Scott Lancer sat at one of the tables in
the saloon waiting for his brother, Johnny. The two young men had come
to Morro Coyo to complete some business for their father. In fact, the
cattle transaction had net ancer over $1,000.00. Of course, most of it
would be used for the ranch itself, but $1,000 was still a pleasant start
to another hot California day.
After signing the papers, Scott and Johnny
had headed their separate ways because Scott had a parcel to pick up that
had just come in on the stage. The blond Lancer now had the package sitting
in front of him on the table, but he still hadn't decided whether to open
it or not. He knew it contained a present from his grandfather in Boston
because Harlan Garrett had sent him a telegram indicating that such a package
would be arriving. Mysteriously, the man had not indicated what the parcel
would contain, just that it was something that he thought his grandson
The relationship between Scott and his
grandfather had been strained of late because of the recent visit from
the older gentlemen. While Scott realized that Garrett did care for him,
he was less than happy about the method that his grandfather had used to
try to force his return to Boston. Scott was happy at Lancer. He loved
the land and the freedom it gave him. No one looked at him and saw only
Harlan Garrett's grandson.
Of course, admittedly, most people here
thought of him as Murdoch Lancer's son. While he was not ashamed of being
the ranch owner's son, he was definitely his own man. He had served in
the Union Army and did not owe Murdoch Lancer any more allegiance than
he chose to give. After all, the patriarch had abandoned his son, not the
other way around.
Suddenly those thoughts were jolted by
a familiar voice, "Hey, Boston, I got those supplies ordered. Let's have
a beer and then we'll head back to Lancer."
Looking up, the blond took in his half-brother.
Johnny was as dark as he was fair, but they both had blue eyes and were
devoted to each other. Sometimes, Scott wondered if he would have felt
comfortable staying at Lancer if Johnny hadn't been part of the package.
He enjoyed having a sister in Teresa, but
his relationship with Murdoch was still tense--particularly after Garrett's
recent visit. Neither of the two older men could seem to understand that
Scott had ties to both. They continued to pull and tug at his loyalty and
need for family.
Thankfully, with Johnny there was no ambivalence.
There was nothing he would not do for Johnny Madrid Lancer, and he suspected
the former gunfighter felt the same about him--even if he would never admit
Placing the mugs of beer on the table,
Johnny slumped down into one of the chairs. "Hey, Brother, whatcha' got
"It's a present from my grandfather."
The brunet's eyebrows arched. "Let's hope
it doesn't explode."
Scott chuckled. "Johnny! He's not that
"If you say so, Brother, but why haven't
you opened it? It's not your birthday, is it?"
"No. He just said he thought I could use
a few things."
"Well, let's see then. Come on, I'll help
you open it."
Scott handed over the box. Johnny ripped
into it like a bear with a honeycomb. Johnny's excitement even spilled
over to Scott. After all, his grandfather said it was a present!
Johnny dug into the package. The first
item he took out was a brush with a silver back. "This is pretty fancy
for your horse!"
Scott hid his smile behind one slender
hand. "I believe that's for me."
"You? You mean to keep them blond locks
out of your face?"
"Exactly. My grandfather always says that
a gentleman should be well-groomed."
"Well, sure. I guess. I mean.... Uh, let's
see what else is in here."
This time he took out a matching comb,
also made in silver. "Whooee, he really does want you to be a dandy."
"I think they come as a pair."
"Oh. Now, what's this?"
"It's a straight-edge razor. My grandfather
must have ordered it from England. They make some beautiful shaving equipment."
"Now, that really is fancy. I'll bet you
could really slit a man's throat with that one!"
"I'm sure you could. Grandfather must have
noticed that the one I'm using currently, has seen better days."
"Well, I suppose, but I've used worse.
You know when I first started shaving, I didn't have a razor so I used
this old knife I found."
The older Lancer son winced. "That must
have been painful."
"Yeah, it was, but I only had to do it
once a week sometimes."
"Well, you're welcome to use mine whenever
you want, Johnny." **I think I'll write to Grandfather and see if he can
order another one in time for Johnny's birthday."
"Thanks, Scott, but I think there's a couple
more presents in here."
Carefully, he removed a silver-backed mirror
with a silver loop attached to it.
"That's clever. I don't think I've seen
one like that before."
"What do you mean? Isn't it just a mirror?"
"Well, yes, but with the loop you can hang
it up so you can see to shave--even if you're on the trail."
"I s'pose you can use it when you brush
them golden locks of yours too!"
Johnny, what is it with you calling my
hair 'locks' all of a sudden?"
"Oh, you know that librarian I been seeing
over at Green River? Well, she told me about all these books and they're
always using words like locks and slake and things like that. She thinks
"Yeah, that was one of 'em but I'm not
sure what it means."
"Well, maybe that's just as good. Now what
else is in my box?"
"This." Johnny Lancer removed a pocket
watch from the now empty parcel. Attached to one end of the chain
was a fob.
Scott's blue eyes unfocused briefly then
he smiled as he gently took the watch and fob in his hands. The fob was
a miniature painting enclosed in silver. The painting was of a lovely young
"My mother. My grandfather has a larger
painting like this in his study. I've always admired it. There are so few
"She's a lovely woman, Scott. 'Course,
you don't look much like her...."
The cerulean eyes glanced at the laughing
sapphire ones. "You'd better watch it, Little Brother, my new razor is
The gunfighter raised his hands in capitulation.
"Hey, you're right after all. You look just like her."
"That's better." The blond just sat there
for a moment gazing at the small painting. Someone once said that you can't
miss what you don't have. Right then, Scott Lancer certainly didn't agree.
