Scott looked up from his paper as the stage he was riding in pulled into Stockton. “Half hour folks.” The driver called down. Scott gratefully climbed out of the stage. He stretched himself out, sore muscles complaining. The stage had been full and cramped. He helped a young plain-faced woman out and ruffled the hair of her two children. They were identical twin girls of the age of 4. They were beautiful really with burnished brown ringlets and green eyes.
“Goodbye Mr. Scott.” They said in unison in their sweet voices with identical little smiles on their upturned faces.
Scott laughed. “Goodbye Emma and Ella. Mrs. Harris, nice to meet you.” He said as he tipped his hat.
“Mr. Lancer. Thank you for being so nice to us.” She said smiling at him before grabbing her girl’s hands and leading them toward a man standing on the boardwalk. The children’s happy cries of “Daddy” wafted towards him as he made off to see to his needs before the next bone jarring leg of his trip from Stockton to Morro Coyo. Later he sat outside the depot waiting to board the stage closer to the departure time. The stage to Morro Coyo generally was not full. Scott smiled as he thought of the little Harris girls. They had taken a shine to him and in fact had spent a good deal of the trip perched on his lap. He hadn’t minded and had found it very interesting how they had related to each other, how they often thought and said the same things. It was almost as if they knew what the other was thinking. And so while their mother slept he had talked to them marveling at how intelligent they were. And when they had fallen asleep, one on each lap their heads resting on his chest he too had put his head back and slept.
Scott knew people found it strange that he even spoke to children. Children should be seen and not heard was the rule he had lived by when he was young. It was a little more relaxed out west. It was just that his childhood had been so isolated. Children interested him as he’d never been exposed to them. A small boy in that large house with no parents, he had been very lonely. His grandfather had been distant and busy. He knew he had affection for him but he had rarely showed it. He’d had a nanny whom he loved. She had taken care of him since he was an infant but when he was 7 his grandfather had announced he no longer needed a nanny and she had left for another position. Scott had been heartbroken. His grandfather had gruffly told him servants were paid to take of him and that he should never have affection for them. He also said that he was too old to cry and that Garrett’s never showed their emotions in public. After that he had guarded his heart and perhaps he still did to a point. But family dynamics had always interested him.
“Why Scott Lancer.” a female voice said jolting him out of his thoughts. “I assume you are bound for Morro Coyo as well?” Scott looked up at the origin of the pleasant voice. He stood up quickly taking in a beautiful young woman holding a small infant. “Minerva Reynolds and little Ben as well. Yes I’m on my way back from San Francisco. What are you doing in Stockton?”
“I’ve been taking care of my mother for a bit but she’s all better now” Minerva smiled.
“Well glad to hear it. I’ve no doubt Matt’s been missing the two of you.” Scott said lighting up the smile that went straight through to his slate blue eyes. He followed Minerva as she went to the stage to board. He helped her into the stage and followed her sitting across from her. Surprisingly they were the only ones on the stage. They visited for a time until Scott’s noticed Minerva’s eyes growing heavy.
“I’d be glad to hold him a bit so you can rest.” Scott offered in a kind voice.
Minerva looked at him in surprise. “Do most Eastern men offer to hold babies unrelated to them?” She asked in disbelief.
Scott gave a half laugh. “Well I expect not but I am not most eastern men.”
Minerva handed Scott the infant and settled down to rest. “You are unlike most men from anywhere Scott Lancer, and that is a virtue.” Min murmured tiredly closing her eyes. Scott watched the baby mesmerized by the little faces and sounds he made while asleep. An hour later the baby opened his eyes. When Scott spoke to the infant boy in a low voice he had smiled a toothless smile at him, his little fists moving around in excitement. Minerva had awakened and was taking the baby from Scott when the stage began to slow.
“Scott!” Jake shouted from above. “Four armed riders blocking the road.”
Scott looked at Minerva and the baby. “Best to try to avoid gunplay, Jake.” At that Jake slowed the horses to a stop.
“You the stage!” a voice shouted from in front of them. “Throw out your guns.”
Scott and Jake complied. “I’m going to do my best to make sure you two aren’t hurt.” He said earnestly to Min.
“Just be careful” Min said her voice filled with fear.
Johnny Lancer came out of saloon and let the bat-wing doors slam behind him. Even after enjoying a beer to pass the time, the stage was still nowhere in sight. He frowned wondering why the stage was so late. He spied Sheriff Val Crawford sitting on a bench outside the jail whittling on a piece of wood. It was a sunny, cool day. Johnny crossed the street and sat down beside Val.
`“Well hello there Johnny.” Val said. “Waiting on the stage?”
Yeah Val” Johnny said. “Scott’s due back from San Francisco. Pretty quiet around here amigo.”
“Just the way I like it buddy.” Val replied.
Jelly sat in the buckboard waiting. He was in town for supplies and now was waiting for Scott so he could take his bags back to Lancer. Johnny had tied Charlie to the wagon so Scott could ride home with him. Matt Reynolds, one of the businessmen of Green River, came up to Johnny and Val.
“Good morning Sheriff, Johnny.” Matt said in a pleasant voice. “Waiting for the stage?”
“Hiya Matt” Johnny answered. “Yeah, waiting on Scott coming in from San Francisco. You?
“Minerva’s been taking care of her mother in Stockton for a couple of weeks. She’s better now so Min is on her way home.”
Val smiled. “Expect she took the baby with her. Been kinda lonely, Matt?”
Matt grinned. “You know it Val.”
Johnny nodded. Matt and Minerva Reynolds were a young couple with a new baby who owned the Green River Feed Store. Matt Reynolds was a good looking, big man. Minerva Reynolds was a lovely tall brunette. They were a new young couple in Green River and were well liked in the community.
“Dang.” Matt said looking down the street. “Looks like I got a customer. Johnny if the stage comes in tell Min I’ll be down as soon as possible.
“Sure Matt.” Johnny said closing his eyes. Val was over making small talk with Jelly. Johnny sighed. Scott had been gone two weeks on ranch business and Johnny missed his brother. He didn’t understand it really. He had lived his life pretty much on his own. He’d had friends but when it was time to ride away he’d done so, even with Val. He had tried with Scott, had tried to leave with Wes. But the whole time his heart hadn’t been in it. He had decided to come back to Lancer even before Wes’s death. When Scott had told him “Nice to have met you brother” and had shook his hand looking sadly at him, he had known he could not leave. So he had come back even willing to make amends with Murdoch to stay at Lancer mostly because of Scott. It had hurt, hurt too much to leave his brother.
Now here he was missing Scott after 2 weeks. It was surprisingly, it was a feeling he had never experienced before. But there it was. He loved spending time with his brother. Even his relationship with Murdoch was better because of his brother. It had been rocky at first with Murdoch and he butting heads, Scott always trying to square things. But after almost leaving with Wes things had gotten much better.
But then 2 months later he and Murdoch had a huge fight with lots of yelling in the Great Room. Johnny could not even remember what it was about. Scott had come inside through the kitchen door and found Teresa weeping. Johnny smiled. Scott had strode in, his slate blue eyes snapping in anger looking every inch like Lieutenant Scott Lancer. He had dressed them down for “their insipid arguing”, “making Teresa miserable”, tearing he - Scott in two” and “ripping their family apart.” He had not yelled but his voice had made it easy to tell he was extremely angry and deadly serious. Then he had stomped into the kitchen, taken Teresa’s hand and they had both left. Scott had taken her to San Francisco, the trip Murdoch had been promising her for months. Scott had sent them a wire from Green River stating Teresa and he needed time away from Murdoch and Johnny and that he really didn’t care if Johnny and Murdoch blew each other’s heads off.
Scott bought Teresa a new wardrobe and what clothes he needed to escort her to plays, symphonies and out to dine in fancy restaurants. They had stayed in a swank hotel charging most of it to Murdoch’s account. They were gone a week and when they came back Scott’s eyes dared Murdoch to say anything. Murdoch hadn’t because Teresa had had the time of her life and she thanked Murdoch for paying for it. She had talked incessantly about what she had seen and visited. Scott had admitted that he had had a grand time too. He had looked up an old female friend from Boston living there who happened to have a brother a couple of years older than Teresa and they had all attended a ball, a play and had eaten out together. Teresa had come back smitten with him and had his address and was planning on writing to the young man.
After that Murdoch and Johnny had discussed how their fighting had affected Teresa and Scott and how much they had missed their family while they were gone. They didn’t want Teresa to be weeping and worried and Scott…well Scott had come back smiling and relaxed. Murdoch and Johnny had both had an ominous feeling that if they continued as they had been Scott might truly leave. After that they had really become a close knit family. Damn his brother had nerve Johnny thought. Johnny had decided he never wanted Scott to be that angry ever again
There was a shout from down the street. They all looked up to see Jake the stage coach driver riding up on a horse with a harness instead of a saddle.
“Sheriff!!” Jake shouted. “The stage has been robbed 5 miles outta town!!”
Val grabbed the horse’s long reins. “How many?” He asked.
“Four, but two already rode off. One of them tried to kidnap Minerva Reynolds.” Jake said excitedly. He looked at Johnny. “Your brother took exception to that Johnny. When I left he was doing his best to protect her but he was unarmed and there were two of them.”
Johnny felt his stomach drop as he started for Barranca. “Jake get the Doc to look at that arm and then tell him to come out to the stage. Jelly, get some blankets and pillows just in case and get out there as soon as you can. I’m going now.”
Val ran up beside Barranca. “Johnny I’m going to get a posse and Matt Reynolds and I will be out there directly.”
