Johnny Lancer pulled again at his ribbon tie. Murdoch had dragged him and Scott to a Cattleman’s meeting in Sacramento. The meeting had been pretty boring although Boston had made some notes of some new ideas in the cattle ranching business. Then they had sat down to a dinner of roast beef of course. Now they were to the part of the meeting that Johnny liked, the drinking and playing cards part. In fact they were up at the bar drinking beer. Murdoch was busy speaking to old friends and had introduced them to quite a few.
Scott smiled at his brother and reached over and loosened his brother’s ribbon tie, pulled it off and put it in his suit pocket. He did the same to his tie.
Johnny smiled his dazzling smile. “Hey thanks Brother” he said loosening a few buttons.
Scott nodded and did the same. “Looks like Murdoch’s got some more friends for us to meet.” Scott said ruefully as he turned around.
“Man’s gotta a lot of friends.” Johnny said nonchalantly taking a swig of beer and turning around to face Murdoch.
“Boys, I’d like you to meet my friends Howard and Judith Sullivan. They are originally from Charleston but have been out here ranching on a spread near Modesto.” Murdoch said beaming with pride in his sons.
“Pleasure.” Scott said shaking Mr. Sullivan’s hand. He nodded to Mrs. Sullivan. “Ma’am delighted to meet you.” He said as he took her hand and kissed it.
Johnny smiled at his brother. Scott was the epitome of manners. He said hi to each of the Howards in a soft voice smiling at both of them.
“Murdoch your sons are so handsome but in very different ways aren’t they.” Judith said in a southern drawl. “I am glad to meet both of you young men.”
“Good to meet you boys. I can tell Murdoch is very happy to have you with them.” Howard said in a friendly voice with the same southern drawl. “Murdoch you must be very proud of these young men.”
“I surely am, Howard.” Murdoch said still beaming.
Another young man came over to stand by Judith. He was about the same height as Johnny but more stocky.
“Oh Murdoch, boys here is my son Joseph.” Howard said beaming himself. “This is my friend Murdoch Lancer and his sons Johnny and Scott. “
Johnny heard Scott take a harsh intake of breath. Murdoch was saying his hellos when Johnny turned to look at Scott. Scott’s mouth was in a thin line, his slate blue eyes dark and narrowed. Boston was angry Johnny thought, really angry. Puzzled he turned back towards the Sullivans. Murdoch was done greeting the Sullivan son. Joe Sullivan was extending his hand towards Scott.
“Lieutenant Lancer” Sullivan said in a snide low voice that only Scott and Johnny could hear.
It was then Scott landed a right handed punch to Joseph Sullivan’s jaw. “You sick son-of-a-bitch!!!!” Scott yelled. The punch knocked Joseph Sullivan to the floor. Before anyone could react Scott attacked the man on the floor hitting him again and then encircling the man’s neck with his long fingers choking him.
“Johnny!” Murdoch said desperately trying to pull Scott off Sullivan. Johnny went to help his father and they managed to pry Scott’s fingers from Joseph’s neck. Joseph started coughing immediately. But yet Scott tried to get free. It took both Murdoch and Johnny to push Scott back against the wall.
“Let me go.” Scott growled.
“What in the devil has gotten into you?” Murdoch said in a hard, angry voice. “I want you to go up to our room right now!”
Scott pulled away from his father and brother and strode out into the lobby and took the stairs up two at a time.
“Johnny go with him.” Murdoch said in a confused voice.
When Johnny went to the room Scott was dry heaving in to a basin. Scott wiped his face and went over and pulled off his dress trousers and threw them into his case. He pulled on a pair of tan trousers. “I’m going to buy a horse and ride home to Lancer now” he said angrily throwing all of his things in to his case. He threw his dress jacket into the case not bothering to fold it and started to unbutton his dress shirt.
“Alright Scott what is going on?” Johnny asked in a concerned voice. “What have you got against this Sullivan?”
Scott froze for a second. His shoulders slumped as all the anger drained out of him. He took off his dress shirt and threw it in the case. He picked up a dark navy work shirt. Scott sighed and slowly turned his back towards his brother. “This is what I have against him Johnny” Scott said his voice wretched. “Twenty lashes when I was conscious, I was told another 5 when I wasn’t. I woke up in a small room. I was lying on a cot on my stomach. He was there rubbing salt in my wounds. He enjoyed making me scream, Johnny.”
With that Scott threw his work shirt on a chair and sat down on the bed and buried his face in his hands, his elbows on his knees.
Johnny put his hand on his brother’s shoulder. He felt murderous towards Joseph Sullivan. He was so angry he couldn’t speak. It was to this scene an angry Murdock Lancer entered the room and slammed the door. Both Scott and Johnny jumped.
“You will go down and apologize to Joseph Sullivan and his parents.” Murdoch angrily barked.
Scott looked up meeting his father’s angry stare. “No Sir.” Scott said simply. “Actually I am heading back to Lancer.”
“Like hell you are. Not until I understand why you tried to kill my friend’s son.” Murdoch roared.
“Show him, Scott “Johnny urged. “He needs to know.”
Scott nodded and slowly turned round.
“Do you see what your friend’s son did to my brother?” Johnny said his anger burning. “25 lashes. And then later he tortured him by rubbing salt into his wounds. Apologize my ass. I want to kill the bastard right now.”
“No Johnny.” Scott said firmly picking up his work shirt and putting it on. “I don’t want you involved in this. I need to leave it be.”
“My God, Scott.” Murdoch said putting his hand on his son’s shoulder. “Are you alright, son?”
Scott nodded. “I just want to go back. I’ll buy a horse.” Scott stopped. He bowed and took a few breaths. He rubbed the back of his neck and looked up to meet his father’s and brother’s eyes. He looked miserable. His voice was hoarse with emotion. “I’m so very sorry Murdoch. I never meant to embarrass you in front of your friends. I don’t know what came over me. I lost control, I guess.”
“Lost control?!!” Johnny asked incredulously. “Scott, he tortured you!”
“What good did I do down there, Johnny? I embarrassed our father, the Lancer name and everyone thinks I’m insane.” Scott retorted his voice breaking.
“Scott” Murdoch said firmly taking ahold of Scott’s arms and facing him. “Son, I don’t care what those people think. And you did not embarrass me or our name. If punching that bastard made you feel the least bit better, then it was well worth it.”
“I agree” Johnny said putting his hand on his brother’s shoulder.
Scott smiled a half smile. “I guess maybe I did feel a bit better after hitting him.” He said ruefully.
The Lancers decided they would all leave for Lancer as soon as they got ready. Scott was relieved. He felt unsettled and wanted to be back at Lancer.
Murdoch was worried about his eldest son on the journey home. Scott was very quiet and a bit withdrawn. He cursed their luck in running into a man that brought back the war for his son. Scott was a strong young man, calm and decisive but since Dan Cassidy’s visit Murdoch always had the feeling that there was something about the war that still threatened his son. He worried about it almost as much as he worried about someone from Johnny’s past hurting him. With Scott he wasn’t sure if it was a person who could potentially hurt his son or something that had happened during the war that Scott could not really forgive himself for. He watched his eldest son gaze out the window. What his son’s young eyes must have seen during the war, the torture his son had endured was unimaginable. Scott had been fighting for his life, languishing in prison, tortured and starved all for a principal that his son believed in while Murdoch had been safe and sound at Lancer unaware that his son was in such peril. He had been worried about Johnny and had thought Scott was safe.
Johnny Lancer regarded his brother under veiled eyes. He felt burning anger towards Joseph Sullivan, that he had hurt his brother. He could not get the image out of his mind of Scott lying helpless on a cot, his back splayed open and Sullivan rubbing salt into his brother’s wounds. The horrors of war Scott had said. Johnny had slowly begun to realize that he was not the only one whose past could come back to haunt him. Scott had just had the horrible memories brought to the front again.
After a few days home Scott seemed to go back to his old self. Murdoch smoked his pipe a book in his lap. He sat on the couch watching his boys play chess. Scott had Johnny on the ropes in this game. A few more moves and his elder son declared checkmate in his deep low voice. Johnny slapped Scott on the back and told him good game. Scott smiled as he thoughtfully put away the chess game. A shadow outside the French doors caught the corner of his eye. Scott got up and strode over and got his gun. He went to the French doors and opened them. He stepped outside and looked around. He thought he smelled men’s cologne for just a second. Johnny came out with his gun too.
“Problem brother?” Johnny asked in a hushed voice.
“I thought I saw someone out here.” Scott answered in an uncertain voice. “I thought I smelled cologne when I first came out here too.”
Johnny nodded. He began to walk around the perimeter of the house. He stopped and looked around. He saw nothing and walked back to Scott. “Nothing.” Johnny said.
“Imagination, I guess.” Scott said ruefully. “I’m going to turn in. Goodnight brother.” Murdoch stood at the left open French doors. “Goodnight, Sir.” Scott said his voice hollow.
“Goodnight son.” Murdoch answered in a warm voice. Johnny came and stood by his father and they watched Scott trudge up the stairs like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders.
“He thought he saw someone out here, thought he smelled cologne too. Murdoch, he’s in trouble. I can feel it. But I don’t know how to help him. He’s so complicated. All I know is that he’s hurting.” Johnny said in a defeated voice.
Murdoch put his hand on Johnny’s shoulder. “I know how you feel about your brother, Johnny. We will be here to support him if he needs us. Scott has always handled things on his own. It will take some time for him to realize he doesn’t have to anymore.”
“I’m not sure you realize how I feel about him, Murdoch, how fiercely I love him. We’ve been together for 2 years and we’re a family now. But back at the beginning when it seemed you and I butted heads over everything, it was Scott who made it possible for me to stay. He helped me to understand you, to understand why I was so angry. All of my life I’ve never been accepted like he accepted me, not even by you Murdoch. And I know people had reason to mistrust me, that you had reason mistrust me when I met with Pardee that day. But Scott…once he heard we were brothers…well that was it. He didn’t care I was a gunfighter, half-Mex or totally different from him.” Johnny laughed. “He punched me, you know. That day he and Teresa went to town for clothes three of Pardee’s men roughed him up and I didn’t help. I met up with them at the lake and he knocked me into Sunday. But it was then I realized that he thought of me as his brother, that he expected me to stand up for him like he would have stood up for me. Now I want to be the one to help him.”
Murdoch looked at his youngest son. “You do help him, son. Scott feels the same way about you as you feel about him. I’m grateful you two are so close.” Murdoch said earnestly. “I know this thing with Sullivan has thrown him. Try not to worry Johnny. I won’t fail you or your brother ever again.”
Johnny took a deep breath. “I suppose you’re right Murdoch. He needs time to come to terms with this again. I’ll try not to worry so much.”
Murdoch puffed his pipe and put his hand on Johnny’s shoulder again. “We’ll both do our best to watch out for your brother.” Murdoch assured him. “As much as he’ll let us, that is.”
Johnny grinned and nodded. “I think I’ll turn in. Thanks Murdoch.” Murdoch watched his youngest son bound up the stairs and then thoughtfully went over and stood in front of the fireplace and watched the flames.
Johnny stopped outside Scott’s door. The lamp was still on. He knocked on the door and entered to Scott’s call come in. Scott’s long body was stretched out on his bed. He was still dressed except for his boots and socks. He was on his stomach with a book open on his pillow. “Johnny.” Scott said grinning. “I was just thinking we haven’t read Jules Verne 20,000 Leagues under the Sea since before we left for the meeting. Would you like to listen for a while?”
“Sure.” Johnny said grinning back. Scott grabbed the book off his nightstand. Scott moved over to make room for his brother and rolled onto his back. Johnny sat on the bed and pulled off his boots. He laid on his back beside his brother their shoulders touching. Johnny tilted his head a little so their heads touched too. Scott smiled at that and began to read in his cultured eastern voice. Johnny felt at peace when Scott read to him. Scott seemed to remember what words Johnny knew and which Scott needed to explain to him. And if he needed anything explained all Johnny had to do was ask and Scott did it in a way that never made Johnny feel stupid. Scott made it seem that it was an honor to explain things to his brother. Sometimes Scott would stop and they would talk about the plot line. Scott loved to hear his brother’s take on things. Several times Scott and Johnny had read a book, then their father would read it next and they all three would discuss it at dinner.
When Murdoch came up much later, both boys were asleep, the book lying on Scott’s stomach, their heads still together. Murdoch took the book and marked it and set it back on the night table. He turned down the lamp and pulled the blanket from the foot of Scott’s bed and covered the boys. He left the room with a smile.
The next morning Scott was already sitting at the table drinking coffee when Murdoch and Johnny came down. “Good morning Murdoch, Johnny.” He said smiling.
“Good morning, son.” Murdoch said pleasantly.
“Mornin’ Scott. Didn’t mean to take over your bed last night.” Johnny said grinning.
“You didn’t brother. I think I fell asleep mid-sentence.” Scott said helping himself to scrambled eggs that Maria had set down on the table. “Gracias Maria.”
There was a knock at the door. Teresa came out with a plate of bacon and set it down. “I’ll get it.” She said cheerfully. She came back almost immediately. “It’s a telegram for Scott.” She said handing it to him and setting down at the table.
Scott opened the telegram and stared at the content. “Tam dulcis est memoria tua essentia, necesse est iterum quod gustaverim.” It’s Latin.” Scott said in a confused voice.
“Latin?” Murdoch said incredulously. “Do you know what it says?”
Scott nodded. “I learned Latin at Harvard. It says Your essence is so sweet a memory it must be tasted again. I don’t know what that means Sir. It doesn’t say who sent it and I can’t imagine who would have sent it.”
“It has to be from someone who knew you know Latin.” Teresa said thoughtfully. “I don’t think any of us knew that.”
Scott nodded. “I also took French and German. A lot of good they do me out here. Garrett Enterprises has a lot of French and German clients.”
Murdoch winced at the mention of Garrett Enterprises. He knew Scott had been groomed to take over from his grandfather Harlan Garrett and how much Harlan wanted Scott back in Boston. He wondered if Scott felt all of his education was being wasted here at Lancer.
Johnny watched his brother as he studied the telegram. Scott’s brow was furrowed and he looked pale. Scott pushed his plate away and took another drink of coffee.
“You feel alright there Scott.” Johnny drawled softly his voice sounding light but his eyes filled with concern. That telegraph made him uneasy. It seemed like a veiled threat in some ways.
Scott nodded. “Got a headache is all. It will pass. You finish eating and I’ll go saddle the horses. Meet you out front.”
Murdoch watched his son leave. “Keep an eye on things, Johnny. I don’t see any point for anyone sending that telegram to Scott except trouble. I could tell Scott really didn’t understand it but it still unnerved him and I have to admit it unnerves me a bit too.”
“I don’t like it either. “ Teresa said. “It’s chilling.”
“I think it’s strange too.” Johnny said thoughtfully. “Wonder if Scott left any angry women when he left Boston..” With that Johnny went outside to meet Scott.
Scott and Johnny rode silently to their fencing work site. They worked quickly and hard. By the time they broke for lunch Scott’s headache was worse. He gratefully sank down against a tree and took a long pull on his canteen. He took the sandwich Johnny handed him and took a few bites. He leaned back against the tree and closed his eyes. He felt unsettled like there was something hanging over him, something he couldn’t quite put his finger on. He felt a sharp pain in his head and he winced in pain.
