his favorite patient.  After making sure Murdoch and Scott were downstairs, he turned to his patient.  With hands on his hips he started.  “What trouble did you get into this time, John?”

Johnny smiled.  Sam was the only man, besides his father, to call him ‘John’.  “You know me, Sam, trouble must be my middle name.”

“You want to tell me what’s in this folder or should I read it first?”

“There ain’t nothin’ in there but the details.  The only thing that’s bothering me now is this leg.”  Johnny winced as he placed a hand on his left thigh.

“Alright, let’s start there.”  Sam lifted the covers off Johnny’s left leg.  There was a bandage around the thigh that was soaked through with a red stain.  “How long has this been going on?”  Sam asked as he carefully cut the bandage away with a pair of scissors.   Johnny fidgeted, but didn’t answer.  Sam let out a sigh when the last of the bandage came loose.  “Johnny….”  The wound was bright red and swollen.  The skin was taught and red pus was leaking out of the festering wound.

“I know, Sam.  It hurts like the dickens, but I knew that once I got back - you and Teresa could fix me up….”

As if on cue, Teresa came in carrying a large bowl of hot water and some clean bandages.  “I thought that you might need these….”  She stopped as she got a look at the ugly wound.  The smile fell from her face and she paled.

“You’d better get some more hot water; this is going to take awhile.”  Teresa turned and left the room.  “You want me to get your father and brother to hold you down?”

“What have you got to do?”  Few things frightened Johnny Lancer, but hearing Sam ask that question chilled him.

“We’re going to lance this – open it up and get the infection out.”  He placed a hand on Johnny’s forehead and shook his head.  “Fever, I suspect that the two are connected.”

“You know me Sam, nothin’ easy about me…”

Sam huffed at the humor and set about checking the rest of his patient.  He was pleased to see that the surgical incision was free of infection and appeared to be healing well.  Watching Johnny’s eyes was better than waiting to hear him respond to pain.  The boy had himself too well trained.  There was a tender spot along the ribcage, but other than that, Johnny appeared to be on the mend.  “So, why aren’t you eating?”  Sam asked as he soaked one of the bandages in the hot water and placed it over the wounded leg like a compress.

“Haven’t been hungry…”  Johnny looked away and picked at the edge of his blanket.

“Johnny Lancer not hungry?  That’s a contradiction if I ever heard one!”  Sam snorted placing another wet bandage over the wound. “Talk to me, Johnny.”

Johnny hissed as the warmth of the bandage penetrated his tender flesh.  “I think it’s the pain….”

“Emotional or physical?”

Johnny looked at his doctor and found himself trapped by Sam’s keen gaze.  “Both…” he mumbled finally.

“Johnny you’re going to have to eat to get strong enough to fight this infection.”

“OK, I just can’t eat no more mush or broth…”

“That’s fair enough.  I’ll talk to Teresa and see if she can’t make you some soup.”

“Thanks,” Johnny smiled, relieved that he wouldn’t have to face another bowl of the horrid food.  

“You want to talk about what happened?” Sam asked after a few moments of silence.

“You been talking to my brother?  I swear if he asks me one more time I’ll….”

“Now hold your horses, young man.  As your doctor I have a need to know…”  

Johnny looked at the doctor and frowned.  “How about I tell you after this?”  Johnny responded indicating his leg.

“I’ve got all the time in the world – whenever you’re ready….”  The men were interrupted by Teresa who was accompanied by Jelly.  The older man was carrying a large basin of hot water.

“Where you want this?”  Jelly asked, his arms aching from the weight of the hot basin.

“On the night stand will do.”  Sam directed.  

After the basin was down, Jelly leaned over the doctor’s shoulder and took a look at the wound.  “That’s bad.”  He commented looking at Johnny.  The young man was clearly in pain from the ministrations of the doctor.  “You want me to stay Johnny?”

“Yeah, Jelly.  I’m thinkin’ I could use a friend....”

Pleased to be of help, Jelly moved to the other side of the bed where he took hold of Johnny’s hand.  

With Teresa’s help, Sam continued to apply the hot compresses to the festering wound – drawing the infection to the surface of the skin. There was no surprise when Johnny steadfastly refused any laudanum to make the procedure less painful.  Instead, he gripped Jelly’s hand and clenched his jaw  when Sam made a small incision to allow the wound to drain. To Sam’s satisfaction, Johnny had the grace to pass out once the scalpel penetrated the wound.  With the injured man deeply unconscious, Sam and Teresa proceeded to thoroughly cleanse the wound and once again apply the hot compresses while Jelly wiped Johnny’s pale face with a cool cloth.

“Do you want me to get the carbolic?”  Teresa asked, unsure what should be done to make sure the wound was free of all infection. To her credit, Teresa had kept her composure during the entire procedure, speaking words of encouragement to the unconscious man.

Sam shook his head.  “If this was a fresh wound I’d say yes.  But I’m thinking…”

“I can fix up a poultice.”  Jelly volunteered.  He had tended to many a wounded man in his day and this wound was in need of some drawing out yet.

“I think that would be the proper way to proceed,” Sam nodded in agreement.

Beaming brightly, Jelly left the room and headed to Teresa’s pantry.  She had all the proper fixings - medicinal herbs that she had specially grown in her garden.

“You did well, girl.”  Sam commented as they waited for Jelly’s return.  “You should consider a career in nursing.”

Teresa laughed weakly, her mind still reeling at what she had seen.  “I think that I have a full-time career right here - taking care of the Lancer men!”  She had taken Jelly’s spot and lightly brushed Johnny’s bangs from his face.  “He’s been through so much.  It’s not fair…”

Sam patted her gently on the shoulder.  “He should be getting better now. I’d like you to keep an eye on that leg.  Change the dressing every hour until it stops draining and make sure that he stays off his feet.”

“That’s easier said than done,” Teresa pushed a stray hair off her own face as she looked at Johnny who now appeared to be peacefully sleeping.  “Do you want to come downstairs for some coffee?”

Sam looked at his patient.  “No. I’ll wait here for Jelly.   I want to read these notes…”

“What should I tell Scott and Murdoch?”  

“Tell them that I’ll be down shortly to give them a full report.”  

Teresa nodded and with a last glance at Johnny, she left the doctor to his reading.

Sam settled into the chair and began to read Henry Kane’s notes.  What he read startled him.  The country doctor was amazed at the measures that had been taken to save Johnny’s life.  Henry Kane was meticulous in his notes and left nothing to be imagined.  The Boston surgeon had carefully detailed the surgery and Johnny’s recovery.  There was no surprise when Henry expressed his anger at Johnny for leaving his bed to testify at the trial.  Sam actually began to laugh, in spite of the serious nature of the new injuries that resulted from Johnny’s visit to the courthouse.  He knew how crafty Johnny could be, sneaking out of bed when he was supposed to be resting.  That Boston doctor never had a chance – maintaining control of Johnny Lancer.

“What’s so funny?”  A weak voice whispered from the bed.

Sam wiped the mirth from his eyes and put the file down.  “I was just reading about the shenanigans you pulled on that doctor in Boston.”

Johnny sighed, his eyes remaining closed.  “Yeah, and you think that I give you a hard time.”

“How do you feel?”

“Like someone cut my leg open…”

Sam smiled warmly and picked up Johnny’s limp wrist, noting the scars that his initial examination had missed.  “These reminders of your trip, too?”

“Yeah.  What’s a visit to Boston without a few scars to tell everyone you’ve been away.”  Johnny murmured the sarcasm unmistakable.

“You want to talk about it, now?”

Johnny opened his eyes and considered the offer.  “Naw, I’ll wait for Scott. He’s been hounding me for answers to his questions…”

“And what have you told him?”

“What he needs to know…”

“Was it the truth?”

