An Unexpected Blessing
This very short piece contains references to the series episode Devil’s Blessing, but if you haven’t seen the episode, the story is really very self-explanatory.
“Are you sure you want to eat supper here in town before heading back to the ranch?” Scott asked as they descended the stairs from the rooms above the blacksmith shop.
“Yep, I’m hungry enough to eat Gus’s piebald mare, shoes’n all.” Johnny couldn’t help smirking a bit, “Winning always makes me hungry.”
Scott took the lead as the two men followed the shortcut behind the livery stable toward the town’s main street. It was dark enough for the stars to have come out, but the illumination of the waning moon was sufficient to light their way.
“I assume you’ll be paying for this lavish feast, since you cleaned me out with that last hand,” Scott commented dryly. “And I would prefer steak to horse, thank you.”
“See, Scott, when you’re playing poker, you gotta learn ta …..” Abruptly, Johnny abandoned his good-natured, but merciless attempt to torment his brother. With one smooth, practiced motion, his gun was in his hand as he searched warily for any signs of danger. ”What??” he demanded in an imperative whisper.
Scott had been rounding the corner of the livery stable, when he’d come to a sudden stop. Now he stood with his back flattened against the wall, as though hiding from view.
“Remember when Murdoch told us he’d have to miss this week’s poker game?” he asked quietly.
“Sure,” Johnny replied in a puzzled tone. “He said he was meeting up with an old friend who was in town for a few days.”
“Funny,” Scott said wryly, “she doesn’t look so old from here.”
Johnny peered around his brother’s body. Even in this uncertain light, Murdoch Lancer’s tall, imposing frame was distinctive. And the two brothers were also able to get a very good look at the attractive, blonde woman who was gazing up at their father in a very intimate manner.
“Whooee!” The younger man whistled under his breath. Sneaking another peek, he holstered his pistol and added, “How come so many of Murdoch’s old friends look like that, and mine all look like Val Crawford?”
“Oh, Murdoch’s just following that very old tradition,” Scott murmured coyly.
The two men exchanged a glance and recited in unison, “The affinity of Lancer men for beautiful women.”
“Don’t she look kinda familiar to you, Scott?”
“You know, she does.”
After a bit more scrutiny, Johnny suddenly exclaimed—“Hey!”—only to be firmly shushed by his brother.
“I figured out where we saw her,” he went on in a more subdued voice. “She was there—in Blessing—when Murdoch wiped up the street with those punk gunslingers.”
“You’re right,” Scott nodded. “As I recall, she held a gun on one or two of the desperados during that little fracas.”
At this point, neither of them was willing to turn their backs on the little scene being enacted before their eyes. Under their fascinated gaze, the elegantly dressed lady reached into her reticule and pulled out a small object. They weren’t close enough to eavesdrop, but Murdoch was obviously objecting to something she was saying.
“What is that?”
The words were barely out of Johnny’s mouth, when the lady appeared to win whatever battle of wills was underway between the couple. She slipped the ring onto Murdoch’s finger, but didn’t resist when he kept her hands firmly in his grasp. He drew her nearer, and the kiss that followed was long, lingering and definitely more than friendly.
It was possible—though by no means certain—that Johnny and Scott might have recovered whatever sense of decorum they still possessed and withdrawn from this tender scene in a timely manner. Fortunately their self-discipline wasn’t put to the test. Murdoch and his lovely companion left instead, walking arm in arm down the boardwalk and disappearing through the door of the Cattleman’s Restaurant.
The long and pregnant silence that followed was broken when Scott remarked conversationally, “You know, what we did was truly inexcusable. No gentleman would have behaved in such a manner.”
“It’s a good thing Mudoch never raised no gentlemen,” Johnny responded with a wicked grin. “Besides, don’t you wanna know what happened in that town? We never got the whole story about what kind of trouble Murdoch really got into in Blessing.”
Scott seemed to speculate for a moment. “You think we should just walk in there, join them at dinner, and try to get the whole story from that woman?”
“Murdoch will be mad as fire.”
“He’ll stay up nights thinking of ways to make us pay.”
“And the man really does deserve his privacy.”
“So, you ready to go get that steak now?”