WHN Shadow of a Dead Man
Murdoch shook his head and chuckled, “Homemade biscuits.” Taking a deep breath, “Walt…”
“Yes, Mr. Lancer,” replied a ranch hand, who had been nearby, giving his full attention to the boss.
“Send someone to town and ask Sam Jenkins to come to dinner tonight and don’t take no for an answer.”
“Sure thing, Mr. Lancer.”
Murdoch shook his head again and peeled off the gloves he had been wearing at the forge. He started towards the house, when he entered he could hear voices coming from the kitchen and he smiled. It sounded like Maria was in full voice with Johnny. He stopped in the doorway to listen for a minute before stepping in to take control.
“Maria, fetch me a basin of water. Johnny, sit down and let me take a look at that arm.”
“It’s fine. I had it looked at before I started home.” Johnny sounded defensive.
“Well, humor us and let me look at it just to be sure. Maria isn’t going to let you off the hook any more than I am.”
Maria returned with the basin of water, set it on the table and gave Johnny a hard look, her hands planted firmly on her hips. “Listen to your father, nino, he is trying to help you. Do you want to get sick?”
Johnny sighed, “I came in here to get something to eat, not get medical treatment.”
Murdoch chuckled, “Those biscuits weren’t enough?”
Johnny glanced at his father and grinned, “Well, I was hoping Maria had something a bit spicier for me.”
“Sit. Maria will fix you something while I look at that arm for myself. While I’m at it, you can explain about that dollar and those biscuits AND why you came back with your arm in a sling.”
Johnny sighed again and sat down. “It’s a long story, Murdoch.”
“I’ve got time.” Murdoch started to unbutton Johnny’s shirt.
“Hey…” Johnny brushed away Murdoch’s hands and glared.
“I don’t think you can undo them so let me. It will go quicker that way. Start talking…“
One more sigh and Johnny settled back. “Well, it’s like this…” He kept talking while Murdoch eased his arm out of the shirt and started to undo the bandages. Maria turned from the stove, once or twice, with raised eyebrows at what he was saying. Twenty minutes later the high points of the story were told and Murdoch was finishing cleaning and putting new bandages on Johnny’s arm.
“So,” Murdoch paused, “Let me get this straight, you sold her the land for a dollar.”
“And some homemade biscuits,” Johnny interrupted.
“And some homemade biscuits, because?”
“Well, her being family and all.”
“Yeah, she did say her name was Mrs. Lancer. I kind of thought you might have forgotten to tell Scott and me something.” Johnny shot his father a wicked grin.
“Johnny…” Murdoch drew his name out, a hint of censure in his tone.
Johnny sighed and continued, “Well, she had been paying the taxes on it for about eight years. I figured she had earned the land. It wasn’t doing us much good and I didn’t have to pay any taxes out on it so I figured we were about even.”
“That’s good enough for me, son. Now, I think we should get you upstairs and in bed.”
“I haven’t eaten yet!!” Johnny protested, indicating he was going to be stubborn and pout.
“Maria can bring it upstairs for you. We won’t let you starve. I just thought you would be more comfortable.”
“How about I eat first, and then go upstairs? That okay with you?”
Murdoch thought for a minute. “Okay, I’ll allow that. Maria, have you got it ready?”
“Si, right here and he won’t even need a fork. See, I have wrapped everything in a tortilla to make it easy.”
“Thanks, Mamacita.” Johnny gave her a quick smile, grabbed the tortilla and started eating.
“Murdoch, where are you?” Sam called out as he entered the house.
“THAT’S SAM, YOU SENT FOR SAM!!” Johnny was incensed. “Why’d you do that?”
“Just to be safe, son, I invited Sam to dinner. I thought it would be wise in case anything was really wrong. “
“Then why’d you go and work on it yourself? Would have been easier to leave it all for Sam, wouldn’t it?”
Sam was in the kitchen now with eyebrows raised, “Yes, Murdoch, why didn’t you leave it for me since you went to the trouble of sending for me?”
Johnny put down what was left of his tortilla and stood up. “Getting kind of crowded in here, I think I’ll just go upstairs and rest.” He started out of the kitchen and headed for the stairs.
“Are you feeling okay, Johnny?” Sam asked.
“Yeah sure, I’ve been poked and prodded enough. I’ll let the two of you discuss my arm while you eat dinner. I might even join you in a bit if Maria fixes some more of those tortillas.” He smiled at Maria and she smiled back nodding her head.
Two hours later Murdoch and Sam were standing in Johnny’s room watching him sleep.
“Is he okay, Sam?” Murdoch asked.
“I think he’s just tired, from what you told me I’m not surprised. Let him rest for a day or so and he’ll be fine.”
Murdoch nodded as they left the room and quietly shut the door. His son was home, safe and mostly unhurt, that was good enough.