Scott was once again depressed and frustrated. It had been two months since Dr. Sam Jenkins said Johnny was fully healed after being shot by Pardee. Even with just getting shot, Johnny could accomplish tasks twice as fast as Scott. He was beginning to believe all the greenhorn talk that the ranch hands, town folks and even his own brother kept muttering. Scott was amazed how fast he grew to care about his brother, but sometimes it was Johnny that made him feel most inept. It had become an unspoken contest between the two brothers to see who was better, stronger and faster. A contest Scott kept losing. It made him angry at first, but now it made him down right despondent. He was about to enter the Hacienda to tell Murdoch that he had not finished as much as was expected. He knew he would get one of two reactions from Murdoch: anger or compassion. Neither one he had the energy to deal with.
“Scott, how did it go today? How much fencing was completed?” Murdoch asked.
“About half way down the meadow, Sir.” Scott gave a quiet reply, not looking at this father.
Murdoch was expecting the meadow to be completed, but was hesitant to make a comment. He sensed his son was dejected. He was at a loss to know how to help. He knew his son was having problems adapting, but whatever Murdoch did to try to help Scott only made matters worse. When he tried to talk to his son about speeding up or working smarter, Murdoch got frustrated and started to raise his voice. Finally Murdoch decided to suppress his frustration, “Okay, maybe tomorrow will be better.”
‘Great, compassion,’ Scott thought. ‘You’re inept son, but maybe tomorrow you will be less inept.”
Scott had had it for the day. Johnny would be home soon and would have accomplished all his duties and he just didn’t want to hear it. He knew he was being childish. He was happy his brother was finding his way. Johnny’s life had been hard, much harder than Scott’s, at least for more years. Scott was pleased that Johnny had found a home; he just wished he could as well. Scott couldn’t help but be drawn to Johnny. Johnny was fire and passion. There was no denying him. He was always pushing, leaning, grabbing or putting his arm around Scott. At first, Scott was at a loss how to respond, but now it was simple, Whatever Johnny did, just do it back. Johnny was his brother and nothing would get in the way of that, not even Johnny.
Murdoch was a different story. Johnny kept telling Scott that he and Murdoch were two peas in a pod. Johnny couldn’t understand how anyone could hold all their emotions in like the two of them did with each other. Johnny told Scott that he would explode if he did that. “You know Scott; hell will freeze over before you and Murdoch can give each other a simple hug.” After a fight between Scott and Murdoch, Johnny told Scott, “That was the quietest argument I ever heard, too many Sirs and Sons. My God Scott, I would explode. All that would be left of me would be guts and blood. Johnny threw his hands apart mimicking an explosion, “Boom! Then guts and blood.” Scott had to laugh at Johnny.
Johnny just didn’t understand. Scott had been hurt by Murdoch, hurt down to his very soul. As much as Scott wanted to know his father, to love his father, he couldn’t will himself to get over the hurt. 25 years had passed with nothing; not a card, not a letter, not a visit. Only when Murdoch needed him to help save the ranch did he send for Scott. Murdoch had spent time and money looking for Johnny. The Pinkerton reports proved that. Johnny’s file was a large dossier of years of searching. Scott had three pages. Three pages that weren’t even full and the first page talked about the Pinkerton agency. Scott’s report could be summed up in three points:
· Lived in Boston with his grandfather, Harlan Garret;
· Served in the Calvary, with honors;
· Went to Harvard with a degree in Business and Law, with highest honors.
When Scott read the report or lack of one, he was crushed. Murdoch had no idea who he was; what he had been through, nor did he care. That was evident in the lack of effort. If Murdoch didn’t care what kind of man he was, Scott was going to show him what kind of man he is, but he was failing at that miserably.
“I am tired; I am going up to my room. Don’t hold dinner for me. Good Night Teresa, Good Night Sir.” With that Scott turned and left the room.
Moments later Johnny burst through the French Doors, “Where’s Scott?” he boomed with a large smile on his face.
“In his room.” Teresa answered.
“Johnny, leave him alone.” Murdoch added, but too late. Johnny had left the Great Room and bounded up the stairs.
Murdoch had finished breakfast and was about to leave to talk with Cipriano about the days duties. As he was walking out he heard Johnny and Scott walking downstairs. They were laughing. Scott and Johnny had gotten into the habit of spending time together in the morning as they got ready. Murdoch was glad that Johnny hadn’t pestered Scott too much the night before. Murdoch was worried about Scott. If something didn’t change he feared that Scott would leave. The thought of Scott leaving was too much to bear, so Murdoch put that in the corner of his heart where he put all things related to Scott and Scott’s mother. He would deal with those thoughts later he told himself, but he knew in truth that when it came to them he couldn’t bring himself to think about it now or later.
“Buenos Dias, Senor Lancer,” Cipriano smiled and gave Murdoch a big handshake and a pat on the back.
“Buenos Dias, Cipriano,” Murdoch responded. “We need to finish the fencing in the South Meadow. Johnny said that he finished clearing the river by Miner’s Gulch with Jake and Bernardo. Maybe we should send them to the North River, the bridge looks like it was damaged in the last rain and should be repaired. Storm season is coming and I don’t want any issues there. If we lose the bridge the cattle will be trapped on the north side until it is fixed.”
“Patron,” Cipriano looked at the ground.
“What is it? Is there something wrong that I need to know?”
Murdoch was puzzled.
Cipriano was the Segundo. Well respected by the men and not intimated by Murdoch. Murdoch trusted him implicitly and was slightly confused by his Segundo’s apprehension.
“Well, Patron. You know Johnny. He is young and full of energy. He works hard and always gets the job done,” Cipriano paused and looked at the ground again.
“So what is the problem?” Murdoch was starting to get frustrated and protective.
“It is Jake, Patron. He wants a break from Johnny. Johnny talks a lot. . .” Cipriano paused looking at the ground, “. . . all the time. Jake is a good worker and does not want to cause problems, but he has asked for a break away from Johnny. I thought maybe he could work with Senor Scott today and help him catch up with the fence. Is that okay?”
Murdoch was defensive for a moment, but realized that Johnny could be tiresome and Jake was a dedicated hard worker. “It is probably a good idea; we do need the meadow’s fencing completed.”
Murdoch went back in and gave Scott and Johnny their assignments. Johnny smiled. “Good, let Scott work with that old sour faced cowboy. See you at dinner Scott, don’t try to disappear tonight. It is Friday and we need to go into town and run some errands,” which meant poker and maybe a saloon girl or two. Teresa was in the room and Johnny knew that he needed to be polite and watch his language.
“Errands,” Teresa muttered too softly for anyone to hear, “they think I don’t know what that means.” Even though she called them her brothers, she secretly had a crush on Scott. He was tall, lean and different than the other men she knew. In her heart she knew that she was being a silly girl. Scott didn’t think of her that way, it wasn’t possible. He was a man, she was a silly girl, but that still didn’t stop her from wishing.”
The wagon was quickly loaded. It didn’t take much time since Scott had left most of the supplies at the meadow the day before knowing he would be back the next day. He was irritated that Murdoch put him with Jake, but Scott knew he was going too slowly and he had to put the ranch first. Jake and Scott didn’t talk much on the ride out. Jake said he was originally from Kansas; Scott said he was from Boston. Jake said he had heard that Scott was in the war in the Calvary. Scott responded affirmatively, told him he served for two years before the war ended. Jake said he lost two sons in the war and lost his third son Mike shortly thereafter, but had two daughters still living and married. Neither one of them brought up the war again during the ride; they did have some small talk but mainly remained quiet. Scott disagreed with Johnny, Jake wasn’t sour. Jake just didn’t like talking much. Scott smiled and thought that Johnny probably drove poor Jake crazy with his incessant talking. Scott thought that gunfighters were supposed to be dark and brooding. Scott had seen the Madrid persona and he knew Johnny could be dark, but when Madrid was turned off, Johnny was far from brooding or quiet.
Scott and Jake worked for about a half hour. Jake kept looking over at Scott which made Scott self conscious. Scott had no self confidence when it came to ranch work and Jake’s glances weren’t helping his feeling of ineptness. Jake stopped what he was doing and walked over to Scott, “I hope you don’t mind, but you are doing that the hard way, can I show you a better way?”
“If you can help me get the hang of this, I will not mind at all,” Scott responded with a hint of hope.
“First off, turn your hand over like this. Hold it a little
lower, good. Reach through, grab the wire from the bottom side and grab the
tool with your other hand and pull. Good, do it again.
That is right. Do that about five more times. How does that feel?” Jake asked.
“Awkward,” Scott said. It was awkward but it sure worked better.
“If it is awkward than you are doing it right,” Jake smiled slightly. “When you are finished with wiring that post, I will show you a better way to put in a fence post.”
“Johnny showed me how to put in a post,” Scott responded abruptly because he thought he was at least doing that right.
“Just because he does it fast, doesn’t mean he is doing it right. Johnny is young and strong. He uses brute force to put in a post. He won’t be able to do that for too long, age catches up with all of us. I don’t want to cause offense, so you can do it Johnny’s way.” Jake said with no hint of sarcasm.
“No offense taking. Like I said I appreciate any help I can get,” Scott was sincere.
The day was getting hot so unconsciously Scott rolled up his sleeves before beginning on the fence post lesson. That is when Jake saw the scars on Scott’s arms. Scott saw Jake look at them. He was about to say what he always said when people saw his arms, “gunpowder accident during Calvary training.” Somehow Scott knew not to lie; he looked away for a split second not knowing how to respond. Jake said nothing and proceeded to show him how to put in a fence post.
It was two o’clock and the fencing was done, complete. Scott felt like he accomplished the impossible. He wanted to whoop and holler and shout to the world, but then Jake asked a simple question causing Scott’s joy to crash around him. “Since we are done so early and it’s so hot, let’s go for a swim at the pond?”
Scott’s face went pale. He didn’t know how to respond. He stared at Jake so long that he was worried that Jake thought he was crazy. He didn’t want to lie or make some excuse.
Jake saw Scott’s apprehension and said sadly, “My son was at Libby for the last four months of the war, I know what those scars on your arms were caused by. Since you were an officer, I assume you had it worse than my son and probably have many scars. I am sorry that I made you feel . . . awkward.”
“I was at Libby also for the last year.” Scott had no idea why he said that, but he felt he could trust Jake.
“Maybe you knew my son?” Jake asked.
“Probably not, I spend the last 4 months in solitary.” Scott responded still not knowing why he was being so open to a complete stranger.
“Oh God, I am so sorry,” Jake looked stunned. After a few moments, he asked again, “How about that swim?”
“Sure.” Once again not knowing why he felt safe to expose that horrible part of his life to Jake.
Scott and Jake were back at the ranch by 4:30. Johnny was already home. The bridge was more damaged than they thought and they needed to bring more supplies out for the repairs. They also needed some new supports and that would need to be ordered special from the mill and would probably not be ready for 4 to 6 weeks. Murdoch looked at Scott and was apprehensive to ask about the progress since that same conversation went badly the night before. He didn’t need to ask.
“Good evening Sir.” Scott was beaming. “Fencing is done.”
“You mean to the end of the meadow?” Murdoch asked.
“No sir, the whole way. We even had time for a swim. Johnny! Let’s get ready to go to town.” Scott shouted to Johnny and ran up to him, putting his arm around his neck and dragging him in the house.
Murdoch looked at Jake and asked, “The whole way?”
“Yes Mr. Lancer, the whole way,” Jake answered.
“Thank you,” Murdoch responded.
“No need,” Jake turned and left.
Just as Scott felt earlier, Murdoch had a hint of hope that things would work out.
The next few weeks went much the same way. Murdoch and Cipriano kept Scott with Jake. Murdoch knew Jake was good for Scott. Jake had a knack for teaching. Cipriano added Bernardo to work with Jake. Bernardo was a good hand, but he was only 17. His parents had died and Murdoch brought him on to work at the ranch. Bernardo and Scott were becoming fine ranch hands. Though Murdoch was pleased to see Scott happy, he was becoming increasingly jealous of the relationship Scott was developing with Jake. When the three of them came back from their duties, they were always in the same position, Jake and Scott talking quietly in the front seat with Bernardo in the back sleeping. One time Murdoch saw Jake put his hand on Scott’s shoulder. Murdoch felt such an inner jealousy that he wanted to go over and hit Jake. He wanted to be able to do that with Scott. He could do that with Johnny, but Scott and Murdoch had a wall between them and touching was not allowed.