“I think you’ve had enough for today Scott.” Johnny said softly. It was obvious his brother still felt unwell. Johnny also had a bad feeling he couldn’t explain.
“It’s this damn headache.” Scott said tiredly his eyes still closed. “Let me rest for a while and I’ll be good to go.”
“You do that, Boston.” Johnny replied. “We’ll go back at it in an hour then.”
”Good.” Scott murmured sliding down to a more supine position and putting his hat over his face. Johnny watched his brother under veiled eyes and after a few minutes was happy to see the even rise and fall of Scott’s chest. He gingerly got up as to not wake Scott and went over and took Barranca and Charlie to a nearby pond and watered them. He didn’t know why but all of a sudden he felt like they were being watched. He scanned the area furtively. There was a stand of trees nearby but he couldn’t see anyone. He shook his head not knowing why he was so jumpy. He took the horses back near Scott and ground tied them so they could graze. Johnny glanced over at Scott who still was asleep. He hadn’t eaten anything either. Johnny sighed. Murdoch was right, he had to stop worrying about his brother so much. If Scott was hungry, he’d eat. He scanned the area again. In his past life he’d never had anyone to worry about but himself.
He looked at his sleeping brother fondly. He knew that his past life didn’t hold a candle to having a family. He remembered how he’d almost left it behind when he took off with Wes after Murdoch and he had butted heads. It was Scott who’d come looking for him. He remembered the sadness in his brother’s eyes as he had shook hands with him and wished him good luck. Two men had died and Scott could have been killed over a damn horse. As it was his brother had been shot, took a fall off his horse and had had to drag himself back into the house. Reason enough for a man to hold a grudge but not Scott Lancer. He’d never held one against Dan Cassidy who had come 3000 miles to kill him for something Scott didn’t do. Even Joseph Sullivan, oh Scott had been surprised and went after him but when a cooler head had prevailed Scott had regretted his actions and had let it go. The surprise and shock on the older man’s face had been priceless. Johnny didn’t think Scott had anything to regret on going off on Sullivan. Johnny looked around again.
“Is something wrong Johnny?” Scott asked in a quizzical voice watching his brother checking out the area.
“Nope. Is your headache better?” Johnny replied.
“Yes, let’s get this done.” Scott said getting up. “It’s starting to get hot out here.”
When the job was finished both brothers were hot and dusty. Johnny smiled at Scott his teeth looking white against his dust covered face. The wind had come up and blown up a good amount of dust. Scott’s hair looked more dark grey than his normal color. “How about a swim in that pond, brother?” Johnny said good-naturedly.
“I....I guess for a bit. I’d rather not burn to a crisp.” Scott answered. They walked their horses over to water them. Scott looked doubtful as Johnny stripped naked and dove in. He’d never accepted Johnny’s request to swim before because of the scars on his back just as he’d never worked shirtless with anyone on the ranch. He had gone swimming by himself since coming to Lancer. Now he felt a bit foolish for hiding it for so long. In truth Scott was a strong swimmer having spent a lot of time swimming in the ocean in his teenage years. He followed his brother’s example and stripped down and dove in and swam over to his brother.
“So you can swim.” Johnny said grinning. “Damn Scott, when we were working on bridges or clearing deep streams I kept worrying you’d fall in and I’d have to fish you out.”
“Very funny.” Scott shot back. “Try to keep up with me, brother.” Scott swam away from Johnny, his lithe, slender body cutting through the water with very little wake. Johnny swam after him knowing he wouldn’t catch him. They spent some time lazily floating on their backs. Scott swam away from Johnny and went under on the other side of the pond. Johnny kept floating on his back until he realized Scott wasn’t coming back up. Johnny treaded water looking around anxiously. He was just about to dive under the water to look for his brother when something grabbed his ankle and pulled him under. Johnny came back up sputtering. Scott was there laughing at him. Johnny jumped at Scott but Scott moved at the last moment and dunked Johnny again by pushing his head under. This time Johnny swam deeper and grabbed Scott’s ankle and pulled him under. They both came up laughing. They splashed around for a while and then reluctantly got out and dressed. Johnny was content riding back. Scott seemed almost his old self although he realized that Scott’s tormenting memories were still probably very near the surface.
Murdoch sat at his desk wearing his glasses and smoking his pipe. There was an error somewhere on the few pages of the ledger he had been working on over the last few hours and he couldn’t find it. He looked up as his sons came in.
“Scott, could you come over and check these figures for me?” Murdoch said in an annoyed voice. “I have a mistake somewhere and can’t seem to find it. “
Scott nodded and came over and got the ledger. He scanned it for 30 seconds. “Right here, Sir.” Scott said setting the ledger down in front of his father and pointing. “You transposed a number. See you at dinner.” Scott turned and went up the stairs to his room. Johnny held back a laugh at the incredulous look on his father’s face. He went over to his father.
“How does he do that?” Murdoch said amused. “Get that area of fencing done son?”
“Yes, we did.” Johnny said. “Scott can swim Murdoch, he can swim really well. He never would go with me before. I assumed it was because he couldn’t swim.”
Murdoch nodded. “Did you have a good time?
Johnny smiled. “Yes. He can hold his breath under water for a long time too.”
“Sounds like your brother surprised you.” Murdoch observed puffing on his pipe. He relished learning bits and pieces about his sons. He was glad Scott had felt comfortable enough to swim with his brother.
“Nothing new about that.” Johnny said going over and pouring himself tequila. “Scott’s gonna be fine, Murdoch.
Murdoch puffed his pipe and said thoughtfully. “I’m sure he will be, son.”
Two weeks passed at Lancer. Scott was back in the routine of the ranch and seemed back to his normal self after the incident with Sullivan. Johnny watched his brother attack his dinner. Scott’s appetite was back too.
“Boys.” Murdoch said. “There’s a bull auction next week in Modesto. I’d like you both to attend with me. Oh and boys, I know its Saturday night and you haven’t been to town for a while but I see no reason to make up for lost time.”
Scott looked up at his father with a slight grin. “I’d be glad to go to Modesto, and no Sir we don’t need to make up for lost time.”
Johnny smiled and pointed to Scott. “What he said.”
Murdoch smiled and got up from the table and went into the great room. Scott got up and thanked Maria and kissed Teresa’s cheek and bade her goodnight. He went to the great room and put on his gun belt and took his hat with Johnny behind him. He bade his father goodnight and went outside. The moon was full and it was a mild evening. The ride to Morro Coyo was pleasant. They talked about the trip to Modesto, about what attributes in a bull they thought the ranch needed and then about the bordello in Modesto.
When they reached Morro Coyo they could hear the loud music and laughter from the saloon. Scott allowed Johnny to enter first and scan the place. It had been a while since malcontents from Johnny’s past had bothered them. The bar was crowded but Johnny’s favorite table was free. Most of the customers were belly up to the bar. A lot of customers were Lancer ranch hands and Scott talked and joked with them as he made his way up to bar and ordered drinks to be brought to his table. He refused requests to play poker with the hands stating maybe later. As a rule Johnny and he didn’t play poker with the hands unless the stakes were low. The brother’s level of play was superior to most of their employees and they didn’t want to take their hand’s money. They preferred playing strangers or the town’s merchants.
Scott sat down across from Johnny with a grin. “Well brother notice anyone we need to be leery of?” he asked in a light voice.
“Two strangers cleaning up some. Kind of dressed up. Could be gamblers but they’re not cheating. I think we might have to see if we can give them some competition in a bit.” Johnny drawled looking up at two saloon girls with two bottles and four glasses.
“Well, well if it isn’t Scott and Johnny Lancer.” The pretty buxom blond said in a teasing voice. “Buy us a drink boys?”
“Sure Jaycee. Have a seat.” Johnny said pushing back his chair making room for Jaycee to sit down on his lap which she did. She poured Johnny a tequila and whiskey for herself, Scott and Rachel. Scott Lancer did not drink rotgut. The whiskey was the good stuff.
Scott pushed his chair back too. “Come on.” He said to Rachel with a grin. Rachel was a raven haired beauty. She sat down on Scott’s lap and picked up the drink and drank it in one gulp. Scott followed her lead and did the same. Rachel smiled and poured two more. Scott reached around Rachel and pulled some money out of his pocket. He peeled off a 5 dollar bill and put the money back in his pocket. He pushed the bill down deep into her cleavage. She smiled and kissed him her tongue exploring his mouth. “How have you been, Rachel?” Scott asked after the kiss.
“Why just fine, Scott.” she murmured and took another drink. She smiled at him and kissed him again long and hard. She then kissed his neck several times. They spent some time drinking and enjoying the attention from the saloon girls.
“Scott, ready to try your luck at poker?” Johnny asked standing up. Scott nodded. He whispered to Rachel and she kissed him and got up. She took the bottles to the bar while Scott followed Johnny.
Johnny went to the table with the two strangers. The players had thinned out quite a bit. “Got room for my brother and me?” He asked in a soft voice.
“Of course, Mr……” the taller man said.
“Lancer. Johnny Lancer. This here is my brother Scott.” Johnny said as both he and Scott sat down.
“Pleasure. I’m Levi Morton and this is my brother Silas.”
Rachel came over and set a glass of tequila in front of Johnny and whiskey in front of Scott. “Buy you a drink” Scott asked in a pleasant voice.
The men nodded. “Whiskey.” Rachel got Scott’s bottle and poured the men a whiskey. She set the whiskey on an empty table near them and went and stood behind Scott and put her hands gently on his shoulders.
“Nice little slave you got there.” Levi said snidely dealing out the cards.
“Rachel is hardly a slave.” Scott said shortly putting his hand on one of hers. “She’s my good luck charm.” Johnny saw the anger smoldering in his brother’s eyes and willed Levi to shut his fool mouth. It seemed to work because they began to play some serious poker. Scott took the first 3 pots, Johnny the next two. Soon it was only the two sets of brothers playing. Each of the Morton brothers won a pot and then Johnny. Scott won the next pot and it was a big one. He leaned back and pulled Rachel down and kissed her. He stood up and hugged her and slipped another $10 into her cleavage. “You are a good luck charm.” He said to her with a smile.
They sat down to play again. “Say.” Silas said in a loud vindictive voice. “Aren’t you the Scott Lancer who betrayed an escape attempt resulting in the death of 16 Union soldiers at Libby prison?”
Johnny wasn’t sure exactly happened next except that Scott looked shocked and Levi landed a right hook to his jaw. Scott swung at him and connected and Lancer hands got into the fray along with hands from Carter Ranch who had a feud going with Lancer as it was. Johnny decked Silas and then was punched by a Carter Ranch hand. By then it was an all-out bar room brawl. Johnny looked around for Scott and grew frantic when he couldn’t place him. Johnny got on top of the bar and scanned the room. Scott was gone. Johnny pushed through the brawling crowd and went outside. He desperately looked around but saw no one. A sound from the alley next to the saloon drew his attention. He pulled his gun and peaked around the corner. Silas and Levi Morton each had a hold of Scott’s upper arms pinning him against the wall of the saloon. Another man had his hands around Scott’s throat strangling him.
“Get off of him!” Johnny ordered aiming his Colt. The Morton’s let go of Scott immediately. The other man looked at Johnny and actually tightened his grip on his brother’s throat. Johnny’s breath caught. It was Jed Lewis. Johnny fired killing Lewis immediately with a bullet to the temple. The Mortons took off running but Johnny only had eyes for his brother who slid down the wall and slumped over on to his side. Johnny ran over to Scott and pulled his brother into his arms. Scott didn’t seem to be breathing. Johnny shook his brother. “Scott! Damn it brother…please.” Johnny said desperately. He was rewarded with a ragged cough from Scott and a tortuous breath. Johnny held Scott close resting his cheek on his silky hair as Scott’s breathing evened although raspy sounding . He blinked back tears. Why in the hell couldn’t people just leave them alone? Especially Scott. He hadn’t done anything to deserve this. They’d all just found their way back to each other. They were a family now but yet the shadows of their pasts seemed to want nothing more than to tear them apart. Suddenly Rachel was by his side.
“Oh my God Johnny!” Rachel said in alarm. “Is Scott alright?”
“I think so. Rachel can you get the sheriff and send one of the Lancer hands for Doc Jenkins?” Johnny asked woodenly.
“Yes, the sheriff is in the saloon breaking up the brawl. I’ll get him and send for Sam.” Rachel answered. She gently touched Scott’s bruised cheek and she was gone.
Scott moaned in pain against Johnny’s chest and his body shuddered but he did not come to. “Easy Scott. You’re gonna be okay big brother. We’ll get you back to Lancer, back home. It’s all going to be alright. You’ll see.”
“Johnny? What happened here?” Sheriff Sam Jayson asked kneeling beside him.
“The dead man tried to strangle Scott. There were two others. They ran down the alley.” Johnny said in a hollow voice. “Said their names were Levi and Silas Morton.”
“I’ll get a posse together.” Sheriff Jayson said tersely. “We’ll track them at first light.”
“Johnny can I look at Scott?” Doc Jenkins asked gently.
“Don’t touch him!” Johnny said possessively holding Scott closer. “He’s been hurt enough!” Johnny knew he was wrong as soon as he said it. He wasn’t sure why he said it, it just came out. He sighed. “I’m sorry, Sam. Go ahead.”
Johnny lessened his hold on Scott. Sam listed to Scott’s heart and chest. “He sounds good. The raspy sound is from his throat. I’d be a lot happier if he’d wake up though. Johnny why don’t you and some of your hands carry him down to my office?”
Johnny looked up. Several of the Lancer hands stood around them. “I want to bring him home, Sam.”
“Not until he’s conscious and he checks out.” Sam replied. He nodded to the hands and they gently picked Scott up and carried him to Dr. Jenkins’ office. Johnny walked behind cradling Scott’s head and whispering words of encouragement to him.
Once on the examining table Sam set to examining Scott. Johnny leaned against the wall feeling miserable. He had sent one of the hands to get Murdoch. Scott’s neck was badly bruised and his breathing was still raspy. Johnny cursed Jed Lewis. He hoped he had gone straight to hell. Sam covered Scott with a blanket and turned to Johnny.
“His eye movement looks good. The raspy sound is from a little swelling in his throat. I think he is going to be fine. We’ll know for sure when he wakes up.” Sam said gently. “I’m going to make some coffee. Call me with any change.”
Johnny nodded and sat down beside his brother. He took Scott’s hand. It was cold so he gently rubbed it to warm it up. “Scott…..Scott wake up brother. Scott…please open your eyes.” Johnny pleaded. A painful moan escaped Scott’s lips and he struggled a little but then quieted again. Johnny called Sam who gave him a quick exam.
“I think he’s in a natural sleep now. Let’s let him rest until Murdoch gets here. We’ll try to wake him up then.” Sam said a relieved voice. After Sam left Johnny laid his head on Scott’s chest. Listening to Scott’s soft, raspy breathing and feeling the even rise and fall of Scott’s chest, Johnny fell asleep.
It was to this scene Murdoch Lancer walked in. Sam came to stand beside him.
“I expect he’ll fully recover Murdoch.” Sam said patting his friend’s arm.