Johnny nodded to Val and started Barranca off at a gallop until he reached the stopped stage coach. Johnny pulled Barranca to a stop and jumped off. Scott was lying on the dirt road beside the stage. Min Reynolds was on her knees beside him holding her infant and crying. Johnny was frozen in fear. Scott laid on his back his hands by his sides, wearing brown trousers, a white shirt, his camel colored suit jacket and a brown ribbon tie. There was a baby blanket under his head
Johnny took a step closer. Scott’s face was relaxed, his ash blond hair in place. He looked like he was sleeping or dead. He knelt down beside his brother and felt his neck for a pulse. He sighed in relief as he felt a steady one.
Min opened her tear filled eyes. “Johnny! I am so glad to see you….Scott….” Min stopped, unable to go on. Johnny leaned over his brother. “Scott… Come on brother. Wake up! Scott!” He gently shook his brother but there was no response.
Johnny picked up Scott’s limp hand. “He’s so still. Min what happened?”
‘It was terrible, Johnny.” Min said tears flowing freely. “There were four of them. They told Scott and Jake to throw down their guns and for everyone to get out of the stage. They made me leave the baby in the stage. Then they wanted the strong box. Jake threw it down but he had a hidden pistol and he pulled it out. That’s when they shot him.” Min stopped and tried to compose herself.
Johnny noticed a little blood on the blanket beneath Scott’s head. Gently he lifted his brother up and palpated the back of Scott’s head. He felt a huge lump and a small amount of sticky blood.
“Min”? Johnny asked his voice filled with fear.
“They also took Scott’s billfold, watch and my purse. We thought it was over Johnny. Two of them even rode off. The other two were starting to mount up. But one of them looked at me and then before I knew it he grabbed me and threw me on his horse. He was so big and strong, Johnny. He started to mount up behind me. That’s when Scott pulled him off and hit him. Scott helped me down and told me to get back in the stage. Scott attacked him then and they were fighting for the man’s gun. Then the other man turned his horse around, jumped down and was trying to shoot Scott but they were rolling around and he couldn’t get a shot. Finally he grabbed his rifle”.
Min stopped meeting Johnny eyes for a moment. She looked at Scott and gently touched his hair.
“Johnny he hit him so hard…so hard with the butt of that rifle” Min said in a wretched voice. “He hurt him so badly just because he tried to help me.”
Johnny put his arm around Min who was sobbing still cradling her infant son in her arms. They both knelt beside his brother. He held Scott’s hand staring at his brother so quiet and still. His anger grew thinking about the man who had hurt his brother.
“What happened next?” Johnny said trying to fight down his anger.
Min sniffed. “During the fight Jake had unhitched a horse and took off for town. I guess they got scared and they took off. Oh Johnny, he saved me, he saved my life. Why did he do it?”
Johnny looked at her kindly. “Well see now Min, that’s my brother. He’s always doing the gentlemanly thing. So don’t blame yourself. It’s how he is.”
They both stood up at the sound of horses. It was Val and several of the town’s men along with Matt Reynolds. Sam followed in his buggy. Sam got down and ran over to Scott. Matt enveloped Min and their baby in his arms. Johnny went over to Val.
“Val” he said in a soft pleading voice. “They have about a half hour start. I can’t leave him. He’s in a bad way. They tried to bash his skull in. Please get them Val.”
Val looked at Scott lying in the road. Johnny had been a friend of his for some time. He hadn’t known Scott for long but he counted him as a friend as well. “We’ll get ‘em Johnny. Don’t ya worry none about that. Just take care of that brother of yours.”
“Thanks Val.” Johnny called as the posse rode off. Johnny walked back to Scott as Sam was examining him.
He knelt beside his brother across from Sam and looked sadly at his brother. Scott’s face was serene. There was no evidence of pain etching his face. He looked peacefully asleep, breathing shallowly except he seemed so still.
Sam looked up at Johnny his face grim. “Lift him up so I can examine his head wound, will you Johnny?” Sam asked kindly.
Johnny gently lifted his brother up. Sam examined the wound and cleaned it with alcohol. He put carbolic salve on the wound and deftly wound bandaging around Scott’s head. He removed the bloody blanket and placed a clean towel on the ground and helped Johnny lay Scott back down. Through it all Scott had no response whatsoever.
“Sam?” Johnny asked unable to keep the dread out of his voice.
Sam shook his head. “I don’t know Johnny.” He said sadly. “There are no injuries except to his head. He’s deeply unconscious. He most likely has a serious concussion. He could wake up in a few hours or 2 months from now. There is a chance he could die without waking up. He also could wake up with a multitude of disabilities. Head injuries are impossible to predict. I am so sorry, Johnny.”
Johnny put down his head trying to keep his tears back. He picked up Scott’s hand and pressed it to his cheek. “Hear that brother?” Johnny said brokenly. “Looks like we got a fight on our hands. “
Johnny looked up at Sam and Matt and Minerva Reynolds. “He was almost safely home.” He whispered. He shook his head. “Then these bastards ride up and try to kidnap a defenseless woman and hurt my brother.” He said his voice growing angry. “I will see them dead.”
Min handed their baby to her husband and knelt down beside Johnny. She touched Scott’s cheek. “Oh Scott.” She said sadly. “You are so brave. How are we ever going to repay you?”
They all looked up as Jelly pulled up in the wagon. Johnny reluctantly let go of Scott’s hand. He helped Min up.
“None of this your fault.” Johnny said firmly. “Matt could you help me get Scott in the wagon?”
“Of course.” Matt said handing the baby back to Min.
Jelly came walking up. He saw Scott. “Johnny…”
“He’s hurt real bad, Jelly.” Johnny said wretchedly. “We have to get him home.”
“I’ll get the wagon ready.” Jelly said nodding.
“I’ll take Minerva and the baby home and meet you at the ranch.” Sam said in a low concerned voice. “Just take it slow, Johnny.”
Johnny nodded. “Thanks Sam.”
Johnny took Scott’s upper body and Matt took his legs. Jelly had brought blankets and pillows from town. Jelly held Scott while Johnny got up in the wagon. He took Scott from Jelly and he and Matt carefully loaded Scott into the wagon. Johnny sat in the box sideways and put a pillow on his lap and gently laid Scott’s head on his lap. It was a long, slow trip to Lancer but Scott was oblivious to it all. His eyes were closed. There were no moans or grimaces of pain. He did not move at all.
Johnny cradled Scott in his arms speaking to him, trying to get to him to respond. “Well brother, you’ve done it again. Always trying to do the right thing. You saved that little baby’s mother. Because of you he won’t grow up motherless. I guess you know all about that, don’t you brother. It don’t seem fair that you had to be hurt though. Because you know I need you too Scott. I’ve never trusted anyone like I do you. I just wish you would open your eyes.”
Jelly grimly drove the wagon home. They had set out to pick Scott up from the stage, but not like this.
As they slowly drove up to the hacienda Johnny could see Sam was already there. Murdoch, Teresa and a few hands waited outside the French doors. Johnny let the hands carry Scott up to his room with Teresa and Sam leading the way
Johnny followed with Murdoch. “Did Sam tell you what we’re facing?” Murdoch nodded. “I can’t lose him Murdoch. I just can’t.”
“We won’t, Johnny. Scott is a strong determined young man.” His father said putting his arm around his son. “We have to hope for the best.”
Johnny and Murdoch entered Scott’s room. The hands left murmuring their sorrow over Scott’s injury. Teresa left the room while Johnny and Murdoch undressed Scott with Sam holding his head still. They put a nightshirt on and pulled the covers to his chest. Murdoch opened the door and Teresa came in. They all looked expectantly at Sam. Sam looked at Scott’s eyes and listened to his heart.
Sam looked at Lancers. “I’m sorry but there is nothing I can tell you other than we have to wait and see what happens. Scott is young and strong and he has all of you. Someone should be with him and maybe move a cot in here and have someone sleep in here with him. When someone is in here there are reports that talking to him may help” Sam said regretfully. “I’ll be back in 2 days. If he isn’t drinking anything I will put a tube into his stomach. With him being so deeply unconscious make sure you have him sitting up when you try to give him liquids. If he has no swallowing reflex and if he gags stop.”
At two days there was no improvement and Sam placed the tube in Scott’s nostril. They were given a syringe to push fluids through the tube. They pushed water and a thin broth. There was no response from Scott at all. An oil cloth was laid beneath him with padding on top and another piece of padding was placed on his groin area so it was easy to clean up when he urinated.
He was given a sponge bath on the lower part of his body every day. Every 4th day he was placed in a tub and given a bath and his bedding was changed. He was always put to bed in a different position to avoid bed sores.
They had a routine as to staying with him. Murdoch would come in right after breakfast and Johnny would be ready and would go down and eat and start his day. After breakfast Teresa and Maria would come up and with Murdoch’s help they would change the oil cloth and padding if need be and give a sponge bath or a bath. Then Scott would be given water and sugar water. Murdoch used Scott’s desk to do bookwork then and when he was done he would sit beside Scott’s bed and read to him.
At 10:00 Teresa would come in and talk to Scott. Sometimes she would sing to him or hum as she did mending or embroidery. She would give him more fluids. At 1:00 Maria came up. She continued with the Spanish lessons she had been giving Scott telling him English words and translating them into Spanish. Then Jelly would come at 4:00. If needed Scott would be cleaned up and more water and broth would be pushed into his body. Jelly would natter about different things from his past. After the family dinner Johnny would come up and sit beside his brother and hold his hand talking to him, touching his hair, his cheek, talking softly about the ranch. Depending on what position Scott was in he would rub his chest, his back, would exercise his legs and arms.
