Brothers in Need
This is the sequel to the AR story, "Brothers Apart."
SPIN - Sarah Penelope
Johnny Madrid stood
fidgeting, trying to talk himself into using the impressive knocker that
adorned the massive door of the Harlan Garrett residence. Throughout
the long stage and train trip which had brought him to the city of Boston,
the dark-haired young man had imagined this moment many times, but now that
he was actually in the historic city, his belly had turned cold with fear.
Many a man in the West would have laughed himself sick at the idea that Johnny
Madrid could be scared of anything, but here in the East, he certainly felt
out of his element. That was bad enough in itself since he was a man who
prided himself on always being in control, but unfortunately, in this world,
he could not just walk into a place and command respect because of the speed
of his draw. Still, it was not that which made him hesitate to knock
on the door in front of him--it was the fear of what he might discover inside.
Johnny Madrid had
always known that his true last name was Lancer, but until he had been summoned
to the white Lancer hacienda, he had not known his formidable father.
After helping Murdoch Lancer protect his vast empire against the Pardee gang,
the blue-eyed young man had thought that he had finally found a home and
a family, although certainly a tumultuous one at best. He and his father
had struck sparks off each other from the first so it had been difficult
for both to bank down the potential anger that could have destroyed their
relationship. Admittedly, there were still many questions that Murdoch
Lancer had never answered to the young man's satisfaction, but he had decided
to take it slow and give the older man a chance. Then, Madrid
had inadvertently discovered that he had had a half-brother named Scott.
In his emotionless
monotone, the tall rancher had informed his son that Scott Lancer had lived
his life out in Boston before dying during the War, possibly in an escape
attempt. That no body had ever been discovered had seemingly not concerned
the older man as it had his younger son. Impulsively, Madrid
had insisted that he would travel to Boston to discover the truth about the
brother who he had never even known existed. Typically,
Murdoch had discouraged the trip, citing the illogic of going 3,000 miles
to find a man who had probably died at least five years before.
The terrible injustice of not knowing his brother had led Johnny to make
the trip anyway. He could only hope the truth lay behind the
door in front of him.
Even before the
somber knock of brass against wood had stopped, a uniformed man opened the
door. Eyes of black perused the rather disheveled young man standing
there, hat in hand, but the man was too well trained to ever give a hint
of curiosity about the stranger's business. "Might I help you, Sir?"
"Well, uh, the
name's Johnny Lancer. This is Harlan Garrett's house, isn't it?"
"Yes sir, however,
Mr. Garrett, passed away almost three months ago now."
"Yeah, I, uh, heard
that, but you see I'm tryin' to find out about his grandson, Scott."
the black eyes flickered. "Perhaps you should come in and wait
in the study. I will inquire if Miss Nicholson is available to speak
with you." Johnny followed the rather austere figure into a room,
covered in bookshelves. It had a definite masculine air to it with
a massive desk, in walnut, just like the shelves.
Madrid stood there
twisting at his hat for a moment before he carefully took a seat in one of
the chairs sitting to the side, near an unlit fireplace. He had
only been seated for a few minutes when a tall woman entered. Sarah
Nicholson was lean and what, in a man, would be called sinewy. She
wore her graying hair in a tight bun and eschewed makeup of any type.
When she spoke, her voice was one of authority. "Portman has
informed me that you are here about Scott Lancer."
Johnny, who had
jumped to his feet when the woman had entered, sat down again as she waved
him to his seat. "Yes, M'am. My father, Murdoch Lancer,
informed me that Scott lived here with his grandfather until the War.
He said Mr. Garrett sent him a picture and a letter, saying Scott had been
killed. I. . .I'd like to find out what happened."
slate gray eyes easily perceived the nervousness of her visitor. "Mr.
. .Lancer, perhaps you will indulge me for a moment by telling me why you
are just now inquiring about Scott? As far as I am aware, Murdoch
Lancer did not even respond to the letter which Mr. Garrett sent."
"Yes, M'am, I'm
sure he didn't. You see me and Murdoch just got to know each other
a few months ago. My mother was his second wife and well, they didn't
get along too good either so she took me from the ranch when I was two.
I never knew that I had a brother so when I found out, I decided to come
"You do know Scott's
grandfather died recently, don't you?"
"Murdoch told me
that, but I thought, well, he might have papers or maybe he might have left
stuff with a lawyer or somethin'. I just gotta know for sure about
what happened to my brother."
"Why? You didn't
know he existed for over twenty years."
Sapphire eyes gleamed
with brightness as Johnny stared at the ramrod straight figure, sitting opposite
him. "M'am, I don't mean to be rude, but Murdoch didn't tell me anythin'
about this Garrett havin' a wife or another daughter, so could I ask who
you might be?"
A small flicker
of amusement entered the slate eyes. "Ah, yes, how remiss of me.
My name is Sarah Nicholson. I was in Mr. Garrett's employ for many
years as housekeeper and a nanny for Scott when he was a child."
dropped open slightly. "You knew Scott when he was a boy?"
"Indeed, I did
Mr. Lancer. I came to stay with Scott when he was six months old.
I did not leave until he was in his teens."
sat there almost speechless. At least, this woman could tell him about
the boy his brother had been. "Miss Nicholson, I'd be much appreciative
if you could tell me about Scott. All I know is the little Murdoch
told me and what he looked like from the photograph Mr. Garrett sent to my
SPIN pursed her
rather thin lips together. "Mr. Lancer, I do not wish to seem impolite,
but exactly why are you here?"
"I told you--I
want to know about Scott. If he's truly dead, I'd like to find
his grave and if there's any chance he might be alive somewhere, I thought
maybe Mr. Garrett's papers might help me find him."
"You are aware
that Mr. Garrett was an extremely wealthy man, aren't you?"
"I just wondered
if there might be another reason for your showing up at this time."
"Perhaps, you believe
that somehow you might be able to make a claim on a portion of Mr. Garrett's
estate? After all, Scott was his primary heir."
flushed with anger. "I don't give a damn about the money. If
I cared about that, I'd a stayed at Lancer where I'd a had half of 100,000
"So you don't intend
to go back to Lancer after you leave here?"
SPIN could barely
hear the mumbled answer. "Don't know. Depends on what I find."
"Are you saying
that your father wouldn't welcome you back?"
"He wasn't all
that pleased with me acomin.' Don't believe that he and Garrett got
"That, Young Man,
is an understatement. Harlan Garrett and Murdoch Lancer hated each
other with a passion. They were both pig-headed autocrats who couldn't
conceive that they might be wrong about anything!"
"Sounds like you
know Murdoch, alright!"
"I only saw him
once in my life--when Scott was five. He came to obtain custody of
the boy--or so he said."
"Yeah, he told
me about that. Said Garrett threatened to take him to court."
"I believe that
possibility was mentioned, however, your father backed down."
"He seemed to think
that he didn't have much chance to win against Garrett's money and position."
"Perhaps he was
right, but it certainly gave him a good excuse to run straight back to his
"I don't think
I understand, Miss Nicholson."
woman stood up and walked over to the mantle where there was a small painting.
Taking it down, she handed it to Johnny. "Mr. Lancer, Harlan Garrett
was not a likable man. He could be ruthless in business and was cold
emotionally. I believe he loved only two people in his entire life.
One was his daughter, Catherine. He had that made just before she.
. .took up with Murdoch Lancer."
Johnny looked at
the small art piece carefully. "She and Scott must have looked a lot
"I think it was very hard, at first, for Mr. Garrett to look at his grandson
without. . .without remembering how Catherine died. But as the
boy grew, I think he realized that though there was a resemblance, they were
not alike in character. You see, Catherine had always been in fragile
health. Her own mother died not many years after Catherine was born
so the young girl became the center of Harlan Garrett's world."
"So when Murdoch
came along, naturally he wasn't too popular with Garrett?"
"Indeed, but it
wasn't only for that reason. As I said, Mr. Garrett was ruthless in
business, but his sole weakness was Catherine. She was the only one
who could manipulate him so he reluctantly, very reluctantly, agreed to the
marriage, but he wanted the couple to stay closer to Boston.
Your father refused. He was determined to make a life in California."
"Lots of people
do. Land's good out there."
"Mr. Lancer, I mean no disrespect to the people of California. I have
visited there several times and love the western way of living, but as I
said Catherine was not as aware of how primitive the life could be.
She had stars in her eyes, as many women in love, do. She did not anticipate
the harshness or loneliness of living there. Eventually, she even came
to regret living so far from all that was familiar to her. However,
I assume everything might still have turned out well if she had not realized
that she was carrying Murdoch Lancer's child." Johnny handed the miniature
painting back to the woman. She gazed at it for a minute before continuing.
"She had a difficult time of it right from the beginning. I'm
sure your father must have found it toilsome to deal with a terrified woman
who alternately rejoiced in the idea of producing an heir to Lancer and sobbed
with fear that her body could not withstand the ravages childbirth would
put upon it."
to protest when SPIN interrupted, "Lest you think that this is the fancy
of a spinster, I must tell you that when I was taking care of some of Mr.
Garrett's personal effects, I found some letters from Catherine to her father,
detailing her fears. She said that her husband was gone a good deal
of the time and many of the ranch hands did not like her because she was
different She probably felt that she was alone."