“I want to take them home Sam” Murdoch said in a low haunted voice.
Sam nodded. “Let’s wake Scott up. I haven’t seen him conscious yet.”
Murdoch gently shook Johnny. Johnny sat up blinking taking a moment to assimilate where he was. “Scott…Scott, wake up son.” Murdoch said in a little louder voice. Scott seemed to struggle a bit and then his eyes opened. His hand went to his throat and he grimaced in pain. He stared at his father and brother trying to remember what had happened. “Lewis, it was Jed Lewis.” He whispered hoarsely.
“I know Scott.” Johnny said in a reassuring voice. “The bastard won’t be bothering you anymore.”
“My God, Lewis?” Murdoch said in a guilty strained voice. “He did that?” He pointed at Scott’s neck.
“Stop it Murdoch!” Scott rasped. “There is no blame here. I agreed with letting him go.”
“Come on Murdoch. Scott is right. We all made the decision on the way up there that night.” Johnny said gently.
Scott closed his eyes. “Sir, I just want to go home. Please.” Scott pleaded taking his father’s hand.
Murdoch looked at Dr. Jenkins. “Sam? Jelly should be here with a wagon soon.”
“It should be alright. Let me examine him once more.” Sam answered. He quickly checked Scott’s eyes and listened to his heart and breathing. He nodded satisfied just as Jelly entered. “Scott sit up and give yourself a little time sitting before trying to stand.” Sam directed. “You can expect some dizziness so no riding for three days. You may notice some shaking or trembling but that’s normal. Your neck will be sore for a while. Drink lots of fluid and rest for a few days.”
Scott nodded. “I will Sam.” He was dizzy, the room spinning around but it soon slowed down and stopped. He tentatively stood up as Johnny moved in beside him slipping under Scott’s arm and encircling his waist with his own arm. Johnny walked Scott out to the wagon and helped him get settled. It was very late when they arrived at Lancer. Scott was able to walk to his room with Murdoch’s help. Scott gingerly undressed and slid into bed. He sighed in pleasure as he lay back against the pillows letting his body relax.
Scott gazed at Johnny and his father. “It was a set up then?” Johnny nodded. “The Morton’s dragged me into the alley. Lewis was there. He went crazy, spewing about his brother and how I had killed him. That it was both Cassidy’s and my fault. The Mortons pinned me against the wall and he put his hands around my neck. The last thing I saw was his face. He seemed evilly joyful. Everything went black then but I’ll never forget his face. He was truly insane.”
“I agree.” Johnny said shaking his head. “He wouldn’t back off of you. I had to kill him.”
Scott looked extremely sad and exhausted and his voice radiated that. “Another victim of the war.” He said closing his eyes.
“Try to get some rest, son” Murdoch said gently patting Scott’s arm. Scott nodded. It wasn’t long and he was asleep.
Murdoch and Johnny turned in but Johnny found it hard to sleep. He thought about Jed Lewis losing his brother and what Scott had said about Lewis being a victim of war. He wondered how he’d feel if he believed someone had caused Scott’s death. If he absolutely believed it, it wouldn’t be pretty. He wondered if he would become consumed like Jed Lewis. He hoped not, at least to extent that he couldn’t accept that he’d had the wrong man. In truth Scott was right, there was no man to blame for Jed Lewis’s brother’s death. It was the war who bade men to do their duty, to kill or be killed. But Jed Lewis had picked the wrong man to falsely accuse and blame for his brother’s death. He’d come after and had hurt the brother of Johnny Madrid Lancer and had paid the price.
Johnny Lancer watched his brother’s obvious pleasure with amusement. They were in Modesto perusing bulls before the auction. Scott had found one he really liked. Johnny had to admit it was a fine specimen. It was a big Herford with good conformation and disposition. Its pedigree was excellent too. Murdoch was on his way to look it over.
Scott came over and stood beside Johnny. “So what do you think, Johnny?” He asked with interest.
“I like him. I think he’s the one. Now we have to see if Murdoch agrees and win the bid.” Johnny said. “How high should we bid?”
“Well, he is top quality. I guess $200 would be the limit. I’d like to get him for less though.” Scott mused.
“Let’s see what you boys are planning on spending our money on.” Murdoch said pleasantly. He got in the pen with the bull slowly and walked around him and looked down under him.
“He got big balls?” Johnny asked his eyes amused.
Scott laughed. “They’re fine. Bigger is not better, at least in bulls.”
Johnny grinned and looked sideways at his brother. Scott had spent a few days resting after his run in with Lewis. The bruises around his neck had faded and were mostly yellow now. Scott had a silk purple bandana tied around his neck to cover them. But more importantly Scott was back to his old self.
“Well what do you think Sir?” Scott asked in a curious voice as Murdoch came over to him.
Men were milling around and many had watched Murdoch examining the bull. “He’s passable Scott. But I’ve seen better right here so I think we keep on looking.” Murdoch said loudly herding them to walk away. Johnny opened his mouth to protest only to receive an elbow in the ribs from Scott. Johnny glared at Scott who slowly shook his head at him. After they were out of earshot of everyone, Murdoch exclaimed. “He’s the one we want boys.”
“We all agree then.” Scott said grinning. “Sorry Johnny, you know how people get when they find out Murdoch is interested in something. Now there’s time before the auction so how about a beer? I’m buying.”
“Now you’re talking brother.” Johnny said making a beeline for the nearest bar. Johnny was already at a table when Murdoch and Scott entered. Murdoch went to join him while Scott went up and got three beers and brought them to the table. They all took a long pull on their beer.
“I have a plan on how to pay the lowest price for the bull.” Scott said in a serious voice.
Johnny gave a half laugh. “Of course you do Boston.”
“Let’s hear it, Son.” Murdoch replied.
Scott grinned and began explaining his plan. Basically Murdoch would be on one side of the bidding crowd and take the bid to $100 and wave it off. Johnny would be on the other side of the bidding crowd and take the bid to $150 and wave it off. If that failed Scott would have worked his way to as near to the auctioneer as possible and make bids that most of the crowd could not see or hear up to their limit of $200. Scott was sure if Murdoch stopped bidding, others would think he didn’t want the bull and that Murdoch knew something they didn’t.
“It’s a good plan son.” Murdoch told his eldest son. “Well, let’s go watch the auction until they come to our new bull. “ They finished their beers and strode outside.
The plan worked perfectly. Scott didn’t even have to bid. They got the bull for $150. The Lancer men came together and shook each other’s hands pleased with their purchase. Several of their friends congratulated them too. Scott heard his name called and he turned around to come face to face with Howard Sullivan and his son Joseph. Scott’s face froze and he involuntarily stepped back right into his father. Murdoch put his hand on Scott’s shoulder to steady him. Johnny appeared right beside Scott at his shoulder.
“Scott.” Harold Sullivan gushed. It was obvious he’d had a lot to drink. “Joseph told me he’d been a guard in the prison camp you were sent to. I understand why you were angry. But come now, Joseph had to follow orders and there were little supplies for the camp. His superiors gave orders that were not pleasant much like the orders you received to burn the Shenandoah Valley. Regrettable business but an apology will put things right.”
Scott looked around. A good many of Murdoch’s friends were standing watching them. Scott swallowed hard and sighed.
“Scott! No!” Johnny whispered in his brother’s ear.
Scott held out his hand. “I’m sorry for attacking you at the Cattleman’s meeting, Sergeant Sullivan.” Scott said woodenly.
Joseph Sullivan shook Scott’s hand. “Apology accepted Lieutenant Lancer.” He said in a snide voice. Howard Sullivan began to chortle about them making up. Scott excused himself and headed to the hotel with Johnny following. Murdoch begged off as soon as possible. He found Scott and Johnny in their room lying on their beds.
Scott looked up at his father. “I’m alright Murdoch. Johnny thinks I should have punched him again but I think I’ll take the high road. I just have to put this all behind me.”
Murdoch nodded. “I think that’s a good decision son. If it’s of any help Howard told me Joseph was heading back East tomorrow.”
Scott nodded. The Lancers spent the rest of the day and evening in their hotel room. They ordered in food, played some poker and discussed the new bull and how many head they would breed with him. It was late when they turned in but they were up first thing to catch the stage to Morro Coyo. It was after dark before they wearily arrived back at Lancer. Teresa was there and made them sandwiches and listened with interest about the bull they had purchased. Finally they all turned in glad to be in their own beds. Scott lay down happily. It had been a good few days. He sobered when he thought of Sullivan but he had to put it all behind him. He was happy here with his brother and Murdoch and he were growing closer. It was starting to feel more and more like they were a family. It was to that thought Scott Lancer drifted off.
Lieutenant Scott Lancer was frightened, a dread of the unknown eating at him. He had been taken from the main population of the Confederate Prison Camp to the river that ran near it. He been made to strip, given soap and told to wash himself. Then he’d been given clean albeit patched clothes to put on. The two Confederate soldiers had taken him into a small room in the Confederate barracks and pushed his back against a wooden post. His wrists had been pulled back and tied behind him imprisoning him against the post. If that wasn’t enough more rope was brought out encircling his neck, waist, above his knees and ankles pinning him to the post. Then a bandana had been pushed into his mouth and then tied in place with another bandana.
The soldiers had left him then alone for what seemed like hours. Night had come and the room was dark. Finally the door opened and the figure of a man came in. A single candle was lit revealing Sergeant Joseph Sullivan the man who had whipped Scott after the failed escape attempt. He smiled evilly at the young Union soldier.
“No…..No…..Scott said into his gag knowing that Sullivan was a cruel man. But the 20 year old young man had no idea what else Sullivan was. The Sergeant unbuttoned Scott’s shirt and then his trousers. Scott’s body jerked in shock as the man freed Scott’s genitals and then began to stimulate them with his mouth and tongue.
Scott pulled at his bonds his fingers clawing at air as Sullivan continued to abuse him. Hot tears flowed as Scott felt his body respond to Sullivan’s ministrations. He heard Sullivan’s low laughter at Scott’s erection. Suddenly it came to Scott what Sullivan’s goal was. Scott’s mind grew frantic as he tried to gain control of his body.
Scott’s mind screamed at him that he was weak and perverted that his body felt pleasure from Sullivan. Scott moaned in anguish as his body betrayed him and he reached a climax. Scott despised himself then. His shoulders slumped. He barely noticed Sullivan’s laughter, barely noticed the slap of warm fluid against his chest and stomach. Sullivan had broken him. What had happened destroyed Scott’s core, of the man he believed himself to be, the man he wanted to be. The war had threatened to take everything from him. The killing, the torture, solitary, the cruelty of man towards his own kind. He had survived it all, had been bent but not broken until now. Sobs shook his thin frame. Scott Lancer wished for God to let him die.
Scott woke up in his room at Lancer with a cry. He sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. He was covered in sweat and his heart was pounding in his chest. He thought about his unnerving dream. Scott closed his eyes. Suddenly he held his breath, his eyes opening and going wide as the realization came over him that it wasn’t just a dream but a memory. A memory he had somehow repressed until now.
“No, dear God….No” Scott whispered brokenly. He began to shake and the urge came over him to leave the room which seemed to be closing in on him. He pulled on a pair of trousers and grabbed a shirt and threw it on not buttoning it. He made his way out of the house barefoot and began to walk. It was still, dark and cold. Scott was in deep agonizing thought. He did not notice the cold or the sharp stones or prickly grasses he stepped on. He didn’t even know where he was heading.
His mind worked wondering when he had buried the memory of Sullivan’s abuse of him. He had been pushed out in to the prison’s main population after that night. He now remembered sitting against the wall, barely talking or eating. He had not responded to Sullivan’s taunts. The war had ended 5 days after that night. He had been transferred to a hospital in Boston due to grandfather’s influence. It must have there that the memory of that horrible night had been buried in his mind. A coping mechanism he thought. But now seeing Sullivan had brought it forward. He obviously couldn’t cope with what happened to him back then. Somehow he was going to have to find a way to cope with it now.
He was frightened wondering if he could. Tears began to fall as the memory played over and over in his mind. He was devastated. He wanted his brother even though he didn’t know if he could tell him about this. He still wished Johnny were there because he felt he was so alone, that he would never be himself again. He felt dirty and he wondered why Sullivan had picked him and if there was something about him that Sullivan had picked up on. Then he questioned whether he had somehow enjoyed the abuse. If not, why had his body responded, why had he reached a climax?
Scott fell to his hands and knees and began to vomit at that thought. He continued dry heaving until his head ached and his stomach muscles burned. He got up and began to walk aimlessly. His mind shut down. He lost track of time. Finally he was so exhausted he sat down against a large tree. His feet were cut and bleeding and he couldn’t stop shaking. Then another memory came to him. He was in the hospital. He had stolen a firearm and was holding it to his head. He was going to kill himself. He had had tears streaming down his face as he lived through the abuse again. He put the gun to his head. Scott recalled how a few seconds later he had been shocked at what he was about to do, not even knowing why he had the gun to his head, how he had thrown the gun aside in distaste. He realized that somehow in that moment his mind had buried his tortured memory and in turn saved his life.
It was a couple of hours later that Johnny found his brother sitting in the front of the same tree. Johnny swallowed, his stomach churning. Scott looked terrible, he seemed dazed. Johnny knew something was really wrong with his brother.
“What’s going on, Scott?” Johnny asked quietly his eyes filled with fear for his brother.
“Johnny.” Scott said his voice relieved. “I’m so glad to see you.”
“What are you doing out here Scott?” Johnny asked trying to keep his voice steady taking in his brother’s injured feet and his shirt hanging open. The sun was just coming up. Johnny took his brother’s hand. It was ice cold. Johnny quickly took off his jacket and put it around his brother’s shoulders.
“I decided to go for a walk last night…although in retrospect I should have put on my boots.” Scott said ruefully. He looked at Johnny and swallowed. Johnny looked frightened and Scott knew why. He was hardly acting like the brother Johnny had come to know. At that moment Scott knew he had to level with his brother and his father.
“I remembered something about Sullivan last night. I wasn’t going to tell you because I was afraid it would change the way you look at me but I can see that’s probably going to happen anyhow.” Scott said bowing his head. “The way you’re looking at me says you’re already thinking I’m going insane.”
“Scott I’m worried about you. You’re my brother and nothing is going to change the way I feel about you. I just want to help you.” Johnny said earnestly.
“I’m going to need your help, Johnny. Yours and Murdoch’s.” Scott said standing up and wincing.
He let Johnny help him to Barranca. They rode double slowly back to the hacienda. A hand came for Barranca and Scott asked him to send someone for Sam. Johnny brought Scott in through the kitchen. Murdoch looked up in surprise. He had been waiting for his sons to come down for breakfast and was about on the verge of going up to get them. He took one look at his eldest boy and knew there was something really wrong with his son. Johnny helped Scott to a chair. Johnny looked at his father and shook his head behind’s Scott’s back.
“Murdoch, why don’t you see to the bottom of Scott’s feet? I’m going up and get him some socks and his moccasins.” Johnny said his voice strained and concerned.
“Scott sit up here on the table, son.” Murdoch said gently sensing his son was somehow fragile at this moment. Scott said nothing as Murdoch cleaned and bandaged his feet. When he was done Scott grabbed his father’s arm. “Murdoch I need to talk to you and Johnny. I…sent for Sam. I’ve never experienced anything like this before. I’m going to need my family, sir.” Scott said his voice shaking.
