and Johnny Lancer had arrived in Green River to deposit a considerable
sum of money to the Lancer account at the bank. After completing
that errand, the brothers had decided to head to Old Maude's for a quick
drink before heading home.
as they had started to cross the street towards the dancing emporium, a
shot, from seemingly nowhere, had rung out. Scott had gone down while
Johnny had launched himself behind the nearby horse trough. Barely
raising his head above the edge of the wooden vessel, the dark-haired Lancer
had quickly ducked down again as another bullet had removed the hat from
his head. Peering around the side of the trough, Johnny Madrid could
just see his brother's still body, lying in the bloody road.
Trying again, the gunfighter didn't even clear the protective barrier before
he was forced back to its safety.
with frustration and fear, Johnny tried to figure out where the shooter
was located. Of course, there was no one in the street. All
passers-by had fled inside the stores for protection, leaving only Scott
exposed to the shooter's ire.
Hearing a groan of pain from the injured blond man, Johnny prepared to make one more effort when the sound of three shots from the alleyway across the street rang out. Delaying for only a second, the brunet then jumped up and ran to his brother in the midst of silence. Peeling Scott's bloody fingers from the wound, Johnny could immediately see that the wound was serious. Glancing around, he could see no one, but started to yell for someone to get a doctor. Finally, a brave woman peered out, recognized the two young men and hurried down the street towards the doctor's house. Desperately trying to staunch the blood, Johnny only noticed the woman out of the corner of his eye. There was just so much blood.
glanced up. Silhouetted against the sun, the man loomed over the
kneeling Lancer. When the man shifted to blot out the sun, Johnny
could finally focus on the interrogator. "Not good. Could you
see if the doctor's comin'?"
be right here, Mr. Madrid. I can see him coming down the boardwalk."
only nodded, concentrating on trying to prevent his brother from bleeding
here, Johnny. Let me look at him."
gunfighter moved aside so that Dr. Atkins could take his place. Quickly,
but carefully the physician examined the injured young man. "We've
got to get him to my surgery quickly if I'm going to save him." Instantly,
Johnny and the obliging stranger picked up the slender man to transport
him the short distance to the doctor's office. As soon as Scott was safely
on the table, the doctor ordered both men out of the room as his wife entered
to assist him.
Johnny left the room, followed by the taller man who suggested, "Why don't
we sit down in the waiting room? I'm sure the doctor will do all
that he can."
himself to be nudged into one of the uncomfortable wooden chairs, Johnny
sat down, trying not to think about what Atkins was doing inside the next
room so he wasn't paying attention to the stranger's conversation until
he felt a hand shake his arm. "Uh, sorry, did you say something?"
said that Scott is a survivor. I'm sure he'll be fine."
"Do you know Scott, Mister?"
"I've never met him, but I do know that the two of you are brothers and that you used to go by the name of Johnny Madrid."
ran down Johnny's spine. "Are you here lookin' for me?"
Why would you think that?"
uh, it's just that sometimes my past tries to catch up with me and I thought.
. . ."
can put that out of your mind. Actually, I came to this part of California
to find Scott Lancer."
slightly, Johnny shifted to make sure he could take out his gun quickly
if needed. "Why would you want to see Scott?"
between the two of us, but don't worry, I mean him no harm."
sat there silently for some time, focusing on the man in the other chair.
The stranger had piercing gray eyes, a firm chin, dark brown hair and appeared
to be in his early 30s. "Do you mind tellin' me your name, Mister?"
which did not reach the granite eyes crossed the man's lips. "Sorry.
I should have done that right away. The name's Westcott, Clayton
Westcott, but my friends call me Clay."
"You're not from around here, are you?"
got a good ear, Mr. Madrid. I was born in Virginia, but since I've
lived mostly in the West for the past decade, I've rather lost my southern
was the dark-haired Lancer's only reply, but in actuality he didn't see.
What would this man want with his brother and did he have anything to do
with the shooting? "Uh, Mr. Westcott, you were out there on the street.
Did you see the man who shot at us? I can't understand why he stopped firing.
I assumed he wanted us both dead."
I definitely saw him, but you don't have to worry, he's dead. I made
sure of that. I suspect the undertaker is making arrangements to plunk
him in Potter's Field right now."
dead? But how? I didn't even get off a shot."
just say I was in the right place at the right time. Since he came
after me, I decided it was only fair to defend myself," Westcott remarked
you recognize him?" questioned the gunfighter.
saw him before. You might want to take a look at him before the undertaker
does his duty."
mebbe, I should. Uh, would you mind stayin' here while I go look
at him? I won't be long."
your time. You might want to stop and get a drink before returning.
It will steady your nerves," the other man suggested.
wrong with my nerves," Johnny protested.
I didn't mean any offense, I just noticed your hands were shaking."
down at his bloody hands, Johnny couldn't help but shiver. So much
blood and all of it, Scott's. "Mebbe I will stop for a shot, if you
at all. I'll wait right here. I imagine the doctor will still
be in there for awhile."
Almost in a daze, the shorter man stood, went out the door, across and
down the street to the bare structure that housed the establishment of
Hezekiah Umber. The gaunt figure of the undertaker gave Johnny the
willies. He looked as if he practiced embalming on himself.
"Uh, Mr. Umber, did they just bring in a fellow that was shot in the alley
down the street?"
"Why, yes, Mr. Lancer. Did you wish to see the dearly departed?"
almost snorted in derision. "He's not dear to me, but I would like
to see him."
course. Follow me."
Madrid stared down at the unknown man with the large bullet hole between
his eyes. He had never seen the vermin before so he could only wonder
why he had tried to kill the two Lancers. Shaking off his feeling
of disquiet, Madrid thanked the undertaker and left for the saloon.
shots of whiskey later, Johnny headed back to the doctor's office.
Clay Westcott was still sitting in a wooden chair, tipped back against
the wall. Straightening up, Clay inquired if Johnny had known the
shooter. When Johnny had only shaken his head, Westcott shrugged
his shoulders. "Guess you may never know why he was after the two
of you then?"
not. Any word from the Doc?"
wife came out a couple of minutes ago. She said the bullet was close
to Scott's heart so he's gotta go slow. She did say your brother
is holding his own."
eyes glanced towards the door where Scott was under the knife. "Mebbe,
I should get someone to go get my father, just in case."
go if you want me to."
right nice of you, but let's wait awhile longer. I'd rather give
him good news."
"Fine. You're in charge."
The minutes passed into hours
as the two men sat together. Westcott did not attempt to make idle conversation
for which Johnny was grateful. He just didn't feel like talking right then--not
until he knew whether Scott would live or die.
Two hours later Dr. Atkins
emerged from his surgery. Johnny stood up, noticing the now-red apron
the older man wore around his body. "How is he, Doc?"
"One more inch and your father
would have had only one son."
The dark-haired gunfighter
shuddered slightly, but asked if he could see his brother.
"My wife is with him right
now. Maybe later. He's going to be out for quite awhile.
