A WHN for Warburton’s Edge
“Come inside Johnny”
Murdoch’s hand was still on his shoulder, warm and comforting.
“Can’t, I have to take care of Isham.”
Murdoch sighed, “Let the men take care of him tonight. We’ll help you bury him tomorrow.”
Johnny turned a little to look up at Murdoch. “Really, you’d do that?”
“Yes, really. Come inside, I know you’re tired. Let the men deal with them for now.”
Johnny got up slowly. Murdoch released his shoulder just long enough for Johnny to straighten and then put his arm around Johnny’s shoulders to guide him inside.
“What about Warburton? Tallie needs help burying him.”
Murdoch stopped and looked at Johnny. “We’ll help with that too.”
Johnny nodded. A thought occurred to him as he looked around. “Where’s Scott?”
“He and some of the men took Driscoll in to the sheriff.” Murdoch was frowning.
“He was the one?”
“Yes, you were right about him being a hothead.” Murdoch kept his arm around Johnny leading him towards the kitchen.
As Johnny sat at the table, Murdoch went to the stove to pour coffee. He placed a cup in front of Johnny and sat down across from him. Johnny took the cup, cradling it with both hands as if trying to gain warmth from it.
“Murdoch, Murdoch!” Scott was almost shouting.
Johnny flinched. It was just making his headache worse.
Murdoch frowned a little and sighing, “He’s worried Johnny.” He got up and walked to the kitchen door. “We’re in here Scott.”
“What happened?” Scott’s voice was still loud and Johnny flinched again.
“Keep your voice down Scott. We’re fine and I’ll explain.” Murdoch was looking at Johnny while he spoke and was beginning to wonder just how fine his younger son really was.
While Murdoch explained Johnny kept his head down looking at his coffee. When Murdoch finished he raised his head and looked at Scott as if daring him to say anything.
“What, Scott?” The tone was sharp.
“Are you all right?”
Johnny looked surprised at the question.
“I’ve been better. I’ll be fine when I get some sleep.” He heard Murdoch moving behind him and felt that hand on his shoulder again.
Murdoch’s voice was soft, “What happened to your head?”
Johnny sighed, “Nothing a good night’s sleep won’t fix.”
“And some willow bark tea?” Scott sounded amused.
Johnny grimaced, “Long as you put something in there to kill the taste.”
Scott and Murdoch laughed a little. Scott moved to the stove while Murdoch put a hand under Johnny’s arm helping him out of the chair. “Come on, let’s get you upstairs. Scott, you’ll need to get up at first light and take some men and a wagon to bring Warburton’s daughter and Warburton’s body back here for burial.”
“You OK with that Scott?” Johnny sounded a bit sharp again.
“Of course, brother.” Scott smiled a little and his voice was mild. “Just as I am with helping you bury your friend.”
Johnny looked a bit surprised and with a slight nod of his head turned towards the kitchen door and started for the stairs. At the bottom of the stairs he stopped and sighed. That warm hand was on his shoulder again and Murdoch chuckled “Some nights those stairs look steeper than others don’t they? Come on, we can make it up them together. Scott will be along soon with the tea.”
“Murdoch, why’re you being so nice about this?”
“Because, Johnny, you are part of this family and family sticks together no matter what. If that means burying two men I consider enemies but that you see as friends, then I won’t let you bury them alone. We will do it as a family.”
“What about the cattle? All of Warburton’s money was tied up in them and Tallie needs the money. Warburton wanted her to go back to school.”
They were in Johnny’s room now and Murdoch was getting annoyed, he just couldn’t get Johnny to settle down. Scott walked in with the tea and said “We can call the other ranchers together. I’m sure we can work something out with them. Maybe split the herd among the ranchers to get her the money and then drive them to market when prices are better.”
Murdoch nodded “That sounds like a plan son.”
Scott handed the tea to Johnny, “Drink up, brother. Tomorrow will be a long day and we all need to get some sleep.”
Johnny sighed and looked at the cup Scott was offering. He took it without argument and held it with both hands, the warmth soaking into him.
Murdoch put his hand on Johnny’s shoulder one more time “Get some sleep, son; we’ll be close by if you need us.”
Johnny handed the empty cup back to Scott and scooted down in the bed. “Thanks, Murdoch, for everything.”
Two hours later, Scott opened the door to check on Johnny and saw Murdoch sleeping in a chair next to Johnny’s bed. Yes, Murdoch was indeed close by in case he was needed. Scott smiled and quietly closed the door.