actually my second story. I wrote
it right after Between A Rock And A Wet Place in August 2003.
After starting the beta process, Chris and I had to put it on hold in
November due to busy schedules and the holidays.
Therefore, Christmas Memories was my third story but was posted before
this one because the beta process goes faster on 12 pages as opposed to 70.
Lancers do not belong to me, but I like to borrow them to write.
I don't get paid to do this, so don't look a gift horse in the mouth.
Just to be on the safe side. I
grew up in a military family so I do tend to talk like a sailor sometimes.
No actual chicken was harmed in the writing of this story.
(For my animal loving sister who was mad at me for 2 days because of
This story was
beta read. Any and all errors and
mistakes that slipped through as I put the parts back together are mine alone.
Thanks to Chris
for the beta read on this. You have
taught me a lot about the writing process.
You were unfailingly honest in your assessments each time.
I thank you for pointing out what was wrong and showing me how to fix it
myself. I learned to look at my
writing from a different point of view, which made me see the beta process is
about construction not destruction. You
gave me the right tools to construct a better story without changing my idea.
With your help, I discovered I truly was strong enough to bend.
Thanks to Nancy
and Karen. Nancy for advising me to
seek help from Chris when I started this last year. Nancy said she had an eye
for detail and she wasn't kidding. Karen
for confirming the medical facts were correct.
Thanks to Janet
(JEB) for letting me use the Talbot name again.
Thanks to Winj,
KC and Kona (Linda B) who made me a freak for bath scenes.
Do You Get That From
Chickens? By Southernfrau
Johnny Lancer sat in the chair by his
bedroom window. He sighed heavily to himself.
// Well you did it again Madrid. The old man is going to have a fit. The fur will fly. Of course, I’m used to going toe to toe with him. I just wish Teresa wasn’t mad at me too.//
Six Hours Earlier
“Johnny would you do me a really big
favor? Go check to see if there are any more eggs in the hen house. I want to
bake a cake for supper and there aren’t enough eggs in the house,” pleaded
Teresa O' Brien, Murdoch's ward.
“Well now, that depends. What kind of
cake are you making? If it’s chocolate, I’ll get right on it. If it’s not
chocolate, forget it. It’s not worth fighting that hateful old laying hen,
Mirabel. I swear that crazy bird has it in for me,” replied Johnny.
Teresa laughed, “Johnny, Mirabel can
tell that you don’t like her that’s why she acts so jumpy around you. She
doesn’t trust you.”
“I don’t trust her either. I ain’t
never been in the chicken yard when she didn’t fly at me like she’s going to
peck my eyes out. I swear one of these days I’m going to put a bullet between
them beady little eyes of hers.”
“Johnny Lancer you better not do
anything to hurt my best laying hen. If you ever so much as cause her to lose a
feather I’ll never bake you another chocolate cake.”
Johnny’s eyes twinkled as he gave her
an insolent grin, “So you are making a chocolate cake. I’ll go right now and
get the eggs. If I ain’t back in five minutes you’ll know I ran into
trouble. Send Scott and Cipriano with the wagon and first aid supplies.”
“Oh quit being a smart aleck. Not even
you could run into trouble collecting eggs.”
With a wicked little smirk on his face,
and a tug to Teresa’s hair, Johnny set off for the chicken yard.
The closer he got to the chicken pen the
louder the ruckus coming from the yard got.
//Oh great, sounds like Mirabel has
all the old biddies in a mood today. I bet Teresa knew it too. That’s why she
wanted me to come for the eggs.//
Johnny opened the fence to the chicken
yard and stepped in. “Hello ladies, what’s wrong? Mirabel got everybody’s
feathers all ruffled today?”
Johnny crossed the pen, dodging the
chickens that were running towards him and away from the hen house.
“I don’t blame you chickens. I’d
want to run too and I got a gun. Y’all might want to huddle on the fence over
there for the next few minutes. I’m about to put Mirabel in a fouler mood than
she’s in already.”
Back at the hacienda Teresa paused and
wondered what Johnny was doing to cause the chickens to squawk so loudly.
Johnny stepped into the hen house and
froze. Coiled in the corner was a snake. Acting from sheer instinct and a hatred
of snakes, Johnny drew his gun and shot it's head off before he even took time
to identify what kind it was.
Teresa could hear the commotion from the
hacienda and ran for the chicken yard to find out what was going on.
Johnny was crouched down next to the
snake he had just shot. It was only a chicken snake. It might have made off with
some eggs or baby chicks so it was just as well he had shot it.
Teresa flew into the hen house and was
stunned by what she saw. There were feathers and hay from the nests everywhere.
There were even a few broken eggs on the ground, knocked out of the nests by
She was about to ask Johnny what had
happened when she noticed Mirabel lying dead on the ground near his feet.
Teresa gasped, “You shot Mirabel! How
could you? I’ll never forgive you! You knew she was my favorite.”
Johnny stood and gave Teresa an
incredulous look. “I did not shoot a chicken. I shot this snake,” he said
gesturing to the snake behind him.
With tears running down her face Teresa
cried, “If you didn’t shoot her then why is she dead?"
“How would I know ? Maybe she had a
heart attack or maybe she was just plain scared to death of this chicken
The shock of finding her best laying hen
dead caused Teresa to speak without thinking, “You shot your gun in here for a
stupid chicken snake? Why didn’t you just get a stick and run it out? You
could have killed it once it was out of the chicken yard. Now Mirabel is dead
and the hen house is in a mess. You never think before you act. You are so
irresponsible. Just wait until Murdoch finds out what you’ve done now.”
“Teresa I didn’t know it was just a
chicken snake until after I shot it. I walked in here and saw a snake and shot
it out of instinct. I’m sorry Mirabel is dead. I’m not sorry I shot this
snake without getting close enough to tell what kind it was. The only good snake
is a dead snake. Don’t you think you’re acting kind of ridiculous?”
“Johnny Lancer don’t you tell me
I’m being ridiculous. You never liked Mirabel. For all I know you could have
crushed her trying to get to that snake.”
A look of hurt and anger passed over
Johnny’s face at Teresa’s harsh words.
“Well if you want to check the chicken
over I’m sure you won’t find any bullet holes or broken bones,” he hissed
through clenched teeth.
Teresa turned on her heel and stomped
from the hen house. As soon as she got back to the hacienda she grabbed Maria by
the arm and began gesturing towards the hen house. She explained her version of
what she thought had happened. When she finished, Maria enfolded her in a hug
and glared angrily towards Johnny.
Johnny stormed off to the tack room to
finish his work. // Women, I swear I’ll never understand them. Teresa knows
me well enough to realize I wouldn’t shoot a chicken. //
The longer he worked the angrier Johnny
got. // I wonder why everyone else around here can make mistakes. They can
have accidents and nobody thinks a thing about it. Let it be me and it’s all
my fault. They want to say I never think before I act because these stupid
accidents always happen to me. //
Johnny was slamming equipment around in
the tack room when Scott rode in from the range.
“Hey little brother who put a burr
under your saddle?”
Johnny frowned as he faced his brother,
“Hell I might as well tell you my side before Teresa tells you hers.” Johnny
proceeded to explain what happened in the hen house to his brother.
“Johnny, I don’t think I would have
done anything different myself. As far as I’m concerned I’m not going to get
close enough to a snake to find out what kind it is unless it’s dead.”
Johnny grimaced, “I hope Murdoch sees
it that way too. Since it upset Teresa and I’m the cause of it. I don’t
reckon I better hold my breath over it.”
Johnny waited on Scott to feed and groom
his horse then they walked to the house together.
Teresa greeted Scott with a smile and a
glass of lemonade. She made a point of ignoring Johnny.
Johnny glanced at Scott just long enough
for his brother to see the hurt in the eyes. Turning away, Johnny walked up
Scott winced as he thought about the
look of hurt that had been on his brother’s face.
Turning to Teresa he smiled and asked,
“Don’t you think you’re being a little hard on him? He was just following
his instincts. He certainly didn’t intend to kill your chicken. He feels bad
Teresa turned up her nose as she
replied, “I have nothing more to say about it. Murdoch can settle it.”
After going upstairs Johnny washed up
for supper. It had been six hours since the chicken incident and Teresa was
still mad. Figuring there was nothing else he could do Johnny sat in the chair
by his window waiting for his father to get back. He knew Murdoch was going to
explode, like he normally does.
Johnny leaned out the window, to see who
was coming, when he heard the sound of a horse approaching the house. It was
Murdoch coming back from town. Johnny saw Teresa running to the barn to speak
with his father.
Fifteen minutes later Johnny heard
Murdoch bellow from the kitchen stairs, “Johnny I need to speak to you now!
Get down here.”
Murdoch turned and limped to his desk.
//Guess I know whose side he’s
going to take.// Johnny got up and left the sanctuary of his room.
Johnny did not find his father in the
kitchen. //I guess he's waiting in the great room. I might as well go let the
old man chew me out//. Johnny passed through the kitchen and dining room on
his way to Murdoch's wrath.
Murdoch sat at his desk, his displeasure
written all over his face.
With his head down, Johnny stepped up to
stand before his father. //One man, judge and jury//.
“I would like an explanation of what
went on here this afternoon young man. How could you upset Teresa like that? You
killed her best laying hen!”
Johnny clenched his jaw so tight he
thought it might break. Johnny snapped his head up as he shouted loudly, “I
did not kill that chicken. I killed a snake. I told her I was sorry even though
I didn’t actually do anything to it. The chickens had already knocked the hay
and eggs out of the nests before I got there. The snake scared them.”
