Today is the day, Murdoch made his decision now it was time for his sons to have a chance to make their decisions about the future of Lancer. He didn’t expect them to decide on the spot but he was going to make sure they had the facts to make a decision they could all accept.
“Well boys, how did it go today?” Murdoch approached his sons, grinning at their messy state, his steps were light. Tonight the three of them were going to talk and decisions would be made. Tonight they are going to become a family and no more lies.
Johnny looked at his father, surprised at the older man’s relaxed and friendly attitude. “Hey Murdoch, the creek is clear and ready for the rains.” Johnny slapped his hat against his dirty pant leg.
Scott waved his hand in the air, “Watch it I’m dirty enough without the extra help.” He was also a bit taken back by his father’s manner.
“You boys go get cleaned up, I asked Maria to hold supper so you have time.” Murdoch smiled at the shocked looks on his son’s faces. Then he turned and headed to the great room. It had been a long time since he felt this happy.
“Dios, did the ol’ man just say we could be late for supper? Ya think he’s sick or something?” Johnny’s mouth hung open as he watched his father walk though the French door.
“Close you mouth brother before you swallow a fly.” Scott smacked Johnny’s shoulder. “Let’s go.” Scott pulled on Johnny’s arm. “A bath is going to feel wonderful and I look forward to donning some clean clothes.”
“Ya always need so many words to say a bath and clean duds?” Johnny shook his head and followed his big brother. Yep a bath was going to feel good.
As he waited for his sons to return Murdoch poured another scotch and settled into his leather chair. He was excited and nervous at the same time, he wasn’t sure how he was going to start the talk but decided to just say how he felt. Let the words fall where they may. He took a long drink and waited for his sons.
Supper was a quiet affair and the conversation revolved around ranch business. Even though all three men weren’t sure what was ahead for the evening it was an unstated agreement to keep it friendly while Teresa was at the table.
Finally the meal was over and Teresa excused herself to help Maria in the kitchen.
“Boys please join me for a drink. I have some important issues I want to discuss and I think we will all be grateful for something strong.” He handed Scott a single malt scotch and Johnny his favorite tequila.
After Johnny and Scott were seated on the sofa Murdoch sat in his leather chair and took a long slow, sip of his scotch. Then he looked at his sons, his sons, the ones he loved. The ones he loved more than every blade of grass on Lancer.
“I want to discuss...we need to talk about…” Murdoch shook his head. “Boys I want us to talk but I’m afraid I’ll use the wrong words.”
Murdoch raised his hand when Johnny stood up. “Please I know I said the past is in the past and I was wrong. Please Johnny sit down.”
After Johnny sat down Murdoch cleared his throat and looked at his younger son. “Johnny I know you think I hate Madrid and that I hold him against you, but I don’t.”
He turned to his older son, “Scott, I know you always wondered why I never came for you. I guess you thought I didn’t want you but you were wrong son, I always wanted you.”
A very pregnant silence filled the great room as the two sons stared at their father and wondered where did that come from? Scott was the first to find his voice, “Murdoch what do you want from us?” Johnny sighed, he could always rely on Scott knowing what to do or say. He sat back and waited to see what was going to happen.
“Well sons, I want to tell you my side of our story. What you were told about me, well I won’t call them lies I will leave it to you to decide who is lying.” Murdoch took another sip of his drink and continued. “Please hear me out and then I will answer your questions.”
Both boys nodded their agreement and waited to hear what Murdoch wanted to say.
“Scott, I’ll start with your story since this whole mess was like dominos falling from just one event.” Murdoch stared into his older son’s face and began his story.
“Pardee wasn’t the first land pirate to try to take Lancer. Catherine was so close to your delivery and I was so afraid that the two of you would be hurt that I sent her away. I thought I was protecting her and you.” Murdoch swallowed the lump in his throat. “Your mother didn’t want to leave, she said she belonged at Lancer and wanted our son born in his home. She wanted me to hold our son and give him his name.” Murdoch wiped the tear that slid down the side of his face and held up his hand when Scott started to stand.
“No, Scott let me finish.”
Scott returned to the sofa. Murdoch knew this was hurting both of them and was glad to see Johnny reach over and rub his brother’s shoulder.
“Harlan met Catherine and was supposed to stay with her until it was safe to return to Lancer. You came early, I guess the move was too much for her…”
Murdoch shook his head, “She died and it was my fault, I should never have sent her away.” He took another drink and fought the emotions welling in him, he had to tell Scott the truth.
Johnny put his arm over Scott’s shoulder, both waited for Murdoch to continue. They knew he needed time and were not going to push.
“I went after her as soon as I could but I was too late and Harlan had taken you to Boston. He didn’t even wait to see his daughter buried.” The anger and hurt obvious in his voice.
“I wanted to go after them but it wasn’t possible. Lancer was almost broke from fighting the land pirates and if I didn’t go back and salvage what I could there would be nothing left to give you a home.” Murdoch sounded defeated.