At 9:00 Murdoch came in and helped clean up Scott if needed and gave him juice. Then they would touch him on the cheek or forehead and wish him good night and head to bed, Murdoch to his room and Johnny to the cot in Scott’s room. It was a family effort to care for Scott but through all their ministering there was never any response from Scott Lancer.
On the 13th day Johnny sat with his brother after Murdoch had left for bed. It was at this time Johnny would do personal things for his brother like shaving him or cleaning his teeth. Tonight he just stared at Scott after he had shaved him. He was thinner but he was still his very handsome self. Sometimes in a saloon Johnny would peruse the two of them in the large mirror often found behind the bar. They were so striking together and people noticed, especially women. Their dark and light coloring complimented each other. Maybe it was in Johnny’s mind but the bond between them seemed evident to everyone around them and people took notice because it was a rare thing. They seemed to know what the other was thinking.
It was so special; he was so special to Johnny. Boston gave everyone the benefit of the doubt until they proved to him they didn’t deserve it. He was so intelligent and caring. He didn’t care that Johnny was a half breed or a gunfighter. In fact he bristled when people spoke in a derogatory manner about Johnny. Scott put his beliefs on the line. He had gone to war because he felt slavery was wrong and he had risked his life to end it.
Johnny sighed. God, he missed Scott. He missed the bantering between them. He smiled when he thought of some of things Scott came up with. “Sheriff didn’t see you ride up; are you running for re-election or is Johnny in trouble?” or “You’re going to know how that jail is built and know how to break out before they lock you in”.
He loved spending time with Scott. Scott made everything easier for Johnny. He trusted him completely and Scott always had his back. He loved his brother so much it scared him at times. Johnny took his brother’s hand and began to weep for everything that would be lost to him if his brother never awoke and for Scott whose life would be cut so short and for the things Scott would never see or do. He cried himself asleep his head resting on his brother’s shoulder.
Johnny awoke the morning after someone had ruffled his hair. He was still in the chair beside Scott’s bed. He looked behind him expecting to see Murdoch there. When he didn’t he looked back to his brother to find his slate blue eyes regarding him silently. The tubing was pulled out lying on the bed
“Scott!” Johnny said in surprise standing up.
“You look like hell brother.” Scott whispered hoarsely. “I feel…really confused Johnny.”
“I know, but everything is okay, Scott. I promise. You haven’t been with us for a while. Someone hurt you…hit you on the back of your head.” Johnny said reassuringly unable to keep the tears from his eyes. He sat on the edge of the bed and pulled his brother into his arms holding him close.
“I don’t understand. I woke up with that tube in my nose. I have no clothes and I think I’m lying in my own urine. Johnny what happened to me?” Scott said softly into his brother’s ear his voice confused and troubled.
“God, I’m sorry, Scott. You’ve been unconscious and you have a concussion” Johnny said in an apologetic voice. “Do you think you can sit in a chair?”
Scott nodded and Johnny helped him sit up. He wrapped a blanket around him and helped him into a comfortable leather chair.
“How long?” Scott asked looking at his brother searchingly.
“Two weeks.” Johnny replied sadly looking down. “Scott how do you feel?”
“I feel alright, maybe a little dizzy. Scott said shaking his head. “Dear God, Johnny two weeks!?”
“Yes, do you remember anything?” Johnny asked looking closely at his brother.
“I….” Scott began frowning putting his face in his hands. His head snapped up his eyes growing wide in panic. “Minerva Reynolds! No! Johnny, they were going to take her!” Scott’s breath came fast and he tried to stand up.
Johnny put his hands on Scott’s shoulders and held him in the chair. “Take it easy brother.” Johnny said in a reassuring, proud voice. “You saved her Scott. That baby has his momma today because of you.”
Scott nodded and smiled slightly relieved that the young woman was safe.
“You sit tight.” Johnny said his voice betraying the happiness he felt. “I’m gonna go get Murdoch.”
Scott closed his eyes. It was odd to think he’d been unconscious that long. He looked up as Murdoch and Teresa entered his room.
Teresa bent over and hugged him tightly. “Oh Scott….I prayed for you to wake up. We’ve been sick with worry. You mean so much to us, do you know that?” Teresa stood up tears streaming down her face.
“Teresa.” Scott said gently. “Don’t cry honey. I’m fine.” He took her hands and pulled her closer and kissed her cheek.
Murdoch smiled and put his hand on Scott’s shoulder and squeezed. “We were worried Son. It’s good to see you awake.”
Scott smiled. “Thank you sir. Apparently I’ve had plenty of rest. I am ravenous though” He looked down ruefully at the blanket covering him. “I could also wash up and get dressed.”
“We had a feeling.” Johnny said grinning. There was a knock at the door and hands came in carrying hot water filling the tub already sitting in his room. Maria came bustling in with fresh linens and with Teresa’s help stripped and remade Scott’s bed. Soon the tub was filled and soap and a towel laid on a chair beside the tub. Everyone left except Johnny who squatted in front of Scott and searched his eyes. “Can you handle getting a bath and getting dressed by yourself Boston?” he asked seriously.
Scott smiled a half smile. “I believe so Johnny. I really feel fine. I just kind of feel that I over slept a couple of hours.”
Johnny stood up. “Well, and then some.” Johnny bowed his head. “Sam said there was a chance you’d never wake up.” He said softly. “I’m glad he was wrong.”
Scott nodded and put his hand on his brother’s shoulder. He knew this was Johnny’s way of telling Scott how he felt about him. “I’m glad too.” Scott said earnestly. He lightened up his voice into the usual banter tone that they passed back and forth at times. “I’m going to get that bath. Try not to inhale all of Maria and Teresa’s cooking before I get down there.” Scott said lightly back slapping Johnny’s stomach.
“Your eyes are always too big for your stomach, Boston.” Johnny shot back as he left the room. “See you downstairs.”
Scott dropped the blanket and stood naked in front of the mirror. He sighed. He was too thin once again. Johnny was right. He had always had trouble keeping weight on. If he got ill or hurt he always lost weight. He had to work at putting it back on as he would have to this time. He got into the hot water and relaxed for a few minutes and then scrubbed himself clean. He got out and dried himself and wrapped the towel around him. He went to his closet and picked out his semi-dress clothes, black pants, white shirt. black string tie and laid them on the bed. There was a knock on the door. “Scott, its Sam. Can I come in?”
Scott opened the door. “Sam. I guess good news travels fast.” Scott said grinning at him.
“Luckily I was asked for dinner tonight.” Sam replied. “Just what do you think you are doing young man?”
Scott sighed. “I was planning on going downstairs to have dinner with my family…but I guess I need an exam first?”
“Smart man.” Sam said grinning. “Have a seat on the bed.” Sam thoroughly examined Scott. After he was done he put his hand on Scott’s shoulder. “Scott, I can’t tell you how pleased I am that everything looks so good. You can come down for dinner. I’ll wait outside. I don’t want you navigating those stairs on your own yet.”
Scott quickly dressed, ran a comb through his hair and met Sam outside his door. They came downstairs and Scott mock glared at Johnny as he whistled at him. Teresa came up and kissed his cheek. “You look nice,” she smiled. “A little thin, though.”
Scott grinned. “I’m afraid I am going to need you and Maria’s help again. Teresa nodded. She and Maria understood Scott’s problem with weight. He was not a big eater so they tried to make sure he never missed a meal. They also tried to up his caloric intake by making sure he always had food with him. Teresa always sent another piece of dessert with Scott when he went up to bed. They constantly pushed food at him and would again.
The Lancers all sat down for dinner. Murdoch realized how much they all had missed Scott. His son kept the conversation flowing. He drew Johnny out and bantered lightly with him. Scott was always careful to explain to Johnny when he and Murdoch would talk about politics or books. Where most people might become irritated with Johnny’s questions, Scott never did. He would explain things to Johnny and when Johnny would grasp a concept quickly as he most often did Scott was unabashedly proud of him. Johnny seemed to bask in the attention his older brother gave him. Teresa too was often mesmerized by what Scott said, especially about stories of his travel to Europe. He was witty and humorous and often had them laughing.
Murdoch stood up and picked up his glass of wine. “I’d like to purpose a toast. To my son, Scott Lancer who risked his life to save a young mother….we’re glad to have you back, son.” Everyone raised their glasses and welcomed him back.
Scott smiled. “Thank you everyone” he said simply looking a bit embarrassed
Scott Lancer leaned against the corral watching his brother riding an unbroken horse trying its best to unseat Johnny. It no doubt had the blood of one of the conquistador’s stallions from when Mexico and California had been settled by the Spaniards. It was a beautiful pure white stallion, a very rare color for a wild mustang. The horse didn’t stand a chance. Johnny soon had it walking around the corral doing his bidding. He dismounted and handed the reins to a hand and walked over to Scott.
“Good riding Johnny” Scott said with a smile.
“You should give it a try Boston.” Johnny said in a teasing voice.
Scott shook his head. “Perhaps someday, but I have problem with the ground.”
“Too dusty?” Johnny asked knocking the dust off his hat.
Scott grinned. “No brother, too hard.”
Johnny laughed. “Well you know what they say Scott. You should try everything at least once.”
“Hmmm, “they” do? Well “they” can ride the bucking broncos if “they” want to. I get enough ‘bone-jarring’ riding the stage to last me a lifetime.” Scott answered dryly.
