This is the second in my ‘missing scenes’ series. It is set after Hope & Fears and is the morning after the defeat of Pardee.
Scott leaned against the door frame, a cup of scalding black coffee cradled in his hand, his eyes fixed on the distant horizon. This wasn’t the first dawn he’d seen. It wasn’t even the most spectacular. There were none of the fiery reds and oranges that often graced the sky over Boston harbour. This was subtle, with hints of yellows and pinks in the washed out blue. After the violence of the last few days it was a welcome hint of calm.
Already he was making a mental list of the work to be done. Three vaqueros were dead, their bodies wrapped in sheets ready to be taken to the small church in Morro Coyo for burial. Only one of the men had been married and all the women had gathered round his widow, providing support and comfort. He wondered if she had managed to sleep, remembering her tear streaked face when he had spoken to her about her husband’s courage. She couldn’t be much more than twenty and yet her whispered, “gracias, Senor,” had left him feeling humbled by her dignity.
He inhaled the aroma of the coffee before taking a sip of the strong liquid. More than a dozen of the outlaws were also dead, including Day Pardee. It had been Johnny’s warning shout that had enabled him to kill the ‘big dog’. He had taken no pleasure in it. Taking a life had never been easy for him, and he wondered how Pardee and men like him could live with so many deaths on their conscience.
Scott rubbed his hand across his eyes, exhausted after snatching only a couple of hours uneasy sleep in the last two days. He looked down at his dirty clothes, wishing that he had time to wash and change. It should be easy to walk away from all this, but his conscience wouldn’t let him. He must have inherited that from his mother, since Murdoch Lancer didn’t seem bothered by abandoning his son for twenty-four years.
He couldn’t even explain to himself why he’d answered Lancer’s summons. It wasn’t as if he needed the money. Curiosity, maybe? A need to see the man who had so bewitched his mother that she had given up family, friends and a comfortable life to cross the country with him. He had tried, without success, to imagine what this land had been like twenty-five years ago. Had his mother ever regretted her decision? There were so many things he didn’t know.
Men were stirring, wandering aimlessly around or standing in small groups, waiting for someone to issue orders. Scott wasn’t sure what to do. He’d agreed to become a partner in the ranch, but it was his ‘father’ who was in charge. Would he have to consult Murdoch Lancer on every decision?
There were uneven footsteps behind him and the sound of a cane striking the tiles.
Scott straightened up to stand as stiffly as he would before a senior officer. “Good morning, Sir. How’s Johnny?” He hadn’t seen the younger man since laying him carefully on the bed to have his wound tended.
“He’s doing well. He lost quite a bit of blood so he’s tired. It will be a while before he has the strength to get out of bed.”
There were a number of nagging questions that Scott wanted to ask about his half-brother, but it didn’t feel like the right time. “With your permission I would like to speak to Cipriano about what needs to be done today.”
“You don’t need my permission, Scott. You’ve already shown that you’re capable of taking charge.”
Scott gave a brief nod. He didn’t feel the need to thank this stranger for acknowledging his abilities. After all, he hadn’t been greeted on his arrival as a son, just as a potential junior partner, one required to pull his weight without questioning orders. He drained the rest of his coffee, awkwardly aware that there was no common ground between him and his sire. “I should get started.”
“Yes.” Murdoch cleared his throat, looking ill at ease. “Wait. I was wondering about your skill with a rifle. I wasn’t expecting... The truth is, Scott, I didn’t know what to expect.”
Long buried anger stirred. “Grandfather made sure that I learned how to ride. I was also taught marksmanship.” The pause was infinitesimal. “Both skills were useful during the war,” he continued with calculated venom.
“I didn’t know.”
“There’s no reason for you to have known. You said it yourself. We’re strangers to each other.”
“We can change that.”
“Can we?” Scott challenged. “You’re making a rather arrogant assumption. But, then, it wouldn’t be the first time.”
There was a flicker of matching anger on Murdoch’s lined face. “I won’t apologize for my decisions. I would like us to get to know one another, but the decision is yours.” His expression softened and he took a halting step closer. “Please, Son, give me a chance.”
‘Son’. Scott couldn’t believe the rush of emotion that single word evoked. “The men are waiting,” he said to cover his feelings. “We can talk later.”
He strode purposefully away, his tiredness replaced by a feeling of expectation. A feeling that there was something good waiting round the corner, if he had the courage to go and find it.