A collection of drabbles and short stories.
This drabble is set during the first evening at Lancer.
A Dime A Dozen
“Watch where you’re goin’, Boston.” Johnny hissed as coffee slopped over the rim of his cup, the heat of the liquid searing the skin on his hand.
“Sorry,” Scott replied distractedly. He stopped walking without raising his eyes from the book he was reading.
“Interesting book?” Johnny asked curiously, grabbing it from his brother’s unwilling hands. He grinned when he saw the title. “’Legendary Gunfighters’, Brother? These guys were a dime a dozen. You want the real thing? Find yourself a book about Johnny Madrid.”
“How would you know?” Scott queried.
Johnny’s grin widened as he headed for the stairs.
This double drabble follows on from “A Dime a Dozen” and is set during the night after the battle with Pardee.
Scott’s attention was riveting on the stranger lying in the bed. The heat rising from Johnny’s body was less intense now, the fever abating as the night wore on. “Johnny Madrid.” Scott turned the name over in his mind, finally understanding the cryptic remark from their first night together. “My brother’s a gunfighter!”
How did he feel about that? Could he ever be comfortable living with a man who had followed such a tawdry profession? The book Johnny had teased him about had made it appear glamorous. Scott knew better. There was only darkness associated with killing. His eyes darkened with his own memories. He pulled out his watch, the casing shining like a new dime. Nearly dawn and he was no closer to sorting out his feelings. Was it fair to condemn his brother without understanding him? He would still have looked on in heart stopping anguish when that bullet had propelled Johnny out of the saddle…wouldn’t he?
Johnny moaned softly. Dark hair framed a face pale from blood loss. Gone were the cynical smile and mocking words that had made him feel so inadequate. Yet he found himself longing for their return. Blue eyes opened and Scott smiled.
This triple drabble was inspired by a scene in Blood Rock. Murdoch and Scott are talking about Ben and his desire to meet his father – the famous outlaw, Morgan Price.
A Son’s Right
“It is his right and it’s better that it be now while we’re here to help.”
Murdoch made the statement without any apparent trace of irony or guilt. For a split second Scott was too stunned to react. The sheer hypocrisy took his breath away. It wasn’t that Scott didn’t care about Ben’s burning desire to meet his father. The problem was that he could relate to it all too easily. His father was now speaking to the sheriff, suggesting that they go to his office for a private chat.
‘If he never sees me how will I know if he even likes me?’ Ben had asked, close to tears. How often had Scott wanted to find the courage to ask his grandfather that very question? Only it had never been asked, and eventually it had ceased to matter. Or so he had thought.
“Wait.” Scott hadn’t meant to speak. After all what was there to say? ‘Why did you ignore me for twenty four years?’ seemed rather childish. ‘Didn’t I have a right to know my father?’ wasn’t much better.
“What is it, Son?”
Was that a hint of impatience he heard in his father’s voice or had Murdoch finally realized just how close to home Ben’s words had struck? Scott was finding it hard to breathe now as long buried emotions rose up to choke him. He was losing control and it scared him.
“Are you alright?”
Genuine concern this time and an arm around his shoulders, steadying him. He raised his head. Everyone in the dirty saloon was shamelessly watching the drama being played out in front of them. Afraid of making a fool of himself, and equally afraid of the answers he might receive, he nodded his head. “I’m fine.”
His father’s reaction was unmistakable – relief.
A Boring Life
“Hey, Scott. D’you ever think about what it would have been like to grow up here?”
“Sometimes.” With a long suffering sigh Scott moved his hat from over his face and squinted up into the bright sunshine. His aim of taking an afternoon nap appeared to be a lost cause now that Johnny had found a new subject to explore.
“Yeah, me too.” Johnny was resting comfortably against a tree trunk, chewing on a blade of grass. “And, I think it would’ve been kinda boring.”
Scott sat up, interested enough to pursue the idea. “I suppose we would have attended the local school. I can’t imagine we’d ever have been to anything more glamorous than a town social and,” he paused for effect, “we would have spent our entire lives listening to Murdoch ‘calling the tune’.”
Johnny winced. “He sure does like doin’ that.” He selected a fresh blade of grass before returning to his contemplation of their lives. “You wouldn’t have learned all those fancy Boston manners, although,” he smiled lazily, “I reckon your taste in clothes would’ve been better.”
As it was an old argument Scott refused to rise to the bait. Besides Johnny’s pink shirt and leather trousers weren’t any less ridiculous, to his mind, than his ruffles and plaid pants had been. “In my experience, good manners and smart clothes help to attract the ladies.”
Annoyingly, Johnny was looking smug again. “Oh, Brother, there ain’t nothing that attracts the ladies like the idea of being with a good looking gunfighter.”