Johnny lightly back-handed Scott in the stomach. “Let’s get cleaned up for dinner, brother.
They started walking back to the hacienda but stopped as “Rider Coming” was shouted by the look-out. After few minutes Val Crawford came riding up beside them.
“Hey Val.” Johnny drawled. “What are you doing out here compadre?”
Val dismounted and a hand came and took his mount. “Hey Johnny. Actually I came out here to talk to Scott. Scott you look good.”
Scott nodded. “Thanks Val. Well come on in, stay for dinner.”
Johnny added. “Yeah Val, Maria is cooking up some Mexican dishes tonight. You can watch Boston’s face here turn red.”
“Hmmm keep it up little brother and you’ll find yourself turning black and blue.” Scott said lightly.
Val grinned at the two brother’s teasing each other. “Thank you. I’d be right happy to stay.”
“I’ll clean up first.” Johnny said walking ahead giving them privacy.
“Johnny told me you caught the two men that attacked me.” Scott said in a serious voice. “Is that what you want to speak to me about?”
“Yes it is.” Val replied. “Mebbe we could talk after dinner?”
“No.” Scott said sighing. “My family should hear this too. We can talk about it at dinner, although I might have to fill Murdoch in later. He went to Morro Coyo for a Cattleman’s meeting. He may be late. ”
“Fine by me.” Val replied.
As everyone ate dinner Scott looked at expectantly at Val. “Well Val, would you care to you enlighten us?” Scott asked taking a drink of wine.
Val smiled. “If that means do I want ta tell ya what I came out here ta say Scott then the answer is yes.”
Johnny laughed. “See what I have to put up with Val?” Johnny asked. “Half the time I can’t figure out what ol’ Boston here is trying to…convey.”
Scott grinned at the confused look on Val’s face. “That’s very good Johnny. Go on, Val.”
“Scott the circuit Judge will be here next week.” Val said. “I can count on your testimony?”
“Of course, Val” Scott said without hesitation. “But there’s something else, isn’t there?”
“Wall, yes there is, Scott.” Val said looking at uncomfortably at Johnny. “Seems those two partners are still hanging about these parts. They’ve threatened Jake and he’s refusing ta testify an’ Matt is not letting Min testify either.”
“As well he shouldn’t.” Scott retorted.
“I agree Scott, I do.” Val said nodding. “I just wanna warn ya about those two. Might be a good idea ta stick close ta home until this is over.”
Johnny felt his stomach drop as he looked at Scott. “Damn it, Val no one is gonna hurt my brother again!”
Teresa stood up. “Johnny, I’m frightened!” she cried tears coming to her eyes. “Scott I don’t want you to be in danger.”
Scott stood up and went over to Teresa and took her in his arms. “Everyone hold on one minute!” he said firmly. “Teresa, it’s alright honey.“ Scott told her gently. “I am going to do exactly what our esteemed Sheriff here recommends. I am going to stick to the hacienda so don’t worry. I also have our hotheaded brother here to watch my back.”
It was later and the Lancer brothers were lounging in the Great Room. Scott had just put down his book and poured himself a brandy. He was leaning against the fireplace watching Johnny braid some leather reins. Teresa had gone to bed early.
“Boy Murdoch sure is late tonight.” Johnny said not looking up from the job he was doing. He jumped at the sound of breaking glass. He looked at Scott whose glass was lying broken at his feet where he had obviously dropped it. Johnny frowned at the stricken look on his brother’s face.
“Scott what’s wrong?” Johnny asked with concern.
“Those outlaws….I think they may have something to do with Murdoch being late.” Scott said slowly his voice filled with worry.
“Now Scott…”Johnny began. He was interrupted by a sharp rap on the door. Scott strode over and threw open the door revealing one of their younger hands, David Spencer. “David, what can I do for you?” Scott asked trying to fight back the fear rising in him. Johnny got to his feet and came and stood behind his brother.
“Evenin’ Scott” Some of the boys and I were in the saloon in Morro Coyo and some fella asked me to deliver this note to you.” David said pressing a note into Scott’s hand. Scott stared at it blankly. Johnny thanked David and shut the door. Scott opened the note and read it. He handed it to Johnny his haunted eyes leaving little surprise as to the contents. As Johnny read he did not notice Scott leave the hacienda through the side door. The note was short and to the point.
We have Murdoch Lancer. If you testify against our friends, your Father will be killed.
Johnny looked around panicking when he did not see his brother. “Scott!” Johnny yelled up the stairs. He checked the kitchen, then opened the front door and shouted for Scott. Johnny went to the couch and was pulling on his boots when Jelly came in the side door. “He’s out here. He needs ya, Johnny.” Jelly said sadly thinking about what Scott had just told him about Murdoch. Nodding Johnny patted Jelly’s shoulder as he went by. Scott was on his hands and knees dry heaving since he’d already purged everything from his stomach into the bushes.
Johnny gently rubbed Scott’s back as he continued to retch. “It’s going to be okay, Boston.” Johnny murmured.
Scott let Johnny help him up. “It’s only going to be okay when all four of those outlaws are dead.” Scott said angrily. “I’m going to make it my personal business to make sure that is exactly what happens.” With that Scott pushed by Johnny and went back into the hacienda. Scott went over to the hat tree and started buckling on his gun belt. He grabbed his jacket and hat. He looked at Jelly. “First light organize the men, have them search the ranch, line cabins, caves, everywhere. Make sure they are armed and careful. Jelly, please tell Teresa will you? Tell her I will get Murdoch back.” With that he was gone. Johnny came in and looked at Jelly quizzically. He had spent a few minutes outside in thought and when he came in there was no sign of his brother.
“He went out the front door.” Jelly told him. “Hell bent on going somewhere.”
Johnny caught up with Scott in the stable. Charlie was already saddled and Scott was petting his father’s horse with a haunted look in his eyes. “Just what do you think you are doing Scott?”
“Waiting for you Johnny. I knew you’d follow so I thought we might as well ride together.” Scott replied. “I’m heading to Spanish Wells and Green River. I’m planning on speaking to the Sheriffs and letting them know what is going on.”
Johnny nodded as he started to saddle Barranca. It was a good first move. Johnny had no trouble understanding why Scott had been a Lieutenant in the Union Army. “It’s a good plan. I wouldn’t have been able to sleep anyhow.”
The brothers rode in companionable silence to Spanish Wells. The moon was bright so they made excellent time and pulled into town just before 1:00 AM. The sheriff’s office was dark but Johnny spotted a loan figure walking the boardwalk a few blocks down. They road up and as they got closer they could see it was the sheriff of Spanish Wells on his rounds.
“We need to speak to you Gabe” Scott said grimly.
Gabe picked up on the look on the brother’s faces and the tenseness in Scott’s voice. He figured there was some trouble at Lancer. “Let’s talk in my office boys.” Soon they were sitting in his office all of them holding a cup of coffee in their hands.
“Gabe, Murdoch has been kidnapped.” Johnny explained casting a sideways look at his brother. Scott looked miserable. Johnny produced the note for Gabe to look at. Gabe could not believe that a prominent man as Murdoch had been kidnapped and that his son was being blackmailed. “What do you boys need from me?” Gabe questioned eager to help.
“We’d hoped you could ask around town tomorrow and see if anyone saw anything especially the Cattlemen Association members. Murdoch was at a meeting earlier in Morro Coyo. Gabe if you could get a posse tomorrow and start searching abandoned buildings, caves, anything you can think of….” Scott said in a monotone voice. “Well we would appreciate it. I wrote down descriptions of the two outlaws.” Scott stood up his blue eyes dull and worry filled. He handed Gabe a slip of paper. “Excuse me …. Scott began. He shook his head and left the jail.
“Thank you for your help, Gabe.” Johnny said gratefully extending his hand. “Let us know if you hear or find anything.”
“I’ll do my best, Johnny.” Gabe assured him shaking his hand. “Scott seems to be taking this real hard.”
“Yeah Gabe. He is.” Johnny nodded and left the office.
Next they turned toward Green River. Johnny watched Scott out of the corner of his eye. It had only been 3 weeks since Scott had awakened and Sam still had him on light duty. Scott still suffered from occasional headaches and with the way Scott had looked when they left Spanish Wells Johnny figured he had one. Plus Scott looked completely exhausted. Now Scott had both hands wrapped around the saddle horn. He rode next to Johnny except for a little farther back and he was fast asleep in the saddle. Johnny shook his head. He didn’t know how Scott did it but he could do it at a walk, trot or canter. Scott had told him that many times when you were on the move in the war it was the only way you could get any rest. Of course, he had added the horse had to know the way to the destination or follow other animals like Charlie was following Barranca now. Johnny smiled. At the time he had asked Scott if he had ever fallen off. Scott had replied ‘just once.’
Johnny closed his eyes for a moment. He was worried about his father as well as his brother. Those two outlaws had played their cards well. They had calculated that a note to Jake threatening his wife would be enough to change his mind about testifying. As it was that was all it took for Matt Reynolds to refuse to let Minerva testify as well. Somehow they had known Scott would not back down with a veiled threat like that and they had quickly abducted Murdoch before Val could warn them. Johnny looked back at his brother who still had his eyes closed. They hadn’t even talked about what Scott would do if they didn’t find Murdoch before Scott was scheduled to testify. Johnny knew what his father would want Scott to do. Murdoch Lancer would not want his son to back down and Johnny was sure Scott knew that too. Johnny looked back at his brother again. They were on the outskirts of Green River. Scott’s eyes were open but they were dull as they regarded Johnny.