“Depends upon what truth you’re talking about.”  Johnny licked his lips and Sam helped him to take a few sips of water.  “He knows all that he needs to know. How’s the leg?” Johnny asked changing the topic of conversation.

Sam shook his head.  “You know how the leg is.  It was infected.  I’ve drained it.  Jelly’s making up a poultice that is to be changed every hour.  I’ve left strict instructions that you stay in bed for the next 3 days.  Besides staying off the leg you need to rest and eat.   When I come back in a few days we’ll talk about you getting up for short periods of time.  You’ve got nowhere to go and I expect you to remain still.”

Johnny smiled and gave the doctor a mock salute.  “You’re the boss.”

“And don’t you forget it.  I’ve got my spies around this place and they’ll give me a full report if you misbehave.”  

Johnny nodded with a smile.  “So, when can I go riding?”

Sam’s retort was interrupted by Jelly.  The old hand entered the room, a jar of a foul smelling compound in his hand.  “This ought ta do the trick!”  he announced proudly.

Johnny took a sniff and pinched his nose.  “Whoa, Jelly!  That smells worse than cow dung set out on a hot day!  What’s it supposed to do, scare the infection away?”

“Laugh all you want, Mr. Johnny Lancer, but this here poultice will have you up and around in no time!”

“Sam?”  Johnny turned to the physician for some help.

“He’s right Johnny.  This should do the trick.”  Together, Sam and Jelly applied the poultice and wrapped the wound.  When they were done, they pulled the covers back over the leg.  “Now, how does that feel?”

“Better,” Johnny had to admit that this was the best his leg had felt in weeks.

Sam smiled in response to Johnny’s glum face.  “Now, I’m going to go downstairs and have Teresa bring you up some soup – which you are going to finish.  I’m also going to have a talk with your father.  I’ll be back up to check on you before I leave.” Jelly decided to stay with Johnny and keep him company for awhile.   Sam closed the door behind him and breathed a sigh of relief.  That boy was going to be the death of him yet.  Gripping the medical records in one hand, he made his way down the back stairs.  He wanted to tell Teresa that Johnny was hungry and that once he was able to keep soup down that he could eat whatever he wanted.  The boy was alarmingly thin and needed some feeding up.

After giving instructions to Teresa and Maria, Sam went out to the living room.  Coming through the pantry he caught the tail end of the conversation Scott and Murdoch were having.  Scott was telling his father what Johnny had told him about the nightmares and bits and pieces of his past.  The doctor paused before entering the great room, and gave a loud cough to announce that he was in the area.  Scott stopped talking and stood as the doctor entered.  “Well?  How is he?”

“I’ve lanced the leg.  There was a lot of infection in it, but it’s cleaned out now.  Jelly’s made up a poultice that is to be changed every hour.  He’s to stay in that bed for at least three days…”

“Three days?”  Scott whistled.  “How did Johnny take that?”

“He asked when he can go riding again!”  They all had a good laugh at the response.  When the laughter faded, Sam turned serious.  “I’ve read these records.  We’re very lucky to have Johnny with us…”

“I know,” Murdoch whispered indicating that Sam take a seat on the couch next to him.  “How is he doing?”

“Physically?  All of the wounds, except that leg, seem to be healing well.  I think that once the leg heals, that fever of his will disappear.  He also needs to eat to get his strength up.…”

“And emotionally?”

Sam shrugged.  “Johnny survived a terrible experience – not the first in his life.  He’s a strong young man and I have every confidence that he’ll get over this…”

“Don’t you think that he needs to talk about  what happened?”  Scott pressed.

“Apparently you need him to tell you what happened…”

“He told you that?”  Scott briefly hung his head.  His father was right, he was pressing Johnny.  

Sam went to the elder son.  “Scott, let him deal with this in his own way.  He’s tired – physically and emotionally.  Be there and support him.  When he’s ready, I’m sure that he’ll tell you everything you need to know.”

And there it was again.  Scott didn’t want to know what he ‘needed’ to know.  He wanted the truth – and he was sure that it was waiting for him in the bottom of his father’s desk drawer.

Chapter 33

By the time Teresa had fixed the soup and returned to Johnny’s room, the injured man was sound asleep.   Jelly held a finger to his lips as she entered.  “He’s tucker’d out,” the older man whispered directing her away from the sleeping man.

Forlornly Teresa placed the tray on the dresser and turned to gaze at Johnny.  “Why did they have to do this to him?  I just don’t understand….”  The tears that she had held back earlier now streamed down her face.  She thought of the new scars that now marked Johnny’s chest and side, the scars that surrounded his wrists – all signs that Johnny had been tortured.  She didn’t have to hear the words from Scott to know the truth that her eyes had seen.

Jelly awkwardly took her into his arms and gently patted her back, the same way he used to comfort one of his ‘kids’ when they were hurt.  “It’s gonna be alright, you’ll see – why in no time he’ll be up steal’n biscuits and pester’n you and Maria ta pieces…”

“Oh, you think so….?”  Teresa asked hopefully.

“Why shor, you’ll see.  It’ll take more than a trip to Boston to beat Johnny!”

“But why do men do such mean things?  Johnny didn’t deserve this…”

Jelly could only shake his head.  He probably knew more about Johnny than anyone on the ranch.  The former gunfighter had taken Jelly into his confidence and told him of his childhood and his rise to fame as Johnny Madrid.  Jelly had actually first seen Johnny several years earlier in Texas.  He had witnessed a young Johnny Madrid out shoot an older fighter.  The other man had drawn first, but Johnny was faster – much faster.  Jelly had been fascinated by the bits and pieces of lore that circulated about Johnny.  That lore was nothing compared to the truth of Johnny’s life.  Johnny had a harder life than his family could ever imagine.  The scars to Johnny’s body spoke of the physical violence that had been visited upon him, but they didn’t begin to touch the emotional scars. Jelly was constantly amazed by Johnny’s kindness – especially in light of the cruelty that had been inflicted upon him.   If Jelly was sure of one thing, it was that his friend didn’t deserve the treatment that Scott’s high falootin’ grandfather and friends had put Johnny through.  “Honey, I wish I had an answer ta that myself.”  He patted her back one last time and then pushed her away, carefully wiping the tears that had been forming in his own eyes.  “You go on downstairs.  I’ll let ya know when he’s awake a’gin.”

Unable to speak, Teresa picked up the tray and left the room.

With a sigh, Jelly returned to the seat next to his friend.  Harlan Garrett could never right the wrong that he had done to Johnny and Scott.  Jelly hoped that wherever Mr. Garrett was - that he was more miserable than the young man asleep on the bed.


The sun was setting by the time that Johnny woke up.  He had managed to sleep through the hourly changing of his bandage.  His senses were the first to become alert -noticing the change in the air that surrounded him.  Opening his eyes he saw that someone had brought a large wreath of evergreens into his room and had mounted it on the wall above his dresser.  The air was filled with the crisp scent of pine.  Something nagged in the back of his mind that this was a significant gesture, but he was too tired to care.  As he surveyed the room, his eyes alighted on the form of his father – reading a book near the window.  “Hi…”, he tried to say, but his dry throat could only manage a whisper.

Murdoch placed the book down and went to give Johnny some water.  The injured man drank slowly.  Murdoch carefully allowed his son enough water to quench his immediate thirst – not wanting Johnny to become sick from drinking too much. “We thought you were going to sleep the entire day away.”   Murdoch sat on the edge of the bed and gave his son a smile.

“Looks like I did.  Must have been more tired than I thought.”

Murdoch placed his hand on Johnny’s forehead.  “Fever’s down,” He commented, his fingers lingering to touch Johnny’s hair. “You hungry?”

Johnny grinned.  “Starved.”

“I believe that Teresa and Maria made some tortilla soup for you.  I’ll be right back.”