Why don't you go get some sleep and come back in a couple of hours?"
"I'd like to stay. . . ."
Before Lancer could even finish,
Clay Westcott interrupted. "Mr. Madrid, why don't you ride out to
your ranch and tell your father what happened? He might like to know."
"That's a good idea, Johnny.
Maybe Teresa could come in and spell my wife." The doctor suggested.
The dark man stared at the
others for a moment almost as if he didn't understand their words.
"I should stay here."
The doctor seized Johnny's
arm. "Listen, Boy, use some common sense. Scott may still not
make it. Murdoch should be here and I think he'd appreciate your
being the one to tell him."
"I. . .I. . . ."
"Come on, Madrid, you need
to get somethin' in your belly and then make
that ride. I'll stay here in case," reiterated Westcott.
Johnny followed the other
man out the door, not saying a word. As the two started across the
street towards the cantina, Johnny stopped. "Why are you so anxious
to get me out of town, Westcott? How do I know for sure it wasn't
you who shot my brother?'
Clay's handsome face frowned.
"I killed the man who shot Scott. Remember?"
"Only got your word for that."
Westcott could read the thinking behind Johnny Madrid's sapphire eyes.
Before Johnny's gun could even clear the holster, Westcott's own
gun was sticking in the young man's gut. "Mr. Madrid, I did not come
here to hurt Scott Lancer. Now, I'm going to assume that you're upset
by what happened to your brother so I'm going to reholster my gun and go
over to the cantina for a drink and some food. I'd suggest you come
with me. You're tired and probably hungry and you won't do anyone any good
bein' foolish. Okay?"
silence that had filled the street when Westcott had drawn his gun, faded
into a flood of whispers from people nearby. They had never seen
anyone draw as fast as Westcott had done. In fact, most of the townspeople
had assumed that Madrid had the fastest draw. Now, rumors began to
swell in the wake of the shooting of Scott Lancer.
a long hesitation, Johnny merely replied, "Guess I am kinda hungry.
Scott and me were gonna stop at Old Maude's just before this all happened."
what do you say we just go to the cantina? It'll be quieter and then
you can ride out."
the cantina, both men placed their orders and took a welcome drink of the
cold beer which the waitress brought. Westcott glanced idly around
before remarking, "Not a bad place. Better than some of the dumps
I been in."
just where might those have been, Mr. Westcott? Surely not in Virginia?"
been there since before the War, even if my only brother still lives there.
Traveled all over since I left home."
how you picked up that quick draw of yours?'
eyes narrowed. "I got my draw the same place you got yours--practicin'."
targets or men?"
tension between the two men eased slightly when the pretty waitress brought
over their plates of food. The girl smiled brightly as Westcott,
in fluent Spanish, complimented her on the food and her service.
digging in, Johnny took the time to peruse the other man's face.
"You speak damn good Spanish."
"I should. I spent a lotta time there in the last decade and most of my relatives down there don't speak much English. In fact, they hate most Americans because of the war."
stopped before he pushed a piece of tortilla in his mouth. "You mean
the one between North and South?"
they weren't too thrilled with that one because of what happened
with that Frenchman, but I really meant the one where all that territory in the West was taken from them."
my mother told me about that," admitted Johnny. "So you've got people
not many but when I needed a place to stay, they shared what they had."
continued to stare at the older man for a moment.
the matter? Have I got sauce on my face or something?" the taller
it's just that you don't. . .look Mexican."
do you, but I've got a lot different types of blood in me, even some Indian
from a great-great grandmother. Maybe that's why I could never stick
it in Virginia--too restless."
understand that. Been the same for me 'til I got to Lancer."
you can, only you found a family and I lost mine."
you said you gotta brother in Virginia?"
seen him since he was sixteen. Lives near Richmond." Johnny waited
for Westcott to continue. "My youngest brother was in Aylett's regiment,
the 53rd Virginia, during Longstreet's Assault."
the sapphire eyes didn't register recognition, Clay explained. "He
was killed at Gettysburg during Pickett's Charge as some people call it.
He'd just turned twenty-one."
"Sorry. I was in Mexico during the War, but Scott's told me about it."
I got a coupla letters from Jeremy telling me about Edward's death.
Jeremy didn't serve 'til towards the end when the South got desperate.
He's more the scholar than a soldier. Also, he was always sick a
lot. Guess bein' without food durin' the War ain't helped none.
Got a letter some time ago, askin' me to come see him. But first
he wanted me to see if I could find Scott Lancer. Jeremy says he
owes him somethin' and I'm supposed to deliver it."
Lancer sat quietly watching Westcott's face as the taller man spoke about
his two brothers. Since Johnny had not even been aware of Scott's
existence until recently, he had remained ignorant of the possibility that
his older brother might be killed by enemy fire. For a heart stopping
moment, the dark-haired man could understand what Harlan Garrett must have
felt, watching the most important person in his life ride off to war.
Had that also been the reason that Murdoch had never inquired about Scott's
welfare in 1865? Was it easier not to know? Streaming through
his mind for a fragment of an instant was the regret that the man from
Boston had ever entered Johnny's life. To lose him now. . . .
Madrid, I assure you that as soon as I have completed Jeremy's task, I
will depart from this area."
eyes refocused on the handsome face. "What? Sorry, I was just
thinking about Scott."
hazel gray eyes softened. "If you're done eating, why don't you go
get your father? I'll hang around 'til you get back. Oh, are you
planning to send Harlan Garrett a telegram about Scott-- just in case?"
eyes hardened into blue steel. "Just what do you know about Garrett?"
much except for what Jeremy told me. I know he raised your brother."
mean he took Scott to Boston and kept him there when Scott's mother died!"
sorry. As I said I don't know much about the situation. Just
figured a man as smart as Murdoch Lancer could find his way to Boston."
jumped to feet. "He did go to Boston!"
so you mean it was then that Scott decided to stay there?'
"Scott was only five. What difference does. . . .?"
Westcott rose to his feet,
looming tall over the gunfighter. "Madrid, save your indignation
for someone who's impressed by it. I don't care what your father
did or didn't do, but I assume he might like to know about Scott's condition,"
Clay suggested mockingly.
Impulsively, Johnny brought
up his hand, itching to wipe the look off Westcott's face, only to have
his wrist grabbed in an iron grip. "I wouldn't do that if I were
you. I don't give a damn what you think of me, but I don't think
I'd be wantin' to give my family more grief. Now, why don't you just
go get your pa?" Westcott dropped Johnny's right arm, handed the
pretty waitress a coin, and walked out the cantina door.
Resisting the temptation to
rub his gun hand, Johnny paid and then walked down to the stable to collect
Barranca. The ride to Lancer was not a pleasant one as the brunet's
thoughts reflected his confusion over the situation. His distrust
and dislike of Westcott had grown immeasurably, but he had no proof that
the man truly had any intention to hurt Scott. He just regretted
not knowing the reason for the attack on Scott or had he been the intended
target at all? Johnny couldn't shake his unease. Riding
under the great gate, Lancer couldn't help but sigh with relief.