Scott raised an eyebrow. “Ladies?”
“Yeah, well, maybe not ‘ladies’ exactly,” Johnny conceded. “But they sure were a lot of fun to be with. Which kinda proves my point. You mess around with one of the girls round here and you end up in front of the preacher with her daddy holding a shotgun on you.”
Scott shuddered at the thought. That was a fate he’d avoided more than once, here and in Boston. “I can see that certain women might find it romantic to be with a gunfighter who has a somewhat mysterious past. However, I would remind you that there are also a lot of women who are attracted to an ex-Cavalry officer with a Harvard education.”
“If you say so.” Johnny ducked as Scott threw a clump of earth at his head. “Now, our old man hasn’t done too badly either. He’s got plenty of lady friends.”
“He does seem to have kept himself busy while we were growing up. Sometimes it feels like a new ‘old’ friend of his turns up every week.”
“Guess it has something to do with his tragic past,” Johnny offered with suspicious solemnity. “After all he did manage to lose two wives and two sons. I tell you, Scott, if someone wrote this down in a book no-one would believe it.”
“I know what you mean. After all, it isn’t very likely that a penniless young man from Scotland could arrive in Boston and, within a year, marry the daughter of a wealthy businessman.”
“It ain’t any more unlikely than your granddaddy being in the right place to sneak back to Boston with you when you were a baby.”
“Or you being rescued in the nick of time from a firing squad after being involved in a failed revolution. And, what were the odds that you’d be old friends with the man who tried to steal our ranch?”
They contemplated their respective pasts in silence for a while. Finally Johnny shook his head. “Like I said, growing up here would have been kinda boring.”
This scene is taken from the Legacy episode.
Scott has been shot. Johnny and Murdoch have just turned up and found him.
Despite being injured and unable to stand Scott’s only concern is with helping his grandfather. Murdoch orders Johnny to take Scott to a nearby ranch and then, charitably, goes off to help Garrett. This is what might have happened instead.
Through the pounding pain in his head Scott weakly resisted his brother’s efforts to get him mounted on Barranca. Shot could be heard in the distance as the Deegans’ continued their efforts to fill Garrett full of lead.
“Grandfather…..got to help him,” he gasped.
“Why?” Murdoch enquired, gazing at Johnny.
Johnny shrugged in response. “Beats me.”
“That old buzzard has had this coming for years. He should have thought twice before stealing my son. Get him on that horse, Johnny, we’re going home.”
Johnny grinned and held tightly to his brother as he turned Barranca toward Lancer.
This triple drabble comes from the High Riders. I do not suggest this as a serious alternative for the scene in question.
Pride comes before a fall
Johnny let out a relieved sigh, wincing at the pain in his back. He looked up at his brother who had proved to be surprisingly useful with a rifle. "That was good shootin'".
No false modesty there! Johnny tried to think of something else to say, hampered by the agony in his back which was making him feel physically sick.
about given up on you, Boy."
‘Boy’? It had been a hell of a long time since anyone had called Johnny Madrid ‘boy’. Johnny smiled to hide his irritation. It wasn’t as if Scott was that much older than him. He might have taken it from the old man. Then again… "Well, you had your plan, and I had mine." Much to Johnny’s relief Scott didn’t ask for details of his plan. He started to struggle determinedly to his feet.
"Take your time. Take your time."
Johnny let out a groan as he made it to his feet. He was vaguely aware that Scott had hold of a handful of his jacket, helping him to stay upright. He gripped Scott’s arm, turned and saw his father. His anger and pride resurfaced. He’d damn well show Murdoch Lancer what he was made of! "I can make it." He let go of his brother, swaying unsteadily.
“Have it your way.”
Oh, great! Now Scott was walking away, leaving him to his own stupid pride. Johnny took a couple of shaky steps. Why wasn’t anyone coming to help him? Couldn’t they see that he was in trouble? His knees started to buckle as his vision darkened. For the second time that day he landed face down on the very hard ground. ‘One day, Madrid,’ he mumbled, ‘you’re gonna have to learn to trust someone.’
I couldn’t resist this. It was inspired by Yesterdays Vengeance and the part where Johnny had returned to the ranch to read his father’s letter. When he gets to the part about Haney’s raids Teresa supplies the information, including the fact that Murdoch’s first wife was pregnant and that her father took her East for her own safety. What happened next was the ultimate in stupidity in my humble opinion. <g>
Johnny studied the note then looked up. “Scott’s mother?”
On the point of agreeing and explaining about the circumstances of Scott’s birth, Teresa frowned. “Uh, Johnny? How many wives do you think your father has had?”
Johnny’s forehead creased in thought. “Two?” He offered cautiously.