“Teresa says you threatened to shoot
Mirabel before you even went to the hen house.”
“I was teasing her. If she would stop
to think about it she would realize that.”
Murdoch looked smugly at Johnny before
replying, “Why would you expect her to stop and think when you don’t?”
Johnny shook his head angrily before
exclaiming, “I’m sure you checked out the chicken and didn’t find any
bullet holes or broken bones. I didn’t kill that chicken! Since I’m going to
be made to wear the blame for it, go ahead and pass judgment old man.”
“I don’t appreciate your tone of
voice young man. I expect you to clean up that mess in the hen house. You can
make any repairs it needs while you’re at it.”
“I’ll get right on it. And, for the
record, I don’t think there’s anything about me you do appreciate. In fact,
it looks to me like y’all think more of that damn chicken than you do me. If
that had been a rattler instead of a chicken snake you’d all probably still be
mad that the chicken is dead,” said Johnny in a deadly calm voice.
Turning swiftly Johnny headed for the
door. He stopped when his father called out, “Where do you think you’re
“I’m going to clean up the mess I
made when I shot a snake in a dimly lit hen house without bothering to find out
what kind it was first.”
“I’m sure that can wait until
tomorrow. It’s almost time for supper.”
“I’d rather get it done now. I’m
not hungry. I don’t want to sit down with people who think more of the animal
on their plates than me.”
Standing in the kitchen Teresa now
realized how ridiculous she had been.
// Why did I have to over react? If I
had gone in the hen house and seen that snake I would have been hollering for
one of the men to come with their gun.//
Murdoch got up from the desk his body
stiff with exasperation. He walked to the sideboard and poured himself a scotch.
As Murdoch turned around he saw Scott standing in the doorway of the open french
doors. Murdoch could tell from the disapproving look on Scott's face he had
heard it all.
Murdoch grimaced as he sarcastically
inquired of Scott, “That went well didn’t it?”
Scott couldn’t really believe what had
just transpired. He knew Johnny could be reckless and stubborn, but his only
crime had been to shoot a snake. It wasn’t Johnny's fault the chicken was
“I’d say it went about like normal,
sir. Johnny is in trouble again because he’s quick with a gun. Do you really
think he should have gotten close enough to identify that snake before he took
any other action? What if Johnny had done that? What if it had turned out to be
a rattler and it bit him? Then Johnny would be in trouble for not killing it
before he got close enough to identify it.”
Murdoch was speechless, but he was also
prideful. Murdoch Lancer wasn’t about to back down now.
When he got no response from his father
Scott shrugged and went upstairs.
Standing in the kitchen listening to
Scott point out the facts, Teresa realized she had made a mountain out of a
molehill. She didn’t even understand why she had done it. She knew Johnny
would normally go out of his way to ensure her happiness and safety.
Teresa felt she owed Johnny an apology.
She had not only gotten him in trouble with Murdoch, something he did enough on
his own, but she had also treated him poorly when he came in from work.
Tears began to spill down her face as
she recalled how she had made the cherry pie, which Scott preferred, for dessert
instead of the chocolate cake - that Johnny loved.
// I must be the worst sister in the
world. Knowing Johnny, he probably isn’t even mad at me. He’s more than
likely hurt. I wish I knew how to make this up to him. I can’t just tell
Murdoch to forget it. He’ll never back down. I can hear him now saying,
"This is no longer open for discussion.//
Teresa decided to give Johnny time to get his emotions under control before she tried to talk to him. She didn't think Johnny was angry with her but she was certain he was angry and upset with Murdoch
Johnny stomped out to the chicken yard,
his body rigid with frustration. He wished he had been able to keep a level
head. Johnny tried to explain to his father what had happened, and as usual it
had ended up in a shouting match. Johnny took exception to his father
questioning his thinking. He knew Murdoch was very protective of Teresa and just
the fact that Teresa was upset was enough to cause his father to overreact.
// Overreact, boy I wish I could
understand why Teresa reacted so badly. I wish I knew how to make her
understand. I think the best thing for me to do right now is keep my mouth shut
until it all blows over. Murdoch will probably send me on some job that will
keep me away for a few days. That way the old man can pretend like nothing
happened when I come back.//
Johnny stepped into the hen house and
peered around at the destruction. He looked at the body of Mirabel and
couldn’t help it, he had to smile. Mirabel had to be the most disagreeable
animal he ever met. She was still running true to form. Mirabel was causing as
much trouble in death as she had in life. // Maybe Mirabel was one of them
black magic chickens. She probably put some kind of curse on me. I bet I come
down with some kind of chicken sickness cleaning out this chicken coop.//
Johnny decided the first order of
business was to dispose of Mirabel. Those beady little eyes seemed to be staring
at him. He took Mirabel outside of the chicken yard and buried her. Johnny
figured that put her a little closer to the devil, which was right where she
Johnny knew it was childish of him, but
just to pay Mirabel back for all the trouble she caused, he buried the snake
Since Johnny was supposed to make any
repairs that the hen house needed he went to the barn to get fresh hay for the
nesting boxes. He also got a rake to clean up the floor.
Teresa walked up just as he was
returning to the chicken yard. “Johnny, I wanted to tell you I know I over
reacted and I'm sorry. You really do mean more to me than a stupid chicken.”
Johnny kept his head down the entire
time Teresa spoke to him. He didn’t want her to see the hurt in his eyes. When
she finished her little speech Johnny nodded his head and brushed past her to
finish his job.
Teresa chewed her lip as Johnny went by.
She knew he was hurt by her actions. “I saved some supper for you. I know you
said you weren’t hungry. If you change your mind I left it warming on the
stove for you. If nothing else you could eat the pie with some buttermilk or
Johnny turned and glanced at Teresa,
As Teresa nodded yes he snapped back,
“Give it to Scott it’s his favorite. I lost my appetite.”
The second he said it Johnny was sorry,
but he had enough Murdoch Lancer in him that he couldn't back down just yet.
Johnny wasn’t mad. He was hurt. Johnny didn’t like the feeling of that any
more than he liked feeling mad. Feeling hurt was new to him. It made him feel
vulnerable. Johnny watched silently as Teresa left the chicken yard, her
shoulders drooped in sadness.
Before he came back to Lancer, Johnny
never had to worry about hurt feelings, his or anybody else’s. It had been
Johnny's experience that he couldn’t let feelings get in the way of his
survival. Johnny felt to survive he needed to be in control of his emotions and
actions. That was hard to do if you had to worry about hurt feelings.
Control, it all came down to control.
Johnny Madrid didn’t like for people to tell him how or when to do things. He
felt like they were taking the control away from him when he wasn't given an
option on how or when to do things. Madrid needed to be in control to feel safe.
Johnny didn’t really have that big of a problem with the jobs he had to do on
the ranch. Johnny had a problem with the way he was told to do them.
In all the years Johnny was with his
mother she never told him what to do. In fact, once she got any money he might
have earned, she basically ignored him. She never gave much thought or attention
to what her only child was doing.
Unlike Maria, Murdoch expected a
recounting of all the day's events and what chores were completed. He felt like
his father was paying too much attention to what he was doing. Johnny knew
Murdoch cared or his father wouldn’t feel the need to rake him over the coals
when he felt his son could do better. Murdoch held his sons to a higher standard
than the hands, and Johnny to a higher standard than Scott.
Johnny couldn’t recall a single time
Murdoch had ever raised his voice at Scott or Teresa. Johnny had never heard his
father bellow at the hands the way he did him. Oh sure, Murdoch could be terse
or bark his orders to the men, but the old man didn’t get over wrought and
purple in the face the way he did with Johnny.
The more he thought about his present
situation, the angrier Johnny got. He could forgive Teresa, in fact he already
had, she was a girl. Johnny understood girls were more emotional than men.
Thinking about his father flying off the
handle the way he did over a chicken, really set Johnny's teeth on edge. In his
agitated state of mind Johnny began hastily pulling the old hay from the nesting
boxes to replace it with new hay.
When he got to the fourth box he
forcefully pushed his hands down around the old hay and snatched backwards with
both hands full. Half way out of the box it felt like something bit into the
outside edge of his left hand. Johnny yelped in surprise. He quickly threw the
hay down and lifted his hand to inspect it.
There was a deep gouge running from his
small finger to his wrist. It was bleeding freely. Johnny frowned at the sight
and wondered what could have done it. Inspecting the inside of the nesting box,
Johnny saw that whoever built the box had used nails too long for the task. He
had cut his hand on a dirty old nail.
When Johnny realized it was also the
nest Mirabel always used he rolled his eyes and muttered, “I knew that chicken
was out to get me.” Johnny then hollered as if the dead chicken could hear
him, “It ain’t going to work Mirabel! I’m not going to let you make me
sick! I’m going to clean this with carbolic as soon as I get done.”
Wrapping a bandana around the wound he
got back to work changing out the hay in the rest of the boxes. Johnny raked the
broken eggs, feathers, and hay from the dirt floor and placed it with yard trash
to be burned later.
Now that he was done with his chore
Johnny wanted to get his cut cleaned up. It was starting to burn and sting.
Johnny headed back to the house and the kitchen door.
Stepping into the kitchen Johnny was
relived to see it was empty. He went into Teresa’s pantry where she kept her
medicines and herbs to find the carbolic. After finding the medicine he walked
over to the sink to pump the water. Johnny hated the thought of using the
carbolic because of the intense burning it would cause, but he’d rather take
the burning now than chance an infection from a cut received in a dirty chicken
Hearing someone work the pump handle in
the kitchen Teresa came to see what was going on. She saw Johnny standing at the
sink unwrapping a bandana from his hand and the carbolic sitting by the sink.