What Murdoch didn’t know was that Jake had found out that his son Mike had served under Scott during the war. Ever since the first day at the fence Jake had felt he had a deeper connection with Scott. He hadn’t read his son’s letters in years. He pulled them out of his trunk; there in his son’s handwriting was the story of Scott Lancer’s war time service, from the day he took command to the day he was captured. Jake read through the letters and was amazed at Scott’s bravery and courage. Jake had encouraged Scott to tell Murdoch, but Scott had refused. Scott had said it was the past and it didn’t have a bearing on his life at Lancer. Jake understood, one of the letters explained the painful truth about Scott’s relationship with his father. Jake had put his hand on Scott’s shoulder and asked him to reconsider, to give Murdoch another chance.
Murdoch decided that he had to correct his inner green monster. He saw Jake rubbing down the horses in the stable. He walked over to him. “Jake, I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate you working with Scott and Bernardo. They both have improved greatly in such a short time.” Murdoch said.
“Thank you Mr. Lancer. It has actually been nice. I raised three sons and enjoyed showing them how to work a ranch. I actually kind of missed that. I miss my sons Murdoch and working with Scott and Bernardo helps me to remember them in a good way.” Jake answered.
“Have a good night,” Murdoch turned to leave.
“Mr. Lancer,” Jake said causing Murdoch to stop and face him again. “Your son is an astonishing and courageous young man. Murdoch . . . “ Jake paused. “Sir, you need to figure out how to reach out to him before it is too late.” Jake left the stable not waiting for a response.
Jake’s word haunted Murdoch. Jake was so solemn; so serious. What did Jake know about Scott that he didn’t? ‘Probably a lot,’ thought Murdoch.
The trio came back early the next day. Cipriano had asked Jake and Scott if they minded finishing stacking the hay in the stable. Jose, the hand that was stacking the hay was sick and couldn’t help finish the work and it needed to be done. Of course the two men set to completing the task. Jose and Frank had finished half the task before Mike became ill and Frank was sent on an errand. After about an hour there were only a few bales left in the corner. Scott went to grab the one nearest the wall. When he shifted the bale to get a better angle, Scott disturbed a family of rats. The rats jumped from behind the bale. As Scott jerked back he fell between a second bale and the wall. In an effort to escape, two of the rats ran across Scott’s leg and lap. Scott reacted with sheer terror. He started swiping at his legs and arms, his eyes were wide with panic. He lost all color to his face. Jake saw this and knew from his son what Scott was experiencing. Jake ran to Scott and grabbed his chin.
“Look at me Scott, focus. You are okay. They’re gone.” Jake’s voice was low and assertive, but Scott didn’t look at him. He was still swiping at the long gone rats.
“Scott, look at me,” Scott didn’t respond.
“Scott, you need to look at me. They are gone.” This time Scott responded. He was breathing rapidly trying to catch his breath and regain his composure.
Johnny walked in at that moment. Johnny saw Scott on the ground with Jake leaning over him. He instinctively reached for his gun. He didn’t draw it, but was on alert. He was by his brother’s side in an instant. “Scott, are you okay, what happened?” Scott still wasn’t able to catch his breath. He looked at Jake with eyes begging Jake not to tell the truth.
“The bale shifted, Scott fell and got the wind knocked out of him. I was just about to check to see if he hit his head?” Jake answered.
“I’ll do that. Scott, are you okay? Look at me so I can see your eyes.” Johnny’s voice was full of concern.
“I am okay Johnny. I didn’t hit my head; just had trouble catching my breath. Help me up,” Scott looked around the stable making sure he didn’t see any more rats.
Jake was worried. He didn’t know what he should do. He knew he should tell Johnny what to watch out for. When his son came home from Libby, it was always the rats, real or imaginary, that sent him into a tail spin. Jake had silently promised Scott not to tell, but he knew that was wrong.
Scott was about to finish the last remaining bales. Jake said no, he would do that with Johnny’s help. Scott left the barn. He cleaned up and got ready for dinner, but the panic had not left him.
“Johnny, for the next few days watch out for your brother he may need you,” Jake broke his promise to Scott; he felt it was too important to remain silent. He would not divulge why, but Johnny needed to know that Scott may be in trouble.
“I will, I always do.” Johnny left the barn to check on Scott. He wanted to know more, but he saw the look between Scott and Jake and knew that Jake wouldn’t tell him why. Johnny knew that Jake already had broken his promise to Scott by saying what he did.
That night right after dinner Scott had gone up to bed. Johnny had told Murdoch that Scott had a hard fall and maybe Sam needed to be called out. Scott had convinced Murdoch that he was fine and only had the wind knocked out of him. Johnny tried again, but lost the argument. Later that night the nightmares started. He hadn’t had one since he had gotten to Lancer, but that afternoon’s scare triggered them again. Johnny heard the rustling and moaning. Heeding Jake’s words to watch out for his brother, he stood in the doorway between the rooms as Scott rocked back and forth. Johnny knew you shouldn’t wake a person during a nightmare, but the nightmare wasn’t ending. He walked over to Scott; gently touched his shoulder and said, “its okay Scott, your okay go back to sleep.” Scott stirred, rolled over and slept the remainder of the night. The rest of the week followed the same pattern. The storms that Murdoch had predicted had finally came and lasted several days. The dark clouds and down pours did nothing to help Scott. Each night the dreams came, with each subsequent night bringing more intense horrors. By Monday, Scott was exhausted. He pretended that everything was fine, but Johnny knew better and was becoming increasingly concerned. He decided it was time to talk to Murdoch.
A rider had come from the lumber mill prior to the storm and let Murdoch know his order was ready. When the weather was finally good enough he assigned Cipriano, Bernardo, Frank, Jake and Scott to the bridge to prepare it for the new supports and planks. He and Johnny would ride into Spanish Wells to pick up the supplies and the new lumber. Johnny felt that couldn’t have worked out better if he had planned it. Johnny and Murdoch would be alone and he could talk about Scott over a glass of beer. After receiving Teresa’s long list of what she needed, Johnny and Murdoch set off for the three hour ride. Murdoch took his place in the wagon and Johnny mounted Barranca.
The day was pleasant and cool. The rain had left a freshness to the air. When the men arrived at the bridge they were in good spirits. Even though he was tired, Scott felt rejuvenated by being outside and riding KC. The river was running high and fast due to the rain. The shore was muddy and saturated. The bridge looked stable so they set to work removing any damaged planks. Scott worked on the end of the bridge nearest the horses. Frank was on the opposite side. Cipriano, Jake and Bernardo were in the middle. Scott saw that the river was rising, but didn’t think much about it as they planned to work on top of bridge that day, they would work on the pillars tomorrow. By the time he saw the large tree trunk moving towards them it was too late to call out.
The tree trunk slammed into the bridge. The already damaged pillars were pushed into the rain saturated river bank. The bridge fell slowly unto its side. Scott and Frank were able to jump to their respective shores. Jake and Cipriano grabbed the railing and held on. Bernardo was only able to grab on with one hand. As he tried to pull himself up, the railing broke and he was thrown into the fast moving water.
Scott reacted without hesitation. He threw off his gun belt and mounted KC. Horse and rider went galloping down the river. Cipriano was always impressed by Scott’s horsemanship. If the situation wasn’t so dire he could have just watched Scott guide his horse around obstacles and over fallen trees, but Jake, Frank and Cipriano had to get across the bridge onto Scott’s side in order to help. Once there, Cipriano told Frank and Jake to unload the wagon and bring it down the river while he mounted his horse and followed Scott.
Scott finally got far enough ahead of Bernardo to be able to dismount, remove his boots and wait. Once Bernardo was at just the right distance, Scott dove into the water. He had timed it perfectly and was able to grab Bernardo. In Boston Scott was an avid swimmer. He loved long swims in the ocean. It took him awhile to get to shallow water and was near exhaustion. Cipriano ran over to them and pulled Bernardo out of the water. Bernardo was waterlogged and it looked like his right leg may be broken. Considering his near drowning, Cipriano was glad it wasn’t worse. Scott was standing in the shallows bent over trying to catch his breath. Frank and Jake were coming up in the wagon. Both men were screaming, but Scott couldn’t understand what they were saying.
Too late Scott knew why they were frantic. Part of the Bridge had broken away and was heading straight for him. Scott was mired in the mud and couldn’t react quickly enough. The broken bridge had caused a surge in the water level. Scott protectively turned his body and the bridge slammed into him. He was pushed under water trapped underneath the wood. He couldn’t breathe and had swallowed water when he was hit. He had felt that he was drifting; falling into a sleeplike state. He felt strong hands lift him up so his head was out of water and legs bracing his back so he remained that way. He heard screaming and shouting, but couldn’t quite make them out. He thought he should be more in a panic, not being able to breathe, but he felt at peace, warm and comforted. He closed his eyes and was ready to succumb to the dark, right at that moment the piece of bridge was removed from on top of him and he was dragged to shore.
He was rolled on his stomach in an effort to get the water out of his lungs. “Breathe Scott! Breathe! Come on!” He couldn’t tell who was talking. “Careful, I saw blood on his chest, he may have broken ribs. Scott Breathe!!” Those voices were sounding panicked. Finally Scott coughed, but that hurt severely. Scott thought he shouldn’t do that again. He opened his eyes and saw Cipriano staring back at him.
“Dios, Senor Scott. I thought I was going to have to tell Murdoch you were dead.” Cipriano smiled. “Let’s turn you back over and see what damage is done.”
As Scott was turned over, the pain was intense. He had had worse, but not by much. He bit his lip but couldn’t help moaning and letting out a curse.
“Senor Scott, your right side is very damaged. It looks like several ribs are broken. One rib has punctured through the skin. We have to be very careful to not damage the ribs further; we don’t want them to puncture your lung way out here.” Scott appreciated Cipriano’s honesty, but it also made him feel vulnerable.
It took the three of them to get both injured man into the wagon without causing further damage. Both men were soaked and catching a chill would prove deadly to Scott, so Cipriano ordered their cloth removed and to cover them with the saddle blankets. Cipriano and Frank saw Scott’s back. Cipriano whispered, “Dios.”
Cipriano began giving orders, “Frank ride back to Lancer. Get a fresh horse and ride to Morro Coyo to get the doctor. Have someone ride to Spanish Wells to tell Murdoch and Johnny. When you are at the Hacienda have Miss Teresa and Maria ready the house for the Doctor. Tell them that the Doctor will probably have to operate on Scott. Have them heat up blankets, they will be cold by the time we make it back. We will have to ride back slowly as not to cause damage, let them know that also.” With that Cipriano bowed his head and said a quick prayer, “Dios, por favor, do not let him die.”
Frank took off and wanted to ride hard, but knew that the horse was already
tired and riding him into the ground wouldn’t help the situation. Frank was
an ex-slave and had fought in the war also. Scott and Frank talked about
their shared experiences. Frank was shocked to see Scott’s back. He had a
few scars like that himself but his were not that severe. He had seen men
and women with marks like that his whole life, but seeing them on a likeable
rich white boy from Boston was disarming. He liked Scott and couldn’t
imagine how such torture could have happened. The one thing he was glad of
was that Cipriano told him to send someone else to tell Murdoch and Johnny.
He wouldn’t want to be the one to let them know that Scott was seriously
hurt. He didn’t envy the father and brother the long journey back. By the
time the rider got to Spanish Wells and they got to the hacienda, seven
hours would have passed. He didn’t want to think it, but it would be a
shame if they couldn’t say goodbye to Scott.
Murdoch and Johnny were sitting in the Saloon. The lumber was loaded into the wagon, Teresa’s supplies were purchased. They had time for one drink before they needed to head back. Johnny didn’t waste any time. “Murdoch, what do you know about Scott’s past?”
Murdoch was stunned with his son’s bluntness, but not surprised. “Sadly not much, He served in the war on the union side, went to Harvard and lived in Boston.” Murdoch repeated what was on the scant Pinkerton report. “Why do you ask?”