Johnny watched as his father left the room and settled back in his bed.  It felt good to be around familiar things and people.  For the first time in weeks he was beginning to feel as though the nightmare was finally coming to an end.  His fond reflections were interrupted by a knock at the door followed by the entrance of his brother.  “You want some company?”

“Sure,” Johnny watched as Scott entered and proceeded to pace.  “Something on your mind, Brother?”

Scott stopped and gave Johnny a weak smile.  “I had a talk with Sam.”

“That so…”  .

“He said…. He said that I was pushing you and that you needed time…”

“He’s a smart doctor.”

“I’m sorry, Johnny, I didn’t mean to push…”  

Johnny watched and listened to his brother.  Scott was obviously conflicted by what he was saying.  The former gunslinger knew that Scott still had a strong need to know all of the details, including events that Johnny hoped never to reveal - while the brother in him accepted the heartfelt apology.  “It’s OK.  You were only trying to help…”

“And did I?”

Johnny smiled.  “Yeah, look where I am now.  I never would have made it back from Boston without you…”

“That’s not what I mean.  Did our talks help?”  Scott pressed.

With a sigh, Johnny looked out the window.  “You know, Boston, I never told nobody some of the things that I told you – things that have been haunting me…. Yeah, it helped.”  He turned and gave his brother a smile. Scott smiled back.  Obviously, Johnny’s words had helped to resolve one part of Scott’s conflict but, deep inside, Johnny knew that the other part would sooner or later rear its ugly head and they would have a discussion of another kind.  Not wanting to discuss this further, Johnny pointed to the wreath that was hanging on his wall.  “Can you tell me what that’s all about?”

Scott smiled broadly.  “Surely you haven’t forgotten what time of year it is.”  Seeing the blank look on Johnny’s face, he continued to elaborate.  “Teresa and Maria have been putting them up around the house all day – Christmas wreaths!”

“Christmas?  Has it been a year already?”

Scott laughed out loud.  “That’s what you get for not going to church, Little Brother.  Christmas is in a week and a half.”  Johnny looked horrified at the prospect.  He hadn’t gotten any gifts for his family - yet.  Scott continued to smile sensing his brother’s turmoil.  “You don’t need to worry about anything.  Your being home is good enough for everyone.”

“But…”  Johnny wanted to protest knowing that his brother wouldn’t think that way if he knew the whole truth about Boston.

“No buts to be considered.  The only thing that you have to worry about is getting back on your feet…”

The door swung open and Teresa and Murdoch entered the room.  “Which he’s not going to do for at least three days,” Teresa scolded, overhearing Scott’s comment.

Murdoch and Scott helped Johnny to sit up, propping his back with several pillows.  With a flourish, Teresa placed the tray on the bedside table and handed Johnny a large mug of tortilla soup.  A smile instantly lit up his face as he inhaled the spicy aroma. “Gracias,” he whispered as he took a small sip.  It was like manna from heaven. His stomach had enough of the bland gringo food.  He was more than ready for his native foods again.  

Teresa shook her head in dismay.  Maria had suggested the spicy concoction knowing that ‘Juanito’ preferred Mexican food when he was not feeling his best.  “It will remind him of the times when he was well,” Maria had told her.  Sure enough, Maria was correct.  “I’ll let you finish that before I change the bandage again.”  

“Thank Maria for me…”

Teresa flashed him a smile and was gone.

Slowly, Johnny ate the soup, conscious of the fact that Sam Jenkins had probably placed his father and brother in charge of seeing that he ate.  It took a while, a lot longer than he was used to, but finally he put the mug down - empty.

“You want some more?” Scott offered taking the mug.

“No – I can’t eat another bite.”  Johnny lay back against the pillows and was suddenly very tired.  

Murdoch nodded to Scott, sending the younger man from the room.  “Are you alright, Son?”

Johnny smiled, his eyes remaining closed.  “Yeah, I just can’t remember being so tired.”

“You’ve probably never been hurt this bad before…”  Murdoch said, hoping to spark a conversation with his son about his mysterious past.  

Johnny shook his head, about to tell his father he was wrong.  He had been hurt this badly before – more than once – but this was the first time that he could allow his guard down and get the rest that he needed to heal properly.  “Yeah, you’re probably right…”

Murdoch frowned, the opportunity was gone.  “Get some rest, Son.  Teresa will be back in a few minutes to change that bandage…”   Johnny was already fast asleep by the time Murdoch had finished the sentence.


For the next two days all Johnny did was eat and sleep.  It was as if his being home had allowed him to rest without the fear of further physical attack.  His nights were still visited by nightmares that interrupted his rest.  Fortunately, Jelly remained steadfast in his resolution to stay by his friend during the night and he would wake Johnny before the dreams got the best of him.  Jelly and Teresa worked in shifts, changing the bandage and keeping the wound clean.  And, to everyone’s relief, Johnny was getting his appetite back.  He wasn’t quite ready for chocolate cake, but he was ready for more substantial meals that would help him to regain the weight that he had lost.

After three days of careful tending, Johnny’s wounded leg finally stopped oozing and began to heal.  The bright red swelling had receded and the area was no longer tender to the touch.  And, after the three days, Johnny was about ready to go stir crazy.  He envied his brother who, after one day of rest, resumed his normal activities around the ranch.  Johnny yearned for the wide open spaces of the ranch and the opportunity to be alone.  As much as he loved his family, he hadn’t been truly alone since the fateful trip to Boston.  For ten years he had been on his own and had grown accustomed to using that time to sort out his thoughts and find his inner peace and strength - just the elements he needed to put the Boston trip behind him.   The constant attention, welcomed at first, was now bothersome.

True to his word, Sam returned after three days and was pleased with the progress that had been made.  The leg was still stiff and sore, but that was to be expected from such a deep knife wound.  Sam was so pleased with what he saw that he gave permission for Johnny to get out of bed – with limitations.  “No riding.  You hear me?  If I catch wind of you riding….”  The old doctor let the threat hang in the air while Johnny just grinned.

Murdoch stepped forward to ease the situation.  “We’ll keep him out of the saddle…”

“Durn’ right!”  Jelly exclaimed backing up his boss.

“I want you to take small walks and wean yourself from that cane.  You need to strengthen that leg, but I don’t want you to over do.”

“OK, OK.  I promise to behave!”  Johnny finally acquiesced.

“Why don’t I believe him?”  Sam asked Murdoch as they left Jelly to help Johnny get dressed.

“Because we both know him too well.”

“I’m serious, Murdoch.  He needs to take it slow…”

“And he will.”  The two men entered the great room where Scott was helping Teresa hang garlands for the coming holiday.  “Sam, you’re welcome to spend Christmas with us next week.  Teresa and Maria are planning a grand event to celebrate the boy’s return.”

“Don’t mind if I do.  Besides, it will be time for me to check on Johnny again.”

Ten minutes later, Johnny made his entrance, leaning on a cane, under Jelly’s watchful eye. “Would you look at that!”  Johnny whistled at the sight of the decorations.

Teresa blushed and went to give Johnny a hug.  “I want this Christmas to be special…”

“You always make Christmas special.”

Teresa blushed a deeper shade and smiled at the compliment.  “Scott’s been helping…”

“So I see.”  Johnny looked at Scott who was bedecked with a long string of garland – waiting for Teresa to take it from him.  “Green is your color, Brother.”

“Very funny!”  Scott fumed playfully.  “Next year it will be your turn…”

Johnny laughed and joined Murdoch and Sam in front of the fire.  Slowly he lowed himself to a seat and then propped his leg up on the coffee table.  “This OK, Sam?”

“Perfect, Johnny.  How does it feel?”

“A little tight, doesn’t want to bend too much…”

“Don’t push it, but I do want you to walk and work out the soreness.  Hopefully, by the new year, you’ll be right as rain again….”