Teresa knew he was probably still
feeling a little hurt and would not ask for any help so she stood back in the
shadows of the stairs to watch. When Johnny turned to hold his hand closer to
the light to inspect it better, Teresa gasped at the ugly wound.
Johnny jerked his head around to find
the source of the gasp. Teresa stepped out of the shadows, a concerned look on
her face. “Let me help you Johnny. That looks like a nasty wound. How did it
“ Snagged it on a nail in one of the
nesting boxes,” Johnny softly replied.
“I’ll wash this for you, you really
don’t want to get an infection from this. It looks to be fairly deep. You
might need stitches,” said Teresa in a concerned voice.
“I’m not going to get stitches for a
stupid cut I got from getting snagged on a nail.”
Johnny, you really can’t be too
careful. I'm sure you realize this could cause a bad infection," Teresa
stopped, cringing at her poor choice of words.
Johnny’s head snapped up at what he
considered to be another admonishment. “ No, I don’t know because according
to everyone around here I don't know nothin'!”
Unbeknownst to Teresa and Johnny,
Murdoch had been listening from the dining room doorway. “Johnny, you don’t
need to be so abrupt with Teresa. It’s not her fault you injured yourself.”
Murdoch’s statement proved to be the
straw that broke the camel’s back. Johnny was already battling a combination
of tiredness from the extra chore and hunger from missing his supper. He was
still feeling somewhat hurt over Teresa’s treatment and the stinging wound.
The young gunhawk had finally had enough of his father's self-righteous
attitude. Whirling around, Johnny faced his father and hissed through clenched
teeth, “I’ll tell you what. Why don’t you all just get the hell out of
here? Let me tend to myself. I’ve survived this long without any of you doing
my thinking for me. I guess I’ll survive this too.”
Teresa's hand flew to her mouth trying
to stifle a sob. Immediately, Johnny was sorry for the harshness of his words.
Before he could apologize, Teresa ran up the backstairs to her room.
Murdoch advanced on Johnny, fuming with
displeasure. “Do you see now what I mean about thinking before you act? You
have reduced Teresa to tears twice today. I think you could use some time to
cool off and think this over John. Tomorrow morning I want you to ride to the
north line shack. The place needs to be repaired and the winter provisions
stocked. It should take you around 4 days to complete the job and for you to
Standing steadfast, blue eyes blazing
with fury Johnny shouted, "So, you’re going to do what you always do when
you're mad at me - send me away for a few days and when I come back pretend like
nothing happened!” He then stormed from the kitchen forgetting to use the
carbolic solution on his hand.
Murdoch sank down wearily onto a kitchen
chair. // Why does every discussion with Johnny turn into a verbal fight? We
have got to learn to talk with each other instead of screaming at each other.//
Standing outside of his bedroom door
Scott had not heard the first part of the conversation downstairs. He certainly
heard the parts that Johnny and Murdoch shouted.
“What happened?” Scott asked softly.
Reaching out a hand to stop Teresa as she tried to rush by with tears in her
eyes and a hand clamped over her mouth to stifle a sob.
Wiping her tears, Teresa replied,
“Johnny cut his hand on a nail. I was trying to make light conversation while
I helped him clean it but it sounded more like I was correcting him. My poor
choice of words caused Johnny to snap at me. Murdoch heard it and that’s when
they started hollering at each other.”
Scott shook his head as he sighed,
“Yes, I could hear their bellowing up here. I wish those two would learn to
discuss their differences without getting so loud. " It just sets Johnny
off. when Murdoch barks orders at him, like Johnny doesn't have enough sense to
know which end is up.”
Teresa nodded as she added, “I think
part of the problem is Murdoch is trying to make up for all the years he
wasn’t there to teach Johnny by over guiding him now . We both realize Johnny
doesn’t like to feel that someone is watching over his shoulder all the time.
I think Murdoch buried his paternal instincts to show loving affection. Murdoch
is in the habit of paying attention to all the things Johnny does wrong. Johnny
needs praise from his father too. I've seen the pride in Murdoch's eyes when
Johnny does something right. Why can't he let Johnny see it?”
Blowing out an exasperated breath, Scott
added, "Murdoch seems to have conflicting emotions. He has a propensity for
being authoritarian with Johnny. He speaks harshly and negatively to him, but
yet I've heard him bragging to friends about Johnny's magic with horses. Murdoch
reminds me of a jealous, possessive man. He doesn't like to admit someone other
than himself guided Johnny through his formative years. Neither one of them
realizes they are just alike, both fear being rejected so they try to be the
first to reject the other. When there is a blow up instead of settling the
problem they ignore it. Once again Murdoch is exiling Johnny to some job that
will take him away for a few days so that they won’t have to tip toe around
each other until this latest storm is over.”
“Oh Scott, I just wish they had the
patience with each other that Johnny displayed two weeks ago at the orphanage
when he taught some of the boys to ride. Johnny didn’t raise his voice once or
get cross even though he had to keep repeating his directions. We all have seen
how gentle Murdoch can be when he helps the ranch hands children accomplish new
skills. Your father needs to show Johnny the same care and positive attention he
gives the kid. Johnny is his son; he deserves and needs praise and affection
too. If Murdoch and Johnny could just learn to communicate with each other and
accept their differences it would be so nice. As long as the job gets done why
should it matter how it was accomplished?"
Teresa went on to her room and Scott
turned to go down the stairs when Johnny came storming by him. Trying to break
the tension Scott asked, “What’s got you in such a hurry?”
“Didn’t you hear the old man
bellowing? I’m being sent away again until he can pretend that nothing
happened. I’m going to get my stuff together and go tonight. As far as I’m
concerned, there’s no use in waiting.”
“Johnny it’s getting dark now. Maybe
you should wait until morning.”
“I ain’t waiting. It’s a full moon
and the sky is clear. I shouldn’t have any trouble getting a wagon with
supplies up to the line shack. I’ll be gone at least four days because
that’s how long Murdoch said it should take. I guess that's how long it’ll
take him to get over this latest snit.”
Shaking his head sadly, Scott went down
the stairs. The blond Lancer raised his eyebrows at his father as he walked
through the kitchen, then left out the back door and headed to the barn.
Johnny charged into his room to gather
up his stuff. Hearing a knock at the door he glanced up to see Teresa standing
in the doorway.
Johnny tilted his head to the side and
opened his arms. Teresa flew into them exclaiming, “I’m so sorry, I don’t
know why I was being so foolish. I’ve got you and Murdoch cross with each
other again. Please forgive me.”
Johnny whispered, “There’s nothing
to forgive. It was about time for the old man and me to blow up at each other
again. Don’t worry about it. It will be fine. You’ll see. In four days
he’ll be acting like nothing happened.”
“Will you at least come to the kitchen
and eat some supper before you go?”
Johnny consoled Teresa by saying,
“I’m really not hungry, but if it will make you feel better you can pack me
something to take along.”
"I'll pack a picnic basket with the
leftovers while you finish getting your gear together. Don't forget to stop in
the kitchen before you leave." Teresa stepped back from Johnny's light
embrace and the two exchanged smiles before she left to complete her chore.
Johnny stuffed the rest of the items he
thought he might need into his saddlebags. He stopped by Scott's room to tell
him goodbye but the blond Lancer was not there. Johnny took a moment to look
around his brother's room. // The best thing about being back at Lancer is
having a brother. Sometimes Scott is the only reason I come back when I get sent
After retrieving the basket of food
Teresa packed for him, Johnny headed to the barn to load the wagon with supplies
and hitch up a team of horses.
When he got to the barn he was surprised
to find that Scott and Jelly had already hitched up a team and had begun loading
“Are you that anxious to get rid of me
Brother?” Johnny smiled.
There was no amusement in Scott’s eyes
as he replied, “No I’m just trying to make sure you have everything you
need. I worry about you. That’s my job. I’m the big brother remember?”
Johnny's head dropped, chin to his chest
as a lump formed in his throat preventing him from speaking. // Sometimes I
feel like my brother is the only one who thinks I'm worth the effort.//
Trying to break the awkward moment Scott
grabbed Johnny in a playful headlock and ruffled his hair.
Jelly stood by watching. // I wish
that Johnny could connect with his father like he has with Scott.//
When Scott turned his brother loose
Jelly stepped forward and offered to go along. Johnny declined saying he could
use the time alone to think.
Jumping up onto the wagon seat the
former gunslinger asked his brother to keep an eye on Barranca.
With a wave, Johnny pulled away from the
barn with the loaded wagon. “See ya in around four days.”
Driving by the chicken yard all the chickens were squawking in response to some unseen spector. “I bet that old biddie Mirabel is still haunting them chickens,” muttered Johnny.
The further away from the hacienda he
got the more Johnny relaxed. It was a clear night sky. Every star in the heavens
seemed to be trying to out shine the one beside it. The moon was a huge yellow
luminescent ball over the top of the distance mountain peaks. The pale yellow
moonbeams created an ethereal light on the lush landscape. A light crisp breeze
lifted the sweat soaked hair from Johnny’s forehead and face. The cool night
air helped him to finally get his emotions under control.
Driving the wagon towards the north line
shack, Johnny realized the reason his father could provoke such emotion in him
was because he wanted Murdoch's approval of the things that he did. Johnny
wanted his father to know he was good at something besides being a gunslinger.
Everytime Johnny and Murdoch butted
heads it ended up in a shouting match. When it happened the former gunslinger
was reminded that once again he had failed to get his father’s approval.
