(missing scenes from Chase a Wild Horse episode)
His father’s voice was, as always, firm and possessed of an unmistakable air of authority.
For a moment, Johnny shifted his gaze away from the man who stood sniveling and shaking--clearly terrified by the cocked revolver pressed solidly against his neck, and glanced at his father.
Rather than accusation in the older man’s expression, what he saw was an indication of confidence, of belief that his son would do the right thing.
Johnny turned his attention once again to his captive. Deliberately, he eased his grip on the man, shifting the pistol into a less threatening position. One shove sent Davy Stryker stumbling toward the waiting horses. As quickly as he could, the injured man climbed into the saddle and followed his father.
The Lancers, father and son, observed silently as Stryker and his men rode off. Suddenly, Murdoch pointed out two riders racing towards the estancia. “That’s Frank and Pete riding in from the East Mesa.” He hesitated for a moment then said, “Johnny, could you help get Scott inside? I’ll be in as soon as I give some orders to the hands.”
“Sure, Murdoch, I’ll take care of it.” Johnny started to turn away, only to halt when his father placed a hand on his shoulder.
“Listen, Son, when Scott’s been tended to, I’d like for us to have a talk.”
The younger man shrugged. “Well, Murdoch, I came here today because I wanted to talk to you, so I guess that’ll be fine.” Johnny watched his father walk toward the approaching riders, then headed toward the ranch house.
When he reached the veranda, he conducted a quick visual assessment of Scott’s condition. The injury didn’t look life-threatening, but his brother had obviously lost a fair amount of blood and Johnny knew from personal experience just how painful a gunshot wound could be. Neither of these facts, however, had prevented Scott from being at Murdoch’s side when the two of them burst from the house to provide covering fire with their rifles.
“You came back!” It was evident from the way he leaned on the hitching rail for support that Scott was nearing the point of exhaustion, but his smile was so welcoming, Johnny couldn’t help but return it.
“Well, I guess your little sermon did the job after all.” Johnny removed the rifle from his brother’s unresisting hands. “Suppose we get you someplace where you can lie down before you fall down.”
“I can make it.” Scott pushed himself upright, but couldn’t help wincing at the effort.
“Uh, huh,” Johnny moved quickly and soon Scott’s arm lay across his shoulders, and he had a secure grip on the man’s waist. “You got a ways to go before you can beat me at being stubborn, Brother.”
As the two men entered the house, Teresa met them. “Take him up to his room, Johnny. I’ll bring up some hot water and bandages.” She paused and stammered, “I’m so glad you came back!” before rushing towards the kitchen.
After the rather arduous trip up the stairs, Johnny was certain his brother’s shoulder had to be throbbing, but the older man refused any assistance in unbuttoning his shirt. He did accept Johnny’s help when it came to removing the garment, however.
Finally able to lie back against the pillows, Scott gave a sigh of relief, then directed a searching look at his younger brother.
“What happened, Johnny?”
When his brother failed to respond, Scott continued, “I’d like to think that my little sermon changed your mind, but it was something more than that, wasn’t it?”
Silently, Johnny walked across the room and stared out the window. In a halting voice he described Wes’s death and his subsequent decision to break the wild stallion. Somehow the sympathy in his brother’s voice really did seem to ease the pain. Still, he was relieved when Teresa and Murdoch entered the room, and everyone’s attention was focused on treating Scott’s injury.
It was obvious that Murdoch and Teresa had experience at this kind of doctoring, and they worked well together. Johnny was content to remain apart, leaning against the window, and observe as they examined, cleansed and bandaged the wound. Scott looked pretty well worn out by the time the whole process was concluded.
“I think you’ll do fine. We’ll have Doc take a look at it in a few day’s time, make sure everything’s healing up alright.” Murdoch stood and issued instructions in a no-nonsense voice. “Teresa, can you keep an eye on him, please? And you,” he glanced down at his older son, “you take it easy and get some rest.”
Walking to the door, he spoke to his younger son, “Johnny, if you wouldn’t mind joining me in the study, maybe we could have that talk now.”
As he crossed the room, Johnny couldn’t help but notice the look that passed between Scott and Teresa. It was hope, he realized. And he also realized, as he followed his father down the stairs, he shared that same hope.