I don't know all the circumstances about how Scott's mother died, but I gotta
believe that Murdoch loved her and wanted a son."
"I'm sure that
you are right, but unhappily all of Catherine's fears came true. All
I know for certain is that Mr. Garrett tried to meet his daughter so that
she would receive proper medical help, but arrived too late. He then
took Scott with him since Murdoch Lancer was not around and the baby was
all that he had left of his beloved daughter. And, Mr. Garrett could
hardly leave his grandson in the hands of a midwife. When I questioned
him later about why he had not stayed to see Catherine put in a proper grave,
he only said that the pain of her death had nearly driven him insane.
Scott's welfare then became his primary concern."
"Uh, well, I'm
not saying he was alyin' but Murdoch doesn't tell it quite the same way."
"I'm sure he doesn't.
As I said, I believe both men were at fault. They were not able to
put aside their differences for Scott's benefit. Scott was robbed
of so much as a boy, and later as a young man. I tried to do
what I could, but no one or nothing could ever replace what he lost."
"I can sure understand
Knowing gray eyes
turned to the young man. "Perhaps, you do since your mother took you
away when you were two. I wish you could have known Scott and he could
have known you. He was a lonely little boy and wanted a brother so
much that he created one in his imagination."
clenched at the thought of his brother's pain. Both Lancer sons had
lost so much by their separation. The blue-eyed gunfighter
started to ask another question, but then hesitated.
'"Did you want
to ask me something, Young Man?"
"Well, it's obvious
that you loved Scott a great deal. Why did you leave him?"
"He had grown into
a fine young man, and I thought it was time for me to move on. Then
the War came and I volunteered to do nursing in the Union Army. I was
very fortunate that Mr. Garrett continued to send me news about Scott after
he joined the cavalry. As you can imagine, that decision angered Mr.
Garrett, but the boy was as stubborn as his mother had been twenty years
before. When Mr. Garrett discovered that his Scotty had disappeared
after the Battle of the Wilderness, he did all that he could to find out
his fate. He even contacted Secretary Stanton and General Grant.
Eventually, he received a letter from the Department of War stating that
it was believed that my boy had died during an escape attempt from Libby
"But they didn't
find a body, did they?"
"No and that's
what kept Mr. Garrett going. He hired detectives, he harassed anyone
who might know what had happened in that prison. Years passed
and finally he sent the photograph and letter to your father. His grief
overwhelmed even his hatred."
sat there quietly, her eyes brimming with tears which she did not allow to
"I'm. . .I'm sorry
to make you remember that."
"Oh, Mr. Lancer,
it never truly goes away or at least it didn't until a few months ago."
"I don't understand."
"The widow of a
Confederate soldier sent Harlan Garrett a letter. Using the information
she furnished, Mr. Garrett found Scott--alive."
Johnny felt like
he had been struck by the blast of a shotgun as he tried to take in what
Sarah Nicholson had just said. "Alive?" he gasped.
"He's in his room
"And you kept me
down here? I want to see him," shouted the young man as he jumped to
"Relax, Mr. Lancer.
Believe me, he is not going anywhere and I wanted you to know something about
the man up there."
"All right, I know
about him. Let's go!"
"Are you always
this impatient? If so, I don't believe it would be a good idea for
you to see him."
began to simmer in his voice and heart.
"Mr. Lancer, please
return to your chair. There is something I need to tell you."
With ill grace,
the gunfighter did as he was asked.
"The reason Scott
did not return to Boston after Appomattox was because he had been severely
wounded during the escape attempt. I do not know all the details, but
he was evacuated when Richmond fell and as a result, no one knew of his whereabouts."
"But why. . . .?"
"A Rebel bullet
struck him in the head. As a result, he still has no apparent memory
of who he is. Also, he does not talk. The doctors are not sure
why since his vocal cords weren't damaged. Sometimes, he does appear
to be aware that I am in the room, but he has never said a word to me.
Most of the time he is content to sit in a chair. I have tried to encourage
him to go on walks with me, hoping that something will get through his solitude.
So far I have been unsuccessful."
The anguish of
those simple words touched Johnny's heart. "I would still like
to see him."
this point, I must admit that I am hoping for a miracle. Mr. Garrett
was sure that his Scotty was still inside that damaged mind, just needing
something or someone to release him from his prison. Unfortunately,
he died before he could see it happen. I can only hope you are that
Walking out the
study door, Sara Nicholson moved up the broad staircase with Johnny at her
side. Stopping in front of a door, she opened it and entered.
In the corner by the fireplace sat a solitary figure with long ash-blond
hair. The young man did not acknowledge the presence of the two visitors
so SPIN walked over to his side. With a gentle hand she pushed a lock of
blond hair from over the temple where a large healed-over gash was to be
seen. Then she motioned for Johnny to join them. With a
hint of hope in her voice, Sarah introduced the two siblings.
"Scott, this is your brother, Johnny. He's come to help."
Sarah sat on Scott's
bed, watching Johnny with his brother. At first, she had been wary
of trusting her boy with the other young man, but eventually she had realized
that this stranger from the West did indeed care about his injured sibling.
Of course, there was no telling if his interest would last more than a day
or so. She had been at this for months and knew that it might
be years, if ever, before there would be any improvement in the blond's condition.
Somehow, Sarah could not see the impatient young man being willing to stay
in Boston for years.
"Mr. Lancer, you
must be hungry. Would you mind staying with Scott while I go down and
prepare some lunch for the three of us?"
"I'd be happy to,
Miss Nicholson, but you don't have to do anything special for me. I'm
used to bacon and beans."
Nicholson merely replied, "I understand. While I was working for the
army, there were times when I was grateful for some bacon and hardtack.
Fortunately, we won't have to have that today. When it's ready Portman
will come to get you and Scott."
am a might hungry. I came here straight from the train station."
"It should be only
a few minutes."
"Uh, Miss Nicholson,
before you go--is it all right if I use some of those toy soldiers over there?"
Sarah glanced over
to the table near the window. Scott Lancer had loved playing with miniature
soldiers as a child. He had kept those brightly-painted figures even
when he had grown up. In fact, this room was a reflection of the blond's
filled with those books he had read as a boy as well as those he had used
at Harvard. On other shelves were awards earned at school and
a photograph of Harlan Garrett. Over the fireplace was a large painting
of Catherine Lancer as she must have looked on her wedding day.
SPIN glanced over
to the small soldiers. "Of course, feel free to use them if you wish.
They represent Wellington's men at Waterloo. In fact, Scott had many
soldiers. I believe most of them are packed away in the attic.
I suppose knowing his interest in such things, it isn't surprising that he
went away to war, is it?"
Johnny shook his
head. "I guess you gotta point. I was always around guns
as a kid so maybe that's why I became so good at using one."
"I did notice that
you carry one on your hip."
"Would you like
it better if I didn't?"
"Mr. Lancer, I
want you to be comfortable here. Do you. . .do you plan to stay
"Well M'am, I sure
want to. I wasn't figurin' on findin' Scott this way so I guess I didn't
make too many plans."
"Mr. Lancer, you
are more than welcome to stay for as long as you like. Perhaps together we
can help Scott reclaim his life."
"I hope so, Miss
Nicholson. I've done some things in my life that I'm not real proud
of, so maybe helping Scott would balance things out kinda. . . .Uh,
since it looks like I'll be here awhile, would you want to call me Johnny?
Every time you say Mr. Lancer, I look around for Murdoch."
"Of course, Johnny.
Since we're going to be comrades-in-arms in this battle, I'd like for you
to call me Sarah," she announced with a smile. Walking over to the
blond, she leaned down to give him a hug and said, "I'm going to make us
some lunch, Scott dear. Johnny will stay here with you."
If Johnny had ever
believed that this woman was an austere martinet, the smile and devotion
that she had shown to Scott would have dispelled that notion forever.
As soon as SPIN
left the room, Johnny rushed over to the table where the miniature soldiers
stood. Grabbing up several handfuls, he returned to a spot near where
Scott was sitting and began to set up them up in order. The only
problem was that many of the soldiers were not dressed in the same uniform
so he wasn't sure if they were all from the same army. Muttering to
himself about the fact that, while many of the figures were in red, Johnny
noticed that some wore uniforms in green or black. There were even some which
seemed to be wearing skirts! Johnny wasn't sure who this Wellington
was, but he couldn't believe that a general would allow women to fight in
his army! Of course, he had heard rumors that some women had
fought along side men during the War Between the States, but maybe those
were just falsehoods. It was too bad that he couldn't ask Scott, who
As soon as he had
the miniatures arranged to his satisfaction, he took Scott by the hand and
pulled him down to the floor to sit opposite the soldiers. His brother
willingly sat on the floor, but made no move towards his military toys.
"Scott, I sure wish you could tell me about these men. They look real
brave just standin' there. Oh, wait a minute. I forgot the ones
on their horses."