Sighing while shaking his head to
himself, Johnny pondered. // At least the old man notices what I’m up to or
takes the time to find out what I’m doing. I get his attention even if it’s
not exactly the kind of attention I want. Mama never cared where I was at or
what I had done.//
The youngest Lancer resigned himself to
the fact that it would take a lot of hard work to build a relationship with his
father. Johnny cared about his father or he wouldn’t have stayed at Lancer.
The fact that the Old Man got so upset told the gunhawk that at least his father
cared about him. //Now if we could just learn to trust each other and talk to
each other without just about coming to blows.//
It was almost 10:00 when he got to the
line shack. The first order of business was to retrieve a couple of buckets of
water for himself and the horses from the lake. By the time he fetched the
water, fed the horses and bedded them down it was 10:30. Walking up to the line
shack from the lean-to Johnny could see his work was cut out for him. The old
shack's state of disrepair looked just as bad in the pale yellow moonlight as it
had in the bright light of day last week when Johnny and Murdoch had inspected
The outside the line shack had several
areas of the roof that needed repairing. The door was open and partly off the
hinges and the steps were sunk down on one end. There was only a two day supply
of firewood stacked at the corner of the building.
Inside there were debris on the floor
which was blown in through the open door during the same storm that had done
most of the outside damage. The bedding needed shaking out. A window needed to
be shined. The potbelly stove needed to be cleaned out and the table and two
chairs would have to be scrubbed down.
Seeing all the work that needed to be
done reminded Johnny how tired he was. However the former gunhawk knew he
wasn’t going to lay down in the bed until he had shaken out the mattress and
put the new blankets and sheets on it.
The thought of him changing a bed
brought a smile to Johnny's face. There was a time when Johnny Madrid would have
fallen asleep in the closest bed he could find, clean or not.
Living at Lancer had spoiled him, Johnny
found he really enjoyed the once a week ritual of clean sheets on all the beds.
// I like the smell of sunshine and lavender left on the sheets from
Teresa’s washing them and hanging them out dry.//
Pulling the mattress outside, Johnny
shook the dust from it. He took it back in and put it back on the cot frame.
Retrieving the clean sheets and blankets from the supplies the dark haired
Lancer held the sheets to his face and breathed in the crisp clean smell.
The lavender scent that still clung to
the sheet’s reminded him of the pretty brown hair girl Johnny thought of as a
sister. // I’m glad Teresa stopped by my room before I left. I would hate
to think of her worrying about me being mad at her.//
After finishing putting the sheets and
blankets on the bed, Johnny took the pillow outside to give it a good shaking
out before he put a clean pillowcase on it.
Satisfied he had done all he could at
this late hour the tired man washed up. The tenderness in his left hand reminded
him about forgetting to use the carbolic solution on it. After scrubbing it the
best he could with the homemade lye soap kept at the line shack, Johnny wrapped
a strip of white cloth around it for a bandage.
The next morning the sun had already
climbed the side of the mountain and had spread it's glorious early morning hues
across the sky before the former gunslinger opened his eyes. Gone were the
shades of pink, lavender and blue. The colors were already blending into a solid
Moaning softly as he forced his eyes
open, Johnny could tell by amount of light shining through the dirty window that
it was late in the morning. // It must be close to 9:00. Good thing Murdoch
ain’t here or he would be hollering at me for sleeping late.//
Stretching his lithe body, extending his
toes out flat and his arms up and back behind his head made Johnny grimace. // I
guess too much sleep ain’t good for ya. Feeling kind of achy this morning and
my head hurts too.//
Glancing around the shack before getting
up, the young man could see just how much work he did have to do. The bright
light of day showed the place didn’t just need repairs it was filthy.
Throwing the covers back, Johnny swung
his feet to the floor and stood up, swaying as he did. // Whoa, I shouldn’t
have gone to bed last night without eating, that’s probably why my head hurts
and I feel a little weak.//
The young gunhawk needed his morning
coffee to help him wake up. Some of Teresa's cherry pie with a cup of the strong
black brew would make a tasty breakfast. The chill in the air reminded him he
never lit the stove last night. // Oh well, I guess the coffee will have to
wait. It will be easier to clean the stove if I don't heat it up.//
While getting dressed Johnny decided
that he would start his chores by cleaning the stove. After putting on his
clothes, the young gunhawk retrieved a bucket and ash shovel along with the
hammer he brought with his tools. Using the hammer he banged the sides and top
of the stove to make the burnt on build-up drop off into the old ashes. When
that was done, all that was needed was to scoop out the old ashes and place them
in the bucket to take outside. The chore would be finished by taking down the
stovepipe in sections and hauling the pieces outside to tap loose the soot and
Tapping the sides to loosen the soot was
making a puffy billowing cloud around the gunhawk. // I'm glad I thought to
clean the stovepipe outside.// By the time Johnny was finished cleaning the
different sections he had breathed in enough of the soot to cause a cough.
That’s when the youngest Lancer realized his throat was sore.
It was close to lunch by the time the
stove was finished. Johnny decided to light the stove and take a break for some
lunch. Fetching some firewood from the corner of the shack he got the fire going
and then put on a pot of coffee. //I should have enough of the water I
fetched last night left until tomorrow, then I'll need to get some more.//
The basket Teresa had sent contained
thick slices of ham, fresh bread, cold potatoes, glazed carrots and a thick
slice of cherry pie.
The potatoes didn’t look very
appetizing after sitting all night. //Yuck! Glazed carrots. No, thank you!//
Johnny saved the ham and bread for sandwiches later. // I think I’ll just
have some pie and coffee for now. Don’t feel like eating anything but I would
probably feel better if I did.//
Grimacing as he ate the pie, Johnny
thought that breathing in the soot had made his throat feel raw. The hot coffee
sliding slowly down his sore throat made it feel better.
// Well I might as well finish up my
jobs inside for now. It's too late in the day to try to get on the roof to make
repairs. It would be too hot up there now. A person could get heat stroke.
Better wait and do the roof early tomorrow morning before it gets too hot.//
Now that the former gunslinger had the rest of the day planned it was time to
get the action started.
The dark haired Lancer commenced back to
work by pulling the cot, table and two chairs outside into the sunshine so they
wouldn’t get dusty when he swept the cobwebs from the ceiling and walls. The
last thing the broom was used for was to sweep the floor clean.
Getting the bar of lye soap, a bucket of
water and a clean rag Johnny polished the window until it shined. He surveyed
his hard work when it was finished, satisfied he had done a good job. // I
could have scrubbed the floor with soap and water, but Johnny Madrid draws the
line at getting down on his hands and knees like some kind of washer woman.//
The bucket of water and soap were taken
outside to wipe down the table and chairs. Johnny left them to dry in the sun
while he dragged the cot back in the shack. After a brief break and a drink of
water, the table and chairs were brought back inside.
Going back outside the gunhawk figured
it was about two hours before dark. He hadn’t realized the work inside would
take so long. // I could chop firewood for about an hour. If the wood
chopping chore is spread out over a couple of days maybe I won’t get to
feeling any sorer.//
Johnny steadily worked chopping wood. By
the time he was finished for the day he could feel every vibration of the ax in
all the joints of his body. The new rancher couldn’t remember ever being this
sore and achy even after coming off a long trail drive. The headache was still
there and his throat was beginning to feel like it was on fire. // I’m
beginning to believe that crazy old chicken really did put a curse on me or gave
me some kind of sickness.// Johnny peeled back the bandage on his hand to
inspect the wound. It was clean, dry and showed no sign of infection.
Deciding he had done enough for the day,
Johnny thought maybe a swim was in order. The cool water might relax his aching
muscles while he bathed. He got the bar of lye soap and a towel and headed to
Before undressing Johnny gazed around at
the magnificent view. This was one of his favorite spots. The lake was so clear
it reflected perfectly the scenery around it. That’s why it was called Mirror
Lake. If you looked up or down you saw the majestic mountain peaks with their
snow capped tops. Johnny laughed to himself thinking // Those mountains look
like short, fat, old men with pointed heads. The snow caps could be their white
hair; the trees looked like green coats while the rocks and dirt around their
bases - their brown pants.//
The former gunhawk sat down to pull off
his boots and socks, the cooler air of the higher elevation breezed across his bare
feet and shirtless chest making Johnny shiver.
After removing the rest of his clothing,
the shivering intensified. Johnny rubbed his hands briskly over his arms and
chest, hoping the water was warmer than the air felt right now.
The ex-gunhawk was startled by the
shrill twill of an excited bird. He chuckled as the twill was answered by the howl of a wolf.
Johnny had just been enjoying the picturesque view of nature and it
seemed as he stood there, with the fading light of day highlighting his tanned
muscled physique and generous attributes, that nature was enjoying the view he
Stepping into the water, Johnny gasped
as the coldness of it closed in around his bare feet and decided to just sit
about waist deep in the edge, wash up quickly and get out.
The chill in the water made him decide
not to dunk his head below the surface. Soaping
up his cloth, he rubbed the soft flannel over his work hardened body.
He made fast work of rinsing the lather from his skin. Johnny paused long enough to watch the soap bubbles slip off
his arms into the water, gathering around his slim waist. When he stood up the soapy spheres popped or floated away.
Leaving the water, Johnny hurriedly
towel dried himself so he could get back into warm clothes. The sore young man
had hoped that the water would help soothe his achy muscles but instead the cool
water made them feel like they were contracting instead of relaxing.
Once the former gunslinger was dressed
he sat enjoying the view for a few minutes before heading back to the line
Back at the line shack, Johnny started a
fire in the stove to make coffee. While the coffee was heating he cut four thick
slices of bread from the loaf Teresa had packed and put ham in between the
slices to make sandwiches.