“Something is wrong with Scott, he started having nightmares after the accident in the barn,” Johnny paused. “Scott won’t say anything.” Johnny paused again. Murdoch knew Johnny was having difficulty saying what he was really trying to ask so he didn’t interrupt. “Jake knows something. He told me to watch out for Scott, that he may need me. I didn’t see what happen, but I don’t think Scott just fell . . . and then the nightmares started. Scott has had one every night since. Murdoch, they are getting worse.”
“There is a bond between Jake and Scott. I don’t know what it is, but Scott confides in him and trusts him. I don’t think he aims to hurt Scott. Jake told me I needed to figure out how to reach out to Scott. I felt that he was really concerned. When we get back I will talk to Jake to see what we can find out.” Murdoch looked at his beer. He still got the sense the Johnny hadn’t asked his real question.
“Murdoch,” Johnny looked at Murdoch.
“Yes,” Oh God, what was he going to ask that was so difficult?
“Why don’t you know anything about Scott? Why is my file so . . . grande, and Scott’s so . . . empty. Murdoch, Scott thinks you didn’t care enough about him to pay for a better report.” Johnny said it. He knew it hurt his brother deeply. That the report was a symbol for the lack of care that Murdoch felt for him. He also knew that Scott and Murdoch would never work past their issues if that was unanswered.
Murdoch didn’t know how to answer, because he couldn’t admit to Johnny the true answer. “Johnny, I. . .” Murdoch didn’t have a chance to finish. Just at that moment the Saloon doors opened and Jose stormed in. Murdoch and Johnny rose from their seats. They knew it had to be bad if Cipriano sent a man into town after them. “Jose what is it?”
“Patron, lo siento.. “ Jose started but caught sight of Johnny’s Madrid stare and became hesitant.
“Why are you sorry?” Johnny was becoming impatient. He knew it had to be about Scott. His stomach was in a knot of sudden fear. Johnny had been afraid before, but not like this. ‘Please don’t let him be dead, please.’
“Johnny, let him speak.” Murdoch was becoming irritated himself.
“There was an accident at the bridge. Bernardo and Scott were hurt. Bernardo has a broken leg. Senor Scott. . . “ Jose saw Madrid again but his time he continued. “Senor Scott is very bad, Frank says to come get you right away. “
“Do you know what happened?” Murdoch asked, his face going pale and his knees were about to buckle.
“Frank says that the bridge was hit by a tree and was pushed over. Bernardo fell in the river; Senor Scott jumped in and saved him. Part of the bridge fell into the river and hit Scott and trapped him under the water. Frank says that Scott has many broken ribs and was bleeding. They are afraid one might puncture his lungs. Cipriano and Jake are bringing them back very slowly in the wagon so Senor Scott won’t get any more hurt. Frank went into Morro Coyo for the Doctor,” Jose repeated what he heard Frank tell Miss Teresa.
“Johnny we need to get me a better riding horse and let’s get back,” Murdoch was in a near panic. The ride was three hours; he had the same thought Frank had, but couldn’t bear to think about that now. They had to get back home!
When they rode up the Hacienda, they thought they had arrived too late. The vaqueros were at the front of the house. The Doctor’s buggy was tethered to the hitching post. When Johnny and Murdoch approached, some of the men turned their faces away. Johnny saw that a few of the men held rosaries. Murdoch entered the great room first and saw Teresa seating on the coffee table next to Bernardo who was lying on the couch with his leg propped up on a pillow in a splint. Teresa put the water bowl she was holding down, got up and walked around the couch towards them. All of a sudden, she sprinted the last few feet and threw herself in Murdoch’s arms and wept.
“Where is Scott?” Johnny asked his heart ripping open. He had steadied himself for the last three hours, knowing that Scott could be dead, but seeing Teresa weep was more than he could handle. ‘Oh Dios, he is dead,’ Johnny silently thought.
“Doc Jenkins is still working on him,” Teresa said once she regained composure. She looked at both men and continued. “We kept him in the wagon until the Doctor arrived. He started to get a fever, but we still didn’t move him into the house. We were worried if we moved him that one of his broken ribs would puncture his lung. The doctor examined him and said to move him on the table so he could operate. As soon as he was moved he started to cough . . .” Teresa started to sob again, but attempted to regain control. “Oh Murdoch, that is when he punctured his lung. He couldn’t breathe,” she sobbed. “He was in so much pain. Doc sent us out of the room. Cipriano, Frank and Jake are still in there holding Scott down. The Doctor said he couldn’t give him morphine because of the damage to his lungs. Oh Murdoch, he couldn’t breathe. I thought he was going die. “
“How long has it been?” Murdoch had to sit down; his legs became so weak that they couldn’t hold him up anymore.
“About three hours,” She responded through her tears.
It was another hour before the doors opened and the Doctor emerged. Neither Johnny nor Murdoch could read his face.
“Sam?” Murdoch was afraid of the response.
“He made it through the surgery, but he is very weak. He has a fever which we will have to watch and make sure it doesn’t get to high. The next 24 to 48 hours are critical. Murdoch, Johnny and Theresa can you come in here? I need to talk to you. Bernardo, I will be right with you.” Dr. Jenkins stepped aside to let Scott’s family pass.
Their first look at Scott was shocking. He had no color left in his already pale face. He was covered in beads of sweat from the fever. Johnny had seen that gray color before on men, but that was usually before they died. Maria was cleaning up the blood soaked linens. Jake, Cipriano and Frank were standing behind the Doctor.
“Murdoch, how much do you know about Scott during the war?” Dr. Jenkins asked.
Sam Jenkins had been Murdoch’s friend for years. He knew that Murdoch didn’t know too much, but had hoped maybe his friend had kept some things about Scott a secret so what he was about to find out wouldn’t devastate him.
“You know that answer, not much. You are scaring me Sam. Whatever you are trying to say, just say it.” Murdoch wanted to do what he normally did when it came to Scott, but that wasn’t going to happen. He had to face whatever was coming.
Sam looked at Jake. Jake took the queue to start. “Mr. Lancer, I know that you know that Scott was in the war, but I do not think you are aware that Scott was captured about a year before the war was over. He spent that year in Libby until Lee surrendered.”
Murdoch and Teresa had read the stories about the prisons; the squalid conditions, the torture, the starvation, and the death. How could Scott have lived through that and they not know? How could they not know he was in prison for a year? Johnny was in Mexico during the war. He never heard of Libby, but from their expressions he knew it was bad.
“Why are you telling us this?” Johnny was losing patience. He knew something bad was coming, but couldn’t fathom what it could be.
“The prisons were cruel places; my son was at Libby for four months and was never the same. As bad as it was for my son, he wasn’t an officer. The captured officers were subjected to torture beyond imagination. Scott was no exception. Murdoch . . .” Jake paused and with tears trickling from his eyes as he finished his thought. “Scott was tortured.”
Frank and Cipriano moved forward to Scott. Cipriano looked at Murdoch and then Johnny and quietly said, “Lo siento, Patrones.” The two men gently rolled the unconscious Scott onto his side. Teresa was standing slightly behind Johnny and Murdoch and could not see what they were looking at, but she heard Murdoch gasp and saw Johnny turn his head. She moved forward and saw the scars, the horrible scars. There had to be at least twenty marks maybe more. She wasn’t quite sure, many overlapped each other. She knew she should faint, the blood rushed from her head, but she couldn’t stop staring. Frank and Cipriano rolled Scott unto his back; that is when she noticed the scars on his arms. She had never seen those before. “What about those on his arms?” She asked quietly.
Johnny answered, “They are burns from a gunpowder accident.” Johnny saw Jake cringe slightly from the corner of his eye and realized that Scott had lied about how he got them. “If not that, what are they from?” Johnny demanded looking straight at Jake.
“I’m so sorry. Scott told me that after the . . . the whipping he was placed in solitary for the last four months of the war. In his weakened condition and all alone he had a hard time fighting off . . .” Jake saw Teresa intently looking at him and he couldn’t continue. She shouldn’t have to hear this.
“Spit it out! Couldn’t fight off who?” Johnny was despondent. He mind was racing, he wanted to hurt someone. Hurt the people who did this to his brother. Once he found out who did this, he would kill them. He would go to the deepest part of the South and kill them.
“Johnny, not who, but what. I’m so sorry. . . Scott couldn’t fight off the . . .” Jake just couldn’t say the word.
Murdoch finally spoke, his voice sounded dazed. “Please Jake, what couldn’t he fight off?”
“Rats. He couldn’t always fight off the rats.” Jake walked out of the room at that point. Not being able to face the family and remembering his son’s pain.
Murdoch stood in stunned silence. The scars from the whip were horrific enough, but to see the scars on his arms and as they later found out all over his body was unfathomable. How could he not know that his son was imprisoned, tortured and later had his flesh eaten by rats? What kind of father was he?
“Teresa!” Johnny yelled. Murdoch turned to see Johnny catching her as she fainted. More shocking were the tears he saw coming from Johnny’s eyes.
“Murdoch we are going to need something flat to carry him to his room. I will see to Bernardo. When I am done, we will have Scott moved upstairs. Let him rest for now. Can you send someone into town and let my wife know I will be staying for a few days? Have her pack me some cloth and medical supplies. Have him bring back enough ice to last a few days. I am worried about the fever and I would like to make sure we have enough on hand.” Sam went to leave. “Oh, no laudanum his lung is damaged and the drug may do more harm than good. He will be in a lot of pain when he wakes, just be with him and give him willow bark tea. That may help a little. He will need to be propped up, so maybe Maria can tend to that.” Sam looked at Scott’s family. Each one was filled with despair and sorrow. He was worried about his friend. Murdoch had been silent during the revelations. Only speaking one sentence, what must be going through his mind?
It was 10 o’clock in the evening before everyone was settled and the men went to the bunk house. Bernardo’s leg was broken, but in a few weeks he would be healed enough for light work. Scott lay propped up in this bed against the pillows. He had not moved since the he lost consciousness during surgery. His fever had taken hold. Johnny was desperate for Scott to wake up. He couldn’t lose his brother, not now, not ever. Johnny couldn’t control his anger; he just sat staring at Scott. He was angry at the South for torturing his brother; he was angry at Bernardo for falling in the water; he was angry at Jake for knowing more about Scott than him; he was angry at Murdoch for allowing Scott to be in Boston and not bringing him home; he was angry at Scott for keeping it a secret, but most of all he was angry at himself. ‘How could I not know? How could Scott be tortured like that and I not even suspect. I am supposed to be so good at reading a man. How could I not know?’ The same thoughts kept running through his head, until there was a knock on the door.
It was Maria, “I am sorry, but Senor Jake would like to speak to you.”
Jake was standing behind her with a package wrapped neatly and tied with string. Murdoch and Teresa looked away from Scott. Johnny glared at Jake. “What do you want?” Johnny snapped.
Jake didn’t respond to Johnny, but looked at Murdoch. “Mr. Lancer, I wish I can take your pain away, but you need to know a few things.”
“I think we have had enough of your lessons for one day,” Johnny wanted him to go away. He couldn’t deal with hearing about any more cruelty administered to his brother.
Jake ignored Johnny. “When Scott wakes up he is going to need you to understand.”
Murdoch finally spoke? He had not spoken all evening. “How do you know about Scott? How do you know what I need to understand about him?” Murdoch looked at Jake. He sincerely wanted to know how Jake could understand his son so deeply and he couldn’t even put his hand on his shoulder.
“My son Mike served under Scott’s command during the war until Scott was captured. These letters are from my son to his mother and me. They will explain what happened to Scott before he was captured.” He handed them to Murdoch. Murdoch took them, but was unsure that he wanted to read them. He had never been able to deal with his failings with Scott. Murdoch was a man who was able to forge a future out of nothing, fight for what he wanted and win, but when it came to Scott he was afraid.
“Murdoch, this will not be easy. The third letter from the last one will be unbearable for you.” Jake said.
“He can handle it!” Johnny could not control his anger at the world.
“I hope so, because Scott needs him to,” Jake left the room.