“How’s your headache, Scott?” Johnny asked quietly.
A smile played around Scott’s lips that Johnny knew he had a headache even though he had done his best to hide it. “It’s better.”
“It’s still pretty early. Let’s get some breakfast before we talk to Val, huh? I’m about starving.” Johnny said over his shoulder.
“I’m not sure how much of an appetite I have but some coffee sounds good, anything but that swill Val brews” Scott replied.
Sam Jenkins watched the Lancer brothers dismount through the cantina window. Johnny wore his normal passive face. It was the face Johnny always wore in public and it betrayed none of his thoughts or feelings. It wasn’t anything Johnny willed himself to do. It was now natural to him. Scott had the same talent of hiding his feelings but it was something he had to tell himself to do and right now on looking at Scott’s face something was decidedly wrong. Sam motioned for the boys to come and join him. The boys sat down and exchanged pleasantries. Johnny had his easy smile but Scott seemed almost sullen staring down at his hands. A waitress came over asking for their order. Scott seemed not to notice so Johnny ordered bacon, eggs, biscuits and coffee for both of them.
“Murdoch has been kidnapped.” Scott said in a monotone voice.
Johnny looked at his brother in surprise. “Dang Boston. Nothing like cutting to the chase.”
Sam looked at Scott and Johnny in shock. He waited for one of them to continue. “It’s those 2 men from the stagecoach hold-up. They kidnapped Murdoch last night on his way home from a Cattleman’s meeting and they are blackmailing Scott not to testify.” Johnny explained tersely. “We’ve been to Spanish Wells to talk to Gabe. We’re talking to Val next.”
Sam shook his head in disbelief. He was worried about his old friend and his sons. Johnny kept glancing furtively at his brother. Scott seemed distant and deep in thought. Both of the men looked exhausted but Sam was concerned about Scott. He was 3 weeks out from awakening from a serious head injury. After being bedridden for 2 weeks his stamina was still reduced and he had no reserves to call on.
“Obviously you boys rode all night.” Sam said in a worried voice. “Scott, how bad is your headache? You really need to rest, son.”
“I can’t seem to shake it.” Scott said his voice filled with stress and bitterness. “Sam, some men have taken my father. We don’t know where he is Sam! He could be hurt. I can’t rest Sam. Murdoch needs us!”
Johnny put his hand on Scott’s forearm. “We’re worried about our father Sam.” Johnny stopped as the waitress brought over 4 plates of food and filled 4 cups of coffee.
“I forgot to mention I usually eat breakfast with Val when I have clinic here. He has a standing order for 7:00.” Sam said apologetically. “Here he is now.”
Val sat down with a confused look on his face. “Scott and Johnny Lancer…good morning amigos. What are you doing in Green River so early?”
“We need your help, Val” Scott replied desperately. “Murdoch never made it home from the Cattlemen’s meeting last night. Those two stagecoach robbers have him.”
“Damn it all to hell!!” Val said pounding his fist on the table.
Sam raised his hand. “Let’s take a few minutes to eat then you fellas can talk this out.”
Johnny nodded. “Good idea Sam. I’m starved. Brother you should eat some too.”
Scott nodded and took a bite of eggs. He should be hungry he supposed since he hadn’t kept dinner down the night before but he really had no appetite. He had to get a hold of himself he thought. Worry and fear were controlling him. He looked up to find Johnny watching him. He knew Johnny was worried about him and Scott chastised himself about that. Johnny had enough on his mind with Murdoch’s kidnapping. Scott gave Johnny a reassuring smile and ate because he knew Johnny would worry less about him if he did.
Johnny returned Scott’s smile. He felt relief. Scott hadn’t been himself all night but now it seemed as if he was coming to terms about the situation they were in. He watched Scott finish his breakfast. He knew Sam was right that Scott needed rest but he also knew how stubborn his brother could be and that Scott wouldn’t let himself rest until he was practically falling down. Johnny realized that he would probably have to intercede before that happened. But now he handed Val the note from the kidnappers.
“Val, I know you are spread thin covering Green River and Morro Coyo until they find a sheriff. “ Scott said in a calm voice as he poured himself more coffee. “We’ve been to see Gabe and he’s forming a search party to search around Spanish Wells for their hide-out. We were hoping you could do the same around Green River and send your deputy or deputize someone to organize a search around Morro Coyo. Lancer hands are searching the ranch as we speak.”
“That’s a good plan, Scott” Val said. “They got to be hold up somewhere.”
“I don’t know about you Johnny but I’m riding with the Morro Coyo search party. “ Scott said downing his coffee. “I have a feeling they are close.”
“I’m with you, brother.” Johnny said noticing Sam’s nod of approval.
Scott stood up. “Val, we have 6 days. If we haven’t found Murdoch by then, I can’t testify. I’m sorry.” Scott said abruptly and left the cantina.
Val sighed. “Can’t blame him, I guess. Johnny, I’m making you deputy over at Morro Coyo. I can’t spare my deputy. I need someone to guard those jaspers already locked up in my jail. Besides I need you to keep an eye on Scott. He seems wound kind of tight right now.” Val fished in his pocket and brought out a key and handed it to Johnny. “Key to the jail.”
“I agree with, Val.” Sam said. “Scott is taking this hard but so are you. The only difference is he’s not trying to hide it.”
Johnny took the key. “I hear you, Sam. Val, let’s keep in touch by wire,” He said following his brother.
Murdoch lay on a cot in one of Lancer’s line shacks. His right wrist was handcuffed to the cot’s metal frame. He was in a very small room separated from the rest of the cabin with a very thick quilt in the doorway. He was exceedingly angry. He had been waylayed on his way home and had spent the night bound and gagged in the back of his own wagon, cold and uncomfortable. They had made it known to him who they were and why he was being held captive. The wagon and horses had been hidden in a ravine not far from one of the Lancer line shacks. The outlaws had watched the shack until about noon when Lancer hands had searched the shack. After they had ridden off the horses had been put into the lean to stable and they had moved in. It was doubtful the shack would be searched again at least for days. He was also angry that Scott was being black mailed. A paroxysm of coughing racked Murdoch. To make matters worse the cold night had had an effect on him. Murdoch Lancer was becoming ill.
Johnny came out of the cantina and stopped. Scott was standing by Charlie, his head resting on the saddle. Johnny felt a pang of worry. Just how was Scott holding up? He had a flash of his brother lying on his bed nonresponsive. It had been just 3 weeks ago. He knew Scott was not completely recovered from that ordeal. How much could his brother take physically or emotionally? Scott seemed fragile as Sam had thought and even wound tight as Val had noted. Johnny fought down his worry. Scott had a quiet strong inner core strength that few people knew about. He knew his brother would draw on that but would that be enough? His brother had to be under pressure. If he knew Scott he was blaming himself for Murdoch’s kidnapping, second guessing himself on not testifying and probably worried Murdoch would be disappointed that Scott had backed down. And physically Scott was still below his normal weight and he still tired easily.
“Johnny” Scott said a bit sharply looking at his brother deep in thought. “I’m alright. Don’t worry about me brother. We have to focus on finding Murdoch!”
“Fine Scott!” Johnny retorted. “Just keep up with me. I don’t want to have to pick you up off the ground!” Johnny mounted Barranca and left his brother in the dust. It took a while for Scott to catch up and they rode at a gallop for a long way before finally pulling to a walk so the horses could rest.
“Listen Scott. I’m sorry…” Johnny began his voice apologetic.
“No.!” Scott said firmly. “I’m sorry. I admit I am on edge. Our father needs us Johnny…and I’m afraid I am going to fail him. I’m afraid my body will betray me and I won’t be able to help him.” Scott stopped. He was miserable. He’d been happy this last year, truly happy. He knew that his father could be hurt or dead. He wasn’t sure that he could bear losing his father.
“Boston…stop eating yourself up over this. You’ll do what you can and that will be enough. Besides you have Deputy Lancer here to make sure that you’re used to the best of your abilities.” Johnny said lightly.
“Val deputized you?” Scott couldn’t help but smile. “He picked a good man.” Scott meant it. He fiercely loved his brother. He had been through so much, had been so alone after his mother died. Scott often felt ashamed to think of what Johnny had had compared to himself. He had had the best of everything and Johnny sometimes had not had even food.
Scott had never known that he was unhappy until he came to Lancer and had gotten to know his father and brother. He had never felt whole before then. He shook his head. How a young boy and then young man had craved his grandfather’s attention. So much so that he discovered a way to win that attention. It was to excel in his short life and bring pride to the Garrett name and make his Grandfather proud of him. And he had. He had won countless awards in spelling, science and composition when he was young. His grades had been perfect. Then in his teens and college years he had excelled in sports; track, baseball, football and rowing, not to mention numerous awards in the academics and perfect grades.
And why had he driven and pushed himself? Because he had discovered his Grandfather attended the award ceremonies, had put his hand on Scott’s shoulder and told him how proud he was of him. His grandfather had adored the attention he got from friends and colleagues telling him what a good job he had done raising Scott, how intelligence and athletic ability ran in the Garrett family. When Scott was older his grandfather had given parties in Scott’s honor. He’d rarely spoke to Scott at these parties after the prideful introduction of his grandson. He had even enlisted partly to make his grandfather proud of him and even though the old man had been against it, when Scott had marched away he saw pride in his grandfather’s eyes.