Jumping up, Johnny
went over to the table to sweep up the magnificent men on their gray chargers
so that they could rejoin their fellows "How about that now,
Scott? I wouldn't mind havin' a horse like that. Murdoch let
me use a palomino while I was stayin' with him. He didn't have a name
until I broke him. I called him Barranca. Wonder if someone else is
ridin' him now? S'pose so. Everybody's gotta earn their keep
on a ranch like Lancer. I told Murdoch that if I found you, I'd
ask if you wanted to visit there. I sure wish you could tell me what
yer a thinkin'." Picking up one of the horses, Johnny slipped
it into Scott's slim hand. For an instant, the dark-haired man thought
he saw a flicker in the unexpressive face, but then it was gone--if it had
ever truly been there. "Yeah, I sure wish you'd talk to me."
continued until Portman knocked at the door to inform the two men that lunch
was ready so the younger Lancer helped the older man to his feet and they
went down to lunch. The gunfighter was rather surprised to find
that the table had been set in the kitchen since he had seen a massive dining
room when he had first entered the house. "I hope you don't
mind, Johnny, but Scott and I usually sit in here for mealtimes. I don't
use most of the rooms in the house since there are so few of us."
"No problem, Sarah.
It's the food that's important."
"I'm sure you're
right. I remember how much Scott used to eat when he came home from
school. I made many different treats for him, but he stayed too skinny."
"Looks like he's
the same way now."
"Yes, that's been
one of the most difficult things--getting him to eat. Usually, I get
him started and then he will continue, but when the poor boy first came home,
I had to feed him."
"You must have
been scared you were gonna lose him."
"I'm not ashamed
to admit that I was terrified. At night, I would sit in his room as
if my presence would keep him breathing for one more day. I truly don't
know how he survived those years after the War. Someone must have taken
care of him, but Mr. Garrett was not able to find out many details.
He was just so grateful to have his Scotty back."
"You called him
that before. Was that your name for him as a boy?"
"No, only Mr. Garrett
called him by that name and did up until the day he died. I know that
it did irritate Scott somewhat after a certain age, but he never said anything.
It was a special name and I think he relished that bond with his grandfather.
Just as I enjoyed the fact that he called me SPIN."
hesitated for a moment. Scott had stopped in the middle of eating his
soup so she gave him a gentle prodding. The blond again raised the
soup spoon to his lips.
"I try to give
him light but nourishing meals to build up his strength. I've also
prepared some sandwiches for you since I'm sure you use up a great deal more
"You're right there,
Sarah. At the ranch, I worked from sunup to sundown, but Teresa always
made sure I had some food to take with me when I was out working the range."
I don't believe I know who she is."
ward. Her pa was his foreman and died in an ambush."
"I'm sorry to hear
that. She has no mother either?"
"No, but she's
not one of them poor orphans you hear about. She's as feisty as they
come. She's put me in my place more'n once!"
A delicious chuckle
emerged from Sarah's lips. "Good. I like to hear about women
who are not afraid to stand up for themselves. I've been that
way all of my life and I have no intention of changing now at my age."
"I kinda figured
you were the out-spoken type after your questions about my intentions with
"I hope you didn't
take offense, Johnny. Mr. Garrett left Scott a great deal of money
as well as certain properties. There is a lawyer who takes care of
business, but I am in charge of Scott. Mr. Garrett wanted to make sure
that his grandson would always have someone to care for him, whether he recovers
Sapphire eyes looked
gravely into those of slate. "Sarah, do you really believe there's
a chance Scott will get better?"
you not sure that you want to stay? I could understand your desire
to return to California. You are a young man, you must want to be with
"Truth to tell,
I don't have many friends. A gunfighter don't make all that many.
The only people I care about are at Lancer and sittin' here at this table."
"Johnny, if you
don't mind my asking, why did you become a gunfighter?"
"I was good with
a gun, plain and simple. After my mother passed on, it was a way to
"So you chose to
"More or less.
Trouble is once you've shot a man, even if he's tryin' to kill you, it becomes
easier the next time."
I took care of soldiers that said the same. Young boys who had never
killed more than a chicken for Sunday dinner were asked to kill and kill
again. At first, many of them would vomit after seeing that first man
fall, but not for long. Killing is addictive, just like that dreadful
opium that Chinese men sometimes use."
"That's why I wanted
to stay at Lancer. I figured maybe I could find a better way than waiting
for the day that some feller would outdraw me."
"Johnny, you do
not have to stay in Boston. If you want to return to Lancer, I will
"Mebbe you would,
but I couldn't. Murdoch mighta left his son here, but I'm sure not
gonna leave here without my brother."
Sarah's face paled
slightly. "Johnny, you do understand that even if Scott recovers, he
might not want to. . .visit his father."
he's been through, I s'pect you might be right, but I'm still not leavin'
unless Scott tells me he doesn't want me here."
"I believe that
Scott has finished eating now. Usually, I take him out for a short
walk in the garden and then he comes in for a rest. Would you like
to join us?"
I saw some flowers out the window of Scott's room. Looks nice out there.
I didn't realize that Boston had gardens 'n all. It's a lot greener
than most of the Southwest."
"Yes, it is.
Now, that you're here maybe we'll use a buggy so that you can see some of
the city. I think Scott would enjoy getting out more as well.
He was always an active young man--especially with the young ladies."
"Whooee, are you
telling me that my brother had lots of girlfriends?"
"Several of them,
but no one really special."
I mean, I like lots of girls. I don't think I wanna get hogtied until
I'm old. Too many things can go wrong."
"Very true, now
shall we go? I'll take care of the dishes while Scott is resting."
For the next half-hour
the three inhabitants of the Garrett mansion strolled through the pleasant
garden. Johnny was impressed with Sarah's knowledge of the various
plants and flowers which were planted there. "I enjoy working in the
garden when I have time, but it has been difficult because of Scott's condition."
"Well, now I can
help keep an eye on him so you can get out here more."
"I would appreciate
that. It does get lonely sometimes. Only the doctor or sometimes
Mr. Garrett's lawyer ever visits."
"What about Portman?"
"He is an excellent
butler and served Mr. Garrett for many years, but he is inclined to keep
to himself. He is devoted to Scott, however, so perhaps you might urge
him to tell you some stories about Scott after I left Mr. Garrett's employment."
"I just might do
that--although he kinda reminds me of a rattler just before he strikes."
After urging Johnny
to make free use of the house, Sarah made sure that Scott lay down on his
bed while she read to him. That had always been one of their favorite
shared activities when the boy had been small so she had selected books which
downstairs to look around a bit. Most of the rooms were obviously not
in use since the furniture was in dust covers. Everything spoke of
wealth to Johnny's inexperienced eye. He wondered what it must have
been like for Scott, growing up in such a home. Again, he couldn't
help but feel that his father had done a disservice to both of his sons,
but it was the future which now concerned the young man. He could not
change the past, but he was determined to make a future for both brothers.
That night after
dinner, Johnny walked out into the garden. The night time sky looked
so different here. Most of the stars weren't even visible. Shivering
in the cool air, Johnny decided to go to his room which was on one side of
Scott's while Sarah's was on the other. It had been a long day
and he was tired. Just riding the train was exhausting, however, he
couldn't help but be thankful that he had come. He had found his brother.
Just down the hall,
Sarah Nicholson, hair in a long braid and wearing a sensible nightgown, checked
on Scott one more time before retiring herself. The dear boy
was sound asleep, seemingly without a care in the world.
Lying down in her
rather narrow bed, Sarah thought about all the day had brought to the household--an
unexpected stranger who might make the difference to Scott's recovery,
and yet who wanted to take Scott away from Boston, away from Sarah.
**Oh, Constance, what will I do if
Scott wants to
Nicholson's mind was troubled, she still tended to turn to her own imaginary,
sister, Constance, who dispensed sage advice and comfort. The gray-haired
woman had never felt more need for her sister than at that moment. As always,
Constance did not let her down.
By the time Johnny
awoke the next morning, Sarah already had Scott up and dressed. Greeting
the dark-haired Lancer with a friendly smile, she invited him to once again
stay with his brother while she prepared breakfast, which turned out to be
Sarah almost laughed
at the look on the young man's face when he saw the bowl of steaming cereal,
but after she offered him some honey and cream to stir in, he decided to
give it a try. To his surprise it was actually good. In two minutes
flat the bowl was empty. "It would seem that you enjoyed your porridge?"
Don't think I've ever had anything like it."
"Scott and I have
it nearly every morning, however, I have also prepared some bacon and eggs
for you since I'm not sure one bowl of porridge will be enough ."
Tucking into the
dish, Johnny washed it down with two cups of coffee. "Well, after a
meal like that, I guess I'm ready for anything."
Why don't you take Scott out in the garden for a walk while I do some baking?
Usually, I don't bother, but I'm sure a young man such as yourself likes
cakes and pies. I know Scott always enjoyed my cherry pie."
Sapphire eyes darkened.
"Sarah, I don't want you to go to any special trouble, just for me."
"Johnny, I think
we need to get some things settled if you're going to stay here. First
of all, my number one concern is Scott, however, I would like to make sure
that you are comfortable being here. If you truly intend to stay for
some time, you are going to find that our daily routine is much the same
from day to day. Besides, I have missed doing things like gardening
and baking so this is my chance. Do you understand?"
"I'll help in anyway I can Oh and if you need a suggestion about what to
bake, I'm kinda partial to chocolate cake."
"I'll have to see
if I have the ingredients for one, but it looks to be a beautiful day so
why don't you take Scott out? The doctor is supposed to be calling
in later this morning."