Lancer represented stability and security. Hopefully, its walls would
never be breeched.
Striding into the white hacienda,
Johnny shouted out, "Murdoch, Teresa!"
The brown-haired girl emerged
from her room. "Don't yell, Johnny! I'm not deaf!"
"Sorry. Where's Murdoch?"
"Don't you remember?
He had to go to Modesto. He should be back day after tomorrow."
"What's the matter?
"Green River. He was
"Let me pack a bag.
I can be ready in five minutes. Write a note for Murdoch so he can
Johnny's head whirled in the
wake of the girl's orders. "I. . .I. . .
"Don't just stand there.
It's a long drive," Stopping to take in Johnny's tired face, Teresa ventured,
"Let's take the buckboard. I'll drive and you can sleep."
"Whatever you say, but when
we get there, you can sleep and I'll take care of Scott."
"Might have to share him with
Teresa waited until they were
on their way before inquiring, "Now, tell me what happened and who this
Rubbing his tired face with
one hand, Johnny informed Teresa about the shooting, glossing over his
fear at feeling the sticky, warm blood on his hands. When he came
to Westcott's part in the story, he decided to omit his feelings of distrust
about the former Virginian. Evidently, his effort was not too successful
as Teresa immediately picked up on his reticence. "So what does he
want to see Scott about?"
"Don't know, but he hangs around all the time. I wouldn't trust him too far."
worry about me. It's Scott we should be concerned about. I
hope Murdoch isn't delayed."
up in front of the doctor's office, Teresa hopped down to enter the building.
Deciding to take the buckboard to the stable, Johnny unhitched the horse
before making his way up the street.
he heard a trill of laughter from the room where Scott lay recovering.
Pushing open the door, Johnny found Teresa on one side of the bed with
Clayton Westcott sitting in a chair not far away.
at the other man out of the corner of his eye, Johnny walked over to look
down at his brother's incredibly pale face. "How is he, Teresa?"
smooth voice spoke up instead. "The Doctor and his wife had to leave.
There was an emergency. Scott hasn't moved while I've been here."
Johnny, why don't you go get some sleep? I'll keep an eye on Scott.
I brought some books and knitting with me."
stared at Teresa, then at Clay. "I think I should stay."
Johnny, you need to sleep for a couple of hours. Besides, it will
give me a chance to talk to Mr. Westcott about PRIDE AND PREJUDICE."
a novel, Mr. Lancer, written by Jane Austen. I noticed that Miss
O'Brien was carrying it. We were just discussing Caroline Bingley."
a harridan from the book, Johnny. Not your type at all," Teresa informed
Well, mebbe I will go get some shuteye then."
easy, Mr. . . .Lancer, I'll keep an eye on things here."
"I'm sure you will," murmured the brunet as he headed out the door.
Four hours later a more rested Johnny Lancer returned to find Clayton Westcott and Teresa O'Brien still sitting near Scott's bedside. To Johnny's concern it appeared that his brother was barely breathing, but Teresa reassured the dark man that Dr. Atkins had seemed satisfied with the blond's condition upon his return.
Mr. Westcott and I are going over to the café for some food so why
don't you go with us? Mrs. Atkins will stay wih Scott."
. .I don't know. Mebbe I should stay here."
now, Mr. Lancer, you didn't eat much at the cantina. Surely, you
can trust Mrs. Atkins?" questioned Westcott.
eyes stared pointedly at the tall man. "Of course, I trust her.
I just think I should be the one to keep an eye on my brother."
surely Mrs. Atkins is more. . .qualified since she is a nurse, although
I suppose you've had plenty of experience with gunshot wounds, haven't
had my share," the brunet remarked through gritted teeth.
go with us, Johnny. I think we need a good meal then you can come
back and stay with Scott, all right?"
could almost see the pleading look in Teresa's brown eyes. Deciding
that maybe it was better to go along and keep an eye on Westcott, Madrid
capitulated. "Okay, I guess I can spare a few minutes. Then
I want you to get some rest Teresa. Maybe Mrs. Taylor can put you
up at her boarding house?"
colored prettily. "Actually, Mr. Westcott went over to the boarding
house while you were sleeping so I do have a place to stay."
swiveled slightly to face Clay. "Helpful, aren't you?"
wrong with helpin' folks, Lancer?"
chin came up but before he could answer, Teresa grabbed him by the arm.
"Let's go. I'm starving."
down at the small table, Teresa glanced at her two companions. The
tension between the men reminded her of mountain sheep who went at each
other in a show of territorial supremacy. It was all she could do
not to smile at their juvenile behavior.
each of them had received their food, Teresa took care to talk about innocuous
subjects. For the most part, Johnny only grunted in reply and Westcott
wasn't much more articulate. In fact, Johnny had tuned out most of
the conversation until Teresa turned to Clay with a question, "I hope you
won't think me rude, Mr. Westcott, but I must admit I was surprised to
find you so knowledgeable about a book like PRIDE AND PREJUDICE."
I can see why you might think that. Jeremy's the one who sent it
to me. I carried it with me quite awhile 'til I found myself stuck
in a snowstorm so I dug the book out of my saddlebags and started to read."
what's this book about? Didn't know many women wrote hereabouts."
Austen was English, Johnny. The book is about the five Bennett sisters
who are looking for husbands."
snorted. "Ain't every woman from the moment she's born 'til the day
she hogties some poor man?"
grinned at the upset young woman. "I do think Mr. Lancer has a point.
I'd rather take on a grizzly than some of the women I've met, especially
the ones with MOTHERS."
eyes narrowed. "You men are all hopeless! Not all women want
to get married."
Johnny and Clay looked down at their food before Johnny muttered, "Yeah sure." To his surprise, Westcott gave him a wink of agreement.
the story isn't just about the Bennett sisters. It's about how people
can misjudge someone they meet and the consequences of doing so.
"Isn't that right, Mr Westcott?"
is, Miss O'Brien. In fact, the book was originally titled, FIRST
IMPRESSIONS. Woulda made a good title I s'pect."
it's like what could have happened when you and Scott first came to Lancer.
It took awhile for all of us to learn about each other, just as it took
some time for Lizzie to see the difference between Darcy and Wickham."
a moment, Johnny said nothing then he dropped his fork. "Don't think
I'm much hungry anymore. Think I'll go sit with Scott."
course, I'm going to lie down for a short rest and I'll be over to join
you later," remarked Teresa.
nodded before heading over to the doctor's office. Sitting down once
again by the silent man, Johnny thought about Teresa's words. She
had been right about what could have happened when he and Scott had met
up, let alone the potential for disaster in a reunion with the man who
was his father. Somehow, Scott had willingly taken on the role of
peacemaker between the volatile men so compromise had reigned for the most
part. Absolute trust in another man was something rare in Johnny's
life and he did not want to lose that now. Still, there was so much
he still didn't know about his sibling, including the reason behind the
haunted look in the cerulean eyes at times.
down in the rocker, Johnny put his feet up, tilted his hat over his eyes
and went to sleep. After only a few minutes, Johnny awoke with a
start. A flash of fear seized him as his eyes darted over to Scott's
pale face. The blue eyes were open.
cautiously nearer, the gunfighter whispered, "Scott?"
curved lips tried to smile but turned into a grimace of pain. "You. . .h-hurt?"
me, I ducked like any smart man would."
at dry lips, Scott tried to reach out, but was stopped by the pain.
drink this," Johnny encouraged as he held the glass up for a sip. As Scott
settled back on the pillow, Johnny reassured him, "I'm gonna get the Doc.