Scott started to stir. He moaned in pain and started to rock back and forth. “No. Please I didn’t do anything. I didn’t go near the window. No!” Scott twisted and struggled against an unseen captor. In his nightmares, he was back at Libby being dragged by the guards. It was a punishable offense to venture near the windows of the prison. Punishment was to be placed in a metal box that was three feet wide and four feet high. “Please don’t, I can’t breathe in there. No! No!” Johnny held his shoulders exerting pressure to keep him still.
“Johnny don’t let him twist, he can damage his ribs again.” Sam had risen off his chair and was sitting on the other side of Scott. He touched his forehead to feel how hot Scott’s fever had become. “Teresa, fetch some cold water and put some ice in it. His fever is spiking. We need to cool him down.”
“No, please let me out. It is hot, I can’t breathe. Please I didn’t do anything. I can’t breathe. Oh God, it is so hot,” Scott was sagging into the pillows, he was losing energy. “Hot, Johnny, help me”
“Scott I am here. You are dreaming,” Johnny tried to impart comfort, but his words caused Scott to panic. He pushed against Johnny’s arms with such strength that he started to rise.
“Keep him down Johnny, if he damages a rib, it may puncture his lung again.” Sam yelled.
“No Johnny! No! Please, you don’t belong here! You are supposed to be in Mexico. Get out! Johnny, go back to Mexico! Get out of here!” Johnny was stung by the angry emotions in Scott’s words. ‘Did Scott really feel that way about him? He didn’t want to be with him?’ He pulled away slightly from Scott. With the release of pressure, Scott bolted upright.
“Johnny, hold him!” Murdoch shouted.
Johnny snapped out of his shocked stupor and pinned Scott back against the pillows.
“No! Oh God Johnny. Please get out, you can’t be here. I can’t let them hurt you. Oh God Johnny please don’t be here!”
Scott kept fighting against Johnny. Johnny realized that Scott thought he was with him in Prison and not rejecting him. “Brother, please don’t worry. I am safe at Lancer. Please don’t worry. You need to lay back.”
“Safe . . . Lancer. Murdoch found you?” Scott finally started to relax. “Good. Maybe he found you in time so you don’t have to become Johnny Madrid. You need to be at Lancer. Murdoch loves you Johnny, I’m glad he found you.” Scott slipped back into unconsciousness.
The room quieted with everyone went back to their positions. Johnny was on his right side, Teresa was on the left side wiping Scott’s forehead. Murdoch and the Doctor were at the foot of the bed in chairs. Murdoch was still holding the package of letters that Jake had left.
Johnny knew Murdoch was hurting and worried, but Johnny was desperate to read the letters. He wanted to know about his brother. He wanted to know why Scott kept his past a secret.
“Murdoch, I would like to read the letters.” Johnny wasn’t asking. Murdoch handed him the package.
“I would like to hear them too,” Teresa added.
Murdoch once again said nothing. Johnny didn’t understand why Murdoch wasn’t interested. Maybe Scott was right and he didn’t care. Johnny wasn’t going to let anyone hurt his brother again, not even Murdoch. He couldn’t make Murdoch care, but he was going to make sure he listened. Johnny opened the package and took the first letter from the top and started to read aloud. Johnny skipped the parts that were personal to Jake’s family.
May 3, 1863
Dear Ma and Pa,
Pete and I went to see if we could see our new commander. We heard tell that he was some rich gentlemen from Boston. That’s all we need a Dandy from the city. We were told his train was delayed and he would be in tomorrow. Lt. Matthews was harassing Pete again. One day I am probably going to pop the SOB (Sorry ma) in the face. He thinks he is so tough. Pete is young and small that is why Matthews picks on him. It isn’t right.
May 4, 1863
Lt. Lancer arrived today. He is from Boston and looks a little dandified if you ask me. Pete says I need to give him a chance. He is tall about 6 feet. Not as tall as me, but not many are. He looks so young. Not like I am so old, at 20. Pete found out that he is only 18 years old. The thing that is worrying me is that he is seems to like Matthews. That means trouble for Pete. I tell you Pa one day I am going to end up in the brig. Lancer is skinny, so if he picks on Pete I may break him like a twig.
May 6, 1863
I know the officers are trained to have a straight back, but goodness Lt. Lancer has the straightest posture I have ever seen. I have hope for Pete. When we were in formation, Matthews was harassing his men, I saw Lancer give him a funny look. I don’t think he liked it.
I better get this mailed I know Ma doesn’t like it when I wait too many days to mail.
Johnny paused to check Scott’s fever. He looked at Murdoch who was still in his chair eyes open not moving. Scott still had a high fever, but was it wasn’t as high as before. He saw Teresa smiling.
“What is it?” Johnny asked.
“Scott,” She looked at Johnny and gently wiped Scotts face with the cool cloth. “He seems to give people the same first impression; Tall, erect, and a ‘dandy’. He sure isn’t that.” She said out loud, but really was talking to herself.
“We were sure wrong,” Murdoch spoke in a low voice to the surprise of everyone in the room.
May 28,, 1863
Dear Ma and Pa.
Lt. Lancer sure surprised me. Pete, Jimmy and I were coming back from leave and we ran into Matthews and Lancer walking down the road. Matthews caught sight of Pete and headed straight over for us. I knew it was going to be trouble. We all saluted them all fine and proper, but that wasn’t good enough. Matthews said Pete was being insubordinate. That was right scary because Pete could have been in real trouble if he was brought up on charges. Lt. Lancer just turned to us and said “Dismissed.” I grabbed Pete’s arm and high tailed in out of there. Once we got around the building I told Pete to get to camp. I stayed behind to see what happened. Matthews and Lancer were arguing. They are about the same height, but Matthews had to have 50 pounds on Lancer. Matthews gave Lancer a hard shove that sent him into the wall of the building. I was about to go over and help him, but there was no need. Lancer gave Matthews a punch to the gut that dropped him to his knees. I guess he is more wiry than skinny. I couldn’t hear much what he was saying, but I did hear, “leave my men alone.” I haven’t seen Lancer with Matthews since and Matthews is leaving Pete alone.
June 28, 1863
We had a shooting contest today. I was nervous for Pete. Pete is the best rifle shot I have ever seen. That is how he got into trouble with Matthews, Pete beat him and Matthews hated him every since. I told him that I heard Lancer was a real crack shot and if he was as good as I heard, Pete should let him win. Pete said that there was no way that he would let some Boston Gentleman defeat him. He had the pride of Kentucky to defend. I was always surprised when Pete reminded me he was from Kentucky, being from the South you think he would fight for the Confederate, but he says he never could abide slavery. Lt. Lancer is as good as I heard. Shot for shot he matched Pete. I was really hoping for Pete’s sake he would lose, but after an hour Lancer finally missed. I thought Pete was in for it when Lt. Lancer came up to Pete all serious and said “Private Peter O’Grady” We all stood straight up and saluted, boy did I think Pet was done for, Lancer continued “I guess your Kentucky pride is safe from this Boston Gentleman.” I guess he had overheard us talking. Lancer then smiled and shook Pete’s hand.
July 20, 1863
Sorry it has been awhile, but we have had some action. We lost a few of the newer men but over all we came out okay. Lt. Lancer can sure ride a horse. They moved us under the command of Lt. Hendricks for the battle because they had Lancer delivering messages between the garrisons. That is real dangerous. He had to ride near enemy territory to get the messages through. We would watch him ride off and hear the rifle fire as they tried to pick him off, but he kept getting through. One time though he was an hour overdue, we got real worried. Pete thought we lost another Lieutenant and we have kind of grown fond of this one.
Johnny finished the letter and put it back in the envelope.
“I need to change the bandages and examine him before we turn in,” Sam said. It was not a good sign that Scott didn’t stir during this process. They had gotten limited water in him throughout the night. Sam knew it wasn’t enough to counteract the dehydration that was setting in. With the young man’s rising fever and earlier delirium, the doctor had a growing concern that Scott may die. On top of that Murdoch had slipped into a stupor. He had feared that seeing the savage brutality inflicted on his son’s body would devastate his friend and he was right. Sam knew that Murdoch had loved Catherine, Scott’s mother and loved Scott. He also knew that because of Murdoch’s unadmitted fears he had abandoned Scott. Left him to be raised by Harlan Garrett a man Murdoch hated.
“Johnny we need to think about sleep and taking shifts. We all can’t stay up through the night.” Murdoch said.
“I will take the first watch,” Teresa said. This way I can wake up and make breakfast.
“I will take the second turn and Johnny can take the last. If anything happens we need to wake the others.” Murdoch rose and walked over to Scott and for the first time since the accident he touched his son.
All the men left the room. Murdoch went to his room. Laid in his bed and wept. He wept for the 25 years he abandoned his son, for the suffering Scott endured because of his neglect, and for the fact that he could still die.
Teresa was left behind to tend to Scott’s fever. It was near the end of her shift that his fever began to rise again and he started to become agitated.
“Pete, No!” Scott Moaned. “Oh God, I am sorry.”
“Scott, it’s okay. It’s Teresa. Scott’s it is okay.” Teresa pleaded.
“I didn’t mean to kill you, I am sorry. Pete I am so sorry.” Scott was starting to thrash.
Johnny heard Scott’s distinctive voice from his room. He had left the door open that joined their two rooms together in case he was needed. He rose from the bed fully dressed and moved quickly to the door.
“Scott you’re okay, you are at Lancer. You’re not in that horrible place,” Teresa tried to reach him again. She grabbed both his hands into hers and kissed them. “Scott, its Teresa, please know me.” Teresa kissed his hands again as tears fell from her eyes.
“Don’t cry Teresa, there’s no need to cry,” Scott told her and reached his hand to her face and wiped the tears gently.
Johnny stopped at the threshold between the rooms. Scott had come out of his nightmare and recognized Teresa. He was afraid if he entered he would break the connection. He stood frozen at the door.
“Oh Scott, you know me!” Teresa was smiling at him.
Scott looked at her. “Of course, how could I not know my sister; by beautiful sister,” he turned his hand over to stroke her face with the back of his hand. “Sometimes I wish you didn’t think of me as your brother.”
Johnny smiled, he sometimes felt that way himself. Scott sure is going to feel embarrassed he let that slip.
“I sometimes don’t,” Teresa was looking at him and he had smiled back at her.
As she said those words the door opened and Murdoch walked through. The sound of the opening door drowned out her words so Johnny didn’t hear her, but Scott had. When the door opened Teresa had turned to look at Murdoch and then back to Scott. In that brief second, Scott lost consciousness again.
“Murdoch, he knew me!” Teresa was said.
“Maybe that is a good sign,” Murdoch put his hand on his son’s forehead and felt the increased heat radiating back. “My turn, go get some sleep.”
Johnny turned from his vantage point not having been seen by Teresa or Murdoch.
“Murdoch, he is not getting enough liquids. We will need to force him to drink, he is dehydrated,” Sam said has he once again changed Scott’s bandages. “There is no infection at the site of the wound. Help me lower him down a little so we can see if we can get him to swallow some tea.” Sam reached behind Scott’s head and slowly poured the cooled tea into his mouth. Scott began to swallow, but quickly started to gag. The Doctor kept repeating the process until he got some of the tea to be drunk. He had told Scott’s family that was good enough for now, but it wasn’t. Scott needed more liquids to replace what the fever was stealing.
Teresa, Johnny and Sam were sitting in their same spots from last night. Murdoch had been out talking to Cipriano about what needed to be done. Murdoch didn’t know why he bothered; he could not focus on what needed to be done. His son was deathly ill and his heart was breaking. How could he have left Scott all those years ago? He gave up so much for this Land; his dream, and for the first time he felt Lancer wasn’t worth the price he paid.
Johnny had waited until Murdoch entered the room and took his seat. Johnny pulled out the next letter to begin to read. Johnny had counted twenty-one letters in all. He wanted to read them in his room last night, but he was not going let Murdoch off the hook.
The next few letters talked about how mundane life was between battles and how hot it was. It was summer and the heat was oppressive in the South. Scott’s regiment was pushing deeper into enemy territory and the battles were intensifying. Sometimes the letters were addressed directly to Jake when his son didn’t want his mother to know. Many of those letters talked about the dead and the dying.