"Good. I'd like to talk to him if you don't mind? Maybe he can
tell me somethin' I could be doin'."
"Johnny, I'm afraid
that Dr. Jackson will not be very helpful. I believe he has decided
that there is no hope for Scott."
"Why don't you
get someone else then? If it's the money. . . ."
Sarah flushed with
annoyance. "Johnny, I would spend any amount of money if it would help
Scott. Mr. Garrett took Scott to the best doctors in Boston after he
returned home. None of them gave us much hope. Scott has become
used to Dr. Jackson so I continue to use his services."
guess I got no business comin' in here and tryin' to tell you what to do."
SPIN's face softened.
"I know you want the best for Scott, just as I do. Don't be afraid
to make suggestions. I'm willing to try anything."
"Yes, M'am, anybody
who knows Johnny Madrid, knows he's not afraida speakin' up."
This time Sarah
did laugh. "Johnny, I think this partnership is going to work out quite
well. Now, I'm going to see if I can make a chocolate cake that
will meet with your approval. It has been awhile since I've made one."
you make it 'n I'll eat it!"
"That's good to
hear. I'll let you know when the doctor arrives so you can bring Scott
in. Generally, he just gives him a cursory exam so I don't expect Dr. Jackson
to stay long."
The physician arrived
precisely thirty-five minutes later to find Sarah Nicholson in the kitchen
with a smudge of chocolate on her nose. Startled, he could not even
inquire about his patient for a moment until the woman volunteered that Scott
was out in the garden with his
That announcement almost knocked the slight man off his
"Yes, his name
is Johnny Lancer. He's come from California to help me with Scott."
"But Miss Nicholson,
I knew Mr. Garrett for many years. He never mentioned another grandson."
"Johnny is Scott's
"I see. At
least, I think I see. Miss Nicholson, I do hope you took the precaution
of checking out this man's story."
"Dr. Jackson, I
am satisfied that Johnny is here to help Scott and not for any nefarious
purpose so will you please go up to Scott's room and I'll see that he comes
A sour look crossed
the nondescript face, but the physician complied. He was always well
paid for these house calls and had no desire to lose such lucrative business.
later when the doctor left, without even partaking in his customary cup of
tea, it was apparent that Dr. Jackson was not at all pleased about the turn
of events. First of all, Johnny had stayed in the room during the exam,
keeping a careful eye on all that the man did. Then, when the gunfighter
mentioned to him about the possible reaction that Scott had shown to the
horseman, Jackson had pooh-poohed the whole idea, suggesting it was probably
a muscle spasm. Johnny had gritted his teeth and said nothing
more; but as soon as the medical man had left, he filled Sarah's ears with
"Johnny, I do realize
that Dr. Jackson is not a very sympathetic man, but he is well-qualified.
When Scott first returned to Boston, he had to be sedated every time a doctor
wanted to exam him. It was. . .horrifying when he screamed but no sound
came out. Mr. Garrett and I believed that the doctors, who first took
care of him, were little more than butchers. It has taken months for
him to allow Dr. Jackson to touch him so you can see why I'm reluctant to
bring anyone new in."
"Yeah, he's been
through enough pain. At least, the man doesn't have to come around
Now, I must go check on my cake. Perhaps, this afternoon we can take
a buggy ride over to see Boston Common."
"It's like a park
in the middle of the city."
I'm goin' back up to see Scott. He likes to play with them soldiers."
Gray eyes twinkled.
**He does or you do, Johnny?**
the trip that day was cancelled due to a rain shower, but in the days that
followed the trio made the excursion several
fact, in the next weeks Johnny and Sarah made every attempt to see that Scott
was able to be out and about in his hometown. While there was no visible
sign that the blond recognized any of the sights, he did seem to acquire
more endurance and did not tire as easily. Also, there was the added
benefit of an increased appetite for the young man.
Sarah, too, benefited
from being able to get out of the house more. Between the two of them,
Johnny and Sarah divided up Scott's care so that each would have time to
themselves. Of course, Sarah soon discovered that Johnny
frequently gravitated to Scott's room even when he was supposed to be free,
but she certainly did not discourage that since it was evident that Johnny
needed to be with his brother.
Then one memorable
day she had an inspiration. Climbing up into the attic, she hunted
down the rest of Scott's toy soldiers which had been carefully packed away.
With Portman's help, she carried them down to the unused dining room and
placed them on the massive dining room table. Then she requested that
the butler ask Johnny to bring Scott downstairs.
When the two brothers
entered, it was the sapphire eyes of Johnny Madrid that lit up with joy at
the sight of all the different soldiers. Picking one up with great
care, Johnny turned to Sarah to remark, "He looks a lot like one of the red
"He's a part of
the 93rd--the 'Thin Red Line'--at the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean
War. As I said, Scott collected different soldiers from many
countries. His grandfather ordered most of them from England."
"Can I. . .can
I take 'em out of their boxes?"
I brought them down here so that you and Scott could play with them."
Her lips twitched, but she made no further remark.
I know Scott will enjoy himself. Say, who's this guy? He looks
like he has glasses on."
That is Marshal Davout, the best of Napoleon's marshals. He had very
poor eyesight and had to wear glasses even on the field of battle.
He was always one of Scott's favorites."
"Say, you know
as much as about these guys as Scott does, I'll bet."
"We spent many
happy hours playing with these soldiers. I'm glad he kept them so that
now you two can enjoy them together."
Sarah. I sure wish I'd a had a nanny like you. My mother was
always workin' so we didn't have much chance to do anythin' like that."
"Believe me, Johnny,
I was the fortunate one. Now, I am going to go work on dinner.
I do hope you like fried oysters?"
You mean them things that come out of shells?"
Haven't you ever had one?"
"Saw one once. It was kinda slimy"
"Raw ones can be,
but I think you will like these."
SPIN was proven
to be correct when Johnny ate nearly a whole pan full. Scott managed
to eat only one, which saddened the older woman, since at one time, he too
would have eaten a whole pan full.
As the weeks passed,
Sarah began to cook more and varied things, including fish and vegetables.
She delighted in introducing the young man to food items that he had never
tasted before. To his credit, he discovered that most of the dishes were
Then, one night
Johnny surprised his friend by insisting that he would prepare dinner that
evening. Solemnly, she agreed since it was transparent that Johnny
wanted to surprise her. The tamales that he served were quite good, if a
bit spicy, for her tastes, but she took care to praise them and encouraged
him to take over in the kitchen any time he chose.
By the end of two
months Sarah and Johnny had developed a definite rapport. Both were
ardently committed to helping Scott reclaim his life, but there was also
a genuine friendship between the two of them.
The only gray cloud,
besides Scott's continued unresponsiveness, was the fortnightly visit by
Dr. Jackson. During his last visit, he had even hinted that it was
unseemly for an unmarried woman to be living in the same house with a young
man, such as Johnny Madrid. Sarah Nicholson had not hesitated to put
the squeaky man in his place, informing him that she doubted whether a man
in his twenties would think of courting a sixty-year-old woman! Embarrassed
by her lack of delicacy in even discussing sex in a roundabout way, the doctor
had walked out of the house, slamming the door behind him.
Hearing the door
slam, Johnny emerged from the dining room. When she imparted the gist
of the doctor's warning, Johnny politely inquired if she wanted him to make
an honest woman out of her. In return, she thanked him for that honor,
but reassured him that she had no intention of hogtying him--as he had so
succinctly referred to it. Once again, laughter filled the Garrett
A week later, a
telegram from Murdoch Lancer arrived for Johnny. After taking it into
the dining room where both brothers were sitting, she watched the dark-haired
man's face, which had turned from a smile to a frown. "I hope it isn't
bad news, Johnny."
"Uh, well, I, uh
mighta made a mistake. You see, not long after I got here, I wrote
a letter to Murdoch telling him about Scott bein' alive. This
here telegram says he wants me to take Scott to California. He thinks
Scott should be with his family."
"I see, and I am
certainly not family."
"He don't mean
anythin' by it. That's just him."
"Yes, he's such
a devoted family man," she murmured.
"Uh, yeah, well.
. . ."
"So what do you
intend to do?"
Stunned by her
question, Johnny's head dropped to his chest. "Scott's in no condition
to make that long trip, even if I wanted to take him to Lancer. 'Sides,
you're as much his family as I am. You sure love him more 'n anybody
"Thank you, but.
. .what are you going to tell your father?'
Scott is in no shape to ride on a train for 3,000 miles. If he wants
to see him bad enough, he can come here. He can, can't he?"
I have no desire to keep them from seeing each other."
"Okay, I'll go
send him a wire. Back in awhile.
think I'll see that Scott takes a rest. We can finish OLIVER TWIST
Dinner that night
was somewhat subdued. Johnny could see that Sarah was still disturbed
by the telegram from California, but she made a valiant effort to shake off
her misgivings. It wasn't until she slumped into her own bed
that she allowed tears to fall and to once again seek comfort from Constance.
Johnny still took
his brother out into the garden every day, but since it was now well into
autumn, many of the plants no longer bloomed. Johnny had marveled at
the changing colors of the trees for weeks, picking up some of the fallen
leaves to examine carefully. That night he had confessed to Sarah that he
was beginning to like Boston, despite the prejudice he had had against it
in the beginning. In a confiding whisper, he suggested that maybe he
and Scott could do some traveling together--when Scott recovered--because
truthfully he hadn't seen a whole lot of the country.