“That’s two weeks!”  Johnny protested.  He had hopes of being able to ride sooner than two weeks.

“You’ve waited this long, two more weeks won’t hurt.”  Murdoch commented taking control of the situation.  Besides, I could use some help with the books.

Johnny’s eyes popped at the thought of doing the books.  “Listen, I ain’t feel’n so good…”  Everyone in the room laughed, a sound that had been sorely missed in the house for two months.  As the laughter ended, Murdoch couldn’t help but think that this Christmas was going to be even more special than the past.    Last year he was grateful to have his boys back home where they belonged.  This year, he was grateful that they had both survived to come home again.


The need to know the content of Jim Davis’ letter burned brightly within Scott.  As much as he tried to distract himself, helping Teresa with the Christmas plans and doing his normal chores, he couldn’t make himself forget the words that he had read. He had to finish the letter.  Murdoch and Teresa had gone to town early and weren’t expected home until dinnertime.  Maria was busy in the kitchen, baking cookies and Scott assumed that Johnny was asleep up in his room.  Scott waited until mid morning to return to the house.  Quietly he made his way upstairs to his father’s room, sure that his father had not taken the desk key with him.  After a quick search of Murdoch’s room, Scott found the key on top of the high boy.  Again, he tiptoed past Johnny’s closed door and made his way down to his father’s desk.  Taking a deep breath he unlocked the bottom drawer and laid his hand on the letter.  Quickly he opened the paper and read the three pages. By the time he was done, his hands were shaking with rage.

“Find something, Boston?”  Johnny’s soft drawl came from the couch.  Feeling isolated up in his room, he had come downstairs, after everyone had left, to enjoy the warmth of the fireplace and the decorations that Teresa had been working on.  He had been awakened by the sound of someone at his father’s desk and was surprised to see that it had been his brother.  For several minutes he had laid silently, watching as Scott’s complexion changed to a livid red.

Scott jumped, startled by his brother’s voice.  “The truth,” he spat angrily at his brother.  In his hand he waved the letter.  “I know the truth.  I know what a bastard you are…”

“Really” Johnny responded coolly.  Slowly he stood and limped to where Scott was standing, the letter clutched in his hand.  “What have you got there?”

“A letter from Jim Davis; a letter that tells just how you manipulated the court into sending my grandfather to the worst hell hole in Massachusetts!”

“Let me see it.”  Johnny held his hand out for the paper that was now clenched in Scott’s hand.

Scott practically threw the letter at his brother and then watched anxiously for Johnny’s reaction.

Johnny felt profound sadness. He had known that this day would come; his brother was too tenacious to just give up finding the answers to the questions he had been asking. Slowly he read Jim Davis’ account of what had happened in Boston.  “You wanta talk about this or are you gonna condemn me right off?”

“I have that right! You are guilty of doing too many things behind my back…”

“And with good reason…”  Johnny whispered.

“No reason could be good enough!  You sent my grandfather away to where he would be miserable!  Not to a place where he could get help! You didn’t just get justice – you got revenge!” Scott paced the floor, too angry to look at his brother.

Johnny took a deep breath, his face becoming a mask – the mask of a part of himself that just refused to disappear when he was threatened.  “We’re talking about the man who tried to have me killed; the man who was going to have you committed.  What was I supposed to do?”

“That man is my grandfather!  My responsibility!”

“Come off it, Brother.  He ain’t no more your responsibility than I am.  He did terrible things and he deserved to pay…”
“So, you wrote a letter to the judge and asked for Grandfather to be sent to the worst hell hole in the state?  Why, Johnny?  Why didn’t you trust me and the system to make sure he was taken care of?  You had no right!”

“I had every right!  Don’t you see?  He used both of us like pawns in a game, only I won and he lost…”

“You didn’t have to!  You could have trusted me to make sure that he got the treatment that he needs…”

“Treatment?”  Johnny laughed.  “I asked Henry about the places where Harlan wanted to go – they were palaces – places for the rich.  Well for once I wanted him to know how it felt to be treated like dirt!  To know what it’s like to be punished for a crime and suffer for it!  To suffer like I had to!”  Johnny turned away from Scott, his face a mirror of the pain that shot through his still healing ribs from his shouting.  It took a few moments for him to calm his breathing so that he could speak again, this time, his voice was a soft drawl.  “I had to see that he was punished.  Don’t you see?  It had to be.”

Scott remained unconvinced, his anger mounting.   He stared at Johnny’s back, unable to see the pain that Johnny was in.  “Where did you go the day before Thanksgiving?”  The words that came from Scott’s mouth were cold and filled with hostility.

Johnny sucked in his breath and turned to face his brother.  “You sure you really want to know?”

“Where did you go, Johnny?”  Scott insisted.

“Well, I went to see ‘ol Harlan to let him know that I was the one who had sent him away and that I hoped he enjoyed the hell that he created for himself…”

Scott’s anger flared as he listened to his brother.  Without giving a second thought to Johnny’s condition, he made a fist and struck Johnny square in the jaw, sending the injured man tumbling over the couch and onto the floor.  Momentarily stunned by what he had done, Scott watched as Johnny lay motionless.  “Johnny….?” Gathering his wits, he went to see if Johnny was OK.  Gently he tried to turn Johnny from his stomach to his side, only to have his brother flinch away.  Scott caught the flash of pain in Johnny’s eyes stopping him cold.  “Johnny….”  Scott started, horrified at what he had done.

“Go away, Scott…”  Johnny said moving further away from his brother.

“Johnny, I’m sorry….”

Johnny just shook his head and looked away.  “I don’t need no apology, Scott.  Not when ya don’t mean it….”

“What’s going on here!”  Murdoch Lancer roared as he entered the room.  He saw Johnny on the floor recoiling away from his brother.

“We had a misunderstanding…”  Scott mumbled, backing away from his brother, shoving his hands into his pockets.  He watched as his father went to check on Johnny, concern clearly written on his face.

“You alright, Son?” Murdoch helped Johnny up off the floor and eased him onto the couch. Blood was dripping from a cut in Johnny’s lip and he quickly took his handkerchief from his pocket to stem the flow.  “Now, I want to know what’s going on here!” he demanded, looking from Johnny, who was staring at the fire, to Scott who was staring out the large window behind the desk.  It was then that Murdoch’s eyes caught sight of the open letter.  Swiftly he went and grabbed up the paper.  “Who broke into my desk?”  Again he looked at his sons.  Johnny’s blue eyes flashed in response to the question.  Murdoch caught the flash and turned to his eldest.  “You broke into my desk just to read this?”  he accused Scott.

“Yes, Sir, I did and I read it,” Scott responded unable to hide the bitterness in his voice.


Scott turned to look at Johnny, who continued to stare at the fire.  “He sent my grandfather to hell.  He could have let Grandfather go to a facility where he could get help, but he,” Scott pointed an accusing finger at his brother, “didn’t trust me, he had to have his revenge!”

Murdoch looked from Scott to Johnny, wishing that he had spoken with Johnny about why he chose to speak with the State’s Attorney.  “Scott…”

“That’s not all,” Scott interrupted, the anger returning.  “Johnny just told me where he went before we left.  He went to see my grandfather and told him to go to hell!”


Slowly Johnny stood to face his father and brother.  “That’s right.  I did those things to the man who tried to have me killed – and I’d do it again.”  With that said, he turned and limped painfully from the room.

Scott started to follow, only to have his arm grabbed by his father.  “You need to simmer down!”  Murdoch hissed.

“Simmer down?  My own brother goes behind my back and does this to my grandfather?”

“And what about your grandfather?  Where’s your anger at him for trying to kill your brother?”  Murdoch glared at his eldest.  “Why all this compassion for Harlan Garrett; isn’t he the one who instigated all of this?  Where is your compassion for your brother?”