August 22, 1863
We have a new assignment. The new directive is to leave nothing behind. We have to burn houses, kill perfectly healthy livestock and leave families defenseless. I feel sorry for Lt. Lancer. Time and time again he has to order us to destroy people’s lives. Pete and I can see the torment this is causing him. I don’t want you to think I feel he is a coward. I have seen him charge into battle with his saber drawn. I have seen him order his men into seemingly hopeless situations, but this is different. Many times it is only women, children and slaves at the plantations. Our orders are to leave nothing. Oh Pa, this is horrible. I would rather be in battle marching over corpses. That is how bad this is.
September 14, 1863
I am so proud to serve under Lt. Scott Lancer. It is hard to believe he is only 18. Today we were destroying another plantation. Some of the soldiers will force themselves on the women, especially the slaves. Lt. Lancer would never allow that in his regiment. Anyway, we came upon a plantation that was already being sacked by Lt. Matthew’s regiment. We heard a women’s voice coming from a shed from behind the house. She was pleading to let her son go; that she would do what her attacker wanted if he let her son go. Her voice was desperate. Lt. Lancer tried to open the door, but it was locked from the inside. He told me to bust it down. I kicked it in easily. I couldn’t believe what I saw. Lt. Matthews was clawing and tearing the blouse of a slave woman. In the corner was a boy of about ten or eleven. Matthews was going to rape her. Lt. Lancer told him to get away from her. Matthews just laughed at him and told him to mind his own business. We didn’t see what happened next coming. That little boy had a knife and lunged at Lt. Matthews and stabbed him in the heart. Matthews was dead. Lancer and I just stood there shocked, but that wasn’t the end. Colonel Jeffers rode up. Lt. Lancer looked at me and told me to hit him in the face. I was so stunned, I didn’t comprehend why. He shouted at me, “Do it now!” So I did, I gave him a bloody nose and a fat lip. Lancer grabbed the knife from the boy and stood there. Jeffers asked what happened. The Lieutenant told him that Matthews was attacking the woman and when he tried to stop him, Matthew came at him with the knife. He told him that he had to defend himself. Jeffers looked at the women, her son, Lancer and he looked straight at me. He asked me if I agreed with the Lieutenant’s story. Pa, I know you don’t like lying, but I had to. I said that was what happened. Jeffers just walked away and said that Matthews was a bad sort. Lancer told the woman and her son to run. Pa, they could have hung that boy right there because he killed an officer, but there was no way we were going to let them hurt that boy. Lt. Lancer could have been brought up on charges and potentially hung himself.
Love always Mike.
Johnny finished reading the letter and just stared at it. His eyes were misting up.
“Johnny, are you okay?” Teresa asked wondering.
“I am okay, it’s just that . . .” Johnny paused and took a deep breath. “That is my story . . .” Johnny stopped again and looked at Scott “but I didn’t have Scott to save my mother, or to save me.”
Johnny got up off the bed and walked to the window. Murdoch rose, walked behind him and put both his hands on Johnny’s shoulders. Both men thought at the same time, ‘Why couldn’t Murdoch do that with Scott?’ Johnny read a few more letters before Sam said he needed to check on Scott and sent everyone out of the room to take a break.
Dinner was served and barely eaten. More letters were read until there were only three left. Sam continued to force more liquids into Scott, but his fever wouldn’t break and since the conversation with Teresa, Scott hadn’t moved. Sam was concerned that Scott was not feeling the pain of his injuries. That meant he was so desperately unconscious and unconnected to reality that he didn’t feel them.
Teresa again took the first shift to watch Scott. It wasn’t long before Scott started to become agitated. Teresa felt his check and it was hotter than it had been.
“Halt, I saw something,” Scott said quietly.
“Scott its okay, your safe at Lancer,” she tried what had worked last night.
Johnny was out of bed as soon as he heard his brother.
“No! No! Cease fire! We are not armed! Cease fire!” Scott was screaming and trying to get out of bed. In his Nightmare, Scott was leading a failed escape attempt. Lt. Dan Cassidy was supposed to lead the escape, but fell ill at the last moment. He gave the command to Scott, but someone betrayed them and the guards were waiting for them.
Johnny ran into the room and pushed Scott back onto the pillows and pinned his shoulders down. “Teresa, get Murdoch and Sam! Scott’s burning up!”
“Cease fire! We’re not armed! Fall back; run; hurry!” Scott was struggling with such an intensity the Johnny could barely hold him down.
“Scott calm down, you’re going to hurt yourself.” Johnny pleaded.
Murdoch and Sam ran in the room. Sam checked Scott’s fever and felt his heart. “Murdoch we need ice; a lot of ice. Quickly!” Murdoch ran from the house and down the stairs to the bunk house. He woke Cipriano and ordered that some of the men start breaking up the ice and bring it upstairs. Murdoch then ran to the shed that stored the ice.
“Fall back, we are not armed, cease fire!” Scott screamed and pushed against Johnny’s hold.
“Please brother; please stop!” Johnny begged. Scott did just that. He let out a scream and then stopped. What Johnny did not know was that Scott took two bullets that horrible night. He went suddenly limp. Johnny thought he might be dead. “Doc!?”
Sam put his fingers on Scott’s neck and felt a pulse. “He is still with us,” Sam said not knowing for how long. “His fever is still too high and his heart is racing. We need to cool him off or he is going to start convulsing. . .”
Murdoch burst through the door followed by some of the hands carrying the ice they just crushed.
“Start putting the ice around him,” Sam ordered.
It took a half hour of lying in the ice for the fever to come down to a manageable level. As Scott lay there shivering, he looked up at Sam and asked, “Why did you save me, why didn’t you let me die?”
Sam was going to answer, but Scott was unconscious again. Scott’s family stood there stunned. The only sound in the room was Scott’s teeth chattering.
“He can’t give up, I won’t let him,” Johnny got up to Scott’s ear. “Do you hear me Boston? You will not give up! Do you hear me Scott? No brother of mine is going to be a quitter.” Scott gave no indication that he heard Johnny.
The morning finally came. Scott’s fever didn’t rise again, but it didn’t go any lower. Dr. Jenkins told the family that they needed to eat breakfast outside. They were exhausted and needed a break for a few moments.
“I need to go back, he can’t keep me out.” Johnny paced back and forth on the veranda.
“Johnny, please stop pacing,” Murdoch asked in a tone harsher than intended.
Johnny ignored the order and turned around to start the next lap.
“Johnny, I said stop pacing,” This time the tone was intended.
Teresa put her face in her hands and started sobbing.
“Oh Teresa, I am sorry I’ll stop,” as if to prove it, he sat next to her.
“How could we not know?” Teresa asked into her hands.
“I don’t know.” Johnny responded as he wrapped his arms around her.
“Johnny, how many more letters are there?” Murdoch questioned, his voice monotone.
“Three,” Johnny said.
They were all dreading that letter. Jake had said that it was the third from the end that would be the hardest to hear.
“Let’s go up,” Murdoch left and went inside.
May 13, 1864
Dear Ma and Pa,
We have all been very sick. Pete and I are okay. Lt. Lancer is too. Dysentery had swept through our ranks. We have lost several good men to it. We have been laid up for two weeks now, so many of us were sick they had to forgo an officer’s ward and an enlisted men ward. I ended up next to Lt. Lancer. Pete was on his other side.
Lt. Lancer and I started talking one day. We were still pretty sick with fever. I told him that I really thought I was going to die. I was really scared; so I asked him if I did, if he could let you know how much I loved you and Ma and that I thought of you often. He said he would.
I asked him if there was anyone he would like me to write to. He said no. I don’t know why I kept pushing him, but he is such a likeable person I couldn’t believe he had no one. I asked him if he was sure. He said he only had a Grandfather and the military would take care of that. I told him I could write his grandfather and he again said no, that his grandfather was not the kind of man that believed in shows of affection. It must have been the fever, but I kept prodding. “What about your mother?” I asked. He looked real sad and said she died because of him. That is exactly how he said it, “she died because of me.” I guess I looked shocked, because he corrected himself and said giving birth to him.
Like I said, it must have been the fever but I couldn’t stop. “What about your father?” I asked. He didn’t respond right away, but finally said that his father had no use for him. He said that he lived somewhere in California and couldn’t be bothered to even write a letter. When I asked what his father was like, he said he didn’t know that he had never met him. I asked him if he ever tried to contact him. He said he had, that from the time he could write he would send a letter two months before his birthday hoping that his father would receive it in time to send for him for his birthday. He said he never got a response. When he got older he thought his grandfather didn’t send the letters so when he was sixteen he found his father address in his grandfather’s office. He said if his grandfather caught him snooping around his things, he would have been furious but he didn’t care he wanted the address. I asked him if his father responded to the letter. He just looked at the ceiling and stared, finally he said that was the last letter he wrote to his father. He said the next year when the date came around, he joined up. Isn’t that the saddest thing you ever heard? What kind of person is his father that would abandon his son and not even respond to his own son’s letters? I guess it didn’t hurt him any, he turned out to be a standup person in spite of a no account old man.
I love you Pa,
The room was silent. All eyes were on Murdoch. Murdoch was sitting in the chair, he hadn’t moved. His face buried in his big hands. When Murdoch looked up, his eyes were wet. Murdoch rose and walked to the door. He looked back at Scott and said quietly, “I didn’t get any letters, not one.” Murdoch looked at the faces around the room, “I sent him a letter and a gift every year for his birthday, until he was twenty one. I just assumed at twenty one he didn’t want to hear from me. Why did I think that Harlan would stick to our agreement and give them to him? How could I be that stupid? I thought Scott didn’t care about me. I couldn’t blame him for not caring, but still . . . Oh God, Scott I am sorry.” Murdoch needed air, he had to get out.
“Johnny, Teresa, come get me if you need me,” Sam told them as he followed Murdoch to the great room to console his friend.
“I knew better Sam, Harlan is such a hateful man,” Murdoch voice was angrier than Sam had ever heard. After a moment Murdoch spoke again. “Why can’t I face Scott, Sam? Why can’t I tell him the truth?” Murdoch asked Sam and his voice switched from anger to grief.
“God willing my friend, you will.” Sam said and handed his friend a drink.
“Do you think I will?” Murdoch looked at his friend not wanting the truth if it meant Scott was dying.
“Scott is a remarkable young man Murdoch, if anyone can pull through, he can,” at this point Sam was being his friend and not the family doctor. The family doctor was not too sure that Scott would win the battle. Scott was too near death to know. Sam had not seen many men return from the point where Scott was now.
In the room, Scott lay fevered and gray. Teresa and Johnny sat in silence, neither of them knowing what to say.
“We need to go back Murdoch,” Sam said after their drinks were done.
“Okay,” Murdoch didn’t want to go back to face Johnny or Teresa now that they knew the kind of man he was, a heartless bastard who abandoned his son. Truth, Murdoch didn’t know what was worse; being heartless or a coward. Either way he would rather not face them.
“Doctor, Murdoch, come quick! His fever is rising again!” Teresa panicked voice called out to them as she ran into the great room.
“Teresa, tell the men we need more ice,” the doctor ordered.
Johnny was once again held Scott down as he struggled to get away from the enemies inside his mind.
“Why didn’t you let me die? Where are we going?” Scott voice was anguished. He figured he was either going back in the box or worse. It was worse.
In his nightmares, the guards had torn off his tattered shirt that had the blood stains from his recent bullet wounds. They were dragging him out of the hospital. “Boy, we are going to have a little show for your comrades. Your suffering will teach them not to try to escape. Major Henry did this for a living back at the plantation. He knows how to make you scream.” One of the guards told him as he manacled him to the whipping post. His arms were raised lifting his feet slightly off the ground. His wounds were hot with fire and he thought his arms would dislocate. The commandant of the prison announced, “Lt Scott Lancer you have been sentenced to 30 lashes, upon completion you will be thrown in solitary until the end of the war or your death, whichever is first. The guard gave a solid punch to his bare back before walking away for the punishment to begin.
“I am not going to survive this, no one can. Okay try to hold yourself together. Oh God, just count; maybe that will help. Why don’t they start?” Scott was barely speaking above a whisper.