You just lie quiet."
the door quickly, Johnny almost ran into the two men who were just preparing
to enter the sickroom. "Doc, Scott's awake. He just talked
that's good news." Turning to the tall man at his side, the doctor
insisted, "Murdoch, why don't you wait out here with Johnny while I examine
Scott. You can see him when I'm done."
right, Dr. Atkins. We'll wait right here. This way Johnny can
tell me how this happened."
two Lancers took a seat in the waiting room. "Now, Johnny, where's
Teresa and how did Scott come to be shot?"
the younger man told his father the bare facts about the shooting, leaving
out anything about Westcott, except for his claim to have killed the shooter.
paused for a moment. "So, you don't have any idea why this man fired
recognize him. Not much to tell about him except he was missin' two
fingers on his left hand and he had a tattoo on the same arm."
What kind of tattoo?"
with the word 'Juanito' on top."
and he's already buried?"
is. Guess we'll never know why he did it."
well, at least Scott seems to be improving. If you don't mind, I
think I'll go get a room and clean up. I've been on the road all
"Sure. I'll stay here 'til you get back."
tall rancher headed out the door, but not towards the hotel. With
his long stride he soon found himself facing the undertaker. Mr.
Lancer, how can I help you? Oh dear, I do hope your older son didn't
succumb to his wound?"
no, Scott will be fine. I just wondered if the man who shot him had
any personal effects?"
no, well, there was one item," admitted the gaunt man.
undertaker pulled out a small religious medal. "I found this on him.
Obviously it's not worth much with that dent in it, but I thought I should
receive some payment for burying since he had no real money."
the small piece into his large hand, Murdoch carefully looked at it.
"Mr. Umber. I think you deserve to be paid for your services so I'll give
you $10 for this."
avaricious eyes glimmered. "Of course, Mr. Lancer. It's a pleasure
doing business with someone so generous."
to shake hands with the man, Murdoch handed over a coin and
received the medal in return. After that, the patriarch walked over
to Old Maude's for a drink to wash away the taste in his mouth. Fingering the medal in his pocket, Murdoch Lancer's thoughts centered on why Carlos Esteban had tried to kill his sons.
tall rancher crossed the street towards the building where Johnny sat waiting
by his brother's side. He had made a decision, one which was not
likely to be popular but which needed to be done. Entering the small
room Murdoch was surprised to see his younger son leaning back in a chair,
sound asleep. On the other hand, his older son was watching Johnny
sleep. "Scott?" The blond raised a shaky finger to his lips, warning
his father not to speak loudly. "How are you feeling?"
You. . .you look as tired as Johnny."
The tall man acknowledged the truth of his son's statement. "Yes, I'll be glad to get back home. In fact, I. . .I've decided to go back to Lancer. I have some things to do. Johnny and Teresa will be here to take care of you."
eyes fluttered slightly at the worried look on the rancher's
face. "M-Murdoch, is something w-wrong?"
for you to concern yourself with. You just rest and get better.
If I know Teresa she'll make sure you do! Uh, just tell Johnny, I
had to leave. Okay?"
. .take care of yourself."
walked over to lightly touch Scott's bare shoulder. "You too.
I'll see you when you get home." The patriarch glanced over to his
still-sleeping son and then left.
minutes later Johnny awoke to the sound of the outside door opening and
someone yelling for the doctor. Peeking out, he recognized Bob Jordan,
a very upset Bob Jordan. "Doc, Doc, the baby's comin'. You
gotta come with me!"
his surgery Dr. Atkins emerged carrying his bag. "Relax, Bob, I'm
right here." The disheveled young man gave a sigh of relief as the
two men left together.
the door, Johnny was startled to hear a voice from behind. "S-sounds like
Bob's going. . .going to be a father."
Madrid smiled at his brother, "Better him than me!"
how are you doin'? Can I get you somethin'?"
fine. Johnny, Murdoch was here for a bit. He's gone back to
sapphire eyes opened wide in shock. "What do you mean? He couldn't
it's all right. He had something to do. I'll be ready to go
home soon anyway."
dark-haired man gave his brother an incredulous look. "Boston, right
now you couldn't step on a bug so don't you go plannin' on goin' back to
give me orders, Mr. Madrid." The pale lips curved in a knowing smile.
almost giggled. "You sound just like Westcott."
slender body contracted in a gasp. "Westcott? How? Who?"
by the sheen of sweat on Scott's face, Johnny moved over to the bed.
"Hey, take it easy. There's a guy in town named Clay Westcott.
Says you know his brother."
breathed the injured man.
That's what he said. Anyway, he should be back anytime. So should
insisted on coming. You know how she is when she makes up her mind."
stubborn, just like you."
not stubborn. I'm. . . ."
you say so, Little Brother. Johnny, I. . .could you ask Westcott
to come see me? I really would like to talk to him."
the strained look on Scott's face, Johnny tried to delay the confrontation.
"Boston, why don't you get some rest and I'll try to find him?"
but bring him right back here. Please."
got it. Now close your eyes. I'll be back before you know it."
Concern quickened Johnny's feet as he hurried out onto the street. To his dismay, he realized he didn't know where Westcott was staying. Stopping first at the saloon, Johnny found Westcott wasn't there. Heading over to the small hotel, Johnny was relieved to see the tall man descending the steps. "Westcott, Scott's awake. He wants to see you."
broadly, Clay followed the shorter man to talk to Scott Lancer--at last.
men entered the room quietly in case the older Lancer was asleep, but it
was apparent from the glitter in the blue eyes that Scott had no intention
of sleeping then.
to see you awake, Mr. Lancer. Your brother and Miss O'Brien have
been most concerned."
. .you're Clayton? Jeremy told me how much he missed you."
a real bad mistake leavin' Virginia. Shoulda stuck it out. Did Jeremy
tell you about it?"
He said he didn't blame you."
wouldn't, but a stupid mistake cost me bein' with my brothers."
sat down on the foot of Scott's bed. He had seemingly forgotten that
Johnny was even in the room. "I was real wild in those days.
Thought I knew it all. Jeremy was the serious one and Edward. . .Edward
was just a boy. Strange to think of him growin' into a soldier.
He loved animals. Wanted to take care of them. . . .Anyway, I got
involved with this girl. She was real beautiful. I asked her
to marry me, but her family wanted a man with money so they kept us apart."
said she married your best friend."
laugh escaped Clay's lips. "Poor Tom. What a fool. His family
did have some land and he was besotted with her. She. . .she pretended
to be in a family way and that he had to do his duty. He believed
her. I tried to talk him out of it, but he wouldn't listen.
