a Lancer fan fiction short story
No copyright infringement intended.
Puffs of smoke lifted over the freshly burned grass which took up acres of ruined grazing ground. The land pirates were at it again. Blackened with soot from fighting the fire, the Lancers and their hired help wandered back toward the ranch a foot. Murdoch dragged a shovel behind him as he walked. “You boys got any ideas on what we can do to stop them?” Scott and Johnny both were just as puzzled as their father. Johnny shakes his heads, “Guess, I could head out and see if I can find them. They can’t have gotten too far. How many you think were in on this?” Scott wipes his face with his sleeve, “It’s strange no one seen anybody. Half the hands were just down the hill from there.” Murdoch looks at his sons, “I don’t know how many. Not much sense going after them. Might better stay here in case they come back to torch our buildings. Besides we’ve been fighting fire quite some time. They could be a long ways away by now.” Johnny wasn’t sure this was the right decision, but he could see Murdoch didn’t want him trailing them until they knew how many they were dealing with.
A few days later Murdoch tells his foreman to move cattle further away so they won’t be getting on the burned section. “We’ll have to get busy raking back the burned grass so it will grow back. Don’t want cattle stomping on it. They aren’t likely to bother it, but just in case it’s best they’re not too close.” His foreman tips his sombrero, “Si, Senor Lancer. We move them.”
The work began on the acres destroyed by fire. It was almost as hot a job as fighting the blaze. Piles were raked up along the edge of the vast area. Twenty of them including the Lancer brothers worked long hours for several days hoping to prompt the grass to grow back faster. Maybe it would work and maybe they were just wasting their time, but they knew without grazing grass ready in the next few weeks they may have to thin their herd long before they had planned to.
Days later Jelly comes back from town with supplies. He quickly runs to the house with news, “I just saw some guys in town at the saloon when I went in to get your whiskey, sir. I heard them bragging about setting fires and getting paid to take out empires. These were white men, not Mexican like we thought.” Murdoch stares at him, “Did you catch a name. How many were there?” Jelly looks at him, “Four or five maybe six, not sure, but one fella wore a black patch over his eye. They called him Gus.” Johnny came out from another room overhearing what Jelly said, “Gus Nest, I know this guy. Was there a guy with him who stutters? They call him Skipper.” Jelly says, “Didn’t notice anyone who stuttered, but the Gus fella was doing all the talking. I didn’t stay there long.” Johnny knew Gus when he served time in a prison near Mexico after both of them had been arrested for shooting up a saloon down there. It was just a stupid game of who could shoot the most shot glasses off the shoulders of an innocent citizen who they scared nearly to death. When their target fled they resorted to shooting bottles behind the bar. Both were quite accurate shots considering they were drunk on tequila.
Johnny heads to town to find his old friend. He had to stop them. Surely if Gus knew he was causing him trouble it would be the end of it. When he gets to town it is already dark. He goes into the saloon, but Gus and his gang are nowhere in sight. Johnny sips awhile on a beer and then heads to the hotel for the night. The next morning Johnny looks around town for his friend. He ends up back in the saloon he visited the night before. He walks right up to Gus standing at the bar, “Gus, you remember me?” The one eyed man turns to him, “Why how could I forget you Johnny?” The two engage in further conversation over a couple of drinks, then Johnny confronted him, “Gus, I need to know if you and your gang have been setting fires on ranches out here. Lancer is partly mine along with my father and brother’s. I’d hate to think you’d do this to me.” Gus snarls at him, “Can you prove it?” Johnny stares at him, “I only know you were bragging about setting fires and ruining empires. This is a small town. People hear things. Who is paying you to do it?” Gus starts to leave, “I don’t got to tell you nothing.” Johnny warns, “I better not catch you at it if ya know what’s good for you.” Gus turns toward him, “Is that a treat?” Johnny says, “That’s a promise, Gus. Keep your gang away from Lancer.” Gus leaves the saloon.
Later as Johnny is getting his horse and leading it out of the stable, two of Gus’s gang stop him. The stuttering man called Skipper addresses him, “John…ney, I thi…nk G…us is gon…na ki…kill ya.” Johnny stares at him, “Where is he, Skipper?” Skipper points across the street. Johnny ties his horse to a post and walks over there. Gus comes out of the store front into the street. “Madrid, Skipper, tell you you’re a dead man?” They pace off several feet, Gus goes for his gun and Johnny fires putting Gus to the ground. Witnesses could see it was a fair battle. Johnny’s old friend was dead. Johnny heads out of town. He really wanted to know who was paying people to destroy Lancer, but unless he wanted to fight the rest of the gang it wasn’t likely he’d get an answer today. Maybe he better hold off asking them anything for awhile.