"Hey, Boston, I think I'll go get one more
beer and then we'd better pick up them supplies." Scott nodded in agreement.
But before, the brunet could move over
to the bar, a small, rather scruffy-looking man rushed through the swinging
"Scott! Scott! I sold it. I sold it!
The slender Lancer's face broke into a
broad grin. "Congratulations, Ben. I knew it would happen if you just held
on long enough. Did you get a good price?"
"More 'n enough ta get me back East. Come
on with me. I wanta pay you back the money I owe you. It's over at the
"Ben, you don't have to pay me now. Why
don't you wait until you get established back at home?"
"No, Scott, I want to pay you now. You're
the only man who ever trusted me and I want to make sure you get your money.
Let's go get it and then we'll come back and I'll buy you and Johnny a
round of drinks, all right?"
Looking at the worried face, Scott Lancer knew that he couldn't refuse to take the money. It obviously meant a great deal to Ben Roper.
"Sure, I'll go with you." Turning to his
brother, he remarked, "Johnny, you stay here with my stuff. We won't be
long and then we'll come back here."
"Sure, Boston, whatever you say. I'll take
care of your presents."
The gunfighter watched as Scott and Ben
left the saloon. There was something about Ben Roper that he didn't like,
however, Scott had taken the scruffy man under his wing. Ben Roper had
served in the same cavalry regiment as the lieutenant. When the war had
ended, Roper had moved to California hoping to make his fortune. Instead
he had found the bottle and a ranch that barely provided a living for the
former soldier. Scott had loaned the man money from time to time, and now
it seemed that Roper's fortunes had turned.
Sitting at the table with the silver items
displayed in front of him, Johnny Lancer pondered the differences in men.
It was still hard for him to realize that for over twenty years he had
not known of Scott's existence. The gunfighter was not a man for regrets,
but he did regret not knowing his blond sibling all those years. His own
childhood had been lonely. In fact, sometimes he thought he had never really
been a child--just a small adult. But now, things were looking up. He had
a family, a ranch, and most important of all, someone he could trust absolutely.
Johnny Madrid had never allowed himself to trust anyone like that. It was
a scary but very satisfying feeling.
"Hey there, Pretty Boy, ain't you that
fearsome gunfighter, Johnny Madrid?"
"Oh God, not again" The sapphire
eyes took in the stranger. "My name used to be Madrid. Do I know you?"
"Don't think so, but you will when I kill
"I don't have any quarrel with you so why
don't you just move on?'
The large man with huge, dirty hands walked
over to the table. He picked up the delicate watch and fob. "Sure is pretty
stuff. It yours or didya steal it?"
"They belong to my brother, if it's any
of your business." He grabbed the watch away from the man and pointedly
put it in his shirt pocket. "Now you just go get a drink and leave me alone."
The big man cackled in laughter. "Me 'n
my friends don't want no drink." Johnny glanced behind him. Sure enough,
there were two smaller men with dirt on their faces and broken teeth, standing
by the bar.
"Then, why don't you just head out of town?"
"Just as soon as your dead! So why don't
you and me go outside and finish this."
Bowing to the inevitable, Johnny stood
up and prepared to go out into the dusty street once again--as he had done
so many times in so many towns. Before heading out the door he handed over
the box to the bartender for safekeeping.
Striding over to stand in front of the
bigger man, the gunfighter warned, "Just make sure your...friends know
that this is between you and me."
"'Course. Slip. Brady, don't you interfere."
The two men nodded but followed Johnny
and the stranger out the door.
Just as Johnny moved into position opposite
the stranger, someone called his name, "Johnny!"
Recognizing the familiar voice, he did
not turn his head from the menacing figure straight ahead; he merely called
back, "It's okay, Scott. I'll take care of this and then we'll have our
Silence filled the street. In that instant
Johnny and the stranger seemed to be the only two men on earth. Johnny
could hear his heart beating faster. He licked his lips, waiting for the
man to make his play. Then out of the corner of his right eye, he noticed
a movement. Despite himself, the blue eyes flickered in that direction.
One of the dirty men with the stranger had his gun drawn, prepared to fire.
The Lancer gun spat fire and the would-be
killer went down. Johnny Lancer also went down under the powerful blow
that struck his chest. Gasping for breath, it seemed that his lungs must
have exploded. More gunfire but the prone young man just lay there. Then
it was quiet again.
Running feet and a soft touch broke the
silence. "Johnny? Where are you hurt? I don't see any blood."
"Not sure, Scott, I just felt the bullet.
Now it's tough to breathe."
"Ben's already gone to get the doctor.
You just lie quiet."
"Scott, are they dead?"
"Yes, Johnny, they are. You got one while
Ben and I got the other two. Low down bushwhackers. Do you know who they
"Never saw 'em before."
An hour later a very bruised and sore Johnny
Lancer sat on the seat of the buckboard taking he and his brother back
to Lancer. "Johnny, are you sure you shouldn't be lying down?"
"I told you I'm all right. Just sore. That
bullet packed a punch."
"It's a good thing it was deflected or
you'd be dead."
Johnny Lancer grimaced. "Scott, about the
watch fob. I'm real sorry it was ruined."
"Hey, Little Brother, I can always get
another fob, but I can't get another brother."
"But your mother's picture!"
"I'm sure Grandfather will be able to have
another one painted. . . .You know I kind of look at it like maybe my mother
was protecting you."
"Well, I guess I'm not all that religious,
but I'd like to think my mother is looking out for me and well, she must
know how important you are to me so...."
"You're important to me too, Scott. I guess
I was just lucky that your grandfather's present arrived today, wasn't
"Yes, but I'm the really lucky one. You're alive and we can both go home to Lancer--together."