The brunet Lancer sat down at the
freshly scrubbed table to eat supper. //Well, I got a good bit done today. It
certainly looks and smells better in here. Think I’ll get the door back on the
hinges before laying down. Tomorrow morning, before the sun makes it too hot
will be the best time to do the repairs on the roof.//
Johnny had made two thick sandwiches for
supper but was able to eat only one. His throat was really sore and raw and now
his stomach didn’t feel just right. He looked with distaste at the other
sandwich and threw it in the potbelly stove. The former gunhawk didn’t want to
chance attracting wild animals by throwing food scrapes out side the shack.
Besides if Mirabel was any indication he wasn’t having good luck with animals
Getting the tools out, he started fixing
the hinges on the door. All it really needed was new nails because the old ones
had rusted away. Johnny decided to go ahead and reset both hinges so it would be
a good repair job instead of a patch job. When the chore was finished he was
glad to shut the door. It was beginning to get a lot cooler out at night and
Johnny was feeling the start of a chill.
It wasn’t very late when the task was
completed but Johnny was so sore and achy he decided to turn in for the night.
It was already dark and there wasn’t much else to do. Huddling under the
covers, Johnny was unaware that a fever was beginning to build in his tired
While the youngest Lancer slept, thunder
clouds climbed over the peaks of the mountains hurdling themselves across and
down the other side with a speed that would rival a stage coach making a mad
dash through the Badlands. Johnny was so exhausted he slept right through the
sudden storm. It sounded as if God himself had stepped down from the heavens and
marched down the mountain with a cadence of boom, boom, boom. Shaking the tree
limbs in his fury, rippling the water on the once calm lake with his windy
breath and rapping on the line shack roof with enough force to rattle the
windowpane, before gracing the living creations with a rain as gentle as tears.
The next morning Johnny awoke to find
wet spots on the floor from the holes in the roof. Johnny groaned, he felt worst
today than yesterday. The sick Lancer laid on the bed squeezing his eyes shut
while pinching the bridge of his nose. It felt like his eyes were square blocks
forced into round sockets. //My throat burns like I slept with hot sauce and
chili peppers in my mouth all night.// The ham sandwich from supper last
night was tumbling around and around in his stomach trying to get back out.
Johnny figured he must have had fever
during the night because his head and underwear were wet with sweat. His sheets
felt damp too, but the outer blanket was dry.
//Well Madrid, there ain’t nobody
here to baby you. You might as well haul your sorry carcass out this bed and get
After talking himself into getting up
Johnny forced his eyes back open, threw back the covers, swung his feet to the
floor and stood up. The second his body was vertical he knew last night’s
supper was coming up. Stumbling to the door, he yanked it open and just made it
off the steps when he fell to his knees - retching until he had dry heaves. With
eyes closed, he remained in that position with his head down until he heard what
sounded like a chicken clucking. Snapping his eyes open, Johnny searched around
with watery fever glazed eyes but there wasn't a chicken to be seen anywhere.
Either my mind must is playing tricks on me or Mirabel is haunting me.//
Feeling exhausted and sick Johnny shivered at the thought. The shivering
intensified when Johnny realized he was outside in nothing but his underwear
while a light misty rain fell.
//Oh great, I was going to repair the
roof today and here it is raining.// Swaying as he stood, Johnny turned to
go back in the line shack.
After the rebellion his stomach just
went through Johnny didn't dare try to eat anything solid. He put on a pot of
watered down coffee, thinking his stomach wouldn't take full strength. While the
coffee heated up Johnny put on clothes. He added some more wood to the stove,
poured a cup of coffee and sat down to decide what to do about the work left to
complete. Johnny drank a whole cup of coffee, the weak warm brew soothing the
raw aching pain in his throat, before he could make a plan of action. Even
though it was raining, it was more misting than anything. Johnny was determined
to go ahead and do the roof repairs. If it started raining too hard he would
quit, since there no way of knowing whether or not it would be raining worse
tomorrow he might as well get it done today.
The decision made, Johnny went out and
placed a ladder against the shack to climb onto the roof. He wanted to estimate
how many wood shake shingles it would take to get the job done by inspecting the
roof’s damage. Johnny found that being on the roof made him a little
light-headed but thought it would be fine as long as he didn’t look down too
much. Because of dizziness, Johnny didn’t want to climb up and down the
ladder. He got the tarp that had covered the supplies in the wagon loaded all
the shingles and nails he would need on it. Johnny used a length of rope to tie
it shut and pulled it over to the shack.
Johnny could climb the ladder and pull
the tarp up behind him at the same time. Once he got on top of the shack and had
the supplies pulled up and sitting next to him he laid down on the roof to catch
his breath. The exhausted young man was shaking and light-headed again. He
alternated between feeling hot and flushed to cool and clammy. It was hard to
tell if he was sweating because the misting rain was beginning to soak through
his clothes. Johnny was afraid he had fever but resolved to finish the job since
everything was now in place.
Starting at the peak of the roof the
weary young Lancer began replacing broken and missing wood shingles. The
windstorm that had come through earlier in the month had peeled quite a few off
the roof. Johnny had only repaired one section of the roof when every strike of
the hammer against a nail was matched with a pain in the back of his skull. The
youngest Lancer was determined that he was not getting down off the roof until
the job was done. He had to keep taking breaks which made his time on the roof
double what it should have been.
By the time Johnny finished it was well
past lunchtime. He was more than ready to get off the roof but had to wait for
his vision to clear. For the last hour he had worked with blurred sight.
Scooting to the edge of the roof where the ladder stood, Johnny sat still for a
few minutes inhaling and exhaling deeply trying to catch his breath and calm his
The youngest Lancer didn’t understand
how someone could feel cold and hot at the same time. His throat felt like
someone had turned it inside out and rubbed it raw with sandpaper. The former
gunslinger realized that doing the roof repairs during a misty rain probably
wasn’t one of the smarter things he had ever done, but at least he was
Gathering his resolve Johnny turned and
clutched the top of the ladder and began his descent to the ground. All the
tired ex-gunhawk could think about was getting off the ladder so he could get in
the shack and stretch out on the cot for a few minutes. He still had the steps
to fix, more firewood to chop and needed to cut back some of the brush.
Those were the easy chores and there was two days left to get it done.
Johnny managed to put away the tarp and
left over supplies. The broken wood shake shingles were put with the firewood
because they could be used for starting the fires in the stove. // I’ll have
to remember to tell the old man about saving the broken shingles for starting
fires. Murdoch will have to admit that was thinking before I acted. //
Choosing to go and fetch any water that
might be needed tonight, before going back in, Johnny headed to the lake. Just
as he was stooping to scoop water into the bucket, the heavens let loose with a
deluge of rain that had him soaked to the skin. Trudging back to the shack with
the buckets of water, Johnny was secretly pleased that the weather would keep
him inside. From the looks of the
sky he thought he might have the rest of the day off.
Johnny wearily pushed the door open and
shuffled across the floor with the water burden. He used some water to put on
another pot of weak coffee. The former gunslinger had not eaten breakfast or
lunch but didn’t think his stomach would be too pleased if he tried to put
anything substantial in it.
Realizing his teeth were chattering
because he was so cold, Johnny peeled off the wet clothes and hung them on nails
near the stove too dry. Retrieving a dry pair of long john bottoms and socks
from his saddlebags he put them on. Then the ex-gunhawk stoked up the fire and
added more wood to it. After pouring a cup of coffee he sat on the edge of the
bed and wrapped up in the blanket to drink it.
Johnny was so tired and his eyes felt so
heavy by the time he finished the coffee, he just leaned over and sat the cup on
the floor. The youngest Lancer eased himself over on the bed and swung his legs
up onto the bed. He was asleep before his covers were adjusted properly and it
wasn’t even dark outside yet.
Around midnight the former gunfighter
was tossing and turning in a sweat soaked nightmare brought on by the high fever
building in his body. Johnny moaned and groaned, his eyes moving rapidly under
his eyelids and his breath was coming in short frantic pants. Trapped in a
nightmare something was smothering him, he struggled to breathe, whatever was
holding him down was causing him to burn like he was on fire. Johnny couldn’t
see past what was sitting on him, he just knew that for something that felt so
soft the weight of it on him held him in place.
The former gunfighter began to struggle
trying to get free. As he managed to free himself of the blankets in his
nightmare the weight on him shifted. When the weight shifted Johnny searched the
dark frantically to see what had trapped him. That’s when his fevered blue
eyes saw the biggest chicken he had ever seen in his life.
The giant chicken looked just like
Mirabel. She had been sitting on the ex-gunhawk smothering him to death and over
heating his body with her own body. Johnny screamed out, “I knew you put a
curse on me, I tried to tell everybody you didn’t like me.”
Mirabel turned to face Johnny with her
beady blinking eyes. Her beak was stretched and pulled into the most evil grin,
baring the grotesquely sharp yellow teeth, “You never appreciated me Madrid,
you didn’t mind eating my eggs and then making fun of me. Now you will pay.”
Johnny was glued to the cot. He could not make himself move. // Chickens
ain’t got teeth, now I know that bird is black magic. //
Mirabel, the giant chicken advanced on Johnny as he stared at her with morbid curiosity. Standing right next to the bed she began waving her right wing across him while chanting:
“Night and day, day and night,
For 2 weeks you won’t feel right.
Burn, burn, hot to the touch,
Fever will hold you in a clutch.
Throb, throb, the pain in your head,
Sores will make your body red.