Scott swallowed hard, unable to answer the question.  Was that the fact that was really tearing at him?  Johnny was alive, and he was grateful, but his grandfather was now trapped in a prison for the rest of his life.  “Murdoch, I…”

“Scott, you have to make up your mind.  You can’t be angry at Johnny for something your grandfather did.  It’s not fair.”  Murdoch watched as Scott considered his words before bolting from the room, going outside.  Shaking his head, Murdoch decided that he had better go upstairs to check on Johnny.  He knocked on the closed door before entering.  The curtains were drawn and he could barely make out the figure of his son curled up on his bed. “Johnny?”

“I’m fine.  I just need to be alone…”

“You need to talk about what happened…”

“You sound just like Scott before he exploded.”

Murdoch winced at the comparison.  “He’s just confused.  He’ll come around, you’ll see.  Get some rest.”

Neither son showed up at dinner.  Teresa was tempted to prepare a tray and take it up to Johnny, but Murdoch asked that she let him be.  Teresa didn’t try to find Scott.  She was angry and disappointed in her eldest brother.  Maria had overheard the argument between the brothers and told Teresa all that she had seen and heard.   After what Scott had done to Johnny she didn’t care whether he ate or not.

Scott returned to the house a few hours later to find everyone in bed.  Not hungry, he went up to his room, pausing outside of Johnny’s  for a few moments before deciding that he needed more time and space before he spoke to his brother again.


A full moon provided a lone figure enough light to see his way from the house to the barn.  Stealthily he made his way to the stalls, not wanting to disturb the animals and alert the nearby men of his presence.  One animal, though, immediately responded to his approach by pricking up his ears.  The animal didn’t nicker or whiny.  It waited patiently for its master to come to him.  “Good boy,” A calm voice spoke while gentle hands patted his flanks.  “You ready for a ride?”  The figure turned to pick up a saddle, when someone struck a match, startling him.

“Don’t do that,” Jelly warned as he neared the younger man.

“I’ve got to go, Jelly.  I can’t stay here – not when I’ve caused so much trouble…”

“It weren’t you.  You know that?”

“No, I don’t.  I’ve got some thinking to do….”

“You’ll be back?”

“Yeah, I’ll be back.  I just need a few days.  I’ve hurt my brother and Murdoch’s pretty angry.  I think we all need some space.”

“What should I tell ‘em if’n they ask if I saw ‘ya?”

The young man smiled.  “Saw who?”  Together the two men saddled the horse and packed a few provisions.

“Be home by Christmas or ya might not be welcomed home a’gin!”  Jelly called as the lone man trotted off into the night.

Chapter 34

Breakfast the next morning was a silent affair.  Teresa and Maria were up at the crack of dawn, but the holiday banter that had filed the house the day before was gone.  Both ladies were upset over what had taken place between the brothers the day before.  They were aware that Murdoch was disturbed as well.  Neither had ever seen the Lancer patriarch so angry at one of his sons.  Instead of making holiday plans, the ladies set about their work in a quiet manner, unsure of how the day would progress.  Each hoped that the rift between the two young men would be quickly healed and life could get back to what passed for ‘normal’.

Murdoch came tromping into the kitchen on schedule.  There was darkness in his features that silently alerted Teresa and Maria to steer clear.  “Murdoch,” Teresa ventured, placing a large plate of bacon and eggs before her guardian.  “Have you spoken with the boys?”

Murdoch shook his gray head.  “No, I’m hoping that they can resolve this between themselves.  They’re grown men and don’t need my interference…”

“And if they can’t?”

“I’d like to place them both over my knee and spank them!”  Murdoch responded with a weak smile.  “I’m sure that they will have this resolved soon…”

“I hope so.”  Teresa said prayerfully, returning to the stove.  She was preparing a special breakfast for Johnny.  Even though the young man was not able to resume his duties on the ranch, he had been coming downstairs to eat his meals with the rest of the family.  Teresa took note of the time and frowned – Johnny was late.  Though Murdoch had spoken briefly with Johnny the day before, he hadn’t checked his son for any new injury.  Now she was concerned that he might have some new wound that was preventing him from making his way down for breakfast.  “I’m going to check on Johnny…”

“Do that, honey.  I’m sure that he’d appreciate the concern.”  Murdoch turned back to his cup of coffee and surveyed its depths.  He felt as dispirited as the coffee was dark.  He couldn’t understand what had come over Scott – to hit his bother – still recovering from his wounds.  Hadn’t Johnny been punished enough without Scott adding to it?  With a sigh, he took a sip of the hot brew, turning his thoughts to what had to be accomplished for the day.

Teresa went upstairs, pausing at Scott’s room first.  Someone needed to talk to him and set him straight.  Gathering her courage, she knocked and immediately entered.  “Scott….”  she started, only to find that the room was unoccupied and the bed made.  This puzzled the girl.  She had been sure that he had come in last night.  Had he left sometime during the night or had he gotten up early?  As she turned to leave, she heard the sound of horses being ridden up to the house.  Looking out Scott’s window, she saw the blond haired young man and Jelly riding up.  The girl smiled thinking that perhaps Scott had sought out the older man to discuss his problems.  Satisfied that one Lancer son was accounted for, she went to Johnny’s room.

Knocking at the door, she waited patiently for Johnny to make a response, remembering a time when she had entered too quickly, catching the young man in a state of undress - a mistake she was not likely to make again!  After knocking a second time she became concerned and cautiously opened the door.  “Johnny….?”  She stuck her head into the room, but the curtains were drawn.  “Johnny?”  Opening the door further she entered to check on her brother.   “Murdoch!”

Scott had just entered the house when he heard Teresa’s call for his father.  Hearing her voice coming from upstairs, he could only assume that she was in Johnny’s room.  Scott ran up the stairs, his thoughts filled with a vision of his brother – suffering from some new hurt that had been caused by the incident the day before.  In a panic, he rushed into his brother’s room.  “Johnny…?”  Taking a look around, he observed that the room was in order, the bed neatly made – but there was no sign of the younger man.  “Where is he?”  He asked Teresa who was holding a note in her trembling hand.

“Gone.  He’s gone and it’s all your fault!”  She pressed the note into Scott’s hand as she dashed from the room in tears.

Slowly Scott opened the crumpled note.  

I’ll be back.

“Damn,” Scott swore, crumpling the note in his hands.  “Why does he always have to run?  Why couldn’t he just stay and talk to me?”

“Like you talked to him yesterday?”  Murdoch entered the room and extended his hand for the note.  With a shake of his head he read the content.

“I didn’t mean what happened yesterday…”  Scott began to pace, worry written plainly on his fine-looking features.

“Oh?”  Murdoch raised his eyebrows at the declaration.  “And just what were you trying to prove when you punched your brother in the mouth?”

Scott grimaced at his father’s words.  “I was angry with him, but there was no need for him to run off…”

“This isn’t the note from a man who is running.  He says that he’ll be back.”


“What do you care?  Isn’t this what you wanted - Johnny gone so that you don’t have to sort through your feelings?”

“That isn’t fair!  He had a hand in what happened yesterday…” Scott started defensively, only to be interrupted by his angry father.

“Did he start it Scott?  Seems to me that it’s you who’s been running – from the truth!  The facts of the matter are:  One – your grandfather plotted with your friends to kill your brother!  Two – Your brother nearly died!  Now, you tell me what he did to deserve that?  When you can give me a proper answer then I’ll respect your anger towards him – but not a moment sooner!”  Having said his piece, the Lancer patriarch turned away from his remaining son and stalked his way back downstairs.

Scott flinched.  He had never been the object of his father’s anger before.  Usually it was Johnny who would get the verbal lashing, for some minor indiscretion, while Scott stayed safely on the sidelines.  This time the full fury of Murdoch’s anger had been laid out at him.  For the second time in his life, Scott knew how Johnny felt, and he didn’t like it.