The lashing began. Scott counted to ten before he let out the first scream. He could not control himself after that. With each lash Scott counted was transformed into scream. “Ten . . . eleven . . . twelve . . . eighteen . . . twenty-five . . . twenty-six . . . “ with each number Scott’s family braced for a horrific scream. They had no idea how many lashes Scott would receive; he had not verbalized his sentence. During the whole ordeal, ice was being placed around him. “ . . . thirty.” Finally Scott was silent. He was neither unconscious nor asleep; just silent. It was about ten minutes later when Scott let out the most horrific scream yet. He lost consciousness.
“What the hell happened to him?” Johnny looked to Murdoch and then back to Sam.
“Brine,” Frank was delivering ice at that time. The family looked at him; still confused. “On the plantations to stop the bleeding and kill infections, the overseer would throw heavily salted water on your back. Slaves are expensive and it wouldn’t do to kill them to make a point. It also causes the wound to scar like that,” Frank paused. The family stared dumbfounded at Frank. “I’m sorry; maybe I shouldn’t have said anything.” When the family didn’t respond, he asked “Do you need any more ice?”
“No, thank you,” Sam answered. “His fever is lower”
Frank left Scott’s room. He understood that slavery was not a reality that the Lancers knew anything about or could comprehend.
The family sat in silence for about an hour after Frank revealed another part of Scott’s horrific ordeal. Johnny pulled out the next letter. This letter talked about the growing escalation of battles as the pushed south. Of heroic battles; of feats of bravery that Pete, Mike, Scott or some other soldier performed as part of their everyday duties. Johnny thought of the dime novels that he had read about the bravery of gunfighters or cowboys. None of the stories he read or witnessed himself compared to the bravery these soldiers performed as routine. Johnny put that letter back in its envelope and pulled out the last letter. With a deep sigh, he began reading.
June 2, 1864
Dear Ma and Pa.
I am sorry; I have not been able to write to you for awhile. I knew you would be worried, but we were in a battle and then the most horrible thing happened. It has taken me all these many weeks to be able to put the words down on paper. I started many times, but could not bear to think them, let alone write them. Ma, Pa we lost Pete and Lt. Lancer.
At this point, Teresa started to sob uncontrollably.
“Let’s stop, Johnny. This is too much for Teresa.” Murdoch said. In fact, it wasn’t Teresa it was too much for, it was himself. He didn’t want to hear the next horror. ‘Stop Johnny! Stop! Rip it up, burn it!’ Murdoch wanted to scream.
“No Murdoch, I am okay. If Scott could live through this I can hear it,” Teresa bravely proclaimed through her gasp to suppress her tears.
Johnny looked at them and started to read again.
We had been fighting for three days. We would gain some ground and then lose it. Men were dying or wounded all around us, both Union and Reb. We were overrun and taking on more causalities. I was next to Lt. Lancer when we heard the command come down to retreat. I tell you I was never more relieved. The Lt. started to yell, “Retreat, Retreat.” We retreated into a grove of trees. Pete noticed Reb soldiers following us. They were about fifteen minutes behind. I thought we would make it, but we ran straight into a swamp. If we started across the swamp, we would only make it about half way before they got to the shore. They could easily pick us off from the shore. I could see Lt. Lancer trying to figure out what to do. All of sudden he asked for three volunteers to stay behind and provide cover. The Lieutenant said that those who volunteered would most likely be killed. Ten of us volunteered. He chose Jaime, Hank and Pete. They were the best shots in the unit. I went up to him and told him I would stay, he said no. He said I was needed to help the injured men across because of my size. He also said I was in charge until I got back to camp. It was at that moment I knew that Lt. Lancer was going to stay behind as well. He then said for us to go. I gave Pete a quick nod before we entered the swamp.
In about ten minutes we were about half way through the swamp. That is when the firing began. We could hear the four rifles firing against what sounded like twenty. A little farther, we could only hear two rifles. Lancer and Pete liked the same type of gun, so we knew it was them. Two guns shooting against many. When we got to the other side, the firing stopped. The Rebs stood on the shoreline, but did not enter. The Lieutenant, Pete and the others held them off long enough for us to escape. Pa, we escaped, but they were dead. My best friend died and all I gave him was a nod. I am so wretched now. There is nothing I can do.
June 3, 1864,
I thought about it last night. I don’t care what Lt. Lancer said. I have enclosed this letter for his Grandfather. See that this gets mailed him. No one should have to die alone.
The family fell silent again. The enormity of what they heard was overwhelming. They were in awe of their brother, Murdoch’s son. He was this amazing soldier that was willing to sacrifice his own life for his men; he fought bravely in battle; saved a women and child. He survived the horrors of Libby and came out the other side a caring and giving man who willing put himself in danger to save Johnny and Bernardo. They were all wondering, ‘Why wouldn’t he let us know what he had done?’
“Johnny,” a weak voice from the bed called out.
“Scott, I am here,” Johnny was immediately by his brother side leaning over to get as close as possible.
“Good you’re safe.” Scott smiled. His eyes were open, but Sam was not sure if he was outside of his nightmare.
“Yes, Scott, I am safe. I am here at Lancer with you.” Johnny replied.
“Is the Doctor here?” Scott asked.
“I am right here son, It is Sam.” The doctor replied wanting Scott to know it was him and not some prison doctor.
“I can’t do this again.” Scott said barely audible.
“Do what Scott?” Sam asked.
“Be alone. Do you have something you can give me?” Scott looked into the Sam’s eyes with desperation.
“I can’t give you anything Scott, your lungs aren’t recovered.” Sam responded “It will do you more harm than good.”
“I can’t do this again. I can’t do solitary. Please give me something.” Scott softly pleaded and closed his eyes.
The family realized that Scott was not safe with them. He was still at Libby. He was mixing reality with nightmare. Johnny’s head slumped. Teresa buried her head in Murdoch’s chest and sobbed.
Johnny brought his mouth to Scott’s ear and pleaded, “Scott you are not alone. I am here; Doc is here; Teresa and Murdoch are here. We are safe at Lancer. You are safe at Lancer with us. Please Boston don’t give up I need you. You are my brother and I need you. Madre Dios Scott, I love you. Don’t give up.”
“No Johnny you don’t know what it is like. Four month alone in the dark; there is too much time to think. I was used to being alone before. I have been alone most of my life.” His voice weakened. “Grandfather didn’t really want me either. He only kept me because he hated Murdoch and I was a chess piece he captured. I don’t think he forgave me for killing his daughter. I was sent to boarding school since I was five. I came home for the holidays, but my grandfather was always busy. I could deal with being alone back then, I was used to it. I can’t this time. Johnny I don’t want to be alone again, please let me go. Let me die.” Scott talked quietly in a voice that reverberated surrender.
“Scott we are here, what do I need to do to convince you to keep fighting,” Johnny was frantic. His brother was dying and he couldn’t reach him.
“I can’t bear it. I can’t fight the rats. They are everywhere, even at Lancer hiding; waiting to get me. They will come for me. They used to come out only when it was dark, but it is always dark in my cell. The only light I saw was when the door swings open. That bright light means pain. The door opens when the guard comes in to beat me for not eating or just because it pleased them. Johnny they are sadists and no one would stop them.” Scott voice became wistful, “Sometimes though that prisoner would came in to clean the cell. He was nice. I think I knew him. He snuck me food sometimes. I could never figure out who he was.”
“See Scott you weren’t alone. You are not alone now. You had someone there to look out for you then; I will look out for you now. ” Johnny tried to have a positive voice as tears streamed down his face.
Sam checked Scott’s heart rate and pulse. He looked up at Murdoch, his eyes filled with remorse. Murdoch knew that Scott was dying. His friend did not have to say the words. Tears started to stream down his face. He was too late, Scott was leaving them.
“Johnny you will be okay. Murdoch loves you. He has always loved you. He took time and money away from Lancer looking for you. You saw the reports. You know. Johnny, look after Teresa.” Scott’s voice was growing even weaker.
“No Scott, you are not going to die. I won’t let you,” Johnny screamed at Scott, grabbing his shoulders and shaking him. He didn’t care that he hurt him. He wasn’t going to let Scott die without a fight.
“Johnny, I am glad Murdoch got you out Mexico so young. That means you don’t have to kill anybody. You didn’t need to become Johnny Madrid. You won’t need me if you aren’t Madrid. Murdoch will take care of you.” Scott closed his eyes and appeared to stop breathing.
It finally dawned on Johnny. Scott is still in the war, which means Johnny would have been sixteen. If Johnny was at Lancer when Scott was at Libby, then Pardee would never happen. Scott would never have had to save Johnny’s life. They would never form the bond that Johnny needed to turn away from being Madrid. He wouldn’t need his brother. His brother wouldn’t need to watch out for him. His brother was dying in peace, knowing that Johnny was taken care of.
“No Scott you’re mixed up!” Johnny screamed and shook his brother. “Murdoch didn’t find me in time. I am not at Lancer when you were in Prison. I am Johnny Madrid! I have killed men for money. Murdoch still found me when Day Pardee was attacking Lancer, but I would never have stayed without you. I would have gone back to Mexico. Hermano, I need you! Please listen to me! I am Johnny Madrid! If you die in prison, I will always be Johnny Madrid. You wouldn’t have been there for me, to save me. Please brother fight for me!” If this didn’t work Johnny knew his brother would leave him.
Johnny was right, Scott started to become agitated. “No, you are lying. Murdoch found you. He loves you Johnny. He will make sure you are okay. That was the best thing that could have happened for you.”
“No Scott, Murdoch didn’t find me until after I became Johnny Madrid. He loves me and I love him, but I would never have stayed at Lancer if you weren’t there. If you die Scott, I will die too in some gunfight in Mexico! Is that what you want? Do you want me to die too?” Johnny looked up at Sam who was holding a stethoscope to Scott’s heart.
“His heart is getting stronger,” Sam looked up from his stethoscope. “Johnny, I think you figured out how to reach him.”
Several hours passed. Scott heart was beating regularly and his breathing leveled out. Even though he had a fever, it was not raging. They were able to get more liquids in him. Sam told them not to get over confident. Scott was still very sick and could succumb to his illness. Johnny would hear none of that defeatist talk, his brother would not give up. If he started to, Johnny would make sure it wouldn’t be for long.
It was evening and Teresa was watching over Scott. “Teresa?” Scott asked
“Yes Scott it’s me,” Teresa responded hopefully. She touched his forehead and it was cooler.
“Teresa, it is dark can you open the curtains and let the light in?” Scott asked
“It‘s nighttime, let me turn the lamp up.” She leaned over while he watched her.
“Better?” she asked him.
“Yes, can I have some water?” Scott asked.
“Yes, Scott do you know where you are?” Teresa asked as she helped him sip the water.
“Lancer, why?” Scott sipped the water and grimaced in pain. Teresa realized that this was the first time since his ordeal that he felt the pain of his broken ribs.
“Because you have been far away from us.” She leaned down and gave him a kiss that was a little too passionate for a sister.
“What was that for?” Scott was surprised.
“That is to let you know that sometime I don’t think of you as my brother. I need to get the others and let them know you are awake. Scott was confused about the kiss, but had to admit he liked it.
As she got up, Johnny quietly ran back to his bed and pretended he was asleep. He heard from the doorway his sister call his name. “Coming Teresa,” he said back.
Sam finished his examination of Scott and changed his bandages. He smiled at Murdoch, “Good news is that his fever has finally broken, the bad news is that since your son has finally decided to join reality he is now feeling his ribs and damaged lung. We still can’t give him any laudanum so he is going to be fairly miserable for the next couple of days. If he is still improving, that is when we can give him some pain medication.” Sam patted Scott’s leg and rose. “Johnny and Teresa let’s go downstairs.”
Murdoch sat down next to Scott on his bed. Scott grimaced as the bed shifted. Murdoch took hold of Scott’s hand. “Son, I thought we lost you.”
Scott again grimaced with discomfort. This time it was the discomfort of Murdoch’s closeness. “I’m sorry Sir.”
Murdoch wanted to say more. He wanted to reach down and grab hold of Scott and tell him the real truth about why he didn’t come for him. He looked down at the pained look in Scott’s face. “Rest now Son, we can talk later.”