Fact is he said that he didn't want to see me no more.
stand to see them together so I decided to head out and find a different
life. Damn! I should have stayed. Mebbe I coulda stopped what
reached out to lightly touch the distraught man. "Is that why you
weren't in the war?"
only good thing to come out of the sorry mess. Those hotheads destroyed
the South. Even thought about going north for a time, but couldn't
bear the idea of fightin' against Jeremy or one of my friends. Anyway,
Tom came home on leave Thanksgiving of '62 and found out Belinda was with
child. Since he hadn't been around since First Manassas, he knew
the kid wasn't his. Went back to the Army and found a way to get
himself killed at Fredericksburg.. I shoulda gone back after the
War, but all I did was send Jeremy a letter. We've kept kinda in
touch since then."
why are you here now, Westcott?"
glanced around, suddenly noticing Johnny. "Well, Mr. Madrid, as I said
I have something to give your brother so if you wouldn't mind going into
the other room, I can take care of this and be on my way."
just wait a minute!"
hushed, weak voice Scott interrupted, "Johnny, please leave us alone.
There's nothing to worry about."
pouting lip stuck out, but he stood up and prepared to leave. Glancing
back, he gave Westcott a murderously threatening look which Clay met with
equanimity. Then, Johnny left Scott alone with Clayton Westcott,
after deciding to stop at Old Maude's for a drink, in fact several drinks.
shots of whiskey and a beer later Johnny Madrid Lancer made his way back
to the doctor's office. No one who had ever seen a drunken Johnny
Madrid would say that the dark-haired individual who opened the door to
his brother's room, was more than pleasantly foxed but his usual sharp
senses had fogged in the amber liquid. To his horror he found Clayton
Westcott apparently ready to snuff out Scott's barely conscious life with
an over-stuffed pillow. Hurling himself across the short space,
Johnny grabbed the man from behind. Sensing the danger too late,
Clay tried to fight off his attacker by wrenching himself free with one
arm. Swinging himself around, Westcott thrust the cotton-covered
item right in Johnny's face, staggering him.
the gunfighter tried to regain his feet for another attack when a plea
from the man in the bed stopped him. Steadying himself, Johnny
glanced at Westcott's grim face before moving over to the other side of
the bed, away from Clay. "Scott, what in hell is goin' on?"
Madrid, if you would learn not to jump to conclusions, you would have realized
that I was trying to adjust one of his pillows so that he could sit up.
Mrs. Atkins has prepared some broth for Scott to drink."
eyes moved from the highly-colored face to the pale, pain-filled visage.
"Is he tellin' the truth, Boston?" Scott only nodded.
Johnny stammered out, "S-sorry, I. . .I thought. . . ."
all right, Mr. Madrid, I know you don't trust me anymore than I trust you."
Turning back to Scott, Clay's voice took on a warmer tone. "I'm going to go now, Scott. Follow the doctor's orders and eat something so you'll be strong enough to meet me in Richmond." Without another word and ignoring Johnny's astonished countenance, Clayton Westcott left.
flooded the room as Madrid speechlessly tried to reconcile Westcott's last
words. In a whisper, Scott tried to reach through the unnerving quiet,
"Johnny, I know you must have questions, but could you wait? I. .
.I am. . .tired."
voice that he had used many times to freeze a would-be opponent, Johnny
Madrid hissed, "Wait? Of course, I can wait, BROTHER! What
do I care if you keep secrets from me? Do you think it matters to
me if you kill yourself goin' off to Richmond?"
. . not like that," the blond breathed painfully.
what is it like? Westcott comes to town with an attitude and I'm
supposed to roll over and beg? Well, Johnny Madrid doesn't beg for
any man. I'm goin' back to Lancer. Teresa'll be here which probably
makes you real happy." With that the dark man stormed out of the
room, heading for the stable to collect Barranca.
slamming of the front door alerted Mrs. Atkins to the discord in the invalid's
room. Hurrying in, she found her patient unconscious on the floor.
After summoning her husband, she helped him to return the slender man to
his bed. Fortunately, the doctor's stitches had not been ripped open,
but Scott was still unconscious when Teresa O'Brien arrived to take her
turn at the bedside vigil.
on the road to Lancer, Barranca flew along the dusty road. The golden
palomino was always closely attuned to his owner's moods and today was
no different. Sensing Johnny's need, the horse covered the miles
at an unearthly pace until through the slightest of movements, he could
sense a slight easing of the anger and frustration within the gunfighter's
body. By the time the two rode under the great gate, Barranca's sweat-flecked
coat had cooled perceptibly in the soft California breeze. Taking
his horse into the stable, Johnny proceeded to give Barranca a careful
grooming before heading into the white hacienda.
to see his younger son, Murdoch's first thought concerned Scott's condition,
but when the brunet only rushed past into his room, the rancher realized
that another crisis was at hand. Knocking tentatively on the door,
the gray-haired man demanded that his son tell him had happened.
Johnny only ignored the demand which further fueled Murdoch's unease.
Rapping on the door once again, the tall man threatened to have it broken
Lancer did not treat that threat lightly. He had a healthy respect
for his father's temper so he decided to emerge from his room.
tall man looked down on his son, without saying a word. The chill
of the silence sent a shiver down Johnny's back. Carefully enunciating
every word, Murdoch finally asked. "Would you like to tell me why you came
in here like an angry bee?"
uh, well. I just found out Scott is going to Richmond to meet that Westcott!"
Murdoch was really speechless. Mouth open, he just stood there staring
at his dark-haired son. "How. . .how do you know?"
said he'd meet him there and Scott didn't deny it. Damn, I
knew not to trust that. . . ."
Scott is in no condition to go anywhere. Maybe you misunderstood?"
no! Maybe he's got some way to force Scott to go. I still think
the man had somethin' to with the shootin'."
a hand over his tired face, Murdoch invited his son to sit down with him.
"Johnny, I don't believe this Westcott had anything to do with Scott's
injury. I believe the shooter was a man named Carlos Esteban."
let me tell you this in my own way. Esteban came to work here just
about the time Pardee started making trouble. He wasn't the best
hand, but as more and more men left, I couldn't be too picky. During one of Pardee's raids, Esteban was wounded and lost two fingers as a result. It was after that that his behavior began to change. Paul O'Brien warned me that Esteban was trying to rile up the vaqueros against the 'patrone' as he referred to me."
"Why didn't you just fire him?"
"I intended to do that, but he begged me not to. Said he had a family in Mexico. I told him he could stay, but anymore trouble and he was out. Things were better for awhile and then just before O'Brien was. . . killed, he told me that he suspected Esteban was stealing cattle, one or two a time. After the shooting, I was in no condition to do anything about it for quite awhile. But just about the time I set the Pinkertons to looking for you, I decided to confront him."
patriarch walked over to pour himself a glass of whiskey before continuing.