Standing alone in his brother’s room he reflected on his father’s words.  Every word had been true. There was no argument to be made otherwise.  Scott knew that he should be angry at his grandfather – but he couldn’t make the connection in his head.  Somehow, his anger was being directed at the only other person who had been in Boston at the time of his grandfather’s fall – Johnny.  Why he had ever thought that Johnny could be predicable in his responses to what had happened was beyond Scott’s ken.  He shouldn’t have been surprised when Johnny appeared at the trial – but he was.  He should have understood Johnny’s need to see that justice was served at the sentencing hearing – for even Scott knew that Harlan was manipulating the system – the same as he had manipulated his business dealings to always come out on top, no matter who was hurt in the end. Only this time Harlan had failed.  Had Scott secretly been hoping for his grandfather to come out of the situation unscathed?  And, if so – what were his real feelings for his brother?

Looking at the empty bed, Scott could only think of the hurt look that he had seen on Johnny’s face the day before – a look that he had never seen before, especially directed at him.  Scott’s heart sank knowing that it was his own actions that had led to the argument yesterday and the empty room this morning.  Setting his jaw, he strode down the stairs and out the door, nearly running into Jelly.  “Come with me,” he directed grabbing Jelly by the arm.

“Where are we goin’?”  Jelly asked as Scott pulled him along.

“We’re going to find Johnny!”

Jelly stopped and shook himself free.  “No we ain’t!”

Scott stopped dead in his tracks and turned back to the older man.  “What do you mean?”

“I ain’t goin’ after Johnny….”

“So, you know where he went?”  Scott grabbed the older man by the shoulders.  “Where is he?  I’ve got to find him!”

“Why? So ya kin hit him ‘agin?”  Jelly dared, sticking his own chin out like a target.

Scott let go of the older man and seemed to deflate on the spot.  “No, Jelly.  I need to talk with him.  I have to make him understand that I didn’t mean what happened yesterday…”

“An I suppose that was just a love tap ya gave him?”

“No,” Scott sighed.  “I was striking out at the only person I could blame for my grandfather’s behavior.”

“An what’s so different today?”

“I know that I was wrong.”

Jelly nodded.  “Well, good for you.”

“So, you’ll help me find Johnny?”

“Nope.  He needs ‘ta be alone and alone he will be.”  With a quick nod of his head, Jelly turned back toward the house for breakfast.  After a few paces, Jelly stopped and gave a loud sigh.  “’Sides, I don’t know where he went.  He could be anywhere.”  With his head down, Jelly turned away from the house – his appetite gone and the meal forgotten.

Scott turned and surveyed the wide open spaces beyond the yard.  It was winter and the ground was hard.  Johnny could have taken off in any direction and Scott would never be able to find him.  It would be like trying to find a needle in a haystack.  Remembering the words on the note Scott could only pray that Johnny would be back - soon.


Johnny had ridden through the night, arriving at the northern most line shack on Lancer. It was little used, but well equipped.  He had seen to that over the past year, figuring that if he ever needed a place to be alone, this would be it.  After bedding Barranca in the stable, he slowly limped his way into the shack, his leg and back muscles protesting the long ride.  There was a renewed pain in his ribs from the fall over the couch that added to his misery.  After getting the fire in the woodstove going he collapsed on the bunk and fell into a deep sleep.

The fire had long been out, and the cabin chilled, by the time Johnny startled awake.  He had a nightmare that he had never had before.  This time it was Scott who was beating him, calling him names – damning him to hell for what had happened to Harlan Garrett.  It didn’t matter that Harlan had tired to kill him.  Scott had made it clear who he loved more – and it wasn’t Johnny.  Try as he may, he couldn’t get Scott to see that he was wrong and the beating intensified.  When he was finally thrown down on the ground, Scott pulled out a knife, “Nooooo!”   Johnny awoke, his chest heaving painfully against the sore ribs.  Looking around, he remembered that he no longer at home.  He was alone – like he had always been and always would be.

Running a tired hand over his sweaty face, he felt muscles protesting his movements.  ‘Feel like an old man,’ he mused as he got up and restarted the fire.  Jelly had wanted to come, but Johnny had staunchly refused the offer.  He needed to be alone – as in all by himself.   He had been hurt plenty of times before and knew that he was on the way to recovery – physically.  It was the emotional part that he had to work on.  Something he had to do alone – close the door in the back of his mind and move on.  This time it was different, this time he was closing the door on his brother.

The argument of the day before had come too soon.  Seeing Scott so angry at him had hurt – bad.  It had left the younger man feeling like he had lost a part of himself – the good part.  Now, all that was left was the part that needed to be punished, left alone, unworthy of the faith that had once been placed in him by his brother.  He guessed that was why he had the new nightmare.  

Johnny used his time to reflect on his past and his place in the Lancer family.  He had no illusions on which son was favored - he knew that from the beginning.  He also recognized that he needed the family more than they needed him.  There was a strength and peace he had found at Lancer that had been missing in his life – a strength that made it easier to overcome his past and believe in more of a future than just walking down some street and taking his chances against death.  Still, as much as he had come to love his family, all he seemed to bring them was worry and trouble.  What he had done in Boston was the right thing.  He had no regrets.  There was no way Scott would have survived testifying at the trial without completely losing all of his love for his grandfather.  Johnny Lancer couldn’t do that to his brother.  Harlan Garrett deserved to be punished, but it wasn’t Scott’s place to do it.  As strong as Scott was, he didn’t have the cold heart that it would take to see that Garrett was finally put in his place.  That was a job for Johnny Madrid.


The next few days at Lancer were spent in oppressive silence.  At a time when the household should have been preparing for the coming holiday, all was not calm or bright.  Murdoch and Scott barely spoke to each other.  Maria and Teresa went about their days planning for Johnny’s hopeful return.  Maria set about making several types of Mexican pastries that she knew ‘Juanito’ liked, while Teresa baked him a chocolate cake and cleaned his room, preparing it for his eventual return.

Jelly watched as his extended family slipped away from celebration to melancholy.   He could have stopped Johnny, but he hadn’t the heart.  What had happened between the brothers had shaken him.  He never dreamed that Scott would be so angry that he would actually hurt his brother, but it had happened.  It saddened him to think that things would never be the same around the place – especially if Johnny chose to change his mind and never return.  If Johnny didn’t return then Jelly had set it in his mind that he would go too.  It was Johnny who had made it possible for him to stay at Lancer.  The soft hearted young man had gotten to him and the place wouldn’t be the same without him.

Murdoch had come to Jelly and asked if he knew where Johnny was.  The answer was ‘no’.  The young man had left in the dark of night, using its blanket to hide his movements and direction.  Wherever the young man was, Jelly prayed that he was under God’s protection.


Johnny spent his time alone in hours of practice, retraining muscles that had become weak from his long illness. Drawing and firing, drawing and firing until he felt that he had once again achieved the smooth level of performance that had kept him alive for so many years.  It was easier to focus on the exercises rather than to face the hard reality of the rest of his life.  There was no way that he could stay at Lancer if Scott hated him.  He had grown accustomed to the hate of others, and could put their contempt behind him.  But, the hate of a brother was something he could never overcome – no matter what the circumstance.

Time moved quickly and before he knew it, it was Christmas Eve - time to make his decision – to return to Lancer or to move on.  He couldn’t see how he could return to face the disappointment and anger in his brother.   His dreams were filled with images of his brother’s anger.  Years of practice – burying his feelings - and he still couldn’t bring himself to close the door on his brother.

Resigning himself to the fact that his problem was bigger than he could handle on his own, Johnny set out to find help – going to the only place he had ever been able to find peace during his turbulent youth.