SPIN quickly agreed
that there was much merit to that idea. She did not want to squelch
Johnny's hopes about Scott's recovery.
Now that Johnny
felt confident about managing Scott on his own, Sarah had taken to going
out shopping more. One day, she announced that she intended to purchase
some knitting wool so that she could make scarves, gloves and socks for both
Scott and Johnny. Boston winters could be quite severe and she did
not want the two young men to be caught unprepared. In addition, she
was going to take tea at the home of a former Garrett employee. The
girl had served as a maid for Harlan Garrett before making a somewhat advantageous
marriage to a merchant. Fortunately, she was now able to
take advantage of the invitation.
shooed his friend out the door. He intended to take Scott down to the
stables so that his brother could pet some of the animals. He had done
this once before and it had brought an almost glow to the cerulean eyes.
they had been at the stables for only a few minutes, when it began to rain.
Deciding it would be better to return to the warmth of the house, Johnny
carefully shepherded his brother up the slippery walk and in the side door.
Just as they entered, a loud clap of thunder pealed out.
Both men jumped
in surprise, but Scott's body started to tremble. Thinking that he
might be cold from the damp, Johnny led him upstairs to change his clothes
when another thunderclap shook the whole house.
A silent scream
burst forth from Scott's pale lips. Clutching at his head, he tried
to hide in the corner of his room. Not quite sure what to do,
Johnny reached out to try to calm the frightened man. Scott ruthlessly pushed
him away, lost in his dark fears.
Deciding to just
let the other man sit in the corner until the storm stopped, Johnny sat down
to wait, even as the storm darkened the late afternoon sky. In fact,
it became so dark that Johnny lit one of the lamps on the wall. An
unnatural glow filled the room, but he did not want Scott to sit in a totally
dark room when he was so afraid.
Johnny wasn't sure
how long he and his brother had sat there when his gunfighter's keen hearing
picked up the sound of someone coming up the steps. Perhaps, it was
only Portman, but Madrid had not survived this long by taking chances.
Pulling his gun from its holster he moved forward to open the door--and found
Sarah standing in the door way, soaking wet. For an instant, only an
instant, the gun pointed at Sarah Nicholson's heart. Then Johnny heard
an unknown voice wail, "SPIN!" and he was tackled by a whirlwind of arms
and legs. Stunned by the ferocity of the attack, he did not at first
realize that it was Scott who was hanging on to his body. Reacting
instinctively, he grabbed the slender arms and pinned the man to the floor.
Breathing heavily, he gazed down into the blue eyes in the extremely pale
face beneath him. For the first time, he saw a flicker of cognition
there. The two stayed that way for a long heartbeat until Sarah
pleaded with Johnny to let Scott go. Cautiously getting o his feet,
Johnny watched as SPIN knelt beside the blond, checking to make sure that
her boy wasn't injured.
When he saw tears
streaming down her lined cheeks, a cold fear squeezed is heart. "Did
I . . .did I hurt him? I didn't mean to. I. . . "
The red-lined gray
eyes turned to the dark-haired boy. "I don't think he's hurt."
"But why are you
"Johnny, he thought
you were going to hurt me. He called out my name!"
Johnny Madrid Lancer
stood there, unbelieving. "That was him?"
"I was beginning
to think I'd never hear his voice again."
"What do you think
we should do now?"
"Well, I don't
know about you or Scott, but I intend to down to the study and find Mr. Garrett's
best brandy and have a glass!"
"Sounds like a
"All right, then
let's get Scott onto his bed. He looks exhausted and I think we'll
let him sleep. You stay here and I'll bring up the decanter and two
Ten minutes later
Johnny and Sarah were sipping their brandy while Scott Lancer peacefully
slept. "Sarah, what do you think is going to happen when he wakes
"I wish I knew.
There might be no difference at all, but now we can truly hope."
With that, Johnny
clinked his glass against that of Sarah's in a toast, "To Scott's return."
Lancer looked particularly
beautiful the day that Johnny Madrid returned after nearly ten months in
Boston. An intensely blue sky, punctuated by an occasional misty
white cloud hanging over the mountains, held more than the promise of spring.
Leaving behind the New England city, still mired in the snows of winter,
Johnny began to breathe easier as he passed through fields, into prairies
and plains, and finally through the high mountains which signaled the nearness
of the ranch, he had once called home.
The youngest Lancer
had wired that he would be returning but due to the vagaries of travel in
the 1870s, he had not been able to give his father an exact date for his
arrival, however, he had assured the older man that he would be able to find
his way to the ranch. He hoped that by this time, Murdoch Lancer would
have forgiven Johnny's earlier refusal to risk Scott's well-being in attempting
such an arduous trip. Since he had not heard from the rancher in nearly
six months, he recognized that there were no guarantees that this was so.
Driving under the
great gate, the dark-haired Lancer stopped for a moment as he turned to look
at the two people in the carriage behind him. "Well, here we are.
This is Lancer. It stretches from here all the way to those mountains
"It is quite magnificent,
Johnny. I can understand why you wanted to return," replied Sarah Nicholson.
The young blond
man at her side looked around, but said nothing as she took his left hand
firmly in her own.
Pulling the rig
up to the front of the hacienda, Johnny started to unload the few pieces
of luggage that they had brought with them. Then he helped Sarah and
his brother down from the carriage. In the six months since Scott
had said his first word, the young man had progressed dramatically, due to
the Sarah's unfailing devotion and encouragement.
Still, there was
much to be done since stress or fatigue caused the middle Lancer to revert
to his silence because he tended to lose words which led to much frustration.
On the other hand, Scott's awareness of the world around him remained firmly
in place. Whatever had caused him to seek sanctuary in his own mind,
had been thrust away at the sight of SPIN in imminent danger.
As a result, it
had taken some weeks before the injured man could truly understand why this
stranger, who had announced that he was Scott's brother, could be trusted.
It had been a difficult time for Johnny because the blond had not wanted
to have anything to do with him, preferring to be with SPIN, who had his
At one point, Johnny
had considered leaving the Garrett house so that his brother would feel more
comfortable, but then fate had stepped in the form of a mare at the stable
which encountered problems with the birth of her foal. Scott frequently
spent part of his day at the stable so when the mare had shown signs of distress,
he had returned to the house and in halting words had asked SPIN for help.
Instinctively, she had asked Johnny to be the one who would answer Scott's
plea. The two brothers had worked together unceasingly so the two horses
were saved. From that moment, an unbreakable bond had grown between
the former strangers.
In the weeks that
followed both Sarah and Johnny delayed telling Scott about Lancer and his
father since the young man's emotional equilibrium was still quite tenuous.
He had broken down in tearful sobs when Sarah had reluctantly answered his
question about the whereabouts of his grandfather. His last clear memory
of Harlan Garrett was the day that the 83rd had proudly ridden out to war.
Finding out that he had lost nearly five years of his life had been devastating.
For a time, both of his devoted companions feared another withdrawal from
reality, but Scott Lancer had only bent, not broken at the news. Calling
on the reserves that had allowed him to survive his wound and the horror
that followed, Scott continued his valiant struggle to reclaim his life with
the help of the two people who cared most about him.
Finally, the day
arrived when Johnny felt that Scott was capable of making the decision of
whether he wished to visit Lancer or not. Sarah had left it to Johnny
to talk to her boy since she could not trust herself to be unemotional about
the idea of his leaving Boston. To his surprise, Scott had readily agreed
to the idea of going west so plans were made and had now come to fruition.
Scott Lancer would finally confront his father and his heritage.
Entering the great
room, Johnny, Scott and Sarah found the gray-haired Lancer sitting at his
desk, working on the ranch books. For an instant, the tall rancher
only stared speechless at the blond man he had only seen as a boy.
Standing up, he walked over to face his unknown son "You do look like your
mother. I'm glad that Johnny brought you home."
"Uh, Murdoch, this
is Sarah Nicholson, she's a good friend of Scott."
"Please to meet
you, Miss Nicholson. Welcome to Lancer."
"Thank you, Mr.
Lancer. Would it possible for Scott to rest for awhile? He is
Taking in the dark
shadows on the thin face, Murdoch assented. "Of course, I'm sure Teresa
has the guest rooms ready. I'll just go get her."
But that proved
to be unnecessary as Teresa had heard their voices and rushed in, pleased
to see Johnny once again. After being introduced to Sarah and Scott,
she immediately showed them to their rooms, leaving Johnny with his father.
It was quite obvious that Murdoch Lancer had many questions for his son.
Motioning for the
dark-haired man to sit down, Murdoch leaned against his desk. "So tell
me about Scott. I couldn't help but notice that he didn't say a word.
And who is this Sarah Nicholson?"
"She was Scott's
nanny when he was growing up. When Garrett finally found him, he asked
her to take care of him."
He let me think that Scott was dead!"
"Murdoch, he only
found Scott about a month before he died. Perhaps, he had other concerns
besides your feelings."
"Well, the important
thing is that you're both here now. I knew that you'd be able to talk
him into coming to Lancer. After all, it's his home as well as yours."
fidgeted with a pillow that lay on the couch. "Actually, Murdoch, there's
something I have to tell you."