"At first, he denied it then he turned real arrogant saying things like
I only had money because other men sweated and bled for it. He tried
to taunt me that soon no one would risk their neck for Murdoch Lancer."
the rancher's voice became just a whisper. "I was so angry at what
he said that I told him my two sons would soon be arriving.
He laughed right in my face, saying that all the hands knew I lacked the
'cojones' to keep my wife and son with me. Then, he started screaming
curses in Spanish about Catherine and how weak all Americans were.
Something just snapped. I knocked him down, threw him over his horse's
saddle and sent him on his way. I never saw or heard of him
again until this happened."
lots of men have lost fingers," insisted Johnny. "It mighta been someone
they don't all have their son's name tattooed on their arms. I saw
that very same tattoo you mentioned when the Doc took off his fingers.
And they don't all carry this." Murdoch held out the religious medal
he had bought from Umber. "Carlos once told me he carried it because it
had saved his life at Chapultepec."
why would he go after Scott and me?"
took another large drink. "I. . .I don't think he was after you.
When I realized that the shooter was probably Esteban, I came back here
to check with some of the vaqueros who had known him. Ramon told
me that Carlos had stayed in the area for quite sometime. He and
Luis had even bought him a drink from time to time since they didn't know
what had occurred. One time the three of them saw you and your brother
in town together. When Carlos found out who the two of you were,
he became almost insane with anger until. . .until Luis mentioned that
your name was John. Ramon said that he then became quiet and started
talking about his little son, Juan. After that day, he disappeared.
They assumed he had gone back to Mexico."
you think he decided to get back at you by killing Scott?"
and he almost succeeded."
even if that's true, it isn't your fault."
but Scott was the one to pay the price for those few cows Esteban stole.
Now, if you don't mind, I'm going to go to bed. I haven't been
sleeping very well. We can talk about Scott going to Richmond tomorrow."
by what his father had just imparted, Johnny's brain filled with the thought
of what had happened earlier and the confrontation still to come.
eyes opened reluctantly as the pain, centered in Scott's chest, began to
"Just rest easy, Scott. Have a little sip of water."
Scott knew that voice which had comforted him before. Taking a sip of the proffered liquid, the Lancer scion grimaced at its bitterness. "What. . . What's that?"
put some laudanum in it to ease your pain. Now, go back to sleep."
grabbed for Teresa's hand. "Did you see Johnny? He. . .he was
I don't know where Johnny is. When I got here, Dr. Atkins had just
got you back in bed."
go look for him. I've got to talk. . .to tell him. . . ."
right, if it will ease your mind, I'll go see if he's at the saloon or
something. Now, go to sleep."
weakly tried to hold onto her hand. "Don't. . .go. . .saloon. .
the brown-haired girl wiped the sweat from the pale face. "Scott,
don't worry about me. I'll just stand at the door. If I see
Johnny, I'll bring him back here. Now. Go. To.
raised his hand in a partial salute. "Yes, Sir."
Mrs. Atkins to her departure, Teresa began her canvass of the town.
One of the girls at Old Maude's told her that Murdoch had been there earlier,
but not Johnny. After twenty minutes of looking, Teresa stopped
at the livery stable. When informed that Johnny had collected Barranca,
the brown-haired girl stopped her search to return to the Atkins place.
the tea that Mrs. Atkins had provided, Teresa gazed at the blond-haired
man in the bed. Scott had always seemed such an enigma to her while,
on the other hand, Johnny had been much easier to read from the first moment
she had laid eyes on Murdoch's sons. Perhaps, it was because Johnny
was so much like his father and no one knew Murdoch Lancer better than
Teresa. Of course, her guardian was not as moody or impulsive like
his son, but then Murdoch had been forced to learn control. One did
not create an empire without being in control of their emotions and behavior.
control was reflected in Murdoch's older son, of course, but Teresa had
always wondered if that reserve wasn't more due to his upbringing than
his paternity. The young woman had met Harlan Garrett only once,
but it hadn't been difficult to understand why Catherine Garrett had married
Murdoch Lancer. If a girl's first love was her father, Catherine
could not have picked a man more in her own father's image. True
they didn't look alike, but both men possessed iron wills and a drive to
succeed. Neither man tolerated opposition, believing in the righteousness
of his cause. The death of Catherine Garrett Lancer and the birth
of Scott had destroyed the possibility of any compromise between the two
men. So Murdoch's obsession had become Lancer while Garrett's focus
had been on Scott. What a burden for a young man to carry.
For all the unhappiness that Johnny's childhood might have carried, he
still had been free to create his life as he chose. Small wonder
that Maria's son would take up the gun. Johnny Madrid's lightning
reflexes commanded respect--even from Murdoch Lancer himself.
Scott, Teresa suspected that no one had ever seen the true Scott Lancer.
He had built layer after layer, accommodating those around him so that
they would see the man they believed him to be--and he was still doing
it. Like Johnny, she had seen the haunted look in those blue eyes
and had wondered about it. Shaking her head at the folly of the men
in her life, she stood up to take the now-empty teacup out to the kitchen.
Upon her return, she was surprised to see that Scott was awake. He certainly did share in the stubbornness of the Lancers. "So, how are
you feeling now? Mrs. Atkins made some broth, would you like some?"
the question, Scott asked, "Did you find him?"
Barranca's gone. I suspect he's gone back to Lancer."
"He. . .he said he intended to, but I hoped. . . ."
Sindy over at Old Maude's told me that Murdoch had been there. Did
he come here?"
I talked to him, but he had to return to the ranch. Maybe that's
why Johnny. . . wanted to go back."
do you mean? Why?"
looked worried and tired. Maybe Johnny was concerned."
but let's not worry about that now. I'm going to go get that broth,
and you, Mr. Lancer, are going to drink all of it!"
Teresa O'Brien watched as the slender blond sipped the homemade broth carefully.
When he stopped part way through, she gave him one of her meaningful looks--the
kind she usually reserved for recalcitrant guardians. He finished
the mug, she urged her charge to sleep some more but wasn't astonished
when Scott asked her to sit with him for awhile. It was obvious that
the blond had something on his mind. After a short wait, her patience
did you like Clay Westcott?"
as a matter of fact, I did. He had quite a way with him. We
even talked about about PRIDE AND PREJUDICE together."
slight gasp, Teresa's brown eyes flew to his face. "Are you all right?"
"Fine. It's just. . .it's just that. . .did Clay tell you anything about Jeremy?"
just said that you and Jeremy met because of the War."
was. . .a little more than that. He saved my life."
Libby was liberated, the army put some soldiers, who were. . . sick like
me, in private homes. The civilians got extra rations
for taking care of us. I was sent to Jeremy's. Of course, I was.
. . out of my head at the time and didn't even know the war was over.