As Teresa smirked at him he gave her an aggrieved stare. “Look, it ain’t my fault the writers gave me that dumb line. Reckon they were worried that the audience hadn’t been payin’ attention. And why’d they send me back for the note anyway? Boy did they miss an opportunity to pile on the angst.”
This is a quadruple drabble set just after Scott arrives back at the ranch, having fooled Pardee into thinking that the hacienda has been left virtually undefended.
He waited only long enough to ensure that his orders were being obeyed. The weight of command rested lightly on his shoulders following the success of his mission. Perhaps now he’d be able to wipe the smug smile from Johnny’s face. Although he had kept his feelings carefully hidden, the ‘tin soldier’ remark had rankled. It had been a long time since he’d last had to prove himself, and failure wasn’t an option that he was prepared to consider.
He strode confidently into the great room, his rifle gripped firmly in his hand. If he was right, he’d need it soon enough. He acknowledged his father and Teresa, noting with surprise that there was no sign of his brother. Needing to wash the dust out of his throat he headed for a table and poured himself a glass of brandy. It took only a few words to convey the events of the past few hours. He ended with a reminder that it was nearly daylight.
“Teresa, get my rifle.”
Scott raised his glass again as Teresa hurried to do Murdoch’s biding. “Where’s Johnny?”
Scott couldn’t see his father’s expression as the older man was standing with his back to him. “Gone where?”
“What difference?” Scott echoed in disbelief. “He’s your son. Don’t you care where he is, or what he’s doing?”
“Of course I care!”
“Well, you’re doing a damn good job of hiding it. All we’ve heard about since we arrived is how much this ranch means to you. Not once have you said anything to make us feel welcome. I’m not surprised Johnny’s left.”
Murdoch finally turned, his expression angry. “I offered each of you a share in this ranch. Isn’t that enough? Have you any idea how much that’s worth?”
“It won’t be worth anything if Pardee wins. And, truthfully, Murdoch, I’d trade my share for one word from you to show I mean more than just being another ranch hand able to use a rifle. I’m willing to bet that Johnny feels the same.”
“I doubt it.”
“Do you? I’ve done a lot of thinking since Johnny stayed out of that fight in town. Did it ever occur to you that he might have a plan?”
Scott sighed. “I don’t know. I just hope, whatever it is, he doesn’t end up with a bullet in his back.”
This is a very short WHN for Yesterday’s Vengeance.
Murdoch settled back in his own bed, grateful that the difficult journey from Mesa Roja was behind him. The bullet wound in his back inflicted by Mrs Haney pained him more than he liked to admit.
What pained him more was the thought of the discussion he was about to have with Scott about Judd Haney. Following his usual policy of leaving the past where it belonged – firmly in the past – Murdoch would have preferred not to have to explain his reasons for the visit to Mesa Roja to anyone. Unfortunately Johnny, Jelly and Teresa were all privy to the content of the letter he had left behind in case things had gone wrong.
The only person who hadn’t read it, and the one most affected by the events it described, was Scott. On the journey home Johnny had made it clear he expected Murdoch to come clean, otherwise he would give the letter to his brother.
A soft knock on the door heralded Scott’s arrival. Murdoch summoned up a weak smile. “Come and sit down, Son. There’s something I need to tell you.”
Scott was already unsettled by the evasive looks he had been receiving from his brother and Jelly coupled with Teresa’s hovering concern for his wellbeing. “What’s going on?” He stayed poised halfway between the door and the bed, watching his father’s sweat beaded face intently.
Taking a shaky breath Murdoch began his tale. Part way through he was relieved to see Scott edging his way over to the chair, his face pale but composed. After Murdoch has finished there was a lengthy silence as Scott sorted through his thoughts and emotions.
“I spoke to Mrs Haney, before she told me you were alive. She said her husband had served eighteen years in prison and that she had been the one who betrayed him. She didn’t tell me why he’d been sent to prison. Eighteen years is a long time out of a man’s life. Whatever he did, he’s paid for it. Seeking vengeance on him now won’t change what happened….won’t bring my mother back. I wish things had been different, that you hadn’t sent her away, but I can understand why you did and I’d have probably done the same thing.”
Scott rose to his feet. He knew that he’d said all the right things, the things his father needed to hear. The subject was uncomfortable for both of them and Scott wasn’t sure he wanted to reopen old wounds by delving any further into the past. He had lost his mother to Judd Haney twenty five years ago. He wasn’t going to risk losing his father over the same issue.
“You need to rest, sir. I’ll see you in the morning.” Scott saw the relief on his father’s face.
He left the room to seek the sanctuary of his own bed. He had a lot of thinking to do before he could start along the road that might lead to forgiveness for Judd Haney.