Johnny don’t get far out of town when he sees riders coming up fast behind him. It was three of the men who had been with Gus Nest. A light haired man yells, “Stop, Madrid, we need to talk to you.” Johnny turns their direction, “What you need to talk about? Gus? You know he called me out.” Another man says, “We know. We want to know if he told you who hired him.” Johnny shakes his head, “No, you going to tell me?” The light haired man stares at him, “We don’t know either. Only Gus knew him. Gus promised us money when the guy pays him. He said we were to meet him south of the border, only he never told us where or who. Of all the stupid things we let him talk us into.” Johnny laughs, “I’d say stupid, alright. Skipper don’t know? Gus always trusted him.” The third man in the group says, “Skipper said he don’t know his name, but he’s a Mexican.” Johnny shakes his head, “That tells us a lot, don’t it?”
Another few weeks have gone by. The beef prices rise a little and Murdoch sends his foreman and most of his cowhands to take three thousand head to market. He looks at his sons, “One of you should go with the drive and one should stay here in case we have more trouble.” Scott speaks up, “I’ll go with the drive if you don’t care little brother.” Johnny grins, “Heck, I don’t care. You like sleeping on the ground better than I do.” Scott looks at him, “I don’t know about that, but I know I could deal with the buyers better than you could.”
Day one of the drive went well. Scott was getting his bedroll spread out for the night. The foreman offers him a plate of food from the chuck wagon. “Senor, Lancer. No sleep without food.” Scott yawns, “You’re right, thanks.” Scott cleaned the plate of beans and bread like it was his last. He hadn’t realized how hungry he was. Indigestion kept him awake throughout the night. As daylight approached the smell of eggs frying made him sick to his stomach. He settled only for coffee and a slice of bread for breakfast hoping to feel better as they hit the trail again.
Day two was better travel where they could cover ground much faster than the day before. But by the time they got to day three they would have to cross the river and more rugged terrain. Scott suffered barely sitting up straight in his saddle when they got to the river. Beans again for lunch wasn’t good on an upset stomach. He got down from his horse and searched for some mint growing along the river bank. Chewing on mint leaves helped. He was sure thankful they only had another day before they got to the stockyards.
The river crossing went well and the hilly terrain was well beat from cattle herds traveling miles ahead of them. Scott begins to estimate the numbers to see how many beef were lost along the way. To his surprise they hadn’t lost many. As they see the stockyards in sight the drovers hoot and holler with excitement as their journey ends.
In the meanwhile back at the ranch, Teresa is feeding her flock of chickens when a rough looking cowboy rides in beside her, “Miss? Is Murdoch Lancer here?” Teresa nods and heads to the house to get him. Johnny and Murdoch come out to greet the man. Murdoch looks at the stranger, “What can I do for you?” The man takes an envelope from his saddle bag, “I have a message for you. I’m instructed to wait to deliver your reply.” Murdoch takes the letter from the man and opens it. Johnny reads over his father’s shoulder. The letter was from an old civil war sergeant Murdoch was having help him find answers to the land pirate problems. The sergeant said he had located a band of Mexican bandits willing to talk to the authorities. But if they did this they want Murdoch to help them seek full pardon for their troubles. If Murdoch agrees he is to meet with government officials in Modesto one week from today. Murdoch retrieves to the house with Johnny following him, “Pardon, they think you got that much pull?” Murdock writes a note agreeing to the meeting. “I don’t know if I do or not, guess we’ll have to see won’t we?” They head back out the door and hand the stranger the note.
A few days later Scott and the cowhands are all back from the drive. The Lancers talk about the cattle drive and about the messenger who came there while Scott was gone. Scott is proud of himself for making such a good deal on the cattle sale, “Look at this bank draft. Aren’t you glad you sent me?” Murdoch looks at it and hands it to Johnny. Johnny shakes his head, “Wasn’t this the same price we thought we’d be seeing right along?” Murdoch grins, “It is the same price. Thanks Scott for not letting them swindle us. I’ve got to go to Modesto in a couple days. Hope this thing works out.” Scott asks, “How about seeing what kind of a deal we can get on grain for the winter while you’re there.” Murdoch laughs, “You’re turning into a regular businessman, aren’t you?”
Murdoch managed to help get the bandits their pardon in exchange for what they knew. The authorities were closing in on those behind the pirates, but for now not one arrest had been made. But the acres of grazing ground growing back green after the fire was getting higher and they knew another year looked promising for those, home on the range.