“Of course, Scott.” Murdoch answered firmly.
Johnny had come in for the last part of the conversation. He watched Scott put on his socks and moccasins. Scott’s hands were shaking, his lips in a thin line. Whatever was troubling his brother it was serious because Scott rarely offered anything about himself and if Sullivan was involved then it couldn’t be good. Maria came in with some eggs in a basket and seeing everyone downstairs set to making breakfast.
“Let’s eat in the Great Room boys.” Murdoch said. He grabbed the coffee pot and 3 cups. Johnny got dishes and silverware and stopped and spoke in Spanish to Maria in a low voice. He asked her if she could make eggy toast, Scott’s favorite breakfast, that Scott needed cheering up. Maria smiled and said yes. “Gracias mamacita.” Johnny told her and kissed her cheek. Johnny followed Murdoch and Scott and sat down at the table.
“I’m sorry about this taking away from the work day, Sir. I’ll work later today to make up for it.” Scott said drinking his coffee.
“I think all three of us will take a day off today, son.” Murdoch said thoughtfully. Scott looked so troubled that Murdoch felt a deep concern for his son. Scott sighed with relief at his father’s words. His thoughts were too mind numbing to concentrate on anything. Maria came out with plates of eggy bread and bacon.
Scott smiled and looked up at her “Usted querida lady gracias” he said sincerely. (Thank you darling lady)
Maria smiled and nodded. “Que nada joven Patron.” (It’s nothing young patron.)
Scott was surprised to find he had an appetite and he ate hungrily. He was nervous with the thought of telling Murdoch and Johnny what Sullivan had done to him but he knew it was something he had to do. He needed them, needed their support. It was foreign for him to want to share something so personal but having a family had changed all that. His grandfather had believed in silence about one’s problems but Scott felt this was something he shouldn’t keep inside anymore. The fact that his mind had kept it buried for so long unnerved him. He’d always been in control of himself and the fact that his mind had buried the memory giving him no knowledge of it frightened him. He needed Sam to answer his questions about that.
Murdoch finished eating and went to his desk. He lit his pipe and put on his glasses intending to work on the books. His thoughts superseded that. He was worried what else the war had done to his son but he was glad Scott was going to talk about it. Whatever his son was facing Murdoch was determined to support him. He would never fail either of his boys again. Scott excused himself and went up to his room to change and wash up. Johnny came over and took a seat in front of Murdoch’s desk.
“What happened this morning, Johnny?” Murdoch asked.
“I woke up and I just checked on Scott and he was gone. I couldn’t find him anywhere so I went to the barn. Charlie was there. I decided to go out on Barranca; you know how Scott likes to take walks. I found him sitting under that big tree off the road about 5 miles up. He just looked so lost, his shirt was unbuttoned and he had no boots. He was freezing and didn’t seem to notice. I don’t know how long he had been out there. He was glad to see me though.” Johnny told his father his voice filled with concern. “He told me he remembered something about Sullivan and that he didn’t want to tell us but he was going to. Murdoch, I’m worried about him!”
“So am I, Johnny. But whatever it is we’ll help him, son. The fact that Scott is turning to us shows how much he trusts us.” Murdoch said in a reassuring voice.
Scott sat in his room deep in thought as they waited for Sam. How fast everything could change in a few short months. He didn’t want to talk about what he remembered. He didn’t want to tell his family but he felt he had to. He was petrified about how they would look at him but he knew he had to trust them. He washed up and changed clothes. He regarded himself in the mirror. His jaw was tight, his eyes haunted. Just who was Scott Lancer? He had thought he knew who he was before the war and now he just wasn’t sure. He went slowly downstairs. Murdoch was just welcoming Sam. Scott went in to Murdoch’s study before they could see him. Johnny was already there. Scott sunk into the stuffed chair beside his brother and waited for Sam and Murdoch. Suddenly he couldn’t sit still and stood up and began to pace. Finally Murdoch and Sam came in and they all sat down. They looked at Scott expectantly.
“Sam, have you ever heard of a repressed memory?” Scott asked woodenly. He was determined to keep his emotions in check, to be clinical and detached. Otherwise he would never be able to get through what he had to do.
“I’ve read about it, Scott. The patient pushes the memory of usually a tragic or horrific event out of their mind. It is usually something they can’t deal with at the time. Unfortunately the memory usually comes back most times with some sort of trigger.” Sam said mildly. “I’ve never had a patient with that condition though.”
“You do now.” Scott said in a hollow voice. “Until last night I had no memory of a period of time, I guess about 10 days. It was at the end of the war. I just thought I took ill. I didn’t remember the war ending. The first thing I remembered was waking up in a hospital in Boston. I was pointing a gun at my head. It shocked the hell out of me and I threw it aside. When grandfather visited me later that day he was ecstatic. He said I’d been catatonic, unresponsive since I’d gotten to the hospital.”
Scott stopped and bowed his head struggling to contain his emotions.
Murdoch regarded his son with concern. “Son, are you sure you are up to this?”
Scott looked up. “I have to be, Sir.” He took a deep breath and continued. “Now I remember what happened during that time. Sam you were right. It was something horrible that I couldn’t deal with, so much so I put a gun to my head. God help me, but I was going to kill myself. At that moment the memory disappeared. I didn’t understand why I had a gun to my head. I thought I had a bad dream. In fact I saved my own life.” Scott gave a bitter half laugh. “How insane is that?”
“Scott. What about now? Can you deal with it now?” Sam asked in a gentle voice.
Johnny stood up suddenly afraid. “Scott, you wouldn’t try again, now that you remember, would you?” He asked his voice fearful.
Scott stood up and put his hands on Johnny’s shoulders. “No Johnny. I was basically a boy then, sick, half-starved, no one to turn to. I’m not in that place anymore. I’m not saying I’m not affected by this memory because I am. It’s why I feel I have to tell my family what happened.” Scott said in a reassuring voice. He grew serious as Johnny sat back down.
“It was Sullivan. Sullivan was the trigger that brought back the memory. I’d always remembered that he had flogged me. But he’d done more. I was removed from the population, made to wash in the river and given clean clothes. I was taken to a room in the officer’s barracks and tied…no melded to a post. My wrists were bound behind my back. There were ropes at my neck, waist, knees and ankles. I was gagged. I couldn’t move and it got dark. I was left like that for hours. Finally someone came in and lit a candle. It was Sullivan.” Scott’s voice was tight and haunted. He got up and began to pace as he talked. “I was frightened then, actually I was frightened from the beginning.”
Scott stood still and took a deep breath and bowed his head closing his eyes. His voice radiated the anguish he felt. “He unbuttoned my shirt and then my trousers. He…exposed me. He abused me orally with his mouth and tongue. I hated it…I didn’t want it. I kept screaming ‘No’ into my gag. But I got an erection. He kept laughing at me, telling me I liked it. I didn’t. I swear I didn’t! He kept stimulating me with his mouth and tongue. My God, I felt pleasure. It made me sick. I fought it so hard, I forbade it.”
Scott sunk into the chair again. His voice was tortured. “He wouldn’t stop. I knew he had won. My body betrayed me. Scott’s voice grew to a whisper. “I had a climax and so did he.” Scott buried his face in his hands. “I wished for death…. I was…broken. Someone came in and cut me loose. I was given a wet towel to clean up and put back in the population. I guess I was unresponsive. I don’t remember much about how I got to the hospital in Boston.”
Scott looked up at Sam. “Sam…I don’t understand…How could I…I didn’t want it Sam. No matter what he said….I didn’t want him to touch me. God, Sam why did I…” Scott stopped unable to go on, unable to stop tears forming in his eyes. He brushed them away.
“Scott!” Sam said standing up his voice hoarse with emotion. “You were young. Your body responded to physical stimulation. That’s all, Scott. You were abused. Your body did betray you but your mind did not. Nothing he said to you was true, Scott.”
Scott looked at Sam and nodded. He had one more question he needed to ask. “Sam…” Scott sounded almost plaintive. “Is there something about me that made him choose me…something I exude without knowing it?”
“Scott, of course not!” Sam said firmly. “None of this was your fault… none of it. You were a victim of a twisted, sick man.”
Scott stood up as did Johnny. Murdoch came over and put his hand on Scott’s shoulder. Scott couldn’t look at either of them. Johnny looked at his father his eyes filled with tears. He grasped Scott’s arm.
“Scott...” Murdoch began.
“Murdoch, Johnny….please.” Scott whispered in anguish. “I need some time alone. I can’t talk anymore right now. I’m just exhausted. I’m sorry. I promise we’ll talk more after dinner.”
Murdoch closed his eyes. “That’s fine, son.” He said in an understanding tone.
“Thank you.” Scott said in relief as he headed for the door. “Thank you, Sam.” Scott headed upstairs to his room. He shut and locked the door. He lie back on his bed and let his tears flow. The look of horror, anger and empathy on his brother’s face had troubled him. He knew Johnny was having trouble with what had happened to him, that Johnny wanted to desperately make things better for Scott. Murdoch’s face had been like stone, his jaw tight and his eyes angry. They would talk more. Scott himself felt a little better, like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders. He fell into a dreamless sleep.
Johnny left his father and Sam alone making the excuse he wanted to check on Barranca. He brushed his horse until his coat shone. He went outside Barranca’s stall. He felt murderous once again towards Joseph Sullivan for what he had done to his brother. But the worst thing was how helpless he felt not knowing how to help Scott. He punched the top sack of oats in a stack until he was breathless with tears falling. The picture of his brother with a gun to his head because of what Sullivan had done to him haunted his thoughts. “Oh God Scott, I am so sorry this happened to you brother.” He whispered brokenly. He went over and sunk down in a corner leaning against a haystack.
Murdoch sat looking out over his view of Lancer. He had actually shook hands with the bastard that had abused his son. “What do I do now, Sam?” He asked his voice raw with emotion. “How do I help my son put this behind him?”
“Just be his father, Murdoch.” Sam replied. “Don’t treat him any differently. Your son is a smart man. As hard as it was for him to tell you and Johnny about this, he knew he had to if he was to begin healing. If he needs to talk to you more be open to that. Johnny needs you too. This has got to be hard for him too knowing how he feels about Scott.”
Murdoch turned to meet Sam’s gaze. “Thank you, Sam. I think you helped put Scott’s mind at ease about several of his concerns.” Murdoch said gratefully.
Sam nodded. “I’m sorry this had to happen to Scott. I’m afraid it is more rampant in prisons than we know even in prisoner of war camps. Unfortunately this man most likely has had other victims.” Sam said sadly. “I have some calls to make. Murdoch if Scott becomes despondent, let me know.”
Murdoch nodded as he walked Sam out and bade him good-bye. He headed to the barn knowing when Johnny was upset he went to his horse. He found Johnny sitting in the corner leaning against a hay stack with his hands over his face.
“Johnny.” Murdoch said kindly. Johnny looked up at his father. “Son, Scott is a strong man. With our help, he will put this behind him.”
“Murdoch put it behind him? Do you really think he can?” Johnny asked bitterly standing up. “I don’t know how to help him.”
“Scott will put this behind him Johnny. All you have to do to help is be his brother.” Murdoch said firmly. “Now come on Son, let’s go inside.”
Murdoch put his arm around Johnny as they walked to the hacienda. He thought of his first born alone in his room trying to deal with the horror of a repressed memory. Scott, his serious son, with his dry humor, yet so quick to stand up and help the less fortunate. The consummate gentleman so like his mother. Catherine...who wanted her son to grow up at Lancer. I failed her and I failed him Murdoch thought. His boy should have been at Lancer. The war out in California was just a story in an occasional newspaper. He would have never enlisted. Murdoch sighed as they entered the hacienda. It was too late for all that now.
“Murdoch, I’m going to go to the kitchen for a bit.” Johnny said giving him a thin smile.
Murdoch nodded and went into his study and sank down into his chair. He closed his eyes. The vision of his son being flogged and abused by Sullivan haunted him. How dare that man put his hands on his boy, a man 10 years older than his son, preying on Scott who was helpless to stop him? Murdoch chided himself. It did no good to think of what had happened or retribution. Somehow he had to help his son now. He knew Scott would never be totally the same but that didn’t matter. He had to be sure Scott got past this. Murdoch knew his son had to heal and once he did he could grow and be even better. He also realized Johnny needed his help too. He promised himself he would make it right for both of them.
Johnny sat in the kitchen drinking some lemonade Teresa had given him. Maria was busy making dinner and Teresa was helping her. “Is something wrong Johnny?” Teresa asked with concern. “It’s not like you three to hang around the house all day.”
“Querida, don’t worry. Everything is fine.” Johnny said trying to reassure her.
“No, it’s not.” Teresa said firmly. “I’m going to ask Scott at dinner.”
Johnny shook his head. “Teresa give Scott a couple of days before you ask him that.”
“So it’s Scott.” Teresa said. “But I suppose you aren’t going to tell me anything.”
Johnny sighed. “Scott saw someone in Modesto that brought back some bad memories of the war for him. I’m sorry that’s all I can tell you.”
“It’s alright Johnny.” Teresa said realizing that there were things a girl her age should not know. “Now if Scott seems out of sorts I’ll understand.”
Johnny got up and gave Teresa a hug. “I don’t know how we could get along without you Teresa.”
“I second that.” Scott said as he came down the back stairs. “I include Maria in the sentiment. It would be a sad state of affairs around here without you two to take care of us.”
Maria and Teresa both shot beaming smiles at Scott.
“Evening Johnny” Scott said with a tight smile. “Care to join me in the Great Room for something a little stronger than lemonade?”
“Right behind you brother.” Johnny said rising and following Scott.
Murdoch looked up from his desk as his sons came in. Scott went over and poured drinks for Johnny and himself. He looked at Murdoch who nodded and Scott poured Murdoch one too. He handed Johnny his and took Murdoch’s to him. “I have a few things to say.” Scott said in a tight voice. Maybe we should go into your den.” Murdoch nodded and they all three went to the den. Murdoch shut the door.
Scott drained his drink and looked down and was silent for a bit. Finally he took a deep breath. “Even though what Sullivan did to me happened 5 years ago, it seems like it happened yesterday. I….want so much to put it behind me but the memory is so fresh. I….feel so defiled. I hate this. I hate how this is affecting both of you. That’s the worst of it for me. I thought about going back to Boston for a while but I need both of you. I need my family around me.” Scott’s voice was anguished.
“Dios, Scott what do you need from me? I’ll do anything for you brother.“ Johnny said vehemently. “I just don’t know what to do.”
Scott looked at his brother a bit incredulously. “Johnny you don’t have to “do” anything. Just be my brother like you always have.” Scott said softly. “I’m going to do my best to put this all behind me.”
“What are you worried about, son?” Murdoch asked in a quiet voice.
“Murdoch I’m not sure….I don’t know...” Scott began and stopped.
“Not sure you’re going to be a good brother, a good son for a while? That you’re going to need us to understand if you are out of sorts?” Murdoch asked gently. “I think we take this one day at a time, son. Whatever happens we deal with it as a family. I’m your father, Scott through the bad as well as the good.”