Before the young
man could continue, Sarah Nicholson emerged from Scott's room to inform the
gunfighter that Scott wished to see him. Jumping up, Johnny headed
for his brother's room while Sarah proceeded to take a seat in the great
At that moment,
Teresa entered with a tray of coffee and home-baked cookies, then she sat
down beside Murdoch to inquire, "Miss Nicholson, how is Scott doing?"
"Quite well, but
this trip did exhaust him. We tried to take it in slow stages, but
hopefully now he can have some time to rest."
broke in with, "Of course. I certainly appreciate all of the time you
have spent with my son. I understand that you took care of him for
"Yes, I entered
Mr. Garrett's employ when Scott was six months old."
A hint of envy
flickered through the rancher's eyes. "I'm sorry that I did not have
the opportunity to know my son as a child."
"Yes, I'm sure
that was regrettable."
The patriarch glanced
at the dignified woman. She seemed to be sincere and yet there was
a glimmer in those gray eyes--a not very sympathetic glimmer."
"Well, I hope you
will enjoy your stay at Lancer."
do have a beautiful home, Mr. Lancer. It is obvious that you have worked
hard to create a life here."
"It has taken many
years of backbreaking work, Miss Nicholson, not to mention the death of some
Sarah turned slightly
to focus on Teresa. "Johnny told me that you lost your father, Miss
O'Brien. I was sorry to hear of that."
"He was a fine
man, but I was fortunate that I could stay here with Mr. Lancer. Lancer
has always been my home."
"Johnny also told
me that you are an excellent cook. He certainly has praised your chocolate
has a sweet tooth."
"So I've discovered,"
the older woman imparted with a smile.
is there anything special that Scott likes? I thought I might try to
make some favorites since he's here."
will eat almost anything. He learned very early at his grandfather's
table to try various types of food. Right now, he still consumes only
small portions, but I'm hoping that his appetite will increase out here in
the fresh air of California."
"Uh, Miss Nicholson,
might I inquire how long you are planning to visit to stay in California?"
Slate gray eyes
surveyed the tall figure across from her. "Possibly the rest of my
life, Mr. Lancer, although I have learned never to count on anything too
Although he certainly did not see. Could this imperious woman really
expect to remain at Lancer for years?
Just then, Johnny
emerged from Scott's bedroom. "He's gone to sleep so I thought I'd
come out and see if you had any chocolate cake hangin' around, Teresa?"
"Well, there might
be one piece out in the kitchen. I was just about to throw it away."
The injured look
on Johnny's handsome face caused both Sarah and Teresa to break into laughter.
Unsure of the reason, the sapphire eyes swerved from one feminine face to
the other. "Hey, that's no laughin' matter.!"
"John, I believe
Teresa baked a chocolate cake just yesterday."
So what are we sittin' here for, let's go get a piece!"
"Why don't you,
Teresa and Miss Nicholson go in and have some. I really need to finish
these books today. I have a trip later in the week to Modesto to do
some cattle selling."
Sarah, you just gotta taste Teresa's chocolate cake. She puts some
secret stuff in it and it's real good."
"Better than mine,
the sapphire eyes. "No, I mean, uh, yours is good too. I just.
. . "
"I was just taunting
you Johnny. I'm sure Teresa's is much superior to mine, although I
suspect you might prefer my pan-fried oysters."
chorused Teresa and Murdoch.
has become quite a gourmet."
shook her head in wonder. Johnny Madrid Lancer--a gourmet?"
"Say, if you let
me, Teresa, I'll make tamales one night? Sarah really loves my tamales,
don't you, Sarah? Even Scott ate them."
wink from Sarah to Teresa accompanied, SPIN's reassurance, "They were quite
good, Johnny. I'm sure your father and Teresa would enjoy eating them."
that gets me out of the kitchen for a night, is fine with me. But Mr.
Madrid, you clean up your own mess!"
For an instant
the pouting lip stuck out, only to be replaced by a smile. "Okay, it's
a deal. Oh, uh, Sarah, you wouldn't mind helping me clean up, would you?"
ignored the suggestion as she followed the dark-haired Lancer son and brown-haired
girl into the kitchen.
a huge piece of cake washed down with coffee, Johnny took off to the stable
to check out Barranca's whereabouts. He had definitely missed the palomino
and wanted to make sure he had been well taken care of in his absence.
stayed with Teresa in the kitchen since this might be her only chance to
talk to the girl. "Johnny talked about Lancer a great deal."
Sipping at her
coffee, Teresa commented, "He certainly stirred things up around here, but
I can understand why he wanted to find Scott."
"Yes, the two of
them have developed a rare bond in such a short time. I hope it will
continue for many years."
"Scott is lucky
to have someone like you in his life. From what Mr. Lancer told me,
Scott's grandfather was not very demonstrative."
"Teresa, like many
men of his generation, Harlan Garrett contained his emotions quite well,
but he did have them. He loved Catherine and her son with a great devotion.
I only wish that he had lived long enough to see Scott regain some measure
The younger woman
nodded. "Men can be the most frustrating creatures on earth.
They always put up such fronts--like we'd think less of them if they showed
"It takes great
strength to show vulnerability to another human being. Great strength
and trust. Not many men are able to do so."
"And it's even worse when you're surrounded by men who are stubborn as Missouri
"There, my dear,
Scott Lancer is a prime example. Lord, when I think of the battles
he and I had! I'm sure that was the only reason he was able to get
past his grandfather's opposition to his going into the cavalry--he outstubborned
I've seen with Johnny and what I've experienced many times with Mr. Lancer,
I suspect all the Lancers are stubborn mules!"
"It's a good thing
then that you're not!"
The young girl
looked at the smiling older woman and then let out a trill of laughter. "You've
got me there, Miss Nicholson, but I prefer to call it survival instinct!"
I am sure that we are going to be good friends, would you please call me
Sarah as Johnny does."
"Thank you, Sarah.
It will be wonderful to have someone I can talk to like this. I love
Mr. Lancer, but, well, there are some things, that he just doesn't understand."
"I would be most
pleased to listen. I have always enjoyed being around young people.
Oh, and do remind me to tell you about how Johnny proposed to me!"
The sip of coffee
that Teresa had been in the process of swallowing went tipsy-turvy and caught
in her throat. Coughing and sputtering, she squeaked out, "Proposed?"
"Ah, yes, my one
and only proposal of marriage--unless you count the one Scott made to me
when he was ten. Why don't I tell you about it while I help you
"Now, I know we're
going to be friends. Certain members of this family have to be blackmailed
before they'll even consent to dry a dish! That's why I was so surprised
to hear Johnny volunteer to cook tamales!"
"He just needs
more training. Actually, Scott always enjoyed being in the kitchen
with me. We had some wonderful talks during those times."
"I. . .I'm anxious
to know him better."
"He's a fine young
man who has suffered great loss, but I truly hope that now he will find some
peace and happiness for himself in this beautiful land."
Now, shall we get started on dinner? If I know Johnny, he'll be in
here in a little while, demanding food!"
In the great room,
Murdoch Lancer leaned back in his chair. He had finally finished his
neverending paperwork. There were times he thought he would prefer
to spend a day branding than doing an hour of paperwork!
Peering over at
the door to Scott's bedroom, he couldn't help but think about the incredible
turn of events. His first-born son was actually alive and here after
twenty-five years. Standing up, he walked slowly to the door and quietly
opened it. Yes, the too-thin body was still in the bed with blankets
drawn up tight around his shoulders. As he started to close the door
so the boy could continue to rest, he heard a faint whisper, "SPIN?"
and then moved over to the side of the bed. "No, it's me--your father."
Silence met the
patriarch's announcement of his presence. Hesitating for only a moment,
Murdoch moved over to the table to turn up the dimmed light. Bringing
it nearer, he could see huge steel-blue eyes staring at him from a thin,
pale face. "Scott, I know there's a great deal to say, but I'm glad
that you're finally here at Lancer. When you're feeling better, I'll
take you for a ride around the ranch."
Licking his dry
lips, Scott tried to ask a question, "C-could I s-see my. . .mother's grave?"
For a moment the
tall rancher stared down at his son in confusion. "That's a long ride.
Maybe when you're stronger."
"She's not here
"No, your mother
is buried at Crawfordsville."
The man in the
bed shifted uncomfortably. "S-sorry, I thought. . . ."
"Don't worry about
that now. You just need to rest. We'll have plenty of time to
talk now that you're going to stay here."
"No! . . . I. .
.don't want. . .we aren't. . . ."
Towering over the
blond-haired man, Murdoch Lancer stopped. "You don't intend to stay?
Then, why did you come at all?"
. . I pr-promised. . . ."
Scowling with dismay,
the rancher took a step nearer. "Promised? Who did you promise?
Blue eyes, filled
with pain, glanced up at the imposing figure. "Grandfather. He
said. . . ."
"I can just imagine
what he said. Scott, that man kept us apart for twenty-five years.
Can't you understand, I'm your father! He stole you from me, just like
Johnny's mother did with him. Lancer needs both of you."
One slender hand
reached up to rub at the still-jagged scar on his temple. "Please,
Mr. . . Lancer, he. . .I . . . ."