But after the war Scott had been weak and tired. He realized whatever he did it would never be enough for his grandfather. He had finished Harvard and had been on a womanizing spree until receiving Murdoch’s request. He knew his grandfather expected him to join the business and excel there as usual but he just could not. His grandfather’s affection for him was superficial at best. And so he had come to Lancer and found happiness. But now part of that happiness was being threatened, his father was being threatened. And somehow they had to get him back safely.
“What are you thinking about over there Scott?” Johnny asked curiously.
“Well Deputy Lancer.” Scott said with a smirk. “ I was thinking while you go to Morro Coyo to round up a posse, I’m going to turn off and go the ranch and check on Teresa and see how the ranch search is going. I’m worried about her. Where will you search first?”
“East of town to the ranch border.” Johnny said. “Tell Teresa we are doing our best”
Scott nodded. “I’ll meet up with you later.” And with that Scott turned off towards Lancer. His thoughts shifted back to Boston and his grandfather. His grandfather had given him the best of everything, clothes, schools, horses everything. Whatever he wanted he got. How could he justify being unhappy to Johnny while he had lived in the lap of luxury until he was 18 and had enlisted? He couldn’t. He’d been safe, had food and shelter. Johnny had had to turn to the gun. He chastised himself. He was a selfish ingrate. He had to think of his brother who had seen his mother killed, had been frightened and all alone. Scott, at least, had always felt safe. Johnny had had so much loss in his life, so much strife. Yet through it all he had managed to turn his life around and become Johnny Lancer. Johnny was the most remarkable person he had ever met. To have gone through what he had at such a young age and come through it a kind and sensitive young man with very little anger and bitterness amazed Scott. He loved his brother completely and it galled him when people looked down on him because he was half Mexican. After his visit Scott had realized his Grandfather was one of those people and that was something he could never forgive him for. They had both found their father and their relationship was stronger than ever. Scott knew how much Johnny and Teresa needed their father.
“I’ll get him back for you Johnny…Teresa “ he said to no one. “Somehow I have to make this right.”
Teresa and Jelly came out of the hacienda as Scott rode up. A hand came for Charlie and Scott asked him to saddle a fresh horse. Scott held his arm out for Teresa and he drew her to his side his arm around her shoulder as they walked into the house. “Nothing yet, Teresa.” Scott said his voice kind. “Could you ask Maria to make up some sandwiches for Johnny and me? Then come back in the Great Room. “ Scott sank down in a stuffed chair and closed his eyes. He was bone tired. “How’s the search going on the ranch, Jelly?” Scott asked tiredly.
“Good but no one’s found anything.” Jelly replied. “Boy you don’t look well.”
“No sleep last night.” Scott said ruefully. “I’ll get some tonight.”
Teresa came in carrying a sack of food. Scott carefully explained to Teresa and Jelly what was being done to find Murdoch. He told Teresa they would not be back until after dark, kissed her cheek and was gone. He met up with Johnny and the posse and they searched until dark. Plans were made to meet in Morro Coyo at 7:00 AM the next morning. Scott and Johnny rode wearily back to Lancer.
“I’m having a hard time with this Johnny. Teresa was so brave earlier when I came back” Scott said sadly. “Murdoch means so much to her. He’s been in her life since she was born…. She’s so young and she’s lost so much.”
Johnny looked at his brother. Scott looked terrible. It was obvious his head was still aching and he looked exhausted. “Scott I hope you ain’t still blaming yourself for all of this because you ain’t to blame.”
“I disagree Johnny.” Scott said bitterly as they dismounted and handed their mounts off to a hand. “The only link between those men and all of you is me.”
“Now Scott…..” Johnny began but stopped when Teresa opened the door and welcomed them in,
Teresa took one look at them and shook her head. “You both look worn out. Clean up and come in to the kitchen. I have some food for you.”
Scott nodded and headed toward the bath house to wash up in the sink. Teresa turned to Johnny. “Is he okay, Johnny? I don’t like his color. It seems like he’s in pain, not just tired out.”
“Queirda, he needs sleep is all.” Johnny said in a reassuring voice. “We’ll get some food in him and he and I will both turn in.”
Teresa nodded and went into the kitchen and dished up stew, fresh baked bread and apple pie for her brothers. Johnny quietly told Teresa about the day’s events during the search. Johnny ate his food and half of Scott’s too. Teresa grinned happy that Scott had eaten as much as he did. She knew when Scott was upset his appetite usually went down to nil. Afterwards Johnny murmured they should get some sleep. Teresa went over and enveloped them both in a hug and for a short time the 3 Lancer children stood in an embrace drawing strength and comfort from each other. Teresa stepped back “You two go rest. I’ll have a quick breakfast ready when you get up.” Scott kissed Teresa’s forehead and left the kitchen. Johnny kissed her forehead also. “It will be alright Teresa” he whispered. He walked into the Great Room and noticed Scott standing at the bottom of the stairs, head bowed holding on to the railing post.
“Johnny…..help.” Scott said in a low desperate voice. Johnny reached Scott just before his knees started buckle. “Please get me upstairs….I don’t want Teresa to see me like this.” Scott panted.
Johnny half dragged, half carried his brother up the stairs into his room and helped him sit on the bed. Johnny squatted down in front of his brother. “Scott what’s wrong?”
“My head” Scott groaned. “God…it hurts. I got so dizzy”
“You need rest, brother” Johnny said removing Scott’s clothes except for his underwear. Johnny pushed him back and put him to bed. “Do you want a little laudanum to take the edge off, Boston?” Scott didn’t answer and Johnny realized that Scott was already asleep. Johnny felt Scott’s forehead for any sign of fever and after finding none went to his room and was soon asleep himself.
Ten miles away in one of the Lancer line shacks Murdoch Lancer shivered still cuffed to the bed he was lying on. His coughing spasms took his breath away and he knew he was running a high fever. The two men that were holding him captive first names were Silas and Will and they were brothers and the two in jail were their cousins. They let Murdoch see to his needs twice a day and gave him food once a day. As far as Murdoch was concerned he didn’t care if he ever saw them. They seemed to take pleasure making threats against Scott and berating his eldest son’s character. They threatened Scott’s life several times even describing how they wanted to hang his son just the way Scott’s testimony would send their cousins to the gallows. According to those two Scott had abandoned his family and headed back to Boston to save his own skin. Murdoch didn’t believe them but knowing his family they were suffering with him missing. He was worried that somehow Scott and Johnny would do something rash.
In the next room, the two outlaws were discussing a change in plans. Murdoch Lancer was becoming sicker by the minute. There was still 5 days until the judge came to town. It was getting too dangerous to stay around here. Too many people were searching for them. There was only one way that they could leave the area immediately and still make sure that their relatives would be set free and that was to kill Scott Lancer. Without a witness their cousins would be released and Silas and Will would be long gone. They could meet up later well away from here. Their only problem was getting to Scott Lancer and killing him without being caught.
Scott knelt on the ground by his father’s body frantically searching for a pulse. He couldn’t find one but he kept trying. “No Murdoch, No! Please don’t do this…we need you. Johnny and Teresa need you.” Scott shouted desperately. Then Scott’s voice quieted and became heartbroken. “You can’t be dead Murdoch…..you just can’t be. How am I going to tell Johnny and Teresa? I can’t….I can’t do it.” Scott began to sob. He heard Johnny’s voice calling his name several times. He opened his tearful eyes. He was in his room with Johnny standing over him. Scott sat up trying to catch his breath. “Nightmare” He said hoarsely.
Johnny put his hand on his brother’s shoulder. “Scott, you’re shaking. It’s alright brother.” Johnny said in a consoling voice.
Scott sighed. “I’m alright. I’m sorry I woke you, Johnny. Go back to bed.” Johnny nodded and went back to his room. He got back in bed. He felt anger rising toward the four outlaws who had turned their worlds upside down. Scott laid back his face troubled. He had the feeling that Murdoch really needed them and he could not shake it. Both brothers eventually fell back into restless sleep. Morning came and Johnny was surprised that Scott was up and already downstairs. He came into the kitchen. Scott was sitting at the table with a cup of coffee in front of him. Scott looked better to Johnny’s relief. Teresa was dishing up bacon, biscuits and scrambled eggs. She set a plate of food in front of both brothers. She met Johnny’s eyes from behind Scott and shook her head.
“Good morning Scott, Teresa” Johnny said as Teresa gave him a cup of coffee. “Scott how are you feeling today?”
Scott looked up. “My headache is down to a dull ache, but I keep having dizzy spells where the room just spins.” Scott said in a defeated voice. “I can’t ride Johnny. I’d only slow you down.”
“Morning Johnny. Scott and I were talking this morning. He didn’t sleep well last night” Teresa said in a matter of fact voice. “I suggested that he rest on the couch this morning and if he felt better Jelly and he could take the buggy out and join the hands on the search. Sam said headaches and dizziness were to be expected.”
Johnny watched his brother push his food around on his plate. Scott looked dejected. “That’s a good plan Teresa.” Johnny said as he ate. He knew the last thing Scott wanted was to sit here while Murdoch was in danger. But he also knew his brother understood his limits and there was no way Scott would want his illness to slow the search in any way. “Scott, listen..I’ll come back noon, get something to eat and then you, I and Jelly can go out.”
“Sounds good Johnny” Scott replied. Johnny gave his brother’s arm a tap and left.