“Yes sir.” Scott said his voice breaking. “This memory coming out of nowhere, it frightens me. I feel like I’m losing control over myself and that can’t happen. Because that isn’t me, it isn’t who I am or who I want to be. Can you understand that Murdoch?”
“Yes Scott, more than you know. So are we agreed Johnny….one day at a time?” Murdoch asked in a lighter tone.
Johnny nodded and gave Scott a pat on his back. “We’re in this together, brother.”
Late that night Johnny was awakened. He knew exactly what it was. His brother. Scott’s sleep being interrupted by nightmares the same way after Cassidy’s visit. Johnny pulled on a pair of trousers and ran across the hall into Scott’s room. His brother’s breath was ragged and Johnny could see the sheen of sweat covering Scott’s chest in the moonlight. “Don’t touch me….please don’t do this to me....no!…” Scott breathed his voice desperately begging
“Scott! Wake up brother.” Johnny called. He sat on the bed and shook Scott. Scott awoke with a start and sat up his chest heaving. Johnny pulled Scott into his arms and held him tight. Scott was shaking. “It’s alright Scott…you’re safe. You’re here at Lancer.”
“Johnny…Oh God” Scott whispered wretchedly. Johnny felt Scott’s arms encircle him holding onto him as if Johnny was his lifeline. Tears sprang to Johnny’s eyes. Being Scott Lancer’s brother had always been a simple, wondrous thing. It was worth fighting for. Johnny vowed to himself he would stand by Scott no matter how bad things got. Scott slowly released his hold and Johnny did too. “I’m….sorry I woke you Johnny.”
“Stop Scott. Good along with the bad. Right?” Johnny chided.
Scott lay back down. “Right.” Johnny pulled a chair beside Scott’s bed. “What are you doing, Johnny?” Scott asked.
“Go back to sleep, Scott. I’m just going to sit here a bit.” Johnny said surprised when Scott made no argument and closed his eyes. Johnny realized then just how much Scott needed Murdoch and himself. Johnny hated the thought of his brother living through the torment he had suffered again in his dreams. He just hoped time would make things better. Johnny was glad to hear Scott’s breathing even out. He stood up to go back to bed but stopped for a moment in shock. He quietly and quickly left Scott’s room and went down to Murdoch’s room and knocked at his door. It took a few moments and Murdoch came to the door. “Johnny...is it Scott?” He asked in a worried tone.
“No….Yes. Murdoch I need to talk to you.” Johnny said an urgent voice.
Murdoch let Johnny in and looked at him expectantly. “Scott had a nightmare about Sullivan. He was pretty upset but I sat with him and he went back to sleep.”
Murdoch nodded. “I was afraid that might happen.”
“So was I. But Murdoch we have trouble. That telegram…it all makes sense now. It was Sullivan, he sent it. He’s threatening Scott, Murdoch! What if he means to come after him?” Johnny asked unable to keep the fear for his brother out of his voice.
Murdoch stared at Johnny. He thought of his eldest son asleep safe in his bed. Was that sexual predator after Scott again?
“He could have been taunting Scott.” Murdoch mused. “But we can’t take any chances Johnny. I’m going to double our guard morning and night. I’ll keep you and Scott on the same crews as much as possible. Otherwise I’ll speak to Cip about putting Scott with him sometimes. He’ll keep an eye on him.”
“Scott is going to put it together.” Johnny said biting his lip.
“We need to talk about it tomorrow. He needs to be made aware that there is a threat. “Murdoch said firmly. “We can’t keep him in the dark.” Johnny nodded. “How bad was he tonight, son?”
“He’s reliving it in his dreams.” Johnny said sadly. “He was begging not to be touched. Murdoch he held on to me like he was drowning.”
“You obviously comforted him if he fell back asleep, son” Murdoch pointed out.
Johnny smiled a little. “I’ll check on him before I go back to bed.” Johnny quietly opened Scott’s door. He watched him awhile in the moonlight. Scott was still asleep. Johnny went back to his room and fell asleep.
The next morning at breakfast Murdoch spoke to Scott about the telegram. Scott had realized Sullivan had sent it but he wasn’t sure what his motive was. He did agree that he needed to be careful. The next few weeks went fairly well except that Scott worked from sunup to sundown like a demon. He came in each evening exhausted. He tried to eat but his appetite was way down.
One night Scott looked particularly haggard and coughed at bit at dinner. Murdoch decided he had to speak to his son. He watched as Scott and Johnny played a game of chess after dinner. Scott grinned as Johnny made a move that put Scott on the defense. Johnny had checkmate in 4 more moves.
Scott hit Johnny’s stomach. “Good game, brother.” Scott said and coughed some more. “I think I’m going to turn in.” He stood up and everything began to spin. He felt himself falling and instead of hitting the hard floor he felt himself enveloped in his father’s strong arms and then darkness.
“Scott!” Murdoch called concerned. Johnny came and put his hand on Scott’s forehead.
“He’s pretty warm Murdoch. He’s been coughing on and off all day.” Johnny said in a worried voice.
“Johnny. Go send a hand for Sam and get one in here to help get Scott upstairs.” Murdoch said staring at his eldest son’s flushed face.
Johnny was soon back with Frank, a young black man who was one of the Lancer’s most trusted hands. He was a former slave and he had a high regard for Scott because of his service in the war. They gently took Scott from Murdoch and carried him upstairs. Frank helped Johnny undress Scott and get him in to bed.
“I hope Scott gets well soon Mr. Lancer. He’s a good boss.” Frank said sincerely before he left.
“Thanks Frank.” Murdoch said patting him on the back.
“Murdoch I think he’s coming around.” Johnny said in a relieved voice.
Scott moaned and his eyelids fluttered opened. He coughed as he took in his surroundings. “What in the hell happened?” he asked in a confused voice looking to his father and Johnny.
“You passed out downstairs Boston. Why didn’t you tell us you were sick?” Johnny asked putting his hand on Scott’s forehead. “You’re running a fever,”
“I was coughing but I didn’t feel sick” Scott said lying back against the pillows. “Past tense.”
“You’ve been working too hard Son.” Murdoch said. “Why have you been pushing yourself so hard?”
“I…dream less when I’m exhausted.” Scott said ruefully. “You’re right Murdoch. I just have to face up to the bad dreams and hope they fade with time. I know I can’t keep on like this.” He went into another coughing jag. Finally it passed and he took a deep breath.
“Try to rest Scott. Sam will be here soon.” Murdoch said patting his son’s shoulder. Scott nodded wearily and closed his eyes and was soon asleep. When Sam arrived Murdoch and Johnny went to the Great Room.
“The gift of Joseph Sullivan just keeps on giving.” Johnny said bitterly.
“I curse the ground that man walks on.” Murdoch added heading for the kitchen. “I’m going to make some tea. I don’t want to wake Teresa.”
Johnny nodded and sank down in a comfortable chair and stared into the fire. He didn’t think he had ever hated anyone as much as he hated Sullivan. The man had no idea Scott didn’t remember the sexual abuse but yet he had the nerve to get in his brother’s face twice. And that telegraph. He was taunting Scott, stirring up his memories and intentionally trying to hurt his brother. The man was…what was that word Scott used…insufferable... that was it Johnny thought.
Murdoch came in with tea just as Sam was coming downstairs. He poured tea for Sam and himself. Johnny stood up and shook his head at his father. Murdoch and Johnny both looked at Sam expectantly.
“Murdoch, that boy is just plum exhausted.” Sam said in chagrined voice. “He admitted to me that he’s been working too hard and keeping himself up until after midnight. Murdoch, he’s on the verge of developing pneumonia. He has a pretty good fever. Someone needs to be with him to keep him cooled down. He has to rest and he has to eat. Keep him propped up to help his cough.”
“Will he be alright, Sam?” Murdoch asked quietly.
Sam gulped his tea. “Do as I say and I think so. Now I have a baby to deliver.” Sam said patting Murdoch on the back. “I’ll be back in the morning to see Scott.”
Johnny saw Sam to the door and turned to his father. “I’ll sit with him first.”
Murdoch nodded: “That’s fine son. Wake me later.”
They both went upstairs. Murdoch went in and gently touched his son’s cheek. Scott was asleep. Johnny pulled a chair next to Scott’s bed and started sponging his face and forehead.
“Goodnight Johnny.” Murdoch murmured and left the room.
Johnny sat sponging Scott’s chest and face. He went downstairs once to get fresh cool water. Lightning flashed outside and thunder sounded in the distance. The wind began to pick up as Johnny came back into Scott’s room. It seemed like they were in for quite a storm. The lightning grew closer and the thunder was loud and crashing.
Johnny was totally taken by surprise when Scott shot to a sitting position and tackled him driving him to the floor. Scott looked frantic as he covered Johnny with his own body so they were face to face. Another crash of thunder shook the room. “My God Johnny, keep down! The cannons are deadly!!” Scott shouted his eyes bright with fever, a terrified look on his face. “Johnny why are you here? You’re not supposed to be here. Men die here, Johnny. The cannonballs blow men apart!” Scott’s voice was confused and filled with fear for his brother. Scott draped himself over Johnny his mouth beside Johnny’s ear. “I won’t let anything happen to you brother!” He whispered urgently.
“Scott, look around. Where are we?” Johnny said in a calm, soothing voice.
Scott did as asked. “In my bedroom on the floor.” He answered in a confused voice looking around. He rolled off Johnny. “How did we get here?” Scott asked his face questioning and confused. He looked as if he might cry.
“You thought the thunder was cannon fire.” Johnny said standing up and giving a hand to Scott. “It’s okay, Scott. You have a good fever going and you’re a little delirious.” Johnny helped Scott back into bed. Thunder sounded again and Scott tensed, his eyes growing wild. “Its thunder Scott.” Johnny said in a soothing voice. Scott relaxed and laid back. He suffered a coughing jag but he soon settled. Johnny dipped the rag in the cool water, wrung it out and placed it on Scott’s forehead. Scott closed his eyes. Johnny smiled. He wondered if Scott would remember how distraught he had become. Scott seemed to be sleeping. Johnny changed the rag on Scott’s forehead and then dosed in the chair.
Thunder shook the hacienda again. Johnny awoke just in time to be tackled to the floor chair and all by his delirious brother again.
“Damn it Johnny!” Scott breathed his eyes bright and wild. “I told you to keep your head down!” Both he and Scott were on their stomachs next to each other. “They know we’re here. They’re trying to cause havoc with their cannons but ours are answering now. First light tomorrow we attack! “Another crash of thunder sounded and Scott put his arm protectively over Johnny’s head. “Johnny you shouldn’t be here. It’s too dangerous. I’ve lost men under my command….but I can’t lose you…I just can’t” Scott said his voice frightened. He looked miserable and confused. Scott moaned. “I’m so hot.”
Johnny felt his brother’s forehead. He was burning up. He thought about getting Scott back on the bed but figured crashing to the floor was not helping either of them. He got Scott to lie on his back and got the basin down, retrieved the rag, dipped it, wrung it out and gently wiped Scott’s face. He repeated his actions and placed the rag on Scott’s forehead. He pulled down a pillow and placed it under Scott’s head. Thunder rumbled in the distance.
“I don’t want you to see this Johnny. The screams of horses and men…it’s horrendous and the cannons….they blow people apart, there are men cut in two, missing limbs, death and dying and so much blood.” Scott whispered his voice anguished and despondent. “You’ve seen enough in your young life. I don’t want this for you, little brother.”
“It’s okay, Boston.” Johnny said turning on his side and drawing Scott closer to him. “I’m so sorry you had to go through that, Scott.” Johnny whispered softly grasping his brother’s hand.
“I can’t lose you, Johnny. I’ve never cared about anyone the way I care about you. I’ve never trusted anyone the way I trust you. I have to protect you. You shouldn’t be here…this is my hell, not yours. I have to order my men to charge tomorrow morning, sending many of them to their deaths!” Scott said in a low desperate haunted voice.
“You won’t lose me, Scott. The war is over. We are at home at Lancer.” Johnny said gently again wiping his brother’s face. The storm had moved off and Scott had calmed down although the fever was still bright in his eyes. Murdoch entered the room. “What happened?” he asked surprised to see them on the floor.
“Scott’s delirious, Murdoch. He thought the lightning and thunder was cannon fire. He felt it was safer on the floor and after he tackled me twice I had to agree.” Johnny said a bit amused as he sponged Scott off again.
Scott turned to Johnny looking and sounding pitifully confused. “Murdoch’s here too?”
Johnny smiled wryly at his brother. “No we’re not on the battlefield, we’re at Lancer Scott. Let’s get you back in to bed.” He said tenderly. Murdoch helped Johnny get Scott back in bed. Scott seemed exhausted by his exertion and went to sleep almost immediately. Johnny went and opened a window. A cold rain was falling. He dumped out the basin and held it outside filling it with cold rain water. He brought it back and set it beside Scott’s bed.
“Get some sleep, Johnny. I’ve got him now.” Murdoch said beginning to wipe his son with the cold water.
Johnny nodded and shut the window and went to his room and collapsed on the bed not even bothering to undress. He was asleep in minutes.
Scott’s fever broke shortly before dawn to Murdoch’s relief. Finally when Scott stopped sweating Murdoch asked Maria to come in and she helped give Scott a sponge bath and changed his sweat dampened sheets and placed him into a clean nightshirt. When he awoke Teresa brought in a large breakfast and watched him eat her arms folded.
“Murdoch said you need to eat better.” Teresa said in an amused voice.
“Yes General O’Brien.” Scott said with a grin finding that he was hungry. He shook his head when Murdoch and Johnny came in. “Called in the reinforcements, did you?” he said winking at Teresa.
Teresa giggled and kissed Scott on the cheek. “I’m glad you’re feeling better, Scott.” She said happily.
“Thanks Teresa.” Scott said giving her the smile that radiated to his eyes. “Murdoch, Johnny good morning.
“Boston, you look a whole lot better.” Johnny said with a grin.
“Thanks brother. I feel a lot better except I’m a little stiff and sore.” Scott said finishing up his breakfast.
Johnny sat down beside the bed. Murdoch pulled up a chair too. “Not surprising, you had quite a night.”
Scott looked at him quizzically. “Are you saying that dream I had last night wasn’t a dream?”
“Your fever was high and you were delirious. That thunder and lightning must have sounded like cannon fire to you. You tackled me twice to get my head down.” Johnny said with amusement in his voice.
Scott nodded remembering. “You were on the battlefield with me and even Murdoch showed up. No wonder it seemed so real.” Scott said ruefully. “I’m sorry.”
“Ah forget it Scott. That fever was raging. I’m just glad it broke.”
“Sam will be here later.” Murdoch said putting his hand on Scott’s leg. “You stay in bed and rest Scott. We’ll go by what Sam says.”
“Yes Sir.” Scott felt exhausted. The fever had taken more out of him, draining his already low energy reserves. He lay back on the pillows trying to keep his eyes open but losing the battle. Murdoch stood up and felt his son’s forehead. It was relatively cool.
“It’s the best thing for him.” Murdoch said motioning Johnny to leave with him.