Itch, itch, you’ll scratch and claw,
Watch out your skin will show the flaw.
Cough, cough, your lungs want air,
Then remember Mirabel if you dare.”
With a demonic laugh the chicken was
gone. Johnny’s eyes snapped open and he stared around the dim interior of the
line shack lit with only the moonbeams falling across the floor. // That is
the weirdest nightmare I have ever had. Why would I dream such a thing? I did
not kill that chicken. //
The ex-gunhawk's throat was on fire. His
face felted hot and flushed. Johnny swayed and stumbled as he stood to go to the
water bucket to get a drink of water. Putting the drinking ladle to his lips
Johnny's throat felt so swollen he couldn’t gulp the water. He had to sip it
slowly. The feverish Lancer took a rag and wet it to wipe over his face. Johnny
couldn’t remember the last time he felt this bad without having a bullet in
him. He dunked the rag in the cool water again and wrung it out slightly then
stumbled back to the cot. Johnny lay down on the cot, pulled the covers back
over him, and then placed the cool wet rag over his aching eyes.
The full feeling in his throat caused
Johnny to start coughing. Every time he coughed it felt like someone had bound
his ribs tightly cutting off the air supply. Exhausted, he turned on his side
and found it easier to breathe that way. Finally Johnny was able to fall back
into a fitful, feverish sleep. The youngest Lancer slept through sunrise the
next morning while back at Lancer breakfast was being served.
Murdoch was aware that Scott and Teresa
kept staring at him and then each other. Unable to take the silence any longer
he finally inquired, “All right you two have something on your minds let’s
Scott merely raised his eyebrows and
glanced towards Teresa.
Teresa cleared her throat before
replying, “I just wanted to apologize for over reacting the other day. I know
you already said you didn’t come down so hard on Johnny for the chicken but
because of the disrespectful way he acted. He wouldn’t have acted that way if
I hadn’t flown off the handle. Now Johnny's up at the line shack by himself
and I’m worried because of that nasty cut on his hand. He didn’t get a
chance to wash it with the carbolic solution before he left. I’m afraid he got
up there working and let it get infected. You know how easily Johnny gets
fever.” By the time the dark haired girl finished talking tears were streaming
down her worried face.
Murdoch sat in stoic silence for a
minute before blowing out his breath and proclaiming, “I was planning on
checking in on Johnny today to make sure he has everything he needs. You can
gather up anything he might need for his hand and I’ll check it myself for
Jumping up Teresa ran to the kitchen to
gather up first aid supplies. Murdoch’s ward also cut a couple of slices of
the chocolate cake she had made to send.
Returning to the dining room Teresa gave
the care package to Murdoch and placed a kiss on his forehead whispering,
Walking to the barn Murdoch was lost in
thought. // Johnny will more than likely blow up at me for coming to check on
him. I wonder why he has such a hard time accepting the fact I worry about him
too. // After saddling his horse and stowing the care package in the
saddlebags, Murdoch mounted for the ride to the line shack.
Up at the line shack Johnny was just
opening his eyes. He groaned as he realized that he had not gotten any better in
the night. He recalled the nightmare that had awakened him in the night and he
moaned. Johnny felt like someone had picked him up and literally wrung all the
fluids from his body, leaving his bones and muscles to scream in protest at the
Johnny knew there was no way he could
work today. He would need to go out long enough to feed the horses then come in
and try to take in some water or other fluids. Johnny just didn’t feel like he
could eat, his throat was too painful. // I can rest today and hopefully
tomorrow I will feel like finishing the job I was sent to do. Then I can head
home the next morning. Murdoch will be over his fit and we can pretend like
nothing happened like we usually do. // Johnny floundered getting up off the
cot. He struggled to make his limp limbs get his clothes on.
The former gunfighter decided he better
try to at least drink some water before going outside. The cold water felt good
in his hot mouth but it was hard to swallow it.
With a pounding head, Johnny gingerly
walked to the door, slowly opening it, then squinting his eyes against the
sudden brightness. He made his way over to the lean-to. Johnny stopped and
pressed himself up against the rail to catch his breath. Feeling short winded,
he tried to breathe in deeply to catch his breath but it caused a coughing fit.
The sick young man rested against the
rail for a few minutes before grabbing the bucket to fetch the water for the
horses. Johnny had to make his way slowly to the lake as he was fighting the
return of dizziness. Feeling even weaker, he had trouble toting his water burden
back to the lean-to. Sweat was pouring off his head, running into his eyes and
stinging them as Johnny tried to make sure each of the horses got a portion of
water. After filling the horse's feed sacks they were hung up. Johnny turned to
the hay bales stored at the back and pulled some hay to put down for each of the
Stumbling backwards Johnny decided he
needed to sit down. Since the bales of hay were closer than the shack he moved
over to them and sat down. The coughing made the youngest Lancer's head throb.
His lungs felt like someone was squeezing them and his throat like it was trying
to turn inside out. Feeling overly hot and the way his vision was graying around
the edges Johnny feared he might pass out. // I think I’ll just lay down on
these hay bales for a few minutes then I’ll get up and go back to the shack.
An alarmed Murdoch would find his
youngest son several hours later, burning with fever, still asleep on the hay
Murdoch pondered this latest fight with
his youngest son as he made his way towards the North line shack. The Lancer
patriarch knew he had been wrong in his actions about the chicken, but he was
not wrong to expect Johnny to act with more respect for others.
Murdoch Lancer did not back down once he
had decreed something. To back down would be to show weakness and that was
something the oldest Lancer was unwilling to do. In his heart Murdoch knew the
reason they butted heads so often was because they were too much alike. The
youngest and oldest Lancers were too full of foolish pride.
It was also hard to reconcile himself
with the fact that the cherubic toddler, who was happy as long as he was going
with his papa, had turned into the very independent, self-sufficient Johnny
A series of other men had taught his
child the lessons that by every right were the Lancer patriarch's to teach. Like
all children do, Johnny had out grown the hero worship of a father he barely
remembered. Since the youngest Lancer considered himself grown, any efforts on
Murdoch’s part to give him guidance was met by a wall of resistance. Murdoch
recognized he needed to find a way to help Johnny understand that his father
would always feel a paternal responsibility to his sons no matter how old they
Father and son needed to find a happy
ground to meet in. Both the oldest and youngest were going to have to give a
little. // Scott says I need to ask Johnny, not bark commands at him, that I
can get a lot further with him if I’m careful not to take all control from
The last mile to the line shack had
Murdoch making up his mind to have a nice calm discussion with Johnny. Maybe
father and son could sit down and have lunch together. They could talk while
they enjoyed the cake Teresa sent, along with some coffee.
but pleased with himself, Murdoch crested the little hill the line shack sat on.
His eyes scanned the area around the shack. Murdoch could see that Johnny had
already repaired the roof, from where he sat it looked like a good job. There
was a little more firewood chopped. // I guess Johnny repaired the roof first
and then worked on the inside yesterday because of the rain. //
Dismounting right outside the line shack
door, Murdoch wrapped his reins around the post near the door.
Stepping inside he could see the window
had been cleaned, the ceiling and walls swept down, the table and chairs
scrubbed, the bed linens changed. The oldest Lancer walked to the potbelly stove
and opened the door to inspect it; he was pleased to see that it had received a
good cleaning also. The patriarch smiled and chuckled to himself, //That boy
doesn’t have a problem with doing a good job. My youngest just has a problem
with being told to do it. Maybe I should try saying I need you to instead of I
want you to or you will. //
The oldest Lancer frowned, as he looked
around further, wondering where Johnny was. The only jobs left to do would have
kept him here near the shack. // I didn’t see him any where outside as I
rode up. // Some paternal instinct kicked in and Murdoch realized something
was wrong. Johnny was in danger!
Turning Murdoch headed for the door. //Dear
God I hope he wasn’t chopping wood and felled a tree on himself. // When
Murdoch got outside he saw the ax was resting in the tree stump where they spilt
wood. //Well Johnny is not chopping trees without the ax. //
Murdoch stood surveying the area around
the shack trying to see any sign of his youngest. As the Lancer patriarch stood
there he heard a barking, coughing sound coming from the lean-to. He hurried
over and saw that the horses had been fed. The worried father still didn’t see
Johnny though, and then he heard the barking sound again. He realized it was
coming from the hay bales.
The oldest Lancer pulled his gun from
the holster, not knowing what he might find, as he walked towards the hay bales.
Murdoch became alarmed when he realized the barking sound was coming from the
supine form of his son. Johnny was laid back on a hay bale with his legs hanging
down limply, in front of him. The gun was holstered as Murdoch ran to his
son’s side. The Lancer patriarch was dismayed to find his youngest son was
burning with fever. Johnny's skin was hot and dry. He was breathing in short
pants in between the barking, coughing spells.
Murdoch gently shook his son's shoulders
trying to wake him but Johnny would only mumble in response. The concerned
father took off his bandana and wet it in the bucket of water that was left for
the horses. He began wiping Johnny’s face calling to him to wake up.
Hearing someone calling to him, Johnny
pried his eyes open, he smiled when his father’s face swam into view. “Hey
old man, how you doing? ”
Murdoch had to smile at Johnny’s
seeming unconcern for his present situation. “I’m doing just fine son. I was
wondering how you’re doing though?”
“Oh, been better, a giant chicken
tried to kill me last night, put a curse on me and everything. I would have shot
it but I didn’t. I know how you feel about that. I didn’t shoot Mirabel
know you didn’t son. I came up here to talk with you about that, but right now
we need to get you inside and let me check you out. You have a fever. I need to
see if it is coming from that cut on your hand,” replied Murdoch.