“Thank you, Sir.” Scott responded and closed his eyes.
Johnny had told Sam he needed something from his room and would be down shortly, He heard their conversation from the other side of the door in his room, ‘Damn he thought, too many Sirs and Son.’ After Murdoch left, Johnny went into Scott’s room and sat in the chair and watched his brother sleep. Johnny smiled because his nightmare of losing his brother was over. Scott would be okay because they needed each other. Know he had to figure out how to fix the bridge between Scott and Murdoch.
“Murdoch, Johnny, I heard that Scott was doing much better.” Jake said as he entered the great room.
“Yes, the doctor feels that with the proper rest Scott will be fully recovered in a couple of months.” Johnny smiled.
“Thank you for sharing such a personal part of your life to help us understand who my son is,” Murdoch paused and looked directly at Jake. “I understand why he wouldn’t tell us about Libby, but I don’t get why he wouldn’t talk to us about his war service, do you know?”
“I am not sure, I am not sure that even Scott knows, but I think it has to do with you. He is angry Murdoch. Subconsciously he thinks you don’t deserve to know about his life prior to Lancer. You need to convince him that you care about him. You need to figure out how to explain those twenty five years. Murdoch, you need to tell him why you didn’t claim him.” Jake saw the expression on Murdoch face, “Even if you are ashamed of the answer, he deserves the truth.”
“I can’t even explain it to myself,” Murdoch said quietly.
“Don’t wait too long, you may not have all the time you think.” Jake said.
“May I ask what happened to your son, Mike?” Johnny asked. It was another piece of the puzzle that was his brother that he wanted to find out.
“Mike was never the same when he came back. I think it was the death of Pete and Scott that took the worst toll on him. The four months at Libby didn’t help. He came back home extremely ill and depressed. After a few months we thought he was getting better. He would even laugh with his sister’s like he used to. “ Jake’s tears started to fall down his check.
“I am sorry, you do not have to continue,” Johnny compassionately said.
“It’s okay; you need to know the whole story. You can’t watch out for your brother, if you don’t know what to watch out for,” Jake continued. “Besides cattle, we did have a small corn and wheat crop on our land. One night about six months after Mike came home, the corn field caught on fire. The rats came running out trying to escape. Mike had nightmares for days after that. He couldn’t sleep and fell into a depression. One morning, he kissed his mother and told us he was going for a short ride. We found him that afternoon; he took his pistol and killed himself. His letter said that he was sorry that he couldn’t save them. I never will know for sure who ‘them’ is, but I think it was Scott and Pete.”
“What happened that day in the barn?” Johnny asked trying to suppress his sorrow for Jake and his concern for his own brother.
“When Scott moved the hay bale, he scared a family of rats. He fell back and they ran over him. Why do you ask?” Jake asked.
“Because Scott was having nightmares everyday up to the accident at the bridge.” Johnny replied.
“Mike lost his friends and his brothers during the war. Scott is lucky to have you, just watch out for him that is all you can do,” Jake put his hand on Johnny’s shoulder.
“I will, I always do,” Johnny matter-of-factly responded. Jake smiled at the same response that Johnny gave the day of the barn. That day seemed like an eternity ago. “Jake I am sorry about your sons.”
After Jake left Johnny turned to Murdoch and said, “When are you going to talk to Scott?”
“Soon,” Murdoch said without much conviction.
“I am not going to stand by while anyone hurts my brother” To emphasis his point Johnny pointed to the hacienda, “and right now old man, that would be you. So figure it out and start fixing it!”
Nothing changed between Scott and Murdoch. In fact Johnny thought the distance between the two men he cared about had grown farther. Scott was steadily getting better and was able to leave his room, but Murdoch was becoming more sullen. Two weeks later at breakfast, Murdoch announced that he had some business to attend to and would not be back for about four weeks. Even after much prodding from Teresa and Johnny, Murdoch did not reveal his destination. Scott had remained silent; he was glad for a break from Murdoch.
Teresa and Johnny walked Murdoch to his saddled horse. Teresa gave him a hug and Johnny gave him a strong handshake and a pat on his back to send him on his way.
All Scott said was; “Have a safe trip Sir.”
“Take it easy Son; there will be plenty of work to do when you are mended.” Murdoch responded and kicked his horse to leave.
“I swear Scott, Hell will freeze over.” Johnny stormed away frustrated at those two’s inability to reach out to each other. He felt it was hopeless. Johnny had the growing concern that if things didn’t change Scott would leave and he would have to choose between Murdoch and a life he loved at Lancer or Scott the brother he loved more than he ever thought possible.
Four weeks had passed since Murdoch mysteriously left Lancer. He had sent notice that he was arriving on the morning train and left explicit orders that only Cipriano was to meet him at the train with a wagon.
“What do you think he has been up to?” Johnny asked Scott. They were at the corral, Scott watching Johnny train the newly broken horses. Scott was all but recovered, but Dr. Jenkins would not release him to do anything but work on the books. Scott was going stir crazy. Johnny took the doctors order as his personal responsibility to ensure the Scott followed them to the letter. Johnny would not let his brother take a short ride. Scott and Johnny had loud words when Johnny found Scott saddling his horse to sneak out two days before. Johnny was worried about Scott’s physical as well as mental health, especially after the short ride that Mike had taken.
“How do I know? It is not like he confides in me. If he would tell anyone, he would have told you.” Scott was surprised at his own spiteful words. He caught Johnny’s grimace. He lowered his head, “I’m sorry, I just need to do something besides sitting down, I barely like being around my own sunny personality.”
Johnny smiled, “Hopefully Doc will release you soon, because you are becoming quite the rattlesnake. Besides, I am tired of picking up your slack.”
They heard the wagon pull up, behind Murdoch and Cipriano was a large black trunk. Johnny insatiable curiosity was instantly increased. He dismounted his horse and quickly jumped the corral fence. “What do you think that is?” Johnny patted Scott’s back a little too hard as he was about to run past his brother. He noticed the grimace that came across his brother’s face. “Scott, did I hurt you?”
“Not really,” Scott said “It is just . . . “ Johnny could feel Scott tense.
“Just what?” Johnny questioned his brother.
“It is just that the trunk is mine from Boston.” Scott finished his thought. He didn’t think Murdoch could have seen him, so he started to take a step back.
“Oh no you don’t!” Johnny hooked Scott’s arm and pulled him forward. “This is going to stop. You will work this out with the old man or you are both are going to have to answer to me. Anyway aren’t you the least bit curious what Murdoch is doing with it?” Scott had to admit he was. As Scott and Johnny approached Murdoch, he was ordering some of the men to put the trunk in Scott’s room.
“I guess this means you went to Boston.” Scott said, trying to sound as disinterested as possible. Johnny shot Scott a look and whispered to him something that made Scott glare at him. Murdoch didn’t appear to notice and walked into the Great Room. Johnny still had Scott’s arm hooked and forced him to follow.
“Yes, your Grandfather sends his regards and thinks that I am certifiable.” Murdoch chuckled. Teresa rounded the corner and gave Murdoch a big hug.
“Welcome back, what is in the trunk?” she asked.
“That is what we are trying to find out,” Johnny said still holding on to Scott as he pulled him up the stairs behind Murdoch. Teresa followed the three of them. The parade finally stopped in Scott’s room. Scott looked at his trunk with the distinctive gold embossed initials, SGL.
“Well?” Johnny asked “What have you been up to?”
Murdoch turned towards Scott and started to speak, “After hearing that you sent me letters that I never received and you never received the letters and gifts I sent you, I had become increasingly angry to the point I couldn’t be around anyone.”
Johnny had explained that they read Jake’s letters and the things that Scott said in his nightmares, but never told him that Murdoch had sent him letter’s and gifts. He felt that Murdoch needed to tell Scott. Johnny was beginning to think that was a mistake when he felt his brother’s anger. “What are you talking about? You never sent me anything!” The hurt of his father never reaching out to him was an inalienable truth to Scott, just like the sky was blue on a sunny day. It was the symbol of twenty five years of neglect that he wasn’t ready to surrender. Scott started to step towards him. He didn’t know what he was going to do, he felt like hitting Murdoch. Johnny still had Scott hooked by the arm. Sensing the surge of energy in his brother, he pulled him back by the arm he was still holding.
“Your Grandfather and I had an agreement. He wouldn’t drag you through court in a custody battle, if I did not fight his guardianship. In return he would give you my letters and gifts and if you so choose to, he would send me any letters you wrote to me. Son, I didn’t get any of your letters and obviously you never received any of mine.” Murdoch knew this would hurt Scott to learn of his betrayal by his Grandfather, but the truth needed to be spoken. Murdoch also knew that Scott’s Grandfather’s betrayal was not the only betrayal that Scott needed to know. “Son, I don’t know what happened, but I didn’t get the last letter. The one you sent when you were sixteen.”
Scott suddenly felt weak and leaned into Johnny. Johnny led him into a chair. “Maybe we should finish this later?” Scott had turned pale and Johnny didn’t want him to relapse.
Scott looked up at Murdoch, “I never sent it.”
All three members of his family responded in unison, “Why?!” Scott didn’t respond.
“Scott, why didn’t you send it?” Teresa finally was the one to speak.
“Because, I couldn’t handle it if Murdoch didn’t respond to that one. It was one thing to think that I didn’t get a response because Grandfather didn’t mail my previous ones. If I didn’t get a response to one I sent directly well . . . when I was at the post office I panicked. I just didn’t want to know for sure. I couldn’t bear it if I mailed the letter and I didn’t get a response. It would mean that I was really alone, unwanted, not worth the time it took to put pen to paper. It gave me some hope to not know for sure. I . . . I tore it up.” Scott was ashamed at his own cowardice.
“Scott it is okay, the only one to blame for the last twenty five years is me,” Murdoch said.
“and Scott’s grandfather!” Johnny said.
“No Johnny, it is my responsibility. Scott’s Grandfather played a part, but it is how I reacted to him and my own insecurities that caused me to hurt Scott. Scott . . .” Scott turned his eyes to the ground. Murdoch wanted Scott’s full attention when he said the next part. He had practiced it many times on the train and hoped it would come out as he intended. “Scott . . . “ Scott looked up at him. “I have made many mistakes in my life. I have made mistakes with this ranch and with Johnny, but son I . . . I . . . I failed you.” After a short pause to catch his breath he spoke again, “initially I had every intention of going back for you. I came to Boston when you were five to bring you back with me, but your Grandfather . . . oh God Scott, your Grandfather intimidated me. He had all this money, a grand house, education, lawyers . . . truth is I never felt good enough for your mother, I was an immigrant with no money and only a plan for a future. She didn’t care, she loved me as I loved her, but she got sick and your life was threatened. She insisted on going to San Francisco for the best medical help so she could survive long enough to give you a chance. You never killed your mother Scott; she was ill with cancer while carrying you. I was to follow a couple weeks later to be there, but she never made it to San Francisco; her illness was to far along . . . she delivered you one month early. You were tenacious even then, you survived.”
“Grandfather never told me she was sick, I just assumed she died because of me. . . that I killed her. That is why you and Grandfather never wanted me.” He didn’t know what he should do, he felt the tears welling up inside him, but he was numb and couldn’t let them out. In truth he didn’t know if he couldn’t or wouldn’t let them out.
“Scott that’s not true, I wanted you. I am so sorry” Murdoch fought his inner desire to do what he had done for twenty five years, run away, “Your Grandfather swooped you away. I was devastated losing your mother and that was the first time I failed you. I couldn’t handle Catherine’s death, so I hid behind the lie that you were better off in Boston. By the time I could, two years had passed. Life on the ranch was difficult at that time, what was I going to do with a baby? I once again failed you and left you with Harlan convincing myself that you were better off there. I meet Maria, Johnny came and I was determined to get my family together. That is when I finally l left for Boston to confront Harlan. When I arrived in Boston a telegram was waiting for me that Maria had left and taken Johnny with her. Even then I still summoned up all my courage and walked up to the door to demand your return. Instead I crumbled. I walked smack dab into the grandest party I had ever seen. The party was for you, your fifth birthday party. I don’t know if you remember, but I meet you. You were so polite; I gave you two toy ponies. Do you remember?”