Anyway, when I woke up, there was this small man sitting by my bed, reading
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. I found out later he had taken care of me without
sleep for three days. I've always believed it was his dedication
that pulled me through."
sounds like a fine man."
nodded. "During the days that followed he told me about Clay and
Edward and I told him about Grandfather and SPIN. We found out how
much we had in common. He had wanted to go to Harvard, but his family
wasn't very wealthy and then the war came. He had tried to persuade
Edward not to enlist, but the boy wanted to fight for Virginia."
"Jeremy must have been devastated when his brother was killed," she remarked sympathetically.
blond fringe nodded. "Jeremy told me that he wished he had shot Edward
in his hand or something. He hated the idea of war and killing, but
he didn't seem to hate the Yankees, although he despised the destruction
of his beloved Richmond."
his hand, Teresa remarked, ""I'm glad you had someone to take care of you."
he even notified my grandfather about where I was located so he could come
and get me."
grandfather traveled to Richmond?"
certainly did. You might not believe it, but Jeremy and Grandfather
became close friends while Grandfather waited for me to be fit to travel.
He even persuaded Jeremy to handle some Garrett legal business which gave
him a steady income."
sure your grandfather must have appreciated Jeremy taking care of you."
so, but I think Grandfather genuinely admired his courage in the face of
adversity. Harlan Garrett hated men who whined about how fate had
treated them and preferred to think of themselves as victims. I suppose
that's why he and Murdoch could never get along; they don't suffer fools
you ever see Jeremy again after you went back to Boston?"
I was going through a. . . difficult time. He invited me to stay
for awhile. It turned out to be nearly three months. A month
after I returned to Boston, I received a letter from him saying that he
was going to marry. He said the girl didn't like Yankees as she had
lost her two brothers and her father at Petersburg. I kind of got
the idea he would prefer that I not visit again."
must have hurt."
did. I asked Clay if they were still married. He said the engagement
had been cancelled after only a month. I hadn't heard from
Jeremy again until Clay brought me a letter. Jeremy wants me to visit
Richmond. I asked Clay to tell him I would."
"Do you? Johnny didn't."
afraid that the East will draw you back and one day you'll stay there."
doesn't trust me in other words."
like Murdoch, he needs to know he's in control. He can't control
your feelings for your grandfather and the life you used to have so it
see that, but there are some things that no one can control. It's
about time Johnny and Murdoch learned that. Maybe Johnny's just worried
that he won't be able to get along with the old man if. . .if good old
Scott isn't there to act as peacemaker."
"I'm sure it's more than that. I know Murdoch cares about both of you."
in his own way, but I'll tell you a secret, Teresa. When that bullet
hit me and before the pain blotted out everything, all I could think was
that I was glad it was me, not Johnny."
could we stop talking now? I' feel like I could sleep. . . for a
month. I always thought confession was supposed to be good for you.
Right now it feels like hell."
because of Scott's flushed face, Teresa went out to bring in the doctor.
the next three days Teresa and Mrs. Atkins took turns watching over their
patient. In that time there was no word from either Johnny or Murdoch.
Teresa had been sure that as soon as the dark-haired Lancer son had cooled
down, he would return. Despite Scott's too evident doubts, Teresa
knew that Johnny did care about his brother.
end of the third day, Scott's condition dramatically improved as his strength
began to return. He even jokingly told Mrs. Atkins that it was all
due to her extra-strength chicken broth. She had flushed with pleasure
at the compliment.
the next two days the two women continued to keep a close eye on their
charge until the blond finally told them that he no longer needed such
close attention. He urged Teresa to go back to Lancer, knowing of
her concern about Murdoch.
prevaricated for one more day, but finally gave in. There had to
be something terribly wrong at Lancer or the two men surely would have
traveled to Green River. After borrowing a horse from the Atkins
and securing a promise that they would keep an eye on Scott, the young
woman covered the miles to the white hacienda.
entering the great room, Teresa quickly recognized that her suspicions
were correct. Making for Johnny's bedroom she found a pale, shaky
Murdoch sitting at his son's side. The rancher's face lit up at seeing
her. "Teresa, honey, glad to see you. Johnny's not feeling
about you? You look terrible."
"Yeah, I must have picked it up in Modesto. Johnny took care of me for awhile then he came down with it. Doesn't seem too bad, but he needs to rest."
both do. Now, Murdoch Lancer, go back to your room. I'll be
in in just awhile."
argue with me. If you cooperate, I'll have both of you back on your
feet in two days."
was a bit optimistic in her prediction, but three days later Johnny and
Murdoch Lancer joined her in the kitchen for some food. Looking at
their pale faces she cheerfully remarked, "Well, it doesn't look like Mr.
Umber is going to get any business from this family this time."
groaned. "Don't be too sure. My stomach is still doin' a dance."
it a couple more days, Johnny. How about some broth?"
groaned again. "I'm floatin' already."
I guess my broth doesn't have the same restorative powers as Mrs Atkins'
does. Scott was feeling much better after he had some of hers."
sat there for a moment. "How is Scott doing?"
as I said. Maybe when you feel up to it, you and Murdoch can ride
in and bring him home. He must be going crazy being stuck there."
I s'pose. Did he say anything about goin' to Richmond?"
told me why he feels he should go."
you should tell us?" questioned the young man.
Scott would like to tell you himself."
Teresa, he's in no shape to go all that way!"
he intends to wait for awhile longer, until he's fully recovered."
"Did you say something, Son?"
"Scott's gettin' as cantankerous as Harlan Garrett."
giggled. "Johnny, you're not exactly Mr. Sunshine yourself, and speaking
of Harlan Garrett, he's a good friend of Jeremy Westcott."
and Murdoch exchanged glances. "I knew that man had something to
do with this!" uttered the gunfighter. "Tomorrow I'm ridin' in and
tellin' Scott, he's not goin' anywhere.
both go, Johnny."
if you two intend to ride that far tomorrow, then I want both of you to
spend the rest of the day in bed."
smirked, "Yes, Boss," before swaying his way back to bed.
the next day, the two Lancers and Teresa driving the buggy, started on
their way to Green River. The brown-haired girl had insisted on going.
She said their reputations would never survive their falling from the saddle
halfway to town so the two men had grudgingly agreed.
in front of the doctor's office just as twilight was setting in, they tied
up the buggy and entered only to find Dr. and Mrs Atkins sitting down to
dinner. When Murdoch asked if it was all right to see Scott, the
good woman blanched with surprise, "But Mr. Lancer, didn't you know that
Scott received a telegram? He left for Richmond yesterday."
Four months after Scott Lancer left a letter for his father, informing him of the young's man decision to go to Richmond, a stagecoach pulled into Spanish Wells. Across the road, leaning against a hitching post, stood a dark-haired man with sapphire eyes, sapphire eyes that carefully took in the frail-looking blond who stepped down from the stagecoach.
Lancer glanced around surreptitiously for a moment until he spotted the
familiar figure coming towards him. Giving his younger brother a
tentative smile, the older Lancer was met with only a frown, a frown directed
towards the tall man, who also emerged from the coach. saying, "I'll
get your bag, Scott."
Clay," Scott responded. Clayton Westcott reached up to secure the
small carpetbag before handing it to Johnny without a word.
back into the coach, Westcott stuck his hand out to touch Scott's arm.