Just yesterday he hadn’t thought ever to see the inside of this room again, but the events of the morning had brought him to a hard-fought decision—he’d wanted to talk to his father and see if they couldn’t try again to work things out between them. When he’d entered the hacienda that afternoon, all his instincts were screaming at him that something was wrong: the shot he heard, the deserted state of the courtyard and corrals and, most of all, his father’s words. Stern, harsh, reproachful, all these words described Murdoch Lancer and his dealings with his son, but he had never before been deliberately cruel. “I don’t need you, now or ever! Now get off my land.” The brutal demand had cut through Johnny like a knife, his only thought to escape before anyone could guess the bone-shattering disappointment he was feeling. He’d allowed the rage to boil over, preferring anger to hurt, and had stormed out of the room only to be stopped in his tracks by the sight of his injured brother.
Sitting here, now, holding the drink his father had pressed on him, Johnny waited for Murdoch to begin this little conversation.
The old man leaned on his desk. “Son, there is one thing I have to tell you first, no matter what happens here tonight, I need for you to know this: I didn’t mean any of those things I said to you this afternoon. I knew Stryker and his men were set to kill you if you set foot out that front door, and the only thing I could think to do was drive you away, to keep you out of their sight.”
“Yeah, that’s kind of how I had it figured, but I needed to hear it from you.” Johnny set his drink down and faced his father, eye to eye. “But you have to hear this, Old Man, you can’t ever do that again. I take responsibility for my own actions, and if there are consequences to be faced, I face them. I don’t hide behind anyone, least of all my father or my brother.” Looking slightly less grim, he added, “I do have to admit, though, it felt good knowing that you and Scott had my back.”
Murdoch nodded, “I understand. I won’t try to shield you again when trouble arises, but I want us to face it together, as a family. That is….” His voice trailed off and then he said, “Johnny, when you walked in here this afternoon, you said you’d come to talk to me. What did you want to talk about?”
“When I left here yesterday, you’d told me I had to decide who I was and where I belonged.” There was a look of determination on the young man’s face. “Well, I spent some time thinking on that, thinking real hard. Who I am is Johnny Lancer, your son and Scott’s brother. Where I belong is here, building a life that really means something in the long run.”
The blue eyes met and held his father’s gaze. “If you’re willing to give this another try, it’s what I want to do.”
With a mixture of pleasure and relief, Murdoch placed a hand on his son’s shoulder. “I’m very happy to hear you say that, son. It’s what I want, too.”
When they left the study a little while later, Johnny was surprised to see Scott seated on the couch in the Great Room, with Teresa hovering nearby. The near explosion was almost predictable.
“What is going on here? Teresa, is this what you call keeping an eye on him? What were you thinking?” Murdoch made no secret of his disapproval. “Scott, I told you to get some rest. Is this how the both of you follow instructions?”
Johnny couldn’t help but grin as Scott and Teresa made simultaneous attempts to provide excuses and deflect Murdoch’s ire.
After a few moments, however, he stepped forward. “Hey, Brother, maybe Murdoch’s right. If you don’t get yourself healed up there, I’m going to be stuck doing your work as well as my own.”
“Johnny,” Teresa squealed as she flung herself into his arms, “you’re staying!”
“Well, sure I am. I paid all that money so you could get a new dress. I figure I got to stick around to make sure you pick a good one.” He kissed her forehead and then turned to his brother.
Scott wasn’t trying to hide his elation. “Well, boy, I guess you’re right. I do need to get some rest if I’m going to be any help clearing out that creek on the south side.” He extended his uninjured arm and Johnny hauled him to his feet, continuing his support as the two men made their way once again up the stairs.
As Johnny turned over another shovelful of dirt, he glanced at the row of completed postholes. A little more work and he’d have a string line laid out that would insure this job would be finished by dark. The past couple of weeks had been busy, but most of the more immediate priorities had been met. Scott’s recovery had been swift and although their father was keeping a tight rein on him, he was working at light chores.
Murdoch and his younger son had butted heads a few times; however, they’d managed to work things out with no major altercations. There were still times when Johnny felt that need for wide open spaces, but he’d followed through on his promise and was living up to his responsibilities. The one thing he did wish for, though, was for Murdoch to acknowledge that need, for his father to give some sign that he realized how important it was for Johnny to occasionally give in to that desire. He wiped the sweat from his brow and continued with his task.
The sound of an approaching rider drew his attention and he turned as his father brought his horse to a halt. “Hey,” the big man said as he dismounted, “I missed you when the rest of the work crew came back……………..’
(Well, it actually ended when the two of them rode off to chase some wild horses together.)