"They were lies,
Scott. He never told the truth about anything in his life. He
only wanted you in Boston so I couldn't have you! If he had loved Catherine,
he wouldn't have left her out there, miles from nowhere. He just grabbed
you and fled!" Murdoch's litany continued now that all of his
hate against his former father-in-law was opened to the light of day.
"I tried to tell Catherine not to be frightened, but she just kept crying
about wanting to be in Boston. She should have understood I couldn't
take her all that way. Harlan Garrett indulged her too much so she
didn't even know how to be a proper wife. She kept complaining about
the dirt and the heat and not feeling well. I. . .I wanted an
heir for Lancer so much, but she kept saying she was afraid.
When we found out you were coming, I thought she'd try to be happy, but it
just got worse. She wanted me with her more and more, but I had a ranch
to run so finally I gave in and let her go. I never saw her again."
After hearing those
words, searing agony filled Scott's head. Since being wounded, Scott Lancer
had learned to deal with pain on an everyday basis. While a prisoner,
he had been forced to endure the anguish without much to alleviate the pain
since laudanum and whiskey were in short supply. Slipping into unconsciousness
became the only way to escape the unendurable. Then as the months passed,
the pain had lessened gradually, but would return in a blinding flash when
the young man's mind and body was strained by outside influences.
In the early weeks after Scott's return to Boston, Dr. Jackson had prescribed
liberal use of laudanum when the paroxysms of anguish would strike, but Sarah
had tried to limit its use, knowing how easily one could become dependent
on the substance. She had used other calming techniques which had helped
a great deal so it had been quite some time since the blond had had to suffer
this mind-bending, body-breaking torture.
Lost in his own
tormented memories of the past, the rancher turned toward the door, "I'll
be back later, Scott. I. . .I have. . . work to do."
the blankets and wrapping his thin pillow around his aching head, the blond
clenched his eyes tightly shut as the glow from the lantern sought to pierce
his eyes with shards of pain. Light and noise always increased the
agony attached to these episodes. Whimpers of distress escalated into
cries as the beast took hold of his body. Desperate for relief, Scott
flung himself out of the bed, seeking the laudanum which he knew that SPIN
had packed in his traveling bag. Even as his hand
closed upon the small bottle, he wrenched off the cap and took a long swallow.
The full-strength mixture almost made him gag, but he forced himself to take
another drink. Dropping the now-empty vial, Scott Lancer sank back
on the bed and prayed for the pain to end.
stalked out of the house, heading to the stables. He needed the consolation
of a ride across the vast property of his empire. Of course, the acreage
of the land had increased dramatically since the days he had traversed the
range after the losses of Catherine and Maria. The tall man treasured
every acre that he possessed. As he had told Sarah Nicholson, this
land had been paid for in unending toil and blood and only death could separate
him from it. After twenty-five years, he had finally realized what
the presence of his sons could mean to the future of Lancer. Now, that
dream had been threatened, so Murdoch was determined to do what he had always
done when Lancer was in danger--fight back and win.
Moving into the
stable, the rancher discovered Johnny brushing and combing the palomino.
Coming up behind the shorter man, Murdoch immediately confronted his son.
"John, we need to talk. Scott said that he isn't staying at Lancer!
What do you know about this?"
I started to tell you before. Scott and I are buying a ranch.
I saw one for sale when I was here before and I contacted the man.
We should be able to move in another week or so."
The oldest Lancer
stood there mouth agape. "Neither of you intends to live here?"
"We talked some
about it back in Boston. He knew I'd never be happy stayin' there for
years so he agreed to come out here, visit Lancer and then we'd get our own
place. I'm puttin' up some of the money you gave me and he's payin'
"That is absurd.
There's more than enough room for the both of you. If you don't want
to live at the hacienda, we could make arrangements. The two
of you are my heirs."
"But I'm not anymore,
and Scott doesn't want to be, so this is the best we could come up with.
You'd be welcome to visit whenever you have time."
Fury began to percolate
in the older man's veins. "Visit you? Why should I do that when
your place is here, helping me run this ranch!"
Sapphire eyes began
to glow with repressed anger. "I sold my share back to you, remember?
You didn't need me for twenty years so I'm sure you don't need me now. Scott,
on the other hand, does need me and I'm not gonna let him down. I'll
take care of the ranch and Sarah will take care of the house and keep an
eye on Scott until he recovers some more."
"That woman is
going to live with you?"
"That woman, as
you call her, saved Scott's life. She loves him more than you could
ever conceive of loving anyone so don't you dare say a word against her!"
The pugnacious bantam stepped right up to his father's space, defying the
man to do his worst.
Before the patriarch
could utter another word, Teresa came running into the stables. "Johnny,
come inside. Scott needs you." Without even glancing at
his father, the gunfighter took off for the house, heart thumping in fear.
Reaching the door
of Scott's bedroom, he flinched at the smell of vomit and the sight of his
brother, seemingly unconscious on the bed. Taking note
of the stained, wet clothing Scott wore, Johnny rushed in to demand, "Sarah,
what the hell happened? He was sleeping when I went outside."
"I'm not sure,
Johnny, but he drank the laudanum that was in the bottle we brought with
us. Teresa and I found him lying on his bed and I forced him to throw
up. Teresa is going to bring in some coffee. We've got to get
him to drink a lot of it so it will help dilute the effects of the laudanum."
Just at that moment, Teresa pushed her way past Murdoch who was standing
in the doorway.
"Thank you, Teresa.
Now, we need to get this down him fast. He's just barely conscious
so I'm hoping this will help."
Propping the slender
blond up against his chest, Johnny helped Sarah force the middle Lancer to
drink some of the hot coffee. Scott struggled against the brew, but
neither Sarah or Johnny would take no for an answer. Even when Scott
retched up the first cup of the steaming beverage, the two continued to ply
their cure. Finally, some of the liquid stayed down and the blond's
breathing became easier. Peering into the cerulean eyes, Sarah asked
Johnny to help get her boy onto his feet so that he would not go back to
sleep for some time. With Johnny bearing most of the weight, the two
marched the slender figure up and down his room for what seemed to be hours,
but at last, Sarah felt it was safe to let the young man sleep off the rest
of the effects of the laudanum.
at the soaked, smelly bed linens, not to mention the clothes that Scott wore,
Johnny quickly insisted that his brother be
moved into his
own room to recover. Picking his sibling up, the
gunfighter soon had him deposited in the soft bed, after stripping
off the soiled clothing. Covering him with two quilts, Johnny sat down
beside the bed to wait. After some time, Teresa and Sarah also entered
the room to inform the youngest Lancer that Scott's room had been cleaned
up and aired out.
Johnny only nodded
at the information, then asked if the two women would continue to sit with
his brother as there was something he needed to do. Not liking the grim look
on Johnny's face, Sarah reassured him that Scott would be all right and it
wouldn't do the blond any good if Johnny lost control of himself.
Knowing that SPIN
was right, Johnny struggled to force down the rage that had overwhelmed him
when he had seen Scott's condition. He needed to find an answer to
what had happened in such a short time and how it had almost cost his brother's
Walking into the
great room, the dark-haired man found a very pale Murdoch Lancer sitting
at his desk with his head in his hands. The tall man looked up and
asked, "Is he all right?"
"Sarah thinks he
will be, but I want to know what you said to him that he would do something
Fear and astonishment
entered the Scot's eyes. "You think he did it deliberately?"
Johnny's head dropped.
"I don't know," he whispered. "He's been through so much, but why now
when. . .when we're going to buy that ranch together?"
"It had to be an
accident. He just didn't know how much he was taking!"
"I hope you're
right, but he hated taking that stuff. He only allowed Sarah to give
it to him when he was hurtin' real bad. Did he say anything when you
were talkin' to him?"
The rancher rubbed
his hands together as he tried to remember exactly what he had said to his
injured son. "He. . .just mentioned about not staying here and about
promising Garrett something. I tried to tell him that his grandfather
was a liar, but he wouldn't listen. He even thought his mother was
buried at Lancer for some reason. Maybe. . . maybe this trip west was
too much for him."
"Murdoch, I think
it would be best if you not speak to Scott about his grandfather for the
rest of the time we're here. I know you hated the man, but Scott loved
him so it does no good to get him all riled up."
"But. . .but he
should know the truth. Maybe then he'd be willing to stay!"
"I'm not gonna
take a chance like that. Our ranch isn't far. When he's feelin'
more like himself, we'll visit and then he can get to know you.
Right now, he needs rest, not more wranglin'. Can you understand that?"
Lancer nodded. "I suppose you're right. Maybe I said more than
I should have."
as soon as I make sure he's all right, I'm gonna ride over to the ranch we're
buyin' and get the paperwork all taken care of. I may be gone a couple
of days so I expect you to remember your word."
came up in defiance. "I said I wouldn't mention his grandfather to
him and I won't."
just want you to remember one thing--if it comes down to him or you--I've
already made my choice." With that bald statement, Johnny Madrid walked
back to his room to check on his brother's condition.
Dinner that night
was a subdued affair. Very little was consumed as all at the table
couldn't forget at how they had almost lost Scott forever. Knowing
that Sarah was exhausted from the day's events, Johnny had made a bed on
the floor of his room so that he was able to keep an eye on the sick man.