The tree was up and the decorations were in place, but there was no air of festivity in the Lancer house.  Something - someone was missing.  They all knew it – even Scott.  He saw it in the faces of his family every time they looked at the door when a rider came up.

“This is ridiculous,” Scott declared throwing his napkin on the table at the end of another quiet lunch.  

“But isn’t this how you wanted it?”  Teresa asked bitterly.  There was no excuse for what had happened and she would accept nothing less than having Johnny home where he belonged.

Scott’s eyes flashed at the comment.  “No.”  He declared dropping his head.  “This isn’t what I wanted…”

“Then you need to make up your mind, Son.”  Murdoch leaned back in his chair and surveyed what was left of his family.  “Either you want your brother home and you deal with it, or you don’t and deal with the consequences of that decision.  You created this problem, now you fix it!  You can’t have it both ways!  I won’t have it anymore!”  Murdoch stood and threw his napkin on his plate and strode from the room.

“He’s angry,” Scott whispered his head still down.

“He’s allowed.  He’s waited over twenty years to have the two of you home where you belong, and now he’s afraid of losing you both again…”

“Well, it’s not just me who’s making him miserable.  Johnny has a part in this too…”

“I know,” Teresa acknowledged looking out the kitchen window.  “He’s lost so much in the past months…”

“Because of me…”

“Because of you.”

Scott winced at the sharp reply.  “You think that I was wrong…”

“I think that you are a fool.”  Teresa took a deep breath and pressed on.  “Scott, Johnny loves you.  He’d never do anything to intentionally hurt you.  He’d die for you…”

“I know,” Scott looked down at his plate and pushed his food around.  He wondered where his brother was and was missing him – regretting that he hadn’t had the opportunity to speak with Johnny before he had taken off.

“Have you figured out what you’re going to tell him if he comes home?”  Teresa couldn’t bring herself to say ‘when’.  She didn’t dare try to hope that much.  It had been four days and there had been no sign or word from the missing man.  

Scott shook his head.  “I don’t know what to tell him other than I’m sorry…”

“That would be a good start.”  Teresa stood and began to clean up the remains of the half eaten meal.  “Are you coming to church with us tonight?”


“Christmas Eve services.  Murdoch and I always go.  We went last year as a family….”

“You want me to be with you?”  Scott asked incredulously.  No one had wanted him around for the past few days - not his father, not Jelly – not Cipriano.

“As long as you are a part of this family you are welcome to come to church.  No one here is going to turn their back on you.”

Scott considered her words and frowned.  He wasn’t Catholic, but he felt that church was somewhere he definitely belonged this night.  “Tell Murdoch that I’ll meet you both at the church.  I have an errand to run…”


The Mission Church was strangely quiet.  The sanctuary was decorated for the holiday.  The alter was covered with devotions and sacrifices for the Blessed Virgin and the Christ child.  Candles were lit and the air was filled with the pungent smell of incense. Scott remembered thinking how strange it was when he accompanied his family to this place last year for Christmas Eve service.  He remembered that night – they had even gotten Johnny to come.  The ride to and from the Church had been filled with high spirits - a stark change from what he was feeling this day.

“Can I help you, my son?”  The Padre came from one of the confessionals to greet the lone Methodist.

“I’m not Catholic….”

The Padre smiled.  “Everyone is welcome in God’s house – especially on this night.”

Scott grabbed the hat off his head and pointed to the confessional.  “I would kind of like to talk in there…”

“Of course,” the Padre led Scott to the row of confessionals and opened one of the curtains allowing the young man to enter.  The Padre dropped the curtain and went to the next booth and slid open the partition.  “How can I help you, my son?”

Scott remembered what Teresa had told him about the confessional and dropped to his knees on the kneeler.  “Forgive me Father, for I have sinned…”

“What sins have you committed?”

“I have falsely accused someone I love and I have driven him from our home.”

“Why would you do that?”

“Because I was foolish.”  Scott looked at his hands, unsure of where to start.  “I have forced my own brother, who’s only mistake was loving me, away from his home.  Now I am afraid that he won’t come back – that he hates me.  I’m so sorry.  I never meant for this to happen.  I love him…”

“Love is a very powerful emotion.  It is what brought our savoir to this world.  Perhaps your brother has already forgiven you?”

“Then why hasn’t he come home?”

“He could be lost…”

“Then I should try to find him?”  Scott asked hoping for some kind of sign or direction.

“No, my son.  He may be on his own journey and needs to find his way home by himself…”

Scott frowned, disappointed.  “Then what am I to do?”

“As much as you have forgiven your brother, you must now forgive yourself.  Do not let what happened become like a wall between you.  The love of a brother is very strong and it takes a lot to break…”

“I think that I did that,” Scott said sorrowfully.

“Have patience.  Time has a way of healing wounds.  When your brother returns, speak to him of what you have told me.  Tell him that you love him and that you are sorry.  Build a foundation to make your lives together stronger.”

Scott was about to speak again when the Padre slid the partition closed.  With a sigh, Scott picked up his hat and exited the building.

A few moments later, the Padre and another man exited the confessionals.  The Padre laid his hands on the shoulders of the troubled man before him.  “I believe that you have received the sign that you were looking for. Go in peace, my son.  Remember that this is the holiday for new beginnings – not endings.”


Scott joined his father and Teresa in the buggy for the ride home - his horse tethered to the back.  They rode in silence, each reflecting on the words of the sermon.  The Padre had spoken of the birth of Christ and that Christmas as the time for new beginnings - a time of hope. Unfortunately, none of the Lancer’s could see any anything that would bring them hope – not without Johnny.

Jelly met them as they pulled up to the house.  Hopeful eyes met his.  He could only shake his head – no.  Johnny had not returned.  With crestfallen spirits they entered the house.  All of the wonderful decorations and smells were nothing without having the entire family together.

“For what it is worth, I’m sorry.”  Scott said.  “I know that I was wrong and somehow I’ll have to make it up to Johnny, when he returns.”

Murdoch gave his son a crooked smile.  “I know you are, Son.  It’s up to your brother – now.  I can only pray that he decides to come home to us…”  At a loss for further words, Murdoch bid his family good night and went upstairs.

Teresa gave Scott a kiss on the cheek and went to turn in, leaving him alone in the great room.  He went to the window and surveyed the night sky.  A lone star shone brightly over the mountains.  Silently he prayed that this brother would follow that star and find his way home.


Christmas morning wasn’t the same.  There was no joy or excitement – not like there had been the year before.  It had been Johnny’s first Christmas – ever.  They all had delighted in providing him the sounds and smells of a holiday that he had never celebrated. To their elation, he had responded like a child – the gunhawk with the heart of a child.    This year, all of the elements were in place except for one – Johnny.

Teresa and Maria set about making breakfast, noisily moving the pots and pans about on the stove, while Murdoch and Scott went into the great room to light the Yule log.  With much huffing and puffing, they brought the massive log into the room and set about lighting the fire.  

“Ya think ya could start that soon?  I’m kinda cold here...”  

Startled, the two men turned to find Johnny stretched out on the couch, a thin blanket covering him.

“Johnny!”  Scott dropped his end of the log, and went to his brother, a smile shone on his face.  “You came back!”

“I said I would,” Johnny smiled at his family and began to stand up.  

“Here let me help you…”  Scott started only to be waved away.

“I can make it,” Johnny murmured, slowly maneuvering himself to a stand just as Teresa and Maria came running into the room.

“Johnny!”  the young woman  threw herself at him, burying her face in his shoulder, crying tears of joy.

“Those for me?”  Johnny asked softly as she cried harder.