Scott slept and ate well for 3 days before Sam gave him the okay for light work and 7 days before Sam okayed him for normal work. The three Lancers sat down and talked about Scott’s nightmares at his request. Scott was determined to handle his nightmares on his own and asked that Murdoch and Johnny just let them run their course. His family had reluctantly agreed as long as they weren’t too long or severe. Murdoch also insisted that if Scott was too troubled to go back to sleep that he come to them.
Murdoch Lancer watched his sons eating breakfast smiling at their easy banter. Three months had passed and Scott’s nightmares were much less. There had been one night Scott had come to his room. Murdoch had awakened to find him standing in the moonlight wearing long johns with no shirt hugging his slender frame. Murdoch’s bed was custom made for his large frame. He had bid Scott to lie down. The boy had done so, saying nothing. He had tentatively searched out Murdoch’s hand, taken it and had fallen asleep. When Murdoch had awakened the next morning he was gone. Murdoch couldn’t say his son had put it all behind him but his frame of mind was much better. There had been no sign of Sullivan but Murdoch and Johnny were still watchful.
They got up to leave. Johnny grabbed a couple of biscuits and fired them at Scott one after another. He deftly fielded both of them. “You’ll have to do better than that little brother.” Scott said grinning. Johnny laughed and grabbed two biscuits for himself and they headed out to start their day.
Scott was pounding in a fence post when he heard the three shot alarm sound. He looked north where the rest of his crew was working. Scott swung onto Charlie. “Bill, point Johnny in the right direction. Unload the wagon in case we need it.” Scott said tersely to the closest hand working with him. Johnny’s crew was working a mile south and Scott knew the alarm would bring him over. As Scott got closer he could see one of their hands, Tyler on his knees with a bedroll covered Frank cradled in his arms. Strangely there was a bull running north away from them. Scott was confused. There weren’t supposed to be any cattle in this part of the pasture much less a bull. Scott jumped off Charlie and ran over to the two men. Tyler was a young, just 18 and he looked as if he was going to be sick. Scott took Frank from him.
“What happened?!” Scott asked noting Frank was still conscious.
“A bull appeared out of nowhere and gored him.” Tyler said his voice shaking.
“Tyler go over and have them bring the wagon here. Locate Johnny tell him I need him and send someone for the Doc.” Scott said doing his best to keep his voice calm. “Frank, how are you doing?” Scott said gently.
“Not too well, Scott.” Frank murmured.
“Let me take a look.” Scott said. He lifted the bedroll and his face fell. The wound was in Frank’s lower abdomen. It was the size of a man’s fist but the alarming thing was the upward curve of the bull’s horn had pulled out some of Frank’s intestines and they were ripped apart lying in the dirt bleeding profusely.
“Scott.” Frank whispered painfully. “I wanted to tell you I was so honored to work for a Union Cavalry officer. Lord knows you didn’t need to enlist. Thank you for helping us slaves. I….I was hoping I could be buried somewhere on Lancer.”
“Of course, Frank.” Scott said his voice breaking. “We’d be glad to have you in the Lancer Cemetery. Frank…I am so, so sorry this had to happen to you, my friend. Is there anyone we need to contact?”
“All that information is in a case under my bunk.” Frank whispered his voice growing weak. “Lieutenant Scott Lancer, thank you for staying with me and not letting me die alone.”
Scott put his forehead down against Frank’s hair tears filling his blue eyes. “Go with God, my good friend.” Scott said in an anguished voice as Frank took his last breath. He straightened up with head bowed tears streaming down his face.
Johnny rode Barranca hard toward his brother. Scott was busy speaking with Frank and did not notice the bull had made a large turn and was now bearing down on Scott and Frank. He pulled up and jumped off Barranca. He thought about yelling but he knew Scott could not get himself and Frank out of the way in time. Johnny grabbed his rifle and carefully aimed at the bull. He pumped two bullets into the bull’s head and it keeled over. Scott turned and looked and saw the bull lying 50 yards from him. Johnny rode up and jumped down to the ground. Scott took two very unsteady towards Johnny. Johnny grabbed him steadying him.
“Frank’s dead, Johnny. He’s dead.” Scott said his voice filled with grief.
Johnny looked at his brother in shock. “But it looked as if you were talking to him.”
Scott nodded. “I was but there was no hope for him Johnny, none. He died in my arms.”
Johnny went over and looked at Frank’s wound and bowed his head. He totally covered Frank’s body with the bedroll. Frank had been a friend to both Johnny and Scott and had often told Johnny of his high regard for Scott. It had amazed Frank how a young man of Scott’s station and upbringing had joined the war to fight for the rights of slaves. Now just like that he was gone.
Scott walked over to the dead bull. It had the Conway/Addison brand on it, the C on top of an A. Scott did not notice a rider coming from the same direction as the bull had come from but Johnny did and walked over to his brother. “Rider coming.” Johnny said. The brothers both stared at the rider.
“It’s a Conway/Addison bull and that looks to be Buck Addison.” Scott said tightly.
Johnny sighed. “Wonderful.”
Buck rode up and stared at the bull. “Which one of you hotheads shot my prize bull?” He growled.
“I did Addison.” Johnny said angrily. “It was bearing down on my brother!”
“What? Doesn’t the Eastern dandy know how to get on his horse and get out of the way?” Addison said derisively. “You damn Lancer pups think you can get away with anything. You are going to pay for that bull and all my expenses!!
Before Johnny could react Scott jumped at Addison and pulled him off his horse and threw him to the ground. Buck got up and charged Scott. Scott side stepped him and pushed him to the ground again. “You little prick!” Addison shouted as he went for Scott again. Johnny saw it coming and actually felt a bit sorry for Addison as Johnny had experienced it once before, his brother’s right hook. Scott threw the punch and laid out Addison flat on his back. Scott was on top of Addison in a second pummeling him. Johnny pulled Scott off Addison with some difficulty.
“Scott! That enough!” Johnny said holding on to Scott
Scott tried to pull away from Johnny. “Addison, you arrogant son-of-a-bitch! That bull killed one of our hands! He was a friend of ours!” Scott shouted at Addison.
Addison slowly picked himself up and glared at Scott. “You’re going to jail Lancer. I’m pressing charges against you and you’re going to do jail time!” Addison threatened.
“Get on your damn horse and get off Lancer land!” Johnny growled.
The anger went out of Scott as Addison galloped away. He felt washed out and let Johnny hold him for a couple of minutes as if trying to draw strength from his younger brother. He finally stepped back and walked over to where Bill and Tyler were gently loading Frank’s body into the wagon. Scott went to the side of the wagon and looked sadly at Frank’s body.
“Take him to the undertaker in Morro Coyo. Tell him we want a nice coffin and to put him in the ice house. He’ll be buried at Lancer. We’ll let him know when.” Scott said to Bill who nodded and slowly started out.
Johnny came over to stand beside Scott. They both felt miserable as the wagon lumbered away. “He’d only been a freed man for a few years. God Johnny why does life have to be so damn unfair sometimes?”
“I don’t know Scott.” Johnny said sadly putting his hand on Scott’s shoulder. Johnny felt awful about Frank but the thought that Scott could have been loaded in that wagon as well as Frank ate at him too.
“Thanks for saving me from that bull, Johnny” Scott said earnestly.
“Aw Scott you’d have done the same for me.” Johnny said giving Scott a hug.
Scott nodded and gave Johnny a backhand in the stomach. “I’m going back. I’d best let Murdoch know what’s going on.”
“I’m coming with you.” Johnny said quickly.
“I thought you might.” Scott said giving him a thin smile.
Murdoch watched with trepidation as his sons road in on the road to the hacienda. He could tell something was wrong from the way his eldest rode. His shoulders were slumped over and Scott’s back was normally always straight. He waited for them to come in, sitting at his desk swirling scotch in his glass. He looked up as the door opened and his sons came in. They were quiet, their demeanor seemed sad. They both sat down in the chairs in front of Murdoch’s desk.
“Frank is dead, Sir. He was gored by Buck Addison’s bull. Apparently it broke out of its pasture.” Scott said sounding as miserable as he looked. “I…I held Frank as he died. He told me…his last wishes.” Scott stopped for a minute and looked at his brother and then bowed his head.
Murdoch stood up and looked out the window. Frank’s death hit him hard. He had truly liked Frank and he knew his boys did too. “I’m very sorry to hear that.” He said solemnly.
“There’s more, Murdoch.” Johnny said ruefully. “The bull charged Scott. I had to shoot and kill him. Then Buck Addison came ridding up and shot off his big mouth.”
Scott sat with his head bowed. He felt horrible that he’d lost his temper again, no matter if Addison deserved it or not. He knew his father would be disappointed in him.
“What happened Scott?” Murdoch asked kindly. He could see his son was already blaming himself for whatever it was.
“I attacked Buck Addison. I pulled him off his horse and hit him several times. Scott said miserably. “I’m sorry sir.”
“Murdoch, he deserved it. Scott just beat me to it.” Johnny said vehemently defending his brother.
“Murdoch…I’m going to be arrested.” Scott said in an accepting tone. “I’m going to get cleaned up, maybe get something to eat before they come.” He got up and went upstairs not listening to his father’s calls.
“God, Murdoch Frank died in Scott’s arms. Scott told me Frank told him he was honored to know Scott because he fought in the war to free the slaves. Frank’s wound was so bad, part of his innards were hanging out. They both knew he had no chance. And then Addison comes up spouting about his damn bull. You can’t blame Scott for going after him!” Johnny said tersely defending his brother. Johnny took a deep breath. “It was a damn nightmare, Murdoch.”
Murdoch looked at his youngest. “I don’t blame Scott, Johnny. I even understand what he did and why. It’s just that now he’ll have to pay the price for going against the law.” Murdoch said grimly.
“Which I am prepared to do.” Scott said firmly coming down the stairs carrying a clean set of clothes. “If Buck Addison wants to press charges against me because I lost my temper over Frank being killed and myself nearly being killed then so be it.” Scott stopped and faced his father and brother. “I have to say Johnny this letting your anger come out feels a whole lot better than holding it in like I normally do.” Scott said his voice amused.
“Are you saying I let my anger come out, big brother?” Johnny said grinning.
“Just a little.” Scott said grinning back at Johnny. Scott turned to his father his face growing serious, his eyes sad. “Murdoch, I do realize my actions affect you negatively, your friendship with Aggie, your son being arrested. I’m sorry for that Sir. But I’m not sorry for hitting Addison. I’ll pay the consequences and I can handle this on my own, Sir.”
Murdoch looked sternly at his son. “I know that you can take care of yourself, son. However, you are not going to alone. I know I speak for Johnny when I say your family and Lancer will support you in this.”
Scott bowed his head. “I’m grateful Sir.” With that he went to the bathhouse.
Johnny sighed. “Leave it to my brother to get cleaned up to go to jail.” Johnny bowed his head. He hated that Scott was going to be arrested. Everything had been going so well. His brother’s nightmares about Sullivan were happening less and less. Now Scott had to deal with Frank’s death and being arrested.
There was a knock at the door and Murdoch went to answer it. It was Sam.
“I’m sorry Sam.” Murdoch said apologetically. “I’m afraid Frank died. But you might as well stay to dinner since you made the drive out here.”
“Frank?” Sam said in shock coming in. “I am sorry to hear that. He was a nice young man. How are the boys taking this?”
Murdoch sighed. “Scott most likely will be arrested. Buck Addison’s bull gored Frank to death and came after Scott. Scott took offense.”
Johnny sat in the kitchen. He had gotten the case from under Frank’s bunk like Scott had asked. He was waiting for Scott to join him. Scott came in from the bathhouse and looked at the case. He went over and opened it. Inside there was a picture of Frank and most likely his mother and 2 sisters. Scott handed the will over to Johnny. He went and got Murdoch and Sam. Johnny read the will. Frank wanted everything sent to his mother and his younger sisters. “To Lieutenant Scott Lancer, I leave my Bowie knife. My father gave it to me. There were times when we were out on the range, in a line shack or under the stars, I would hear your nightmares and I knew what that war cost you. All I can say is thank you. Thank you to all the Lancers for giving me a job and your friendship. Thank you, Miss Teresa, for being so kind to me.”
“There is a separate note to the rest of the hands.” Scott said looking it over. “He leaves things like his saddle and bridle but nothing from the case.”
“He has $250.00 that he has had me bank for him. Lancer will make it an even thousand.” Murdoch said quietly. “Agreed boys?” Scott and Johnny both nodded
“What is going on here?” Teresa asked in a frightened vice. She stood there with Maria, both of them holding baskets of greens from the garden.
Murdoch walked over to Teresa and told her and Maria about Frank and that Scott mostly likely be would be arrested. She started to cry and went to Scott who took her in his arms. “I’m sorry Teresa. Frank thanked you for being so kind to him.” Scott said sadly stroking Teresa’s hair.
“Scott, I don’t want you to be arrested” Teresa cried.
“I know but it will be alright, Teresa.” Scott said. “I’ll be back before you know it.”
Teresa nodded and dried her eyes. She went to help Maria finish preparing dinner. Johnny went over to Teresa and gave her a hug and whispered some words of encouragement to her. Teresa smiled at him and nodded.
Murdoch picked up Frank’s case. “I’ll make sure this gets sent to Frank’s family. I’ll wire our condolences. What about the funeral?”
Scott looked at his father. “Frank wanted to be buried here at Lancer. His body is with the undertaker in Morro Coyo.”
Murdoch nodded. “I’ll make the arrangements son.”
“Thank you, Sir.”
The Lancers were just finishing dinner when there was a knock at the door. Johnny answered the door revealing Val Crawford, the Green River Sheriff.
“You here for my brother, Val?” Johnny asked in an accusing tone. “Because if you are that’s plain bullshit.”
“Johnny.” Scott said chiding him. “The man has a job to do.”
Val looked uncomfortable. “I am really sorry about this. I’m here to arrest Scott on the charges of attempted murder and assault.”
“Attempted murder?!” Johnny said in amazement. “Come on Val!”
“What does this mean for bail, Val?” Murdoch asked his voice tight.
Val sighed. “No bail, Mr. Lancer. But the judge will be here in 5 days and so the trial will be then.”
Scott came forward his face pale. “I’m ready, Val.” He said quietly. “How do you want restrain me, front or back?”
“Front.” Val said hating every minute of what he had to do. Scott put on his hat on and held his wrists out so Val could manacle him. Teresa began to weep again.
“Scott.” Johnny said his voice full of despair.
Scott turned to his brother. “It will be alright, Johnny. Teresa, please don’t cry. I’ll be fine.” Scott said his voice firm. With that he turned and went with Val. Johnny pushed the door shut putting his head on the door. He felt helpless again and he hated feeling that way. He turned and went into the Great Room with rest of his family only there was a big part of his family missing without Scott there. It seemed like as much as they tried to be a family, someone was always trying to pull them apart. He hated the thought of Scott being behind bars. Johnny looked up to see his father strapping on his gun belt.
“Where are you going Murdoch?” Johnny asked softly.
“I’m going to see Aggie.” Murdoch said in his ‘I Call the Tune’ voice. “Johnny, I want you to go to Green River. Catch up with them if you can. See if you can talk Val in to letting you stay at the jail. If not get a hotel room in town so you can be close to him.”
“Yes Sir.” Johnny said his spirits lifting. He took the stairs 2 at a time to get what he needed to pack in his saddle bags. He was down in no time and caught up to Murdoch on his way to the barn.