Silas and Will Barns had spent half the night scheming to get Scott Lancer to come to them so they could kill him. They needed to get far away immediately before they were caught. Silas figured he was the brains of their little gang but he hardly had a gang without his cousins. Old man Lancer wasn’t long for the world unless he got proper care, maybe not even then. It wasn’t like they weren’t wanted for murder down in Arizona. They’d been heading for Wyoming when they’d needed money. Scott Lancer had ruined all that. Silas remembered the distain on Scott’s face during the robbery. He’d heard about the Lancer’s spread and had even saw Scott Lancer in Morro Coyo when they were staking out the stage schedule. Spoiled rotten daddy’s boy. It had been bad luck Lancer was on that stage. He would pay with his life for interfering. Silas had a plan that would put Will and himself in very little jeopardy and would deliver Scott Lancer to them. Once Scott was dead there would be no witness against their cousins and that scruffy sheriff in Green River would have to release them. They would do to Murdoch’s eldest son what he had wanted to do to them. The two of them loaded Murdoch in his wagon and spent the rest of the night traveling cross country. Murdoch was aware they were moving him and the night air chilled him two the bone. But what was worse was that it was so difficult to breathe.
Scott Lancer rested on the couch in the Great Room. He was trying to read but his thoughts wouldn’t let him. His headache was growing worse again. He was angry at his weakness. He felt it in the pit of his stomach that Murdoch needed him. Scott sat up at a rap at the door. He got up slowly to avoid dizziness and went to answer the door. He was surprised to see 12 year old Tim Carver at the door. His family owned a small spread north of Lancer.
“Tim what brings you here?” Scott asked in surprise. The boy looked frightened.
“Scott!” Tim said in relief. “I was fishing up at the lake south of our place and this man came up to me. He gave me a dollar to bring you this letter. Scott, he said it was a matter of life or death.”
Scott took the letter. “Tim thank you. I want you to ride home now. There are some outlaws loose in these parts.” Tim nodded and Scott patted him on the back. Scott shut the door and leaned against it and opened the
Your pa is vary sick. He needs a docter to save him. Will let him go if you take his plas. Meet at Lone Pine in a hour No guns. Come alone with fix it man. Cross us and yer pa will die.
Scott’s breath caught. He opened the door and went out and shouted for Jelly. Walt was out by the corral and looked up. Scott waved him over.e H
“Walt” Scott said running over to him. “I need 2 horses saddled immediately and brought up. Send a hand for Doc Jenkins.” Walt took one look at Scott’s face and heard the urgency in his voice and nodded and ran to the stable.
Jelly came out of his rooms and realized something was going on. “Scott! What is it boy?”
Scott came over to the old man and handed him the letter. Jelly read the letter and looked at Scott in shock. “I’m sure you’re hell bent on goin’. I ain’t about to let you go alone. But Scott, we should git help. They as like want to kill you.”
Scott looked at his friend and shook his head. “We have to come alone Jelly. You know the Lone Pine. It sits on top of a rise. You can see someone coming for miles and behind it there are rocky badlands. If we don’t come alone they could easily kill Murdoch and disappear in there.”
“But Scott.” Jelly said trying to reason with Scott. “The boss wouldn’t want you to risk your life. And Johnny will have my hide.”
“I know I’m risking my life. Jelly there is a risk to you so you have to be sure. Murdoch is my father and I have to do this. He’s sick, Jelly, he could die. He needs my help and I can’t turn my back on him.” Scott stopped and bowed his head his voice anguished. “I know it could all end badly but there is no other choice for me. I have to try for Johnny and Teresa and for myself. I couldn’t live with myself if I just let him die.”
Jelly put his hand on Scott’s shoulder. “Come on Scott. We best get goin.’ “ Jelly said sadly.
Walt came up with the horses. Scott took his horse and Jelly got the other one and mounted. “Walt, send a hand for Doc Jenkins. You stay up here at the house and guard Teresa. Keep her in the house. I expect Johnny at noon. I want you to give him this letter and have a fresh horse saddled for him.” Scott took off his gun belt and handed it to Walt and swung up into the saddle.
Scott and Jelly rode towards the lone pine. Scott’s mind was racing running scenario after scenario. He realized that the time frame of the scenarios was from the time they got there until Jelly was well on his way home with his father. He knew it didn’t extend further because he didn’t feel he was going to survive. I am going to do everything in my power to make sure they get away Scott thought. “Jelly when we get there tie your horse to the wagon and get in to the wagon seat unless they strongly protest. I’m going to try and get a few minutes with Murdoch. After that I want you to go hard until we are out of sight.” Scott said his voice tense. Charlie was dancing sideways. Charlie could feel the tension in Scott and it was making him nervous. Scott patted his neck and murmured to him.
“What about ya, Scott? Jelly asked sadly. “What do I tell Murdoch, Johnny and Teresa if somethin’ happens to ya?”
Scott smiled ruefully at Jelly. “If things go badly tell them..I’m sorry but I did what I thought was best. Tell them that this past year has been the happiest of my life.”
Jelly bowed his head. He felt miserable knowing what the Boss’s eldest son might be facing but there was little he could do about it. They were close to Lone Pine now and they could see 2 riders and a horse and wagon beside the tall tree. Scott set Charlie to a lope. As they came up both men had their guns out. Scott pulled Charlie up and dismounted and went to the back of the wagon. His father was lying flat in the wagon bed with no blankets or pillows underneath him. Murdoch’s eyes were closed and his breath was ragged and raspy. Worse his lips and the area around his lips was tinged blue. Jelly had just finished tying up his horse and was heading to the wagon seat. Scott went to Jelly’s horse and began to unsaddle it.
“Lancer!” Silas yelled. “What in the hell do you think you are doing?”
Scott glared at him. “I need a few minutes with my father!” Scott said firmly. “After that I promise I won’t cause you any problems.” Silas snorted but didn’t say anything else. Scott threw the saddle and blanket in the wagon and got up beside his father. He gently pulled Murdoch forward and pulled the saddle beneath him and laid Murdoch back down. He folded the saddle blanket and placed that under Murdoch’s neck and head. Murdoch was now propped up and hopefully would be able to breath better. Murdoch opened his eyes. He became agitated when he saw Scott. Murdoch grabbed Scott’s hand. “Son!” he rasped. “No! You can’t do this. Scott! Scott gently pulled his hand away. He took off his jacket and placed it around Murdoch’s shaking shoulders. Scott leaned down. “Murdoch take it easy. You get well, Sir.” He whispered tenderly. Scott got out of the wagon. “Go’” he said in a low voice to Jelly. As Jelly started the wagon Scott turned to the outlaws and raised his hands.
Silas dismounted and turned Scott around and pushed him against Charlie while Will covered them. He tied Scott’s hands behind his back tightly. “Get on your horse.” Silas growled. Scott put his foot in the stirrup and Silas helped him up. Silas mounted his horse and grabbed Charlie’s reins and they all 3 started east. Jelly kept looking back and noted which way they were headed. Jelly looked back at Murdoch. Murdoch’s eyes were closed and he seemed to be breathing easier. Jelly urged the horses to go faster.
Johnny was on the way back to Lancer to pick up Scott when he noticed a wagon going toward the ranch place just passing under the arch. Johnny kicked Barranca into a gallop. It looked like the wagon Murdoch had been in when he had disappeared and Jelly was driving. Johnny caught up as Jelly pulled up to the hacienda. It was a very confusing few minutes for Johnny. He went to his father who seemed to be asleep in the wagon. Teresa came running out. Both Jelly and Walt were trying to speak to him. His father looked pale and his breathing was labored. Sam came riding up in his buggy. “Murdoch!” Johnny said in relief as Murdoch’s eyes fluttered open.. “Thank God!”
“Murdoch we were so worried about you” Teresa gushed smiling.
Murdoch Lancer looked at both of his children. “Scott!”
Murdoch said looking around in a panic. Johnny looked at Teresa “Where’s Scott?” he asked her. Teresa shook her head. “I don’t know. I haven’t seen him in a while.”
Jelly grabbed Johnny arm. “Johnny they have him!!” Jelly yelled. “Those outlaws have Scott. Walt chimed in. “Johnny, Scott wanted me to give you this as soon as you got back. He had me saddle a fresh horse for you” Walt handed him the letter and pointed at the horse. Johnny read it and looked at Jelly in shock. “No!” Johnny said in dread.
“That’s what I been trying to tell ya, Johnny. Scott traded his self for Murdoch. We jest now got back.” Jelly said desperately. “They headed east from Loan Pine.”
Murdoch grabbed Johnny’s arm. “Son! They mean to hang Scott! I heard them talking.” Murdoch said in a raspy panicked voice. With that Murdoch began another paroxysm of coughing. Sam had come running up and started listening to Murdoch’s chest. “Take good care of him Sam” Johnny said. He told a couple of hands to take Murdoch to his room. Teresa stood with her hand over mouth. Sam put his arm around her. Let Johnny and the men help Scott. I need your help with Murdoch” He said as he guided her to the house.
Johnny’s mind raced. They were going to hang his brother?? He looked at Jelly. “There’s only scrub and a few pines up there….” Johnny began. “Oh God, I think I know where they’re going! That huge oak 15 miles east of lone pine.”
Jelly nodded. “Johnny’s it’s only 6 miles north of the ranch. Johnny grabbed his rifle off Barranca and jumped on the fresh horse. “Jelly send a few hands to track down Val and call off the search! Tell Val we need him here! `Johnny shouted as he sent his horse north. Walt had picked a young fast horse and Johnny was grateful. It was few and far between that Johnny had ever felt so frightened. If he was wrong Scott would die and if he was too late Scott would die too.