Johnny sighed as he rolled his eyes,
“Okay, hey did you see the roof? I had to work in the rain and it took me most
of the day, but it's finished. I even saved the old wood shingles to help start
the fire. Now that was thinking wasn’t it?”
stared aghast at Johnny. //Bite your tongue Murdoch, Johnny knows better than
to work on the roof in the rain. Obviously he already had fever clouding his
judgment. //“Yes, Johnny you did a good job on the roof. You did a fine
job on the inside too,” placated the oldest Lancer.
Motioning for his father to bend down to
him, Johnny whispered conspiratorially, “I didn’t scrub the floor. Johnny
Madrid don’t get on his knees for nobody.” He then winked at his father.
Murdoch couldn’t stop the short bark of laughter that escaped him. His son
could find humor in a situation as easily as the scamp could find trouble.
Grasping Johnny's hands the Lancer
patriarch pulled him upright. As soon as his son's head was higher than his
stomach what little water he had consumed came back in a rushing torrent.
Johnny's entire body shook as he looked at his father with the most pitiful eyes
Murdoch had ever seen. “I don’t feel so good. I think I caught something
from that dead chicken.”
Murdoch watched in horror as the color
drained from his youngest son's face. Johnny's eyes rolled back in his head and
he slumped forward onto his father’s chest. The amount of heat radiating from
his son concerned Murdoch.
The oldest Lancer had always been a man
of quick action. He decided on the spot to load Johnny in the back of the wagon
and get him back to Lancer. The doctor needed to be sent for to check over his
There was no way the Lancer patriarch
was going to leave his son by himself, with a high fever, while he rode for
help. After Murdoch got Johnny situated, he pulled the bandage off his son's
hand to see if an infection was the problem. The cut on his hand was healing
fine; there was no sign of infection. The worried father didn’t know what
could be causing the fever and cough, but he was sure Doc Jenkins could find
out. Murdoch crawled out of the back of the wagon and went back to the line
Once in the line shack Murdoch gathered
up Johnny’s stuff and put it on the cot. He put the fire out in the stove and
doused it good with water. The Lancer patriarch went back to the cot and rolled
up the mattress to take it with him. He walked out the door closing it behind
him. Murdoch took the reins to his horse as he walked by it.
The oldest Lancer tied his horse to the
back of the wagon. Murdoch put the mattress in the wagon and then roused his son
to get him on the mattress.
Johnny didn’t even open his eyes as he
moved over on to the bed. He whispered, “My head hurts, my body aches, my
throat is on fire and now I’m itching from taking a nap in that hay.”
“It’s alright son, I’m taking you
home. We’ll get you cleaned up and changed. You can nap in a nice comfortable
bed while we wait on Sam.”
Murdoch hitched the horses as fast as he
could. He didn’t know what was wrong, but felt it was bad for Johnny to have
this high a fever. The concerned father made sure both canteens were full of
water before starting for home.
Murdoch stopped every thirty minutes to
make Johnny drink some water. It was getting harder and harder to get his son to
drink. Johnny was groggy from the fever and kept saying he couldn’t swallow
because his throat hurt.
forty-five minutes from home Johnny had a particularly bad coughing fit. The
coughing spell went straight into gagging. Murdoch stopped the wagon and stepped
into the back just as all the water he had been able to get into his son came
Johnny opened his eyes and peered
miserably at his father imploring, “Help me old man.”
Murdoch knew nothing else to do but sit
down beside his youngest son and lean him into his chest, rubbing his back until
his breathing returned to normal. When he realized Johnny had fallen asleep he
eased him back down on the mattress.
The patriarch decided it was time to pick up the pace and get home. Murdoch breathed deeply as he crested the last hill leading down to the hacienda. They had made it home. He glanced back at Johnny who was again breathing in short fevered pants.
Scott Lancer was working a new horse in
the corral when he noticed the wagon coming towards the house. The driver was
too big to be his brother so he figured his father had driven back to get more
supplies. Then Scott saw his father’s horse was tied to the back. That’s
when he knew something was wrong. Murdoch would not have taken the wagon and his
horse leaving Johnny without transportation.
Riding quickly to the corral gate Scott
let himself through. He took off for the wagon at a gallop. As Scott drew up
beside the wagon he looked in the back at his brother. Scott gasped, “My God
Shaking his head Murdoch replied, “I
don’t know. I got to the line shack and found him laying on the hay bales in
the lean-to, burning up with fever.”
Scott had an incredulous look on his
face as he exclaimed, "Why in the world was Johnny in the lean-to instead
of the shack if he was sick?”
“I think he went to tend to the horses
and then didn’t have the strength to get back to the shack. Ride ahead and get
one of the hands to go for the doctor,” commanded Murdoch.
Scott rode hard for the corral. Jumping
down from the saddle, he handed off the horse to Cipriano. At Cipriano’s
questioning look, the ex-calvaryman ordered, “Send one of the men for the
doctor. Murdoch has Johnny in the wagon and he has a high fever.”
Hurrying to warn Teresa that Murdoch was
coming with Johnny, Scott ran ahead to the hacienda. Running through the french
doors, across the great room, through the dining room, the concerned older
brother almost collided with Teresa as she came out of the kitchen.
Teresa took one look at Scott’s face
and gasped, “What’s wrong?”
“Murdoch should be here any second
with Johnny. He found him sick this morning,” Scott replied breathing hard
from his sprint.
"Is it an infection from that cut?
Oh, I knew Johnny would get sick. He never got around to washing out the cut
with the carbolic solution," fretted the brown haired girl.
“I don’t know. Murdoch didn’t say.
He just said Johnny was sick and to send someone for the doctor.”
Hearing the wagon pull up by the french
doors, the two siblings rushed out to help. Scott jumped into the back of the
wagon and reached down to lift his brother. Johnny looked up at Scott and
announced, “Hey Boston, a big ole chicken tried to kill me. Sat right on my
head, tried to smother me and then put a curse on me. Don’t tell Teresa, but
it was Mirabel. If that chicken weren’t already dead I believe I would shoot
it. I just don’t understand why that dead chicken won’t die.”
Scott glanced at his father.
“Do you have any idea what he is talking about?”
Murdoch shrugged as he replied,
“It’s the fever talking. I guess your little brother is still upset about
being blamed for the chicken’s death.” Murdoch grabbed Johnny’s legs to
help Scott carry him in, but Johnny would have none of it. He insisted he could
walk on his own.
Taking two steps, Johnny smiled at
Teresa and began a slow melt towards the ground. Murdoch grimaced, catching
Johnny under the arms. The worried father tried to support his son's weight so
he could walk, but Johnny was unable to get his limp legs to work. Finally with
an exasperated sigh, Murdoch scooped his youngest up in his arms and carried him
to the couch.
As soon as Murdoch placed him on the
sofa, Teresa began to remove the bandage from Johnny's hand. “I don’t
understand. His hand looks fine. I don’t see any sign of infection.”
Coughing, Johnny looked at Teresa with
feverish watery eyes, “Ain’t nothing wrong with my hand. I got some kind of
disease from that chicken.” Looking at Murdoch, Johnny pleaded, “Can I go
get a bath now? I’m all itchy from sleeping in the hay.”
“That’s probably a good idea. Keep
the water room temperature and it will help bring down the fever,” suggested
With his father and brother supporting
him, Johnny slowly made it to the bathhouse. While Murdoch filled the tub, Scott
helped Johnny get undressed and
into the tub."Johnny sighed in relief as he slipped down into the cool
water. The water made Johnny buoyant, helping to relieve the heaviness he had
been feeling in his limbs. It didn’t take long before his teeth were
“Son, you need to get out of the tub
now before you get too chilled.”
Johnny grabbed the large towel Scott
held out to him and wrapped it around his waist. He stepped from the tub,
leaning on his older brother's arm. Then Johnny tried to lie down on the bench
in the bathhouse. Grabbing his own bathrobe from the wall Murdoch walked back to
Johnny saying, “Let’s get you wrapped in this so Scott and I can help you to
The three Lancer men were walking out of
the bathhouse when they ran into Jelly who informed them the doctor would be
there in less than an hour. Diego had met up with Sam on the road. The doctor
had been on the way to the Talbots to check the splint on one of the cowhand’s
Johnny muttered to himself the entire
time they were maneuvering him up the stairs and down the hall, “
burn-hot-throb-itch-cough.” Shaking his head the ex gunfighter glared at his
father proclaiming, “I ain’t never going in that chicken yard again, I
don’t care what you say.”
Once they had Johnny safely ensconced in
his bed Scott ask his little brother, “Johnny is there anything I can do for
you or get for you?”
Johnny glared seriously at his brother
while announcing, “Yea, Boston you can make sure my gun is loaded and hanging
on my bedpost. If that dead chicken comes in here tonight I am shooting her this
time and sending her straight to the devil.” After saying his piece Johnny
leaned back on his pillows closed his eyes and went to sleep.
Shaking his head in puzzlement Scott
asked, “Murdoch are you sure Johnny didn’t fall off the roof and hit his
head? He’s not making any sense.”
“Scott, all I can tell you is I found
him with a fever. Johnny thinks he caught something from that dead chicken. His
symptoms are throwing up, headache, body aches, feeling like his throat is on
fire and itching from sleeping in the hay".
“Well, Johnny was fine when he left to
go up there. I wonder how he got sick so quickly?” pondered Scott.
“That’s what I am here to find
out,” announced Doc Jenkins as he walked in the bedroom.
