What Lies Beneath


If the squeal had been slightly higher, Scott was certain that it wouldn't have registered on his hearing.  It was a squeal almost as high as a bat's, in which he could discern the words, "Johnny Lancer, Just what do you think you're doing!  Get out!" 

A door slammed, then footsteps padded down the hall and the stairs.  A lighter set of footfalls came in quick succession after those.

Murdoch Lancer looked up from his breakfast and bellowed at his son, Scott, "What in blazes is going on there?"

Scott shrugged over his coffee. "I haven't any idea, sir.  Johnny mentioned to me that he was going to ask Teresa if she wanted him to pick up anything for her while we were in town today."

The cook, Maria, placed more bacon next to the enormous pancakes on Scott's plate.  He managed a "gracias" in his limited Spanish and signaled for her to her that she'd given him quite enough food.  Scott was very impressed that she'd made him pancakes.  He did love them, but they really weren't something he'd enjoy eating every morning.  Pancakes reminded him of New England.  He preferred them in for leisurely autumn breakfasts; but, since deciding to live at Lancer, a leisurely breakfast was definitely something of the past.  Although it was August, Scott was still grateful to Maria for making him huge, fluffy pancakes.  Even Murdoch enjoyed tucking into them and Scott felt certain that Johnny would eat as many as both he and their father together. 

Johnny entered the kitchen, it should be specified that Johnny could, and did, enter a room quite like no one else Scott has ever met.  Scott smiled thinking that often when his brother entered a room, a change in air pressure was detectable.  Johnny certainly did have a surfeit of energy.  He sat down to take a gulp of the milk and began to devour the plate of pancakes and bacon Maria set before him.

Following in Johnny's wake was a fuming Teresa, her face a slightly deeper hue of rose than Johnny's shirt.

Scott marveled that when very angry, Teresa really did look like a duck.  There she was looking for all the world like a large, irate, pink waterfowl.  To Scott she was definitely bore more of a resemblance to an oddly colored duck than she did a flamingo.  That was very ungallant of him, he knew.  Still, she could be such a brat. Teresa pointed at Johnny and squawked , "He walked in on me!  In my bedroom, he just barged in, without even knocking!  I just turned around and there he was."

Scott carefully swallowed a piece of bacon he'd be chewing before responding, "Teresa, why should that bother you?  Johnny meant no harm.  You know he thinks of you as a sister.  He feels very comfortable with you, just as you feel comfortable with all of us, that's all."

"I hope you have an explanation for this display of cantina manners in our home."  Murdoch speared Johnny with his gaze.

Johnny returned his father's look and took a large bite of pancake and chewed it thoroughly before answering, "Maybe.  Let's just say that no good deed goes unpunished.  There I was tryin' to be nice by asking Teresa if she had anything she woulda liked picked up in Morro Coyo today.  She never knocks when she barges in on any of us.  Hell, she saw me naked last week."

Murdoch stared in consternation at Teresa, his mouth agape.  Scott commented to his father, "I think your coffee's getting cold, sir."

"Damn my coffee, Scott.  Under what possible circumstances could Teresa have seen Johnny naked.  She hasn't by any chance seen you naked, has she?"

"No, sir.  I learned to dress quickly in the army."

"The army's not the only place where you learned to dress quickly," Johnny snorted.

"Johnny's just upset that I walked in on him in the bathhouse last week.  I didn't see anything."  Teresa protested.  "He jumped into the tub so fast he splashed me.  I was soaking." 

"You were not!  Don't exaggerate. You only got a little wet."  Johnny blurted out.

Teresa snapped back, "You just stuck your face up out of the water and bellowed at me so loud that Jelly and, even Dewdrop, came running.  Then you let out yelling to get that goose out of there.  I can't believe that you, tough Johnny Lancer, would be afraid of a little, old, defenseless goose.  I mean, how could he even get at you since you were in the tub."

A soft cough from Scott proved to be useless in his trying to suppress his laughter.  He sputtered a bit, trying to drink a bit of coffee.  Getting control of himself, he replied, "Johnny was perfectly justified in being wary of Dewdrop.  Firstly, geese are not harmless, they are incredibly mean.  In ancient times a flock of geese are said to have raised an alarm and helped prevent the Gauls from mounting an attack on the city of Rome.  Have you ever been bitten by a goose, or seen a goose bite, Teresa? Secondly, a tub of water is no protection.  Geese are waterfowl, they can swim, and even a domestic goose, like Dewdrop, can fly enough to get over the tub rim."

Teresa flounced her way to the table as Maria chided her about letting her breakfast get cold. 