"You take care of yourself. I'll write and let you know where I end
that, and thanks."
either man could say another word, the stage was put in motion, leaving
the two Lancers standing in the dusty street.
ready to head to the ranch?"
nodded at the grim-faced man. "Thanks for meeting me."
problem. I had to come into town for supplies anyway."
his brother struggle to climb up on the buckboard, Johnny almost reached
out to help when Scott made one last effort and sank into the seat.
Saying nothing, Johnny walked around to the other side and jumped up lightly.
Glancing over at the blond once more, Johnny picked up the reins and headed
for home. Dozens of questions in his mind, the gunfighter couldn't
decide how to ask even one of them of this almost-stranger. Even
the dandy, who had stepped off the stage with him a year before, had been
a few miles, it was Scott who finally broke the silence. "How are
Murdoch and Teresa?"
as always. They. . .they've been worried about you."
sorry that I didn't have the chance to leave more than that short note.
Mrs. Atkins did give it to Murdoch, didn't she?"
but it didn't say much."
. .I just didn't know what to say."
truth would have been good."
blond looked over at his brother, his face closing over. "I'm sorry
I disappointed you. At least, Grandfather let you know that I would
Johnny pulled hard at the reins, bringing the buckboard to a halt.
"Wait a minute! You mean that one telegram we got was from Harlan
Garrett? But it was from Richmond?"
met me there. I. . .I was sick and I asked him to let you all know
that I would be back."
anger and distrust in Johnny's sapphire eyes slammed into Scott's precarious
control as he felt himself begin to shiver in the heat of noontime.
"Johnny, could. . .I need to lie down for a bit. Could you pull over
there under those trees?"
Seeing his brother's extreme pallor, Johnny did as asked. Grabbing a canvas from the back, the brunet spread it out on the grass so that Scott could lie down, which he did gratefully. "Better?"
The trip was. . .exhausting. I don't think I would have made it if
Clay hadn't agreed to come with me."
Westcott always seems to be around when you need him," suggested Madrid.
his jaw, Scott pulled himself into an upright position, staring his brother
straight in the eye. "I know you don't like him, Johnny, but he's
been a good friend to me."
he has. Just how did he get you to go to Richmond anyway? I
s'pose that telegram you got was from him?"
it was to Clay, in care of me. And you're wrong, I didn't go to Richmond
because of Clay. I went for Jeremy."
his strength, Scott looked down at his shaking hands before answering the
question. "I got to Richmond three days before. . .before. . . .There
was a hard rain the day Jeremy died. I was sitting with him, holding
onto his hand and. . .and he just slipped away. Clay buried him next
to the marker Jeremy had placed for Edward in Hollywood Cemetery.
My grandfather came down for the funeral and stayed when I got sick."
Johnny finally said, "I'm sorry to hear that about your friend. Teresa
told us what he did when the War ended."
always thought he owed me something just because of the money when I owed
him so much more."
a man doesn't like to be beholden to the best of friends, Boston."
blue eyes flickered. "Are we talking about Jeremy or you?"
know what you're talkin' about."
you?" questioned the blond. "You're the one who is so determined
to stand on your own and not give anyone a chance to help you. I
turn myself inside-out trying to be understanding, trying to be supportive
and what do I get--the brooding gunfighter out to challenge the world on
his own. You're a western Don Quixote who doesn't need a Sancho Panza.
In fact, Murdoch, Teresa, and I are lucky you even tolerate our being around."
by Scott's vehemence, Johnny struck back. "You're the one who went
off to Richmond. I'm surprised you didn't go back to Boston with
wouldn't have surprised you at all, would it? After all, I'm not
to be trusted, am I?"
dark man's temper kindled. "What are you talking about? I trust
you with my life!"
the easy part, isn't it? What's harder is your trusting me to make
my own decision to remain at Lancer. Harlan Garrett is the great
ogre just waiting to lure me back to a life of wealth and leisure, isn't
he? Well, you listen to me, Johnny, my whole world is not wrapped
up in Lancer. I had a life before I came here and I do not intend
to forget my grandfather and the others whom I care about. I do my
damndest to be what you need in a brother, but don't ever forget that I'm
more than just your brother, Murdoch's son or Harlan's grandson."
Johnny rocked back on his heels slightly, staring at his brother.
if you don't mind, I'd like to go home." Stiffly, Scott rose to his
feet, starting towards the buckboard.
rush, words flooded from the dark-haired man. "It's not that I don't
want to tell you, but some of it ain't too pretty."
you believe I'll think less of you?"
The dark head nodded.
"Well, then you really don't trust me, do you? I thought. . .I thought by now you'd know there's nothing that would shake my belief in you."
. .I just couldn't take the chance."
Scott made one last effort to reach his sibling, "Johnny, I'm going to
say this just once. I am not your mother or your father. If
I have to go somewhere, I will be back--unless the next time that bullet
is one inch closer. Do you understand?"
gasp, Scott took a step towards him. "Johnny, I know we both have
things we'd rather not talk about too much, but let's try not to let them
destroy what we do have. Is that all right with you?"
I, uh, sure. I guess we'd better get goin'. Teresa's waitin'
on these supplies."
I must admit I'm looking forward to her cooking. Neither Grandfather
or Clay was much good at it."
he tried. Fortunately, some of the neighbor ladies brought over food
after the funeral."
helping Scott up into the buckboard, Johnny set it in motion once again.
"I was surprised to see Westcott with you."
the blond replied, "I noticed. He sold the Richmond house and plans
to buy a small ranch out this way. He prefers the wide open spaces.
Grandfather suggested that he might come with me, just in case I needed
you're lookin' a might skinny."
Scott suggested, "Maybe Teresa will feel sorry for me and bake a couple
of cherry pies!"
Johnny slapped his brother on the back. "That reminds me, Brother!
Wait 'til you see what Teresa's been makin' for me! One day she baked
this chocolate cake and well, I kinda dropped it while tryin' to get a
taste. Luckily, it was still in the pan so it only kinda collapsed.
Teresa got so weepy, I said I'd eat it anyway. And you know what,
Boston, it tastes damn good--real dense and chocolatey. She cuts
'em into mouth-sized pieces. I've taken to callin' 'em Dropsies.
Clever name, huh?"
but I think you should call them 'Johnnies' since they're dark like you
and you created them."
huh? Say, maybe you're right. They are kinda sweet like me."
successfully swallowed his laugh as the buckboard rolled under the great
gate. Pulling up in front of the hacienda door, Johnny waited for
Scott to climb down. "I'll bring your bag in after I unload the supplies."
uh, I'm glad you're back, Scott."
glad to be back. By the way, Clay asked me to give you this."
Scott took out a piece of paper, handing it to the other man. "He
said you would understand." Scott then went in to find Murdoch and Teresa.
opened up the envelope, taking out the creased paper.
El amor de un hermano aguanta para siempre.
Clayton Westcott" *
love of a brother endures forever.