The Lancer patriarch detailed Johnny's
ailments before he added, “ And he did an incredibility stupid thing. I think
his reasoning was clouded by the high fever. My youngest son repaired the roof
of the line shack, in the misty rain yesterday, because he didn’t know if it
would be raining harder today.”
Doc’s and Scott’s mouths dropped
open at this bit of information. “Is there anything else I should know before
I check him out?”
“Sam, the only other thing he has
complained about was itching from sleeping on the hay bales. We helped him get a
cool bath as soon as I got him home. He hasn’t mentioned that again,”
replied the worried father.
“The cool bath was a good idea, it
will help with the fever. Well let me check him out and see what’s going
on.” Sam began by feeling all around Johnny’s head to make sure he had not
hit it. He didn’t find any lumps. Doc Jenkins slipped a thermometer under his
patient's tongue and checked his pupils, which were fine. He had Murdoch lean
his son forward so he could listen to Johnny's lungs. Sam could definitely hear
congestion. Lifting Johnny's limp wrist, the doctor determined that his
patient's pulse was more rapid than normal. Pinching the top of Johnny's hand
the doctor determined the youngest Lancer was slightly dehydrated.
Taking the thermometer from his
patient's mouth Doc Jenkins frowned as he voiced the reading aloud.“103.5.
Something is going on and it’s not the cut on his hand. I don’t see any sign
of infection there.” Laying the thermometer on the table and picking up the
lamp Sam asked Scott to hold it near his brother's head so that he could get a
good look at Johnny's throat.
Johnny awoke from his fever-induced
sleep when the doctor attempted to pry open his mouth to check his throat. The
fevered man broke out into a fit of coughing. When the coughing spell was over
and he could catch his breath Johnny inquired, “Hey Doc, you got anything in
that bag to break a black magic curse put on me by a dead chicken?”
Laughing, Sam replied, “Let me find
out what’s wrong with you before I prescribe anything. Now open your mouth
wide and let’s see what’s got your throat feeling so bad.”
Johnny opened his mouth and Scott leaned
in closer with the lamp. Doc peered into Johnny's mouth then gasped and uttered,
Startled by Sam’s reaction Murdoch
pleaded, “Sam, tell me what is it?”
“Just a minute Murdoch let me check a
couple of more places,” Sam checked the back of Johnny’s neck up in the hair
line. Then he lifted Johnny's nightshirt and checked his armpits. "Well
that’s the only places I need to check. He has it for sure.”
Murdoch and Scott echoed, “He has
“Chickenpox” laughed Sam.
“Aha!” said Johnny, “Do you get
that from chickens?” He pointed his finger at his father and exclaimed, “I
told you that chicken made me sick.”
Snickering, Doc Jenkins informed Johnny;
“You do not get chickenpox from chickens. It’s an upper respiratory illness
caused by a virus. It is easily spread through the air by sneezing, coughing or
through contact with someone with chickenpox sores. Have you been to the
orphanage in the past 7 to 21 days?”
“Little Brother was there 2 weeks ago
teaching some of the boys to ride,” answered Scott.
“That’s where he got it from then,
over half the children there have it,” explained the doctor.
“How sick is he going to get Sam,”
“Well most children recover within a
week or so, after the skin rash finally crusts over. The older you are the
greater the risk of serious complications," Sam informed them. "Johnny
didn’t do himself any favors by working in the rain. That’s why his
congestion is so bad. The virus and fever had already compromised his immune
system. He needs to stay in bed and rest".
Doc glared sternly at Johnny,
"Don’t get out and get over heated it will cause the rash to itch more.
You can soak in an oatmeal bath to help the itching. Try not to scratch or the
sores can become infected. You can wear gloves or socks on your hands to remind
you not to scratch. I’ll leave some aspirin powder for the fever and cough
medicine. This is just one of those illness you have to suffer through
especially the body aches. I won’t sugar coat this. You are going to be mighty
miserable for the next couple of days, while your rash finishes breaking out and
then crusting over,” instructed Doc Jenkins.
Snorting Scott teased, “Johnny, I knew
you weren’t through with your childhood. This just proves it, you getting a
kid’s disease.” As if to prove Scott’s statement Johnny threw a pillow at
him and stuck out his tongue.
“BOYS,” admonished a frowning
Clearing his throat Sam said, “Chicken
pox can be a very serious illness in the very young or elderly. At 22, Johnny is
young enough and healthy enough to avoid serious complications, if he follows my
instructions. I know Teresa had chickenpox when she was 6. Scott I assume you
had them as a child since you’re finding your brother’s plight so funny.”
“I hate this. Why did I have to get an
illness that leaves you polka dotted? Why couldn’t I get something like the
mumps?” groused Johnny.
Sam’s shout of laughter startled
everyone in the room, “Let me assure you Johnny, you do not want mumps.”
“Yes I do. With the mumps your head
just swells up then everyone will just think I’ve been in a fight,” reasoned
“Johnny, you are a young adult male.
Your face would not be the only thing to swell,” Sam said while staring at
When it dawned on Johnny what Doc was
talking about he squirmed and crossed his legs, “There too?” At Sam’s nod
of affirmation, Johnny declared, “Oh well, what’s a little itching and
fever?” Sliding down in the bed the youngest Lancer covered his head with the
Midnight the next day.
Murdoch sat in the chair by Johnny’s
bed. He was amazed at the number of sores that had broken out on his son’s
body once his fever hit its peak and then receded. Sam had been right when he
said Johnny would be miserable. The itching along with the high fever had made
him, to quote Jelly, “iller than a danged rattle snake with a fang ache.”
Studying his youngest son's face in the
dim lighting from the lamp, Murdoch was struck with the youthfulness of Johnny's
face. It was easy to envision the impish baby he had once been. There were still
traces of the over energetic toddler who had worshiped his papa.
// I can't deny I was a proud father.
It was so easy to give praise and guidance to Johnny when he was a toddler. I
could lavish him with affection when he did good and he would return it in kind.
Johnny doesn't remember the lessons I tried to instill in him. My child
remembers what other men taught him. God help me, it's wrong to be jealous of
that. Johnny is my son. I want him to do things the Lancer way. He sees my
guidance as negative, critical and rejective of him because it's not how he
learned to do it. My fear of being rejected by him are keeping me from
reconnecting with him and building a strong father/son relationship. We both
need to respect that there's more than one way to accomplish things. I'm going
to work on getting input from my both sons on what they feel needs attention on
the ranch, then give them a chance to plan their own work schedules. //
Johnny stirred, waking completely when
he sensed he was not alone. The youngest Lancer saw his father sitting in the
chair by his bed. He could see the old man's face in the moonlight and the
slight smile on it. “Hey you don’t have to sit with me. I ain’t out of my
head with fever anymore. I ain’t seen no more giant chickens. I just have to
deal with the itching, coughing and Scott’s teasing.”
“Son, the reason I’m sitting here is
because it’s a father’s right to worry about his children. Just remember no
matter how old you get, you are still my child. I need to remember the fact that
even though you are my child you are also a young man. It’s only natural for
you to want independence and respect. Let me propose a deal. Instead of barking
orders, I will try to tell you what is needed. Scott helped me realize
instructions go over a little better when they are phrased as a request rather
than a demand."
Johnny could hear the sincerity in his
father's voice. He graced his father with one of his slow forming smiles, "
I figured out quite awhile back the reason you fuss is because you see where I
can improve. Guess you’re just being a father when you try to make me see it.
I haven’t had a lot of experience with being guided by a father. Sometimes
your advice feels like disapproval, which kind of gets me wound up so tight it's
hard to hear what you’re trying to tell me. I want us learn how to talk to
each other instead of shouting.”
Father and son nodded their acceptance of what the other said. Neither one had actually come right out and said they were sorry. These two stubborn Lancers knew that was exactly what they were saying to each other.
Two Weeks Later-Supper
“Hurry up Scott, I want to get to town
while the night is still young,” complained Johnny.
“What is the big rush? The saloon will
still be there no matter what time we get there.” replied Scott.
“My big rush is I ain’t been to town
in three weeks. I’m sick and tired of the scenery around here. Now get done.
Let her buck,” demanded the youngest Lancer.
Scott snickered, “Doc Jenkins told you
it would be alright to go to town last week but you wouldn’t go. Don’t blame
or rush me because you haven’t been to town in so long.”
“I told you last week I weren’t
going to town with crusty sores on my face. Then everybody would know I had a
stupid kid’s illness.”
Scott had a look of pure devilment on
his face as he explained, “Everyone asked where you were last week.”
“Really,” asked Johnny with a
worried look, “What did you tell them?”
Smiling as he stood and reached for his
hat the older brother retorted, “Oh I told them my BABY brother couldn’t
come to town because he had chickenpox.”
Slapping his hat on his head Scott ran
for the door. Johnny jumped up from his chair so fast he knocked it over and
took off screaming, “Scott, I’m going to make you pay for that.”
Chuckling as he got up from the table
the Lancer patriarch went out the french doors to watch the battle.
Scott was laughing as he ran towards the
barn to get his horse. Johnny was hot on his heels, cussing a blue streak in
The chain of events that happened next
had Murdoch Lancer doubled over in laughter.
In his mad dash to escape his brother,
Scott took a look over his shoulder to see how close Johnny had gotten. With his
head turned in the wrong direction the older brother veered off the path. Scott
tripped on a rock and flung himself head first into the horse trough. The blond
Lancer came up sputtering water from his mouth just as the dark haired Lancer
screeched to a stop. Howling with devilish
delight Johnny shouted, “Boston looks like you ended up between a rock and a
“Sometimes I feel like I’m in an
alternate universe,” grumbled Scott.