Murdoch cleared his throat, "I think that each of you," indicating both Teresa and Johnny, "owe one another an apology.  And for goodness sake, will both of you learn to knock."

"That ain't fair, Murdoch," Johnny fairly exploded.  "I only did it once, just to show her what it's like to have someone to that to you.  That it's not so much fun.  I didn't see nothing, just her -- that frilly, white . . ."  He motioned to indicate shoulder straps.

"Camisole," Scott said, "It's called a camisole."

"See, Scott is an expert on ladies' underwear."  Johnny noted.

"Thank you very much," was Scott's dry response from over his coffee cup. "I'm not sure that's much of a ringing endorsement.  However, I suppose it's better than being known for being an expert in ladies' underwear." 

"Yeah, well," Johnny broke in, "I wouldn't be talking to much about that sort of thing if I were you, brother.  People might get the wrong idea.

"Perish the thought," was Scott's reply.

Johnny attacked his next stack of pancakes.  He aimed his words to Murdoch as he gestured toward Teresa.  "She's seen all of us in our drawers, even you, Murdoch.  Jelly said she even barged in on him when he was in nothin' but his drawers."

Teresa rolled her eyes at Johnny.  "That happened accidentally once.  And that never happened again."

"That never happened again, querida, 'cause you never got past Dewdrop again.  And you got on me for bein' afraid of a goose.  So now we're even, Teresa, 'cause I just saw you in your drawers." 

"You what!" Murdoch roared.

Scott suavely intruded, "Far be it for me to intrude upon this unmentionable subject -- but, no, Johnny, I don't think that Teresa would do something as unfeminine and indelicate as wearing drawers.  Being a young lady I imagine, being a young lady, she, of course, would wear pantalettes."

"Is that what their called?" Johnny asked.  "Damn, Scott, you do know all about ladies' underwear?  You ever by any for a lady."

"No, Johnny, I find best never to buy lingerie for a lady."

Johnny whistled, the said, "Not even for sportin' women?"

"Especially not for sporting women.  They take it as a criticism of their job performance."

Murdoch snapped, "I'll thank you two not to speak that way in front of Teresa."

"Oh, I'm not a child!" Teresa whined.  "I know about that sort of unfortunate woman.  They work at the brothel in Spanish Wells."

"I always called that a bordello myself," Johnny said to her.

"I prefer the term house of ill repute myself," Scott offered.

Murdoch seethed, "I'll thank all of you to keep civil tongues in your heads.  Talk of soiled doves over breakfast, it's more than a body can stand.

"Teresa, I am asking you in future to knock on the bedroom doors of other in future.  You are now of an age where in it, it is . . . unseemly to just barge in on others, particularly men, especially young men. As for you two miscreants, neither of you will enter Teresa's room without knocking, nor without her permission."

Scott finished chewing the last of his pancakes and settled back in his chair.  "Sir, if I ever chanced to see Teresa in a state of dishabille I would deeply regret not being able to gauge out my mind's eye."

"You mean like that Greek fella in one of your books, Scott, who gauged out his eyes 'cause he married his mother by accident?" Johnny asked.

"You mean Oedipus?" Scott said. "Not exactly, he did it literally, I meant it figuratively.  I'd deeply regret not being quickly able to purge that troublesome image from my memory.  I think of Teresa, as sure you do, Johnny, warmly as a younger sister."

"That's an interestin' book.  It has nice illustrations, too."  Johnny said. "I really like the one of the goddess of love.  She ain't wearin' no underwear, but she's real pretty."

Scott dropped his napkin on the table. "I think it might be advisable for us to set off for Morro Coyo. What do you say, Johnny?"

"I think we should get a move on, hermano," Johnny wolfed down the remainder of his breakfast.

"Wait," Teresa called after them.  She ran up to Johnny to hand his slip of paper.  "It's a list of things I'd like you to pick up in town, if you could."

Johnny smiled, "We'll see if we can get everything."

He walked quickly to catch up to Scott.  Johnny rested his hand on his brother's shoulder to ask, "What is that love goddess's name?"

"Aphrodite.  She was called Venus by the Romans."

"That's real pretty.  Aphrodite.  I thinking might name new filly that."

"Is there something about you and the filly I should, or maybe, shouldn't know Johnny?"

"Scott, I'm gonna deck you if you don't stop talkin' like that.  I just like the name.” Johnny fastened his gun belt around his hips. “You think that Teresa will start knockin’?"

Scott settled his hat on his head. “I doubt it.  Brother, I’m afraid if we ever hope to have any peace of mind in our rooms; we may well have to get that girl married off.”



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