Although the gunfighter fell asleep easily, he continued to wake at regular
intervals to reassure himself that the blond was still breathing.
In the morning
a light tap on the door signaled Teresa's arrival with a cup of coffee and
some biscuits. Wolfing them down, Johnny took advantage of her offer
to sit with Scott so that he could take a bath and shave. Peeling off
his dirty clothes was an extreme pleasure.
Returning to the
house, he discovered that Murdoch had decided to move his trip to Modesto
up a few days. He had informed Teresa that he would definitely be back
before his sons and Sarah left for the new ranch.
At hearing the
news, Johnny felt relief. With Murdoch's absence, the chance
of another confrontation between the rancher and his older son was nil.
Perhaps, the tall man had been telling the truth, but Johnny did not want
anything to interfere with Scott's recovery and their move to the new ranch.
When the gunfighter
entered his room, he found Sarah sitting next to Scott's bedside, holding
his hand. "Uh, how's he doing?'
"He's been restless
the last few minutes so I think he'll be waking up soon." Peering up
at the young man, Sarah remarked, "I understand that you told your father
about our plans?"
"I gather he was
m'am, that is one of them understatements."
"I'm not surprised.
Hesitating, she added, "Johnny, you do know that you are perfectly free to
stay here at Lancer? I assure you that I won't leave Scott alone.
You could always visit us at the ranch."
"Sarah, I know
you're more'n capable of handlin' him and a ranch--although I would like
to see you brandin' a cow,-- but I need to be with him too. I can't
ever get back those lost years, but I can make sure there aren't any more
to hear that because I know he needs you too. But, Young Man, I'll
have you know that I have branded a steer or two in my day!"
Johnny broke out
laughing. "Don't doubt it, Sarah. I'm beginnin' to believe you
can do almost anything!"
"Almost?" she inquired
with a deadpan face.
Scott Lancer awoke
to the joyful sound of the two people, he most cared about, laughing.
Considering he felt like death warmed over, he couldn't quite understand
the source for their merriment, but he did know that it sounded wonderful.
Perhaps, the desolation of the past five years was gone for good. "SPIN?"
Both heads immediately
focused on the man in the bed. "Hey there, Boston, how ya feelin'?
My head feels like it's stuck in. . . molasses."
"Don't worry, dear
boy, I'm sure it's just temporary from the laudanum."
"Lau. . .laudanum?"
Cerulean eyes gazed at the two in bewilderment.
"Scott, don't you
remember takin' half a bottle of the stuff?"
The blond winced
as he started to shake his head. "I remember talking to Mr. Lancer.
He said something about my. . .mother. Then, my head began to hurt--like
a 12 pounder hit it. I guess I must have taken the laudanum. . . to
"Well, don't go
takin' anymore of it, cause Sarah and I can't handle it!"
"Listen to your
brother, Scott. I'm not quite as young as I used to be and I'd appreciate
your not making me older than I am. Now, I will go see if Teresa has
some broth that might be good for you."
Seeing that the
blond's blue eyes were almost closed already, Johnny sat there quietly for
a moment. Then, Scott spoke up, "Johnny, you haven't. . .you haven't
changed your mind about the ranch, have you? Because of what happened,
"Don't worry yourself
about it, Brother. I was just waitin' to see that you were all right
and then I'm headin' over to see Mr. Strong about payin' the money for our
place. 'Course we'll have to do some fixin'-up, but I suspect we'll
be able to move in pretty quick."
looking forward to it. He wants you to teach him how to shoot, but
he insists I teach him how to ride." Then, the heavy eyes succumbed
to the lure of sleep once again.
Madrid stood there
watching for some time before he headed to the kitchen where he encountered
Sarah dishing up some biscuits and broth. "No use takin' it in there
now, Sarah, he's gone back to sleep."
"I'll just keep
it warm for when he wakes up. Please help yourself, if you'd like.
Teresa made them. Since Scott is asleep, I believe I'll
go help Teresa with the laundry."
"Uh, Sarah, could
I ask you somethin' first? I know Scott's grandfather's name
was Garrett, but was there somebody else named that?"
"Why do you ask?"
"Just before he
fell asleep, he talked about wantin' me to teach this Garrett how to shoot."
Putting down the bowl of broth, Sarah sat down at the table. "Garrett was
the name Scott gave to his imaginary brother."
"Why. . .why would
he talk about him now?"
"I'm not sure.
Perhaps, Garrett has been with him for the last five years. Maybe.
. .maybe that's who he talked to when he wouldn't talk to anyone else.
Now, let me go help Teresa. She shouldn't have to do the wash all alone."
As soon as Teresa
and Sarah reentered the house, Johnny set off on Barranca. Now, that
it was so close Johnny could almost taste his desire for his own ranch.
Maybe, at one time he could have called Lancer home, but the years of indifference
had taken their toll. He wanted only to have a ranch where he could get to
know his brother and hopefully find the peace that both of them deserved.
And, he had to admit, he would enjoy being with Sarah Nicholson. The
redoubtable SPIN was unlike any woman he had ever known and that in itself
was intriguing. Hopefully, he had found the family he had been looking
for from the day his mother had died. On that happy thought,
Johnny prodded the palomino into a gallop.
Two days later,
a tired Murdoch Lancer rode up to his home. His long ride had proven
successful and for that reason he was a happy man, but truthfully, he was
not looking forward to his return. What should have been a joyous event--the
return of his sons--had become a nightmare. He had devoutly hoped that
his sons would want to remain with him and learn to appreciate their heritage,
but instead Johnny and Scott wanted to go out on their own--and with a woman
who had undoubtedly mesmerized them with Harlan Garrett's lies.
Sighing, the rancher dismounted from his horse to hand it over to one of
Entering the great
room, the tall man found his older son sitting in one of the chairs.
"Scott, you look like you're feeling better."
I'll be ready to leave when Johnny returns."
"Uh, so he did
go see Bill Strong?"
went according to plan, he should be back tomorrow or the next day."
Well, I'd better go clean up. I expect dinner will be ready soon."
"Mr. Lancer, before
you go, I'd like to ask you something."
The tall man stared
down at his son. "Go ahead."
"I want to buy
Barranca for Johnny."
"The palomino that
he likes to ride."
it is a fine horse. If you want the horse, you can have him."
"I would prefer
to pay for him. Barranca will be my present to Johnny. I owe
him more than any amount of money can ever repay."
The patriarch stared
at the younger man. "I underestimated you, didn't I? I thought
you were milk-and-water like your mother, but you're cold and hard like Harlan
Garrett, aren't you?"
With a wry smile,
Scott replied, "Actually, I thought I was more like Murdoch Lancer.
. . . I'll see you get your money before we leave. Oh, and don't worry, I
won't ever tell Johnny about what you said. He's free to visit Lancer whenever
he wants." The slender blond man stood up and went to his room.
That night after
dinner, Murdoch Lancer walked out through the French doors to stand on the
porch of his hacienda. Staring up at the stars and nearly full moon,
he didn't hear the door open behind him. "Mr. Lancer, might I speak
to you for a moment?"
Turning, he found
Sarah Nicholson profiled in lamplight. "Yes, Miss Nicholson, what can
I do for you?"
"Noting for me.
We will be leaving Lancer soon and this may be my last chance to speak with
I am tired and frankly I have had enough talking. I invited my sons
to be with me and instead I found only ingratitude. I wanted so much and
they have given me so little."
"Mr. Lancer, I have always been an outspoken woman so you will understand
if I speak my mind. I know you feel that Harlan Garrett stole your
son from you, and perhaps he did in a way, but from what I have seen, all
you truly care about is this ranch--and perhaps Teresa. Harlan Garrett
had many faults, but he did love Scott--unequivocally. As for me, I would
not trade one minute of the time I have spent with your son in the last twenty-five
years--not for all 100,000 acres of Lancer. Good night, Sir."
Three days later Johnny, Scott, and Sarah drove out under the great gate
in their hired buggy with Barranca tied behind. Their parting from
Teresa had been sad, but she had assured them that she would visit soon.
Murdoch had been polite, but tepid in his parting. It would take some
time for him to adjust to the situation--if he ever decided he still wanted
some kind of relationship with the two strangers who were his sons.
About an hour away from the new ranch, Sarah suddenly brought up a point
that none of them had considered. "What do you intend to name your
The blond looked at the brunet. The brunet looked at the blond.
Neither had an idea.
"Well, then I have a suggestion. What do you think of The Double L
with overlapping Ls as your brand?" Both brothers enthusiastically
agreed with her idea.
That night after a sketchy dinner and as Sarah was finishing up the dishes,
she heard Johnny's voice calling to her. Going outside, she found
her two boys standing by a freshly painted sign: THE DOUBLE LL Home
of Scott, Johnny and Sarah.
Slate gray eyes filled with tears as she saw what they had written.
"Th-thank you. I love you both."
"Shucks, SPIN, we knew that. What do you think of the sign?
Oh, oh, I shouldn't have called you that!"
A beaming Sarah reached over to kiss the dark-haired young man. "Don't worry
about it, Johnny. I love the sign, and I don't mind that you used that
name--once. But," she added as she turned and kissed the blond young
man, "there's still only one man privileged to call me SPIN."
Three happy people walked into their house together.