“This ain’t like you to go talk to Aggie about Buck.” Johnny said confused.
“It is when one of my sons needs me to.” Murdoch answered. “Not get a move on Johnny. Don’t wait for me.”
Scott Lancer was deep in thought on the way to Green River. He felt miserable over Frank’s death, losing his temper and assaulting Addison and the way he’d disappointed his father. Scott himself didn’t understand why he couldn’t control his temper, couldn’t control anything really, not anymore, his dreams, his emotions, his sleep. Murdoch had been supportive but the man was so pragmatic, how could he understand him when Scott couldn’t do the same. He didn’t understand himself, didn’t understand how he had buried a memory for so long, didn’t understand how he could have tried to take his own life.
He knew Murdoch was trying to do right by him. Johnny had told him Murdoch was determined not fail either one of them again. Scott wondered what his father really thought of him. It was almost like living with his grandfather who had made sure Scott was well taken care of and had gotten everything he needed or wanted. But there had never been any declaration of love. There had been the occasional arm thrown on the shoulder just like his father. Actions did speak louder than words, didn’t they? He had wanted to hear the words from his grandfather. He wanted to hear them from Murdoch too. He sighed. His father probably thought him weak and damaged. He thought of himself that way. Why shouldn’t Murdoch? He wanted his father’s love and support, not support because Murdoch felt bad about abandoning him or felt some sort of a duty to him. Scott shook his head. He was being ridiculous. He was so deep in thought he didn’t hear a rider come up until Johnny was right beside him.
“What are you doing here brother?” Scott asked a bit surprised.
“Thought I’d catch up with you and make sure Ol’ Val treated you right.” Johnny said grinning.
“Scott don’t have to worry none.” Val said smartly. “You might find yourself keeping him company in the next cell though.”
“Well now Amigo, that’s exactly what I want. Thanks for the invitation.” Johnny drawled.
Val opened his mouth to say something but closed it again. He looked a bit flustered and finally blurted out “Damn you, Johnny!”
Scott and Johnny both started laughing and soon Val was too. “Scott, ya know I hate this, don’t ya?” Val said ruefully.
“Val, I did assault Buck Addison. He has every right to press charges against me.” Scott said seriously. “My temper has been getting the best of me lately. I’m willing to accept the consequences of my actions.”
“Damn it Scott. He deserved it!” Johnny retorted.
“Maybe he did.” Scott answered. “But what I did was against the law.”
Murdoch rode up to the Conway ranch house. He was not surprised to see Aggie sitting outside. The sun was getting low in the west but still shone on her face.
“Why Murdoch Lancer, I’m a bit surprised to see you here.” Aggie said mildly.
“Is Buck Home?” Murdoch said dismounting. “I need to speak with him about Scott.”
“He is home, in the house.” Aggie said. “Murdoch why don’t we sit down and talk for a bit?”
Murdoch nodded and sat down. “I assume Buck told you what happened today.”
“He told me Scott attacked him because our bull escaped and came after him.” Aggie answered.
“Aggie, I’m not here to say my son is innocent in all this and that he doesn’t deserve some punishment. I’m just hoping we can come to some agreement that isn’t so hard on Scott.” Murdoch said in a reasonable voice.
“Murdoch, that bull getting loose was an accident. Buck and all of our men were out looking for it”
“Aggie, I know that Scott was in the wrong but under the circumstances I was hoping Buck would go easy on him. Frank had just died in his arms and Scott was very upset.” Murdoch explained.
“Frank? Your hand Frank? What happened Murdoch? How did he die?” Aggie asked in shock.
Murdoch shifted in his chair uncomfortably. Buck had obviously not told Aggie everything but he couldn’t lie to her. “I’m sorry Aggie. Frank was gored to death by your bull. Scott took it very hard.”
Aggie’s hand flew to her mouth in horror. “Just a moment Murdoch, I’ll be right back.” Her voice sounding choked up. Aggie came out 10 minutes later with Buck. Buck had a dark bruise on his jaw that Murdoch realized was complements of Scott.
Uh, Murdoch.” Buck said quietly looking at Aggie. “I was thinking I could drop the attempted murder complaint against Scott should he apologize to me.”
“I was thinking Scott could serve 4 days in jail and then you drop all charges against him so there will be no trial. No apology.” Murdoch said firmly.
Buck looked at Aggie who was glaring at him. “I can live with that.” Buck said meekly holding out his hand. Murdoch shook it and went to mount his horse.
“Murdoch I am so sorry about Frank.” Aggie said with tears in her eyes.
“Thank you and thank you for going easy on Scott. It was an accident Aggie.” Murdoch said giving her a wan smile. He turned his horse and set off back to Lancer relieved Scott would not have to stand trial.
Scott and Johnny had pulled their cots over so only bars separated them. They lay in the dark talking.
“Murdoch went to see Aggie tonight.” Johnny said out of the blue.
“I’m a little surprised by that.” Scott admitted.
“Well you know. Nobody can get Buck Addison to back down like his wife can.”
Scott laughed. “I’d be happy if the attempted murder charge was dropped.”
“I hate you being locked up, Scott.”
“Johnny, I’m fine. Don’t worry so much.”
“Yeah, you got some way not to do that brother? Because if you do, tell me.”
“No, I don’t. I guess it’s a vicious circle. I worry about you, you worry about me. I suppose it’s part of having a brother.” Scott said in an amused voice. “Johnny, I couldn’t have made it through the whole ordeal without your help.” Scott added in a sincere voice.
“I’m glad to hear you say made it through.” Johnny answered.
“I have put most of it behind me.” Scott said firmly. “Once I get Buck Addison off me, it will be smooth sailing.”
Johnny laughed. “I think Aggie will have something to say about that.”
Scott smiled in the dark. “I think you may be right.”
Murdoch Lancer was at the jail the first thing in the morning. Scott and Johnny looked up at him blearily. He had a change of clothes for Scott and one of his more western suits.
“Why the suit, Murdoch?” Scott asked.
“Frank’s funeral is tomorrow at Lancer. Val said he would bring you but you’ll need to be shackled.” Murdoch said tentatively.
“That’s fine.” Scott said gratefully. “I wanted to pay my respects.”
Murdoch smiled at his son. “I have good news too. I worked it out with the Addison’s that you serve 4 days and they will drop all charges against you, so no trial, son.”
Scott stood up exceedingly happy. “Thank you sir.” He said reaching through the bars to shake his father’s hand.”
Johnny came out of the cell he was in and clapped his father’s back. He was happy too. “Aggie get Buck to back down?”
Murdoch nodded. “I believe so.”
“You know Murdoch and Johnny. I’m fine here. No one needs to babysit me. We have a lot of work on the ranch and Murdoch I’m sure you have some details to take care of for Frank’s funeral. I will see you two tomorrow.” Scott said taking on his stubborn look.
Murdoch thought for a bit. “Alright son we’ll see you tomorrow.”
The funeral was sad affair. Everyone on Lancer considered Frank a friend as did many of the citizens of Morro Coyo. The Lancer cemetery was on top of a hill with a few large trees. It was a peaceful spot with a view of the vista that was Lancer. Scott was dressed in a black western style suit coat and black trousers. His shirt was white and he had on a black ribbon tie. He stood by his family with his hands shackled in front of him. Johnny was dressed in his black pants with Conchos down the sides and a short bolero jacket over a white shirt. Teresa wore a dark navy almost black dress with white ruffles around her neckline. Murdoch wore a charcoal grey suit and white shirt. The Lancers always made an impressive sight when they were together. Teresa cried during the service and Johnny put his arm around her.
Scott stared into space trying not to think of how Frank had died. Somehow he had survived again thanks to his brother. He was grateful for surviving the war, the escape attempt and even Joseph Sullivan. But in some cases he also felt guilt too. He wasn’t sure why he had survived when others had not. He felt his father’s hand on his shoulder and he turned meeting Murdoch’s concerned gaze. Scott gave him a wan smile. After the funeral Scott talked with his family for a bit and did his best to assure them he would be fine for the rest of his jail time and that they didn’t need to visit him.
Late that night the jail was cool when Scott lay down to sleep. He left his jacket on, pulled his boots off and lay down. He was tired and it didn’t take long for him to fall asleep. He was awakened much later by some loud thumps from the front room. Scott pulled on his boots and stood up in alarm. The door opened and Joseph Sullivan came in carrying a lamp. Scott involuntarily stepped back his breath catching in dread.
“Good morning, Scott” Sullivan sneered. “Back up against the bars boy and put your wrists through. Scott hesitated a bit. “Now boy or our little friend out there will get a bullet.” Scott did as he was told and Sullivan manacled his wrists behind his back. He then opened the door and motioned for Scott for Scott to come out. When they got in the outer room Scott saw the deputy lying on floor.
“Tom! What did you to him?” Scott asked tersely.
Sullivan laughed. “He’ll live, you won’t.” He helped Scott on a horse and by the time the sun came up they were several miles out of Green River and it had started to rain.
The sun had been up for an hour and Murdoch and Johnny were saddling up to ride fence. “Wagon coming!” the lookout shouted.
Johnny stared. “It’s Pete Garrison.” Johnny said. The elderly man lived north just off the boundary of Lancer in a small cabin. He survived by hunting and fishing.
“Murdoch!” Pete called as he pulled up.
“What’s wrong, Pete?” Murdoch asked seeing how agitated he was.
“Somebody got your boy. I was hunting deer at my salt lick, hidden in the woods. They came by heading north along the property border. Scott’s hands were tied behind his back!” Pete cried.
“You must be mistaken Pete.” Murdoch said mildly. “Scott is in the Green River jail.”
“Now Murdoch. I’m 100% sure he ain’t. No one sits a horse like that boy even bound and he had on that two tone jacket he wears.” Pete declared. “You should be able to pick up the trail on or about the boundary line a few miles north of my cabin.”
Johnny looked at his father. “We can’t take a chance, Murdoch.” He said his voice frightened.
Murdoch nodded. “You’re right, son.” Murdoch agreed mounting up. “Thanks Pete.” They turned to ride to the area Pete had described. Just as they did a cold light rain started to fall.
Scott worked hard to keep his seat on the horse he rode. It was difficult with his hands manacled behind his back. They had ridden through a cold rain leaving Green River. Scott doubted anyone would find their trail even though where they were now it hadn’t even rained. Scott was cold and wet and felt numb at the thought of being under Sullivan’s control again.
They rode into a stand of trees. In the middle there was a clearing with a stream beside it. It was obvious it was Sullivan’s camp. He pulled Scott off the horse and unshackled him. He pointed his gun at Scott and tossed him a shovel. “See the stakes Lieutenant Lancer?” Sullivan sneered. “I need a grave dug to those dimensions, four feet deep.” Sullivan motioned at four stakes he had placed earlier. “Oh and Lieutenant, if you are thinking of attacking me and forcing me to shoot you be aware I will need a replacement, your brother is who it will be.”
“Leave my brother out of this!” Scott said angrily.
“You know Scott, I just never finished what I started due to the war ending. I had one more night planned for you, more of the same only this time adding rape with an inanimate object or two and then death. It’s been a long time coming.” Sullivan taunted.
Scott swallowed, his heart racing at Sullivan’s horrific description of his fate. “I can’t imagine you’ve kept your sickness in check since the end of the war.” Scott said coldly as he dug.
“You’re very astute Lieutenant.” Sullivan said smiling. “You’re quite right. There have been saddle tramps, the occasional wayward young man but no one like you Scott. I am going to miss you Lieutenant. But my memories of your eyes begging for mercy as I slowly strangle you, as you take your last breath in my arms will sustain me for a very, very long time.”
Scott was sick of Sullivan’s ravings. The man had killed multiple young men to satisfy his sick perverse psyche. Scott hoped he would be the last. Sullivan had no idea how much Scott had told his family. He knew his brother and he knew Johnny would avenge his death. He hoped Murdoch could persuade him to do it with the law’s help. Scott dug trying to ignore Sullivan’s taunts and his sickening descriptions of how he had victimized other young men. Scott kept digging and finally he was done with his grave well enough to suit Sullivan. He wearily pulled himself out of the hole. He cringed when Sullivan ordered him to remove his clothes. He did it slowly hating every minute of it feeling as though he was going to be sick as Sullivan leered at his nude body.
“You look quite a bit more filled out, Scott. Still somewhat thin though.” Sullivan gloated keeping his gun pointed at Scott. He threw some soap at Scott. “Get in the stream and get washed up.”
Scott waded in the water coming to his waist. It was cold and he hurriedly washed off the sweat and dirt from his body. Sullivan threw some clothes and a towel on the bank. He watched Scott soap his hair and then rinse it. “You’re awfully quiet Lt. Lancer.” Sullivan said in an amused voice. “Get out, dry off and get dressed. Don’t button your shirt or trousers.”
“You’re not expecting me to beg, I hope.” Scott said grimly as dried off and dressed quickly. “I’m not sure what you want me to say Sullivan. You’ve made it clear you intend to sexually abuse me you sick sonofabitch and then murder me.”
Sullivan threw Scott a pair of wrist shackles. “Put it on your right wrist and then back against that tree.” Sullivan ordered pointing at a tree with about a 2 foot trunk. Scott did as he was told. “Put your wrists around the back of the tree.” Sullivan put his gun against Scott’s temple and deftly closed the shackle over Scott’s left wrist. Sullivan set the gun down and laughed. He brought a piece of leather around Scott’s neck and the ropes around his waist, knees and ankles all tightly melding Scott to the tree. He replaced the shackles on Scott’s wrists with ropes so he could make the bonds tighter than the shackle chain would allow.
Sullivan stood in front of Scott literally chortling in his excitement. “Now Lieutenant Lancer I am going to kiss you several times. You will submit, Sir or I swear as soon as I am finished here someone you care about will be hurt. Do you understand?”
Scott nodded. “Stay away from my family!” he growled.
Sullivan only smiled and pressed his lips against Scott’s lips punishing them, using his tongue in Scott’s mouth, pushing Scott’s head back against the tree. Scott submitted tears pricking his eyes. His whole body shuddered. He wanted to scream. He just wanted Sullivan to get away from him. Finally Sullivan broke the kiss. Scott felt sick to his stomach. He was shaking now. He bowed his head refusing to look at Sullivan. “No…No…No” Scott whispered in anguish.
Johnny Lancer studied the trail intently. They had picked up the trail just where Pete had said it would be. “They lead to that stand of trees.” He said to Murdoch. Murdoch looked up at the sky. There was only about an hour left of daylight.
“Let’s leave the horses here.” Murdoch said keeping his voice low. “Hopefully we will surprise him.”
Sullivan backhanded Scott hard to the right. “I do not want to hear the word no Lieutenant.” Sullivan retorted loudly and backhanded Scott to the left. He then placed both arms around Scott’s neck and pulled him down into another brutal kiss. Scott felt helpless and disgusted. He began to shut down his thoughts not wanting to think about was happening to him, not wanting to feel what was happening to him. His only consolation was that he would not have to live with what Sullivan had planned for him. Death would be his release from those tortured memories.