“Yes, but I didn’t know that was you. There were so many of my Grandfather’s business associate there, the party wasn’t really for me. That was the only party I ever had. Did you tell me you were my father?” Scott didn’t take his eyes off Murdoch. Scott was losing his battle for self control.
Murdoch closed his eyes in shame and said, “No.”
At that point Teresa couldn’t control her tears. Johnny reached out to comfort her. Johnny needed the contact as much as she did.
“Your Grandfather threatened me with a drawn out legal battle and wouldn’t hesitate to bring you into court. He also said if it didn’t look like he would win, he would send you far away to a foreign country and I would lose you forever. My life was falling apart again, Maria and Johnny were gone, and so I failed you again and left you there. Harlan agreed to give you any letters that I wrote and send any that you wrote me. The years went by so fast and my shame at leaving you in Boston was overwhelming. It became easier to not think about it than face the fact that I was a coward. I pretended that you were living a privileged life that I could never give you. I knew all along that wasn’t the case. Catherine was Harlan’s daughter; she told me that her Father never had much time for her. She loved her life and she loved Boston, but that was because her mother was alive. I knew that he would not have time for you, but I told myself the fantasy so many times that I actually think I believed it. That is why I didn’t do an extensive report from the Pinkerton Agency. I didn’t want to know the truth about your life. Scott, I thought it would detail a life a boarding schools and trips to Europe. I never imagined you suffered as much as you did.”
Scott dropped his eyes to the ground. He was overwhelmed. He needed time to think. He needed air. He stood up, “I am . . . I need to . . . “ He couldn’t think of a legitimate reason to excuse himself, so he just moved to the door. Both Johnny and Teresa blocked the door.
“Scott, please don’t leave.” Murdoch said. “I know you don’t owe me anything, but please let me finish.” Scott stopped he didn’t have a choice. “I was angry after reading Jake’s letter and hearing your nightmares. I blamed your Grandfather. I was angry that he didn’t tell me that you were in the war, that you were captured. Scott you could have died and I would never have known. I went to Boston to demand all the letters, all the gifts I sent you. I felt he stole whatever chance I now have with you. He tried to throw me out; I pushed past him and went upstairs. I don’t know what I was thinking, like I had any idea where he would keep any of your things or the letters. When I got to the top, there were about twenty doors. Lordy, I didn’t realize the house was that huge.” Scott smiled the one thing he liked about his house was that he could hide and be left alone. “Your father’s butler met me in the hall way and said he would get them for me, if I could tell him what they were. I remembered every one of them. We found all but two, a billfold I sent you on your sixteenth birthday and a bottle of brandy I sent on your Twenty first. He placed them all in your trunk with the all the letters I sent and that you wrote.”
“The billfold was stolen on a trip to New York and I drank the brandy.” Scott said. He was standing by Johnny and Teresa still wanting to leave, but not being able to because they were a wall blocking the exit.
“I confronted Harlan about never giving you my letters; all he said was that he thought it was best. I left completely unsatisfied. On the train ride back, I read your letters. I finally realized after all these years I couldn’t blame anyone but myself. I was weak Scott, I . . . I was afraid. Harlan wasn’t the cause of that, I was. I am still afraid, that is why I have such a difficult time trying to reach out to you.” Murdoch looked at Scott, “Scott, I am afraid of you. I am afraid that once your find out the truth you will never forgive me. So instead I push you away. I do not deserve your forgiveness. . . .” ‘It is now or never. Just do it, stop being a coward,’ Murdoch thought. He moved towards Scott; put both his hands on his shoulders. Murdoch felt Scott tense against his touch. “Scott, I will understand if you can’t, but please forgive me for completely failing you as a father; for abandoning you,” Scott lowered his eyes.
No one in the room moved, no one said anything. An eternity passed in silence. Murdoch was about to pull away, he knew he was too late, he hoped that Scott would forgive him, but he had hurt him too deeply by abandoning him. Scott raised his eyes and looked up at Murdoch, all the tension left his body and he moved forward into the embrace of his father. With his head on Murdoch shoulder, his face turned away from his brother and Teresa, he wept.
When Scott regained his composure, Johnny moved towards him, slapped him on the back and said, “So let’s see what the old man gave you.” Scott and Murdoch smiled as Johnny opened the trunk.
“Let Scott do it Johnny,” Murdoch ordered.
“Don’t bother Sir, once Johnny is curious you can’t stop him.” Scott said wiping the tears from his face.
“Okay Son, it’s up to you,” Murdoch said with a smile in his voice.
At that point, Johnny stopped and made explosion motion with his hands. Scott got his message. When Scott looked inside the trunk and saw the gifts, the gifts that somehow stood out amongst the many gifts he received over the years; the toy horses, the telescope, the books, and the thing that started him loving horses, a saddle. The saddle was English style with his initials engraved at the pummel. “Sir . . .” Scott saw Johnny glare at him, “Father, you gave me this?”
Johnny looked back and smiled. “It doesn’t seem very useful.” Johnny said playing with the two toy horses, galloping them across the lip of the trunk.
“That is what they use back East and in Europe, if I sent him anything else, that wouldn’t have been useful,” Murdoch explained. He had his hand squarely between Scott’s shoulders. Now that the barrier had been broken, Murdoch didn’t want to let go. Scott was holding the saddle remembering how much he loved it.
“I need to . . . I have to,” still not being able to come up with a reasonable excuse to leave. He got up to head for the door. Johnny was getting up to stop his brother. Murdoch put his hand on Johnny’s shoulder and mouthed Let him go. Scott stopped at the door and looked back towards Murdoch. “Father would you like to join me for a brandy?”
“I would like that,” Murdoch joined Scott at the door and put his hand on his shoulder.
After they left the room Johnny said to Teresa, “I think it is getting a downright cold in here.”
“What are you talking about? Teresa looked puzzled.
“Hell is starting to freeze over” Johnny smiled and galloped the two toy horse across the foot of Scott’s bed.
It has been a year since that horrific accident at the bridge. The family is in Modesto to see Teresa off for her trip to the East. Teresa was not happy at first that Scott arranged to have her stay with friends and family in Boston and New York. Scott and Teresa relationship had been developing during that year, but Scott was concerned that Teresa had never lived or really seen anywhere else. He had arranged this trip for a couple of months during the spring so that she could see and experience life outside of Lancer. He wanted her to be sure of her path before she settled down in one place. Teresa had understood what Scott was trying to do and she decided to have fun and enjoy the trip, since Scott had put a great deal of effort arranging it. She knew full well that she would come back. She loved Lancer and she loved Scott.
Scott and Johnny were walking down the street. Scott stopped in front of a gun store when he saw in the window a new Winchester rifle on display.
“Johnny let’s go inside,” Scott said.
“I want to go to the saloon and relax before dinner.” Johnny replied.
“We really don’t have time, we have to be cleaned up and at dinner in an hour and a half,” Scott reminded him.
“Don’t worry about me, I won’t be late. I don’t want to make Teresa upset before her trip,” Johnny said and left Scott to go into the gun store.
“Can I help you?” said the store owner. The owner was a man about Scott’s age with a Southern accent.
“How much are you asking for this?” Scott asked holding the rifle and taking aim at the floor.
The man looked up at Scott and his expression turned serious. “Lt. Lancer?”
“I haven’t been called that in years, but yes I am.” Scott straightened has posture and put the rifle down. Since anything to do with the war did not turn out well, he responded tersely, “Do I know you?”
“Yes you do?”
The family had been waiting at the restaurant for an hour and was growing concerned. Scott was nowhere to be seen. Johnny had just returned from checking his room, but it was obvious that Scott had not been there since the morning.
“Scott is not in his room, it doesn’t look like he came back to his room,” Johnny stated trying to keep the worry out of his voice.
“Didn’t you come back with him?” Teresa asked
“No, I went to the Saloon, Scott wanted to look at a rifle at the gun store,” Johnny answered regretting his earlier decision to separate.
“Well let’s start looking there,” Murdoch got up and made his apologies the waiter.
The door to the store was locked and the closed sign was in the window. Johnny turned the handle and shook the door.
“The light is on in the back, Johnny please knock,” Teresa could barely contain her worry.
Johnny pounded on the door. “Be careful, you are going to break the window,” Murdoch cautioned.
The door opened and the man opened the door. “Can I help you?”
“We are looking for my son, he is blonde and tall. We last saw him going into your store over three hours ago. Have you seen him?” Murdoch asked.
“Yes, please come with me. He is in the back.” The man led the way to the back. Johnny heard the southern accent and switched into the Madrid persona. The accent meant the South, the South meant the war and the war always meant trouble for Scott.
When he opened the door, Teresa saw him and scolded, “Scott we were so worried why didn’t you come to dinner?”
“I am so sorry, I lost track of time.” Scott was sincerely apologetic. He turned to the store owner and said “This is my father Murdoch, my brother Johnny and my father’s ward Teresa.”
“Hello, I am glad to meet you,” the man responded.
Scott turned to his family, “This is Pete O’Grady. He served with me during the war. You may have remembered me mentioning him?” Scott paused with a catch in his voice, “I thought I lost him, but he made it through that day. I am sorry I made you worry, but I couldn’t bring myself to leave.”
The family spent the next few hours with Scott and Pete as the talked about the time they served together during the war. As they got up to leave Pete said, “Make sure you stop by next time you are in Modesto. You know, I have always wondered if I made the correct decision, it looks like I did.”
“I don’t understand what you mean?” Scott was confused. “What decision did you make?”
“At Libby, you were in such bad shape. When they threw you into solitary, I thought for sure you wouldn’t make it through the night. I cleaned your wounds as best I could and made sure you got enough food. I kept your cell as clean as I could and patched up the holes to keep the rats out. It was hard seeing what they did to you. At the end of the war you were barely alive. You didn’t respond to anyone. I wasn’t even sure you knew who I was. I tried to stay with you when we were liberated, but we got separated. I always wondered what happened to you. I knew you didn’t have a family to take care of you. I wasn’t sure that you would be the same man you were when Mike and I first met you. I thought that maybe I should have listened to you and let you go like you asked.”
“That was you? I knew that I knew you, but I couldn’t place you. Everything was so dark and I was always in so much pain.” Scott responded with a tear rolling down his face.
“I am glad you found a family. It makes it all worth it.” Pete said with a smile on his face.
Scott and his family left Pete’s in silence. Scott went to his room alone, he needed time to process what he just found out. Johnny wanted to go with him, but Murdoch stopped him. Johnny was worried that the nightmares would start again. “Murdoch he shouldn’t be left alone,” Johnny argued. “The memories are too horrible. I don’t want him to be alone.”
“Johnny I am worried too, but you know your brother. He needs his time alone to process what he just heard,” Johnny and Murdoch had all confidence in Scott’s inner strength, but the war was something that could immediately throw Scott into turmoil. When the nightmares came they took all his energy. They had learned that Scott could become unreachable if he was pushed too hard. They would have to wait until the morning to see how the night went.
Teresa train left at 10 in the morning. The family met for breakfast, but Scott did not come. “Murdoch, I don’t feel right about leaving. Maybe I shouldn’t go.” Teresa wasn’t really asking. She didn’t want to go. She was in love with Scott and couldn’t bear to leave him.
“He’ll be okay. We will take care of him. He would hate for you to miss this opportunity. I will go find him,” Johnny assured her as he was rising from his chair. Just then Scott walked in.
He saw the worried looks on his family faces. He knew why they were worried. “I am sorry I am late. I over slept. It took me awhile to fall asleep, but I didn’t have any nightmares.” Scott smiled. “Thank you for letting me deal with it on my own. I know how hard that is to do.”
The train pulled into the station. Teresa said goodbye to Johnny and Murdoch. She turned to Scott and said, “I don’t want to leave you.”
“Don’t worry I will be here when you get back. I want you to have a wonderful adventure,” Scott looked down into her face. Over the last year, they had moments together, but Scott always respected the fact that she was young and he never felt that he should act on his desire. He looked down at her wiping the tear from her cheek. “Don’t cry my beautiful Teresa, there’s no need to cry,” He leaned down and gave her a kiss that was a little too passionate for a brother. Teresa smiled remembering the same words he said so long ago and boarded the train.