Scott Lancer sat on Charlie his hands tied behind his back. The one called Will was up the tree tying a noose to the thick branch of a tree. The other called Silas was holding Charlie’s reins with a gun pointed at Scott. Scott knew he was going to die by hanging. They had babbled on and on for the last 15 miles on how they had won out over the high and mighty Lancers, how he was going to hang instead of their cousins. Scott had accepted his impending death. He was sick of the two outlaws. He had a splitting headache and there was a buzzing in his ears along with the irritating voice of Silas. Will was on his horse now putting the noose over Scott’s head. Silas was talking again about Scott meeting his maker.
“Shut up!” Scott said in anger. “I’ll see you two in hell! My brother is going to track you down and kill the both of you for this.”
Silas laughed. “You mean that half breed brother of yours, Johnny Lancer?”
Scott snorted. “Oh he was born Johnny Lancer but he’s best known as Johnny Madrid. You two are dead men as sure as I.” Scott would have laughed at the looks on their faces had his situation not been so dire. Will moved out of Scott’s line of vision. Scott thought he heard a shot but he wasn’t sure. Scott closed his eyes. Charlie began to walk out from underneath him. He knew there wasn’t enough drop to break his neck and that he was going to be slowly strangled. He could only hope unconsciousness came quickly. He couldn’t breathe now. Scott fought down the panic rising in him. It would only be a minute or so he hoped. Scott opened his eyes. The outlaws were gone. He could see another beautiful panoramic view of Lancer. He asked God to help his family and to have mercy on his soul. He wondered if he would finally get to see his mother. Scott’s last thoughts were of his family. His vision began to darken. Scott knew he would never leave Lancer again. That thought gave Scott a feeling of peace as everything went black.
Johnny came over a small hill and he could see the 3 men. Scott sat on Charlie his back towards Johnny. His hands were bound behind his back. One of the outlaws was on a horse beside Scott and he was putting a noose around Scott’s neck. The other man was on the ground holding Charlie’s reins. Johnny sighed in relief and urged his horse faster. Scott was still alive and that meant he had a chance. The man on horseback moved behind Scott. Johnny raised his gun, carefully aimed his gun and fired. The man on the horse fell dead. The other man had spied Johnny and ran out and was raising his gun to shoot at Johnny. Charlie started walking and Scott came off his back. Johnny brought the gun over quickly and fired. The other man went down. Johnny was in a panic now. It felt like it took forever to get to Scott. Johnny pulled Scott on to the saddle sideways in front of him. Johnny got his knife out of his boot and cut through the rope above Scott. As it fell away the young horse shied sideways and Johnny and Scott both fell heavily to the ground. Johnny frantically loosed the noose around Scott’s neck and removed it. He sat up and pulled Scott into his lap. Scott’s head was on his shoulder, his eyes closed.
“Scott! Scott!! Come on brother!! Johnny called in a raised frightened voice. He shook his brother and then searched for a pulse on Scott’s abraded neck. He couldn’t seem to find one. “Damn it Boston!! Don’t you dare!! Johnny shook Scott again and was rewarded when Scott coughed and drew in a raspy breath. He had another coughing spell and drew in more air. Scott seemed agitated as he fought to regain consciousness. Johnny held him and spoke to him in a low reassuring voice. “Scott it’s alright. You’re safe now. We’re going to get you home.” Scott’s eyes fluttered open.
“Johnny when is this nightmare going to end?” Scott said in an anguished, raspy voice. Scott felt totally drained. He didn’t think he could even raise his head from Johnny’s shoulder. He was shaking badly and he couldn’t seem to control it. His head ached almost unbearably. His neck and throat were painful. He was surprised to be alive and thankful. He opened his mouth to thank his brother but found he had no voice left.
“It will be over in a few days, Scott.” Johnny said in a soothing voice. “I took care of these two and you will take care of the other two when you testify.” Johnny was relieved to see 3 Lancer hands ride up and Jelly come over hill with the wagon. He was worried about his brother. He had grown very quiet and he was still shaking. Johnny just wanted to get Scott back to Lancer and have Sam look him over.
Walt dismounted and came over to Johnny. “Johnny, what can we do to help?”
Johnny looked up from where he was sitting on the ground holding his brother. Walt looked at Johnny with concern. “We need to get Scott back to Lancer as soon as possible. Tie those bodies to their horses and bring them back to Lancer.” Johnny replied. “ Get our horses and bring them back.” Jelly drove up and got down off the wagon. “Johnny! Is he?!”
“No Jelly. He’s alive. Let’s get him back home.” Johnny said grimly. Scott opened his eyes when Jelly spoke. “Murdoch?” Scott rasped painfully.
“Murdoch is worrying himself sick over you boys, especially Scott. He’s much better than when we first saw him, Scott. Propping him up was jest what he needed.” Jelly replied. Scott sighed in relief. He was gently picked up and then handed back to Johnny in the wagon. Jelly set them team toward Lancer. Johnny cradled Scot in his arms and listened to his brother’s breathy speech. “Thank you for coming after me.” Scott managed to get out. “You scared five years off my life, Boston. Don’t you ever do anything like that again!” Johnny tried to sound angry but all he ended up doing was holding Scott closer to him.
Scott was able to walk into the hiacenda with Johnny’s help and the shaking as better. Sam was downstairs waiting for them. “How’s Murdoch, Sam?” Johnny asked in a concerned voice.
“He’s holding his own Johnny. Right now he’s so worried he can’t rest. He needs to see both of you, especially you Scott. I can’t give him anything to help him sleep because of his breathing.” Sam looked at Scott doubtfully. “Can you go in to see him Scott?”
Scott nodded. “If…Johnny does….the talking.” Scott rasped in agony.
“Okay, let’s do this” Sam said. “I want to examine you Scott and get you to bed.” Johnny helped Scott up the stairs. Scott pointed at his neck outside Murdoch’s door. “Good thinking Boston” Johnny said and ran and got a bandana from his room and gently tied it around Scott’s abraded neck. Teresa gasped as both the Lancer brothers came in to the room. She ran to Scott who held out his arm. Teresa realized Scott was using her to help support him and slipped her arm around his back and grabbed his belt. She could also feel him shaking a bit. Murdoch Lancer was propped up in bed. Scott was glad to see the bluish tinged area around his lips was gone. Murdoch opened his eyes and a smile lit his face. “Scott..Johnny!” he said happily. Scott took Murdoch’s hand and smiled at him. “Sir” Scott said glad to see his father.
“Murdoch.” Johnny said smiling. “Got to Scott here before he got in too much trouble. Those two won’t be troubling us anymore.” Johnny explained.
“Alright Murdoch.” Sam said firmly. “You’ve seen them, now you need to sleep.” “Rest sir.” Scott said tenderly. Teresa left with Scott. Once they were in the hall Scott’s façade began to crumble. Teresa helped him to his room and Scott sat on the bed and waited for Sam. He slowly took off his boots. He was shaking worse again when Sam and Johnny came in. “Murdoch?” Scott asked.
“I believe he will be fine boys. According to Jelly he was pretty sick when you found him. It’s a good thing you got him released when you did, Scott.” Sam said starting to examine Scott.
“Sam, I can’t stop shaking and it hurts to talk and swallow” Scott whispered. Sam removed the bandana and finished his exam. “Scott the shaking is normal due to your injury. It should pass as well the soreness in your throat. Let’s get some water in you and let you rest.”
Sam went back to check on Murdoch. Scott undressed and slipped between the sheets. Johnny gave him water and helped make him comfortable. Scott grinned drowsily at his brother. “As far as trying everything once brother, take my word for it it….you don’t want to try hanging. It’s really over rated.” Scott said in a bantering tone.
Johnny grinned back. “I think for once, big brother, I am going to take your advice.” Johnny shot back in the same tone. Scott’s eyes closed and it was obvious from his even breathing he was asleep. Johnny gently touched the rope marks on Scott’s neck. He pulled a stuffed chair over to Scott’s beside and sank into it. The adrenalin let down was making him feel exhausted. He smiled to himself as his eyes closed. His family was home and safe. Johnny Lancer slept peacefully and deeply.
Johnny sat in the courtroom with a small proud grin on his face. His brother Scott was on the witness stand dressed in a navy suit with a dark red silk scarf tied around his neck. His ash blond hair was in place. His voice was still a little hoarse but his testimony was clear and concise. He exuded honesty and integrity. He was the only witness for the prosecution and he was all that was needed. A guilty verdict came back almost immediately.
Handshakes went all around and Scott was clapped on the back by well-wishers. Minerva Reynolds came up and kissed Scott’s cheek.
“Scott you were wonderful” She said smiling. “I wanted to testify but Matt would have none of it.”
Scott shook his head. “Matt was right, Minerva. Those outlaws meant business and your son needs his mother. Take it from me on both accounts. I know.” Scott said in a serious voice.
Minerva gave him a quick hug. “I know you do. Thank you Scott.”
Johnny came up to Scott. “Let’s get outta here, Boston. Murdoch will want to know went on. He was madder than a wet hen when Sam wouldn’t let him come.” Scott nodded and followed his brother. When they got outside Johnny draped his arm over Scott’s shoulder.
“Damn Scott, you’re some sort of prosecutor’s dream witness.” Johnny said in a bantering tone.
“Don’t forget tall and good looking.” Scott shot back.
“Well, I’ve always said you were pretty.” Johnny smirked making his way towards Barranca. “With the male jury, that coulda been a plus.” With that he mounted and galloped off towards home.
“I’m going to teach you to have respect for your elders, little brother!” Scott shouted after Johnny as he ran for Charlie.