“Life finally returned to some form of normalcy and I was able to work as a part-time deputy to earn the money I needed to keep Lancer going. If not for Paul...well he kept things going here while I was off being a deputy.”
Murdoch rose and went to the drink cart to refill his glass, “Boys.” They both shook their heads.
He returned to his chair and began, “Johnny your story starts here.”
Johnny pulled his arm back and moved a few inches from his brother. He wasn’t sure he was ready to hear this story, but Madrid wasn’t a coward so he wouldn’t run.
Murdoch noticed the move and was hurt that this son felt so isolated.
“I was in Mexico and met your mother. She was beautiful and so different from Catherine.” He turned to Scott, “No one would ever replace your mother Scott but Maria helped fill a void and heal a broken heart.”
Scott nodded his understanding and turned to his brother, he wished he knew what to do to help Johnny.
“We...I don’t want to hurt you Johnny but…” Murdoch took another sip of his drink. How do I tell my son I got his mother pregnant before we married?
Johnny looked at Murdoch, “I know she was carrying me before you married her, don’t sweat it Murdoch.”
“I loved her son, and when she told me I was so happy I asked her to marry me immediately. She accepted and after the priest married us I took her to Lancer.” Murdoch watched Johnny but the Madrid mask was firmly in place.
“I thought we were happy and at first I believed we were. When you came I was so happy, I brought you down here and we sat in this chair.” At this Murdoch smiled. “We, well I talked. I told you about your big brother and how I was going to bring him home so you could grow up together. I told you about Lancer.”
Scott looked to his brother and wanted to reach out but held back, he was afraid Johnny would bolt if touched.
Murdoch watched his sons and wished he could hold both of them.
Johnny sat quietly and wished he could disappear.
Murdoch took a breath and forged on, “I decided it was time to go to Boston, confront Harlan and bring my son home. When I arrived it was your birthday and I interrupted your party.” Murdoch pictured his son in his birthday clothes and his little friends. “Harlan told me he would fight me, take you to Europe and when it was time for the trial he would drag you into court…” Murdoch’s voice cracked. He looked at Scott, “I couldn’t let that happen to you.” Harlan at least let me...he introduced me and let me shake your hand.”
Now both his sons sat in silence, if his words had been bullets they would both be coved in blood. As it was instead of blood it was lies.
“When I got home Maria was different but I thought it was because I had been gone for so long. I told her I loved her and you and that nothing would ever change that, but I guess she didn’t believe me. Anyway I got up one morning and both of you were gone.” He looked at Johnny, still nothing. “I hunted for you Johnny, I tried to find you and bring you home. Please Johnny, I wanted my son home where he belonged. Please believe me Johnny.”
Murdoch continued, “I hired the Pinkertons to find you and your mother but they never found much, except when your mother died when you were 10-years old. I had hoped finding a boy would be easier but you managed to disappear.” He paused a moment then, “I hired them whenever I had the extra money and over the years just bits and pieces came in, then they finally found out about Madrid. I told them to find you.” Murdoch remembered the shock he felt when he learned his baby boy was now a gunfighter, and a famous one.
“When Pardee threatened Lancer I knew I had to bring my sons home to help me save our home. OUR home.” Murdoch waited, his sons still sat quietly.
“I sent an agent to Boston for you Scott and an agent to Mexico for you Johnny. When I read the report that the agent found you in front of a firing squad…” Murdoch stopped when he saw the shocked look on Scott’s face, obviously his older son didn’t know that part of the story.
“When you both came home at the same time I wan’t prepared I didn’t know what to say and so I said the wrong thing. I seem to do that a lot and I’m sorry. When I said this land means more to me than anything I was wrong. This land means nothing to me without my sons, you both are my life and it isn’t worth living without you.” Murdoch looked at his drink and downed the remainder. “I said the past is in the past, it’s not, it’s filled with lies. I want us to face the past and face the lies. I know you have questions and need time to consider what I have told you. I want you both to know that I am here and will tell you anything you want to know. Just ask.”
The emotions in the great room were overpowering but Murdoch for one was relieved to have it out in the open, now he hoped that it had helped his sons.
Scott looked at his father, the father that did want him, all those years and all those lies. He felt like the air was being sucked from the room.
Johnny had wrapped his arms around his chest and his head was bowed, an all to familiar pose that Murdoch hated.
He stood and moved to Johnny, he grabbed his son and pulled him into a hug. Johnny struggled but the larger man refused to let go and held even tighter.
Scott rose and put his arms around both men, Murdoch looked at his older son and smiled. Scott never ceased to amaze him, this son always knew what to do and when. Johnny stopped struggling and Murdoch moved one arm to embraced Scott.
The three men stood together for several minutes when Johnny said, “Hey ol’ man can you ease up some, it’s getting hard to breathe.” This simple statement gave them the relief they needed.
Murdoch stepped back and smiled at his boys, they smiled back. Not everything was settled but they had the rest of their lives to try to get it right.
Murdoch went to the drinks cart and brought back the bottles to refill their glasses. Then he raised his glass…
“Welcome home sons.”