“I was so afraid that I had lost you…”

Gently he kissed her head and held her tight.  “Takes more than a fight with my Big Brother to send me packing,” he raised his eyes and met his brother’s.  The sadness was still there, sending Scott a message that just because he had come back didn’t mean that all was right between them.  With a final squeeze he let Teresa go only to be wrapped in the strong arms of his father.  Now it was his turn to try to hold on to the emotions that he had been trying to control.  He let his father hold him longer than he could ever remember – reveling in the rare display of affection.

“It’s good to have you back, Son. Merry Christmas.”  Murdoch whispered before letting Johnny go.

Scott watched as Maria also welcomed back her missing ‘son’.  Words in Spanish were softly exchanged, resulting in Maria fleeing from the room in happy tears.  Finally Johnny turned back to Scott and extended his hand.  “Merry Christmas, Brother.”  He said solemnly.

Scott looked at the offered hand and swallowed hard.  This was not what he wanted – a formal handshake to confirm the distance that he had created between them.  “Johnny, I….”  He took Johnny’s hand and pulled his brother into an embrace, feeling Johnny stiffen as he held him in his arms.  “I’m sorry, Johnny.  I was wrong.  Can you ever forgive me?”  Silence ruled the room and all eyes were on the two young men.

Johnny had spent the last 4 days building walls around his heart to protect himself from his brother. He had sworn that there was no way that he was going to let Scott Lancer get to him again.  Closing his eyes, he remembered the words of advice the Padre had given him.  Johnny relaxed and returned the hug.  “Yeah, Brother.  I forgive you.  But don’t think that I’m going to forget that right hook anytime soon!”  With smiles the brothers separated and shook hands warmly.  “Merry Christmas, Brother.”

The front door opened as Jelly and Sam Jenkins arrived for breakfast.  Jelly had just been telling Sam that his patient had skipped out, again, when he caught sight of Johnny.  “Well, if that don’t beat all!  When did you sneak in here?”  He marched his way to Johnny, an inquisitive smile on his face – checking the boy out for any new signs of injury.  

“I came in with St. Nick,” Johnny said he playfully hugged the older man.  “’Sides, it was getting cold….”

“And just where have you been young man?”  Sam Jenkins demanded - a hint of teasing in his voice.  He too was surveying his patient, noticing how Johnny was now favoring his left side – a remnant of the fight, no doubt.  “I thought that my last instructions were that you were to stay off of horses and get some rest…”

Murdoch stepped up and greeted Sam with a handshake.  “It’s Christmas, Sam, and the boy has just come home…”

“Alright, I’ll ease up on him, but first things first.  You probably need to eat, and then I’ll check you out.”

Without further argument the family sat down to the breakfast that Maria had prepared.  The conversation was light – no one asked Johnny where he had gone, they were all too grateful that he had returned.  After the meal was over, Sam insisted on giving Johnny a thorough examination.  They headed out to the bathhouse so that Johnny could clean up from his days away.  Johnny insisted on bathing alone, taking a long soak in a tub of hot water, before calling Sam back once he was done.

“How do you feel, John?”

Johnny smiled.  “I feel happy, Sam.  It’s good to be back home.”

“You know that you drove them crazy…”

A frown replaced the smile and Johnny dropped his head.  “I know,” he responded softly.  “Couldn’t be helped, I just had ta get some space…”

Sam smiled.  “I understand, and so does your father.”  Sam checked out the leg and was pleased that the infection was all but gone.  Johnny had taken good care of himself, though he was still thinner than the physician preferred.  “Tell me about those ribs.”  Sam poked a tender spot and elicited a gasp from his patient.

“I had an argument with the couch.  The couch won…”

“That’s not what I heard.  You got a bruise on your chin.  Is that from the couch too?”

Johnny touched the painful spot on his jaw.  “Nah, my brother knows how to pack a wallop when he has a mind to.”

“And how do you feel about that?”  Sam had completed his examination and was packing up his instruments while Johnny got dressed.

“I ‘suppose he had his reasons.”

“And that’s alright?”

“No.  It ain’t alright.  I ain’t gonna let him hit me again – not over his grandfather – if that’s what you mean.  He and I have some talkin’ to do, once I’m rested.”  Johnny gave the doctor a mischievous smile.  “I’ll take care of him in my own time.  Right now I’m ready to sit in front of the fire and open some presents.”

Jelly was waiting for them as the two men exited the bath house.  In his hand he held Johnny’s cane.  “I don’t need that…”  Johnny started, but a stern look from Sam quickly reminded him who the boss was.  “Thanks, Jelly,” he mumbled taking the offered stick.

“Y’er welcome,” Jelly smiled, pleased that he could be of assistance.  

“Well?”  Murdoch asked as the trio entered the great room.

“He’s not ready for riding anything but that couch and his bed.”  Sam announced, his voice taking a stern edge.  “It’s a miracle that he didn’t do himself more damage when…”  The doctor stopped, not wanting to bring up a sore subject to his favorite family.

Johnny plopped himself in the corner of the couch and propped his leg up.  It felt good to be home, surrounded by people who cared about him.  As he mused to himself, he felt his eyes become heavy and quickly fell asleep.

Murdoch shook his head, an amused smile on his face.  Teresa brought out a comforter and the older man quietly tucked it around his son, pausing to brush Johnny’s bangs from his face.  “I guess that the presents will have to wait, at least until our sleeping beauty awakens.”  Everyone laughed and left the room – all except Scott.

Scott went to stand in front of the fire and surveyed the sleeping form of his brother.  With Johnny’s return came a sense of completeness and peace that he had missed over the past few days. It was like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders.  The anger that had been directed at him by the rest of his family seemed to vanish.  With a smile he began to understand the depths of what it meant to be part of a family and how when one element is missing – no one is happy.   He also understood the blessing that he had been given - in the form of the sleeping man.  Johnny was God’s special gift to him – a brother.  He would never forget that gift or its meaning - ever again.  He had friends in his life that he once considered to be ‘brothers’, but having a brother by blood made all of the difference.  A silent tear ran down the side of his face as he realized how close he had come to losing that brother and he vowed that he would never let anyone or thing tear them apart again.

As he watched his brother he could see the makings of a nightmare pass across the sleeping man’s features.  Johnny began to tremble and shake, raising his hands defensively.  “Scott….”  Johnny murmured, his head thrashing about.  

“I’m here, Brother.”  Scott sat beside his brother, gently taking Johnny’s trembling body into his arms.  “I’m not going anywhere, and neither are you.”  He whispered calming Johnny until the dream passed.  “I’ve got a lot to make up to you – these nightmares are one of them.  Together we will pull through this.  I’ll never again forget what is real and important in my life.  Merry Christmas, Johnny.”


It was snowing in Massachusetts two days before Christmas.  By the time Christmas morning arrived, two feet of snow had fallen, covering the state in a thick blanket of whiteness.

At the Massachusetts Prison for the Criminally Insane at Ravenswood, an attendant had been bludgeoned, dragged into a cell and disrobed.  A short time later, a man wearing the uniform of an attendant walked out into the frosty freedom of Christmas morning.  It had only taken 5 short weeks for his heart to turn black and for his mind to go completely over the edge.  He had one purpose, one thought in his mind – revenge.

The man slowly made his way to the nearby town, warmed by his thoughts of revenge and how sweet it would be to have his hands around the throat of a certain dark haired young man.  “I shall have my day, Johnny.  You can call yourself Madrid or Lancer.  It won’t matter once you are in the ground and I’m dancing on your grave.”

The End?

Well – this is it – the end.  A special thanks to all of the ladies who have supported me with your encouraging comments and feedback.  Without you I never would have been able to finish this story.  Very special thanks to my EVIL Beta Reader – Linda Rae who would not settle for anything but the best.  Thanks to Lisa for her Medical Advice.  

This was my first attempt at writing and I can’t be more pleased with the response.  Thank you for your warm reception.  Chris.


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