Murdoch and Johnny froze as they heard Sullivan yell at Scott and the unmistakable sound of the slaps. Johnny pulled his gun and went soundlessly to the edge of the clearing with Murdoch following. Johnny’s eyes quickly took in his brother being forced to kiss Sullivan and the fact Sullivan was unarmed. Johnny holstered his gun and proceeded to charge Sullivan filled with white hot rage. He tackled the man and proceeded to land several punishing blows to Sullivan’s face and body. “You sick bastard! I will teach you to never touch my brother again!” Johnny raged.
Murdoch picked up Sullivan’s gun and threw it as hard as he could into the trees. With difficulty Murdoch pulled Johnny off of Sullivan. “Johnny enough! Scott needs us!” Johnny looked at his brother. Scott’s eyes were closed and his head was bowed as far as his bonds would allow. Murdoch grabbed Sullivan’s shackles and threw them to Johnny. He then turned to Scott and began to cut him loose. Scott fell into Murdoch’s arms. “Did he touch you, son?” Murdoch said brokenly holding his eldest in his arms.
“Just what you saw.” Scott said in an agonized voice against his father’s shoulder. “Murdoch, Johnny…thank you for coming for me.” Johnny hauled Sullivan to his feet after shackling his hands behind his back. Scott turned back towards the tree but he still held tight to Murdoch’s left arm. He didn’t want to see Sullivan. Johnny came over to Scott’s other side. Scott grabbed ahold of Johnny’s right arm. Scott held on to them so Johnny and Murdoch faced one another.
“Did he make you dig that hole?” Johnny asked in a soft voice. Johnny was worried about his brother. Scott basically had his back to them although he clutched one of each of their arms.
Scott nodded. “It’s my grave.”
“Not any more, son.” Murdoch said firmly.
“What now Mr. Lancer?” Sullivan sneered. “Are you going to take me to the law? We go to trial? Scott will never be looked on in the same way again in the little community of Morro Coyo. Not when I testify how much he likes a man’s touch…how he responded back then. Every little sordid detail. Scott knows deep down, don’t you Scott? He tries to deny it but it excited him. He enjoyed it.”
Scott said nothing although he began to tremble. Johnny tried to pull away to shut Sullivan’s mouth but Scott held on. “Please Johnny, don’t let go of me.” Scott whispered desperately.
“Scott. Please let me shut him up.” Johnny begged.
“No. I have to face up to this, to what he will say in court.” Scott replied in a shaky voice. “We have to put him away. He’s a killer.”
Sullivan laughed. “Your reputation will be ruined Scott. People will whisper about you, stare at you on the street. And if I am acquitted or when I am released from prison I will come after you Lieutenant and do everything I described to you today.”
Johnny swallowed hard. He knew the bastard was right. He couldn’t bear the thought of his brother having to testify in public about the sexual abuse he had suffered. Tears began to stream down Johnny’s face. Scott would be destroyed. Johnny looked at his father. Murdoch’s jaw was tightened and anger flashed in his father’s eyes. Johnny turned his face away from Sullivan and rested his head on Scott’s shoulder holding his arm tighter.
Sullivan’s voice grew more vindictive. “When Scott testifies he reached a climax, I will be acquitted.”
A gunshot made Scott and Johnny jump. They both turned to see Murdoch lowering his gun and Sullivan falling onto his back with a bullet wound to his forehead. “My God.” Scott breathed seeming to wilt in relief. Murdoch pulled Scott into his arms and held him tightly gently stroking his ash blond hair, the same color as his mother’s. ‘Catherine, he is safe now. I’ll help him put this all behind him.’ Murdoch thought fervently.
“Thank you, Sir.” Scott said against his father’s shoulder in a relieved choked voice.
Johnny smiled grimly and dragged Sullivan’s body to the edge of the grave Scott had dug.
“Johnny.” Scott said stepping back from Murdoch. “Let me.” Scott went to Sullivan’s body and pushed it over the edge of the grave with his foot. It landed face down in the grave.
Johnny went and unsaddled and unbridled Sullivan’s horse and slapped it to make it run off. Johnny lugged the saddle and bridle and threw them in to the grave. He also threw all of Sullivan’s possessions from the camp in and proceeded to fill in the grave. Scott went over and absently petted the horse he had ridden. It was over he thought thanks to his father. He knew he would have to talk to his father about what happened at least once. Right now he felt numb and just wanted to go home. Johnny finished burying Sullivan and he and Murdoch spread dead leaves and twigs over the freshly dug ground.
“Scott, our horses are outside the trees.” Johnny said.
Scott nodded and untied his horse and followed Johnny and Murdoch to their horses. Scott didn’t say anything. He thought about the scene Murdoch and Johnny had walked in on. He felt wretched that they had witnessed what they had. What had it cost Murdoch to go against everything he believed in and shoot Sullivan in cold blood? Oh God, is it really over? All of a sudden everything seemed so insurmountable. He mounted his horse and turned him towards Lancer at a gallop as the daylight faded away. Scott kept a little ahead of Murdoch and Johnny. He let a hand take the horse and went into the hacienda and poured himself a brandy.
Teresa came into the room and smiled. “Scott! You’re home.”
Scott took one look at her welcoming smile and went to her, set his drink down and pulled her into a bear hug. “I’m glad to be home.“ he replied.
“Are you hungry?” She asked with concern.
Scott shook his head and picked up his drink. “Murdoch and Johnny are right behind me. They may be.” Scott said tiredly. “I’m going to turn in early.”
“You do look tired, Scott.” Teresa said putting her hand on his arm. They both looked up as Murdoch and Johnny came in.
Teresa smiled at both of them. “Well this one isn’t hungry. How about you two?”
“We are.” Murdoch said giving Teresa a kiss on her forehead. “Johnny was just telling me he was. Scott you really need to eat something son.”
Scott nodded looking down. “I’m exhausted.”
“Scott, I’ll make you a sandwich you can take up.” Teresa said realizing just how weary her brother was.
“Thanks honey.” Scott murmured. Teresa nodded and headed for the kitchen. Scott looked wearily at his father and brother. “I need some time alone.” He said to them in a low hollow voice. “Thank you both again.”
Johnny watched his brother as he poured himself another good measure of brandy and turned to them. Scott’s eyes were still haunted, his face still tense. Teresa came out with Scott’s sandwich. “Thank you.” he told her warmly kissing her cheek. “Well goodnight all.” Scott said softly. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Son, sleep in tomorrow.” Murdoch urged. Scott nodded and made his way upstairs.
Scott sighed. He’d lain awake for hours and couldn’t sleep. He tried not to think about anything but it was no use. Hot tears began to fall and then he began to sob. He cried for his mother lost to him forever, the loss of his father, a young boy’s need for a father who never came for him, a lonely, too serious little boy who had to live up to a set of rules never meant for a child, for the formality of a grandfather who always was too busy to notice him. He cried for a young love with no hope of succeeding, a war that made him grow up hard and fast, for the deaths of men under his command; their hopes and dreams gone in an instant, the suffering of all innocents caught up in the horrible battles, for the things he’d been ordered to do that ate at his soul. He wept for what he had endured in Libby prison camp, the death of 16 men in a foiled escape, for what Joseph Sullivan had done to him and for the lost years with a brother he should have grown up with and for the life his brother had been forced to live. Scott cried for everything horrible in his life that he had foolishly kept inside of him. And lastly he wept for what his father had done wondering if his father regretted killing Sullivan in cold blood and if his father could live with what he had done. Scott’s sobs were so consuming that his whole body shook and he wondered if he would lose his sanity but slowly the sobs subsided until all he was left with was shaking and then sleep came.
Late that night Johnny awoke to a sound. He laid there a moment listening and got up and went into the hall. Murdoch was standing outside Scott’s door. They both stood and listened to the muffled sounds of Scott sobbing uncontrollably. Murdoch put his arm around Johnny and escorted him back into his room. Murdoch left Johnny’s door open a crack. They both sat on the bed.
“How long has he been like that?” Johnny whispered sadly.
“I think about an hour.” Murdoch answered. “We’ll give him some more time. I doubt he wants us to see him like this.”
“Murdoch, I’m worried about him. He tried to kill himself before. He wouldn’t try that again, would he”? Johnny whispered tears coming to his eyes as he listened to his brother’s anguish.
Murdoch shook his head. “Your brother has a strong sense of survival. Last time he was emotionally broken, physically weak and he still managed to survive.”
“You saved him Murdoch. Scott would have been devastated if he’d had to testify. I’m grateful you went against the law.” Johnny said grimly.
Murdoch looked at his son. “I believe it was you who said sometimes the law doesn’t get it done. I wasn’t about to let that sick killer victimize my son anymore. It would have destroyed not only Scott, but our family. I have no regrets.” Murdoch said firmly. Scott had quieted and they waited a few more minutes and then went into the hall and quietly opened Scott’s door. The lamp was turned low. Scott was sprawled on his back in his robe one arm thrown over his head. He looked serene in his sleep, the lines of stress gone from his now smooth albeit tear stained face. Murdoch quietly closed the door. “You sleep in tomorrow too, son.” Murdoch whispered as he wearily went back to his room.
The next morning Scott came out of his room mid-morning. He tentatively knocked at Johnny’s door and was answered in a few minutes by a bleary eyed, disheveled Johnny fastening up his trousers and a shirt draped over his shoulder. He looked up in surprise at Scott who was dressed, face washed and hair combed.
Scott grinned. “You look like Hell, boy.” He exclaimed as he put Johnny in a headlock and pulled him down the hall releasing him before the stairs. “It smells good down there.” Johnny grinned and followed his brother downstairs both of them making a huge racket coming down the stairs and they raced into the kitchen. Murdoch looked up in surprise from his coffee. Scott stopped dead and Johnny ran into him almost knocking him down.
Scott straightened up. “Sorry, Sir.” Scott said taking a seat. “Johnny and I were hoping there was some breakfast left.”
Murdoch nodded. “There is.”
“Great.” Johnny said kissing Maria on the cheek as she brought cups and coffee over.
Murdoch looked at Scott. “How are you this morning, Son?”
Scott looked down unable to meet his father’s gaze. “I’m okay, Sir.” Scott said thoughtfully. “I have some other things I’d like to talk to you and Johnny about sometime soon.”
“Actually since Teresa is visiting her friend Molly this weekend, there is something I’ve wanted to show you boys. It’s a special spot on Lancer that no one else knows about. I thought we go do a picnic lunch tomorrow. It’s Sunday so we can relax a bit. Perhaps we can talk then.” Murdoch said in a questioning tone.
“That would be fine, Sir.” Scott said eating his breakfast.
“Good, you’ll need to have something along to swim in. We’ll make a day of it.” Murdoch said. “I went to see Val first thing this morning. I’d been by to see Buck and Aggie. They agreed to the time served after I told them of your kidnapping and escape. Val and I decided that the official story was that you had been kidnapped for ransom and you had escaped. Tom never saw who hit him. He’s going to be fine.”
Scott sighed with relief. “I owe Val. He’s been a good friend.”
The next day Maria packed them a picnic lunch and Murdoch threw in a couple bottles of wine. They road to the pond where Scott and Johnny had gone swimming.
“I hate to disappoint you Murdoch, but we’ve been here before.” Johnny said amused.
“This isn’t it fellas, but we’ll eat here.” Murdoch told them. He spread out a blanket and they all sat down and ate and drank. They talked idly about the ranch, about Teresa, a suitor Johnny wasn’t sure he liked. Finally Murdoch stood up. “Let’s change into what we brought to swim in.” They all three wore cut-off long johns. They followed Murdoch into the pool. “Okay boys, take a few deep breaths and follow me. Murdoch swam down to the bottom of the pool. On the bottom of the rock face there was a small rock tunnel that Murdoch swam through and headed for the surface.
Scott came up and looked around. They were in a deep, clear pond that was surrounded by 20 foot rock walls on 3 sides. The other side was the sheer face of the mountain. On that side a waterfall cascaded off the mountain into the pond. Opposite to that the rock side had a flat rock outcropping halfway up the wall. It was a perfect place to relax on or dive into the pond. It even had rock stairs making it easy to climb up to. The other two sides of rock wall had 10 feet of grass and wild flowers in front of them and then the pond. Out where they had left their horses it looked like a huge rock formation at the base of the mountain. No one would ever know it was there.
“It’s beautiful.” Scott breathed. “How ever did you find it?”
Murdoch smiled at his son. “Your mother found it. We were swimming in the other pond and all of a sudden she was gone. Scared the hell out of me. I was diving looking for her and then all of sudden she was there. She took my hand and brought me here. After that it was our special place. We came whenever we had the chance, even when she was pregnant with you. This was the place we first felt you move, Scott. You were such a mover. We’d lie in bed at night and watch and feel you turn somersaults. Your mother would talk to you and you would quiet.” Murdoch said fondly. “I’ve come here throughout the years because I feel close to her here but I’ve never brought anyone here before today.”
“Not even Johnny’s mother?” Scott asked in surprise.
“My mother couldn’t swim. She hated the water and never wanted to learn.” Johnny said looking around. “This is amazing. It’s like being in a giant bowl.” Johnny swam to the side and climbed onto the rock outcropping and dove in to the pond. He came up smiling. “That was fun, come on Scott!”
Scott followed Johnny’s lead and dove in. They splashed around a bit and then came up to rest on the rock above the pond with their father. Johnny lay near the edge on his stomach and closed his eyes basking in the warm sun.
Scott grew serious and sat down beside his father. “Murdoch, are you going to be able to live with what happened?” Scott asked his father quietly. “It seems to go against your grain to kill someone in cold blood. I guess...I hate the thought of you going against your principals because of me and that causing you regret.”
Murdoch looked at his son and then looked down thinking for a moment on what he wanted to say. “Scott, it’s taken nearly 26 years for me to realize that nothing is more important to me than you, your brother and Teresa. Not this ranch, not my reputation, not my friends, not even my principals. Nothing. I’m sorry son, sorry it took so long for me to realize that. So no Scott I have no regrets about what I did. I’d do it again in a minute to protect you, Johnny and Teresa. That sick man wasn’t threatening just you, he was threatening my whole family. Because I know you would have testified about everything to put him away and I also know you would have left your home to save us from the perceived shame that you had brought down upon us. Without you son my heart would be broken because I love you Scott. I love all three of you.”
Scott had his head bowed and he looked sideways at his father. “You’ve said you wouldn’t fail Johnny or me again, sir. You’ve had my love and respect for some time now. I guess trust came a bit harder, at least for me. But you have it now sir. You saved me from ever having to worry about that man again. You gave me peace of mind.” Scott leaned over and gave his father a quick hug.
“Well now those were mighty pretty speeches you two. Maybe you all can stop jawing now so a man can catch a nap.” Johnny drawled his eyes still closed.
Murdoch and Scott laughed. Scott put his finger to his lips looking at Murdoch. He quietly went over to Johnny and pushed him over the edge down into the pond. Murdoch got up and laughed and dove over Johnny’s head in to the pond.
“Damn it, Scott.” Johnny sputtered smiling. “Come down here and take your medicine, big brother.”
Scott grinned down at his father and brother. He couldn’t remember ever feeling so light-hearted and free, not even as a child. He wondered if this was how complete happiness felt. He took a few running steps and dove over both Murdoch and Johnny’s head. The battle was on.