Johnny Madrid rode under the impressive Lancer arch and up to the large hacienda. He stopped by the hitch rail a waited for the tall man coming out the French door.
Johnny looked down on the older man; his voice was full of anger, “Time for pay back.”
“What’s this all about? I don’t know you…” Murdoch hesitated. He was confused, who was this man actually boy? ‘What would a gunfighter want with me?’ Murdoch wondered but he kept eye contact with the young man.
“I guess you wouldn’t since it’s been awhile since you threw mama and me out.” Johnny’s cold smile didn’t reach his eyes.
Murdoch was shocked and leaned into the arch to keep from falling. After all these years and all the hopes, could it be, “Johnny…is it you?” his voice broke as he pushed off the arch and took a step toward his son.
“Yeah, ol’ man it’s me, take a good look because I’m the last thing you’re gonna see.” Johnny held the stallion still as a shaken Murdoch continued to walk toward the horse and rider. Johnny Madrid was not going to back down, hell maybe he’d even let Diablo bite the ol’ bastard.
Murdoch stopped before he got too close to the dangerous looking stallion. “Please get down and come into the house,” Murdoch knew he sounded desperate but on a stronger note, “we need to talk.”
Johnny sensed the older man’s discomfort and enjoyed it. He was not however going to dismount and put himself at a disadvantage with the bigger man. His mama had told him Lancer was biggest man she ever saw, she sure was right about that.
“Nothin’ to talk about ol’ man. Mama told me you didn’t want no half-breed.” Johnny watched Murdoch’s face, surprised at the ol’ man’s hurt expression. “Get your gun, I don’t shoot unarmed men.”
“It’s not like you have been told. Please listen to me.” Murdoch motioned toward the door, “Please at least listen to my side of the story.” Murdoch prayed the boy would listen.
“Don’t want to hear your lies.” the gunfighter’s voice was cold as his eyes.
“I’m not lying, I didn’t throw you and your mother out. She ran away in the middle of the night…with a gambler.” Murdoch’s voice cracked.
“I don’t believe you, you threw us out.” Johnny yelled then regretted losing his temper. ‘Don’t lose control Madrid he told himself, but how did the ol’ man know about the gambler?
The gunfighter stayed in the saddle and tried to calm his emotions, “No more talk, I’ve waited a long time for this.”
Murdoch needed to play for time, “I’m not going to get my gun and since you don’t shoot someone unarmed we are at a standoff.” Murdoch watched his son for a reaction. It didn’t take long.
“Don’t push me ol’ man, as much as I hate you I just might make you the first.” Johnny ground out yet he felt like he was loosing control.
“Please all I want is a few minutes to have my say.” Murdoch knew this was his only chance to reach his son, “If you still want to shoot me I’ll get my gun.” This was a risk but one he had to take.
Johnny watched Murdoch turn and walk to the house, he was amazed the man would turn his back on a gunfighter. This was not what Johnny had expected; he thought he could ride in kill the man and leave but now the man wanted to talk, mierda.
Johnny’s emotions and resolve were at odds. He wanted to know why but at the same time afraid to hear what the man had to say. Is there another side to the story, different from what his mother told him? Johnny controlled the shudder as remembered the gambler and the beatings he received from the man. His thoughts were interrupted by a voice.
Murdoch was glad his son wasn’t a back-shooter since he made it alive to the door. He hesitated and looked back at Johnny, “Please!”
Murdoch was amazed when he saw the emotions flash across his son’s face before the gunfighter gained control.
Finally in control, Johnny dismounted and slowly walked to the door and faced the big man, “Okay but I’ll know if you lie.”
“It won’t be lies, it will be the story as I know it.” Murdoch wanted to touch the boy but knew better than to try.
Johnny followed Murdoch into the great room and stopped by the long table as Murdoch walked to the drink cart, “Drink?”
“I don’t have tequila will scotch or whiskey be alright?”
Murdoch poured two drinks and walked to the sofa and placed the drinks on the table. He motioned for Johnny to come into the room, “Please sit down.”
Johnny walked to the sofa, grabbed the drink, hesitated then sat down. “Get it said ol’ man, what’s your side?” He just wanted to get it over with and get away from Lancer.
Murdoch took a gulp of his drink and looked at the angry face of his lost son. “I loved you and your mother. When she left and took you my life was destroyed. I hunted for you and when I had the money I hired the Pinkerton Agency to hunt for you.” Murdoch waited for a response but nothing just the cold glare of a gunfighter. “Johnny if I didn’t want you why would I try for so long to find you?” Murdoch watched his son and hoped the boy would finally say something.
Johnny’s mind was in chaos but he tried to keep the mask in place. He didn’t want to believe his mother lied and he didn’t want to believe the man he had hated all his life was telling the truth. ‘Pinks, is that why mama moved them so much, she always said stay away from gringos they will hurt you. Mama said his father didn’t want him because he’s a mestizo.’ Now this man claimed to want him. He should have stayed in Mexico this was not how he imagined it would play out. Why would mama lie, did she lie, he didn’t know what to believe. His thoughts were jumbled.
Murdoch watched Johnny as he struggled with this information. He wanted to reach out to his son but he was afraid the boy would bolt. “Johnny?” Murdoch whispered. His son was hurting and he didn’t know how to help.
Johnny looked down at his drink and downed it in one gulp, it burned, and he felt like he was going to throw up. All he wanted to do was run out the door, mount Diablo, and ride as far away as possible. But, Johnny Madrid doesn’t run so no matter how much this was going to hurt he had to hear it.
“Why would mama lie to me?” the question was asked so softly Murdoch wasn’t sure if his son had spoken to him or to himself.
‘I don’t know Johnny, I wish I did so I could help you but…” Murdoch wished he had an answer for his son.
Johnny got up walked over to the desk by the window dropped his head and his arms wrapped around his chest in a tight self-hug, “Did you want me?” Johnny closed his eyes and waited for an answer.
Murdoch moved toward Johnny but didn’t try to touch him.
Johnny heard the approach and opened his eyes but didn’t move.
“Yes son, I wanted you and I still want you. I want you at Lancer where you have always belonged.” Murdoch felt hope spring to life in his heart.
“I know this has been a lot to hear but there is something else.” Murdoch hoped this would not be too much but Johnny needed to know and this might be his only chance.
Johnny raised his head and looked at the big man, “What? More lies about my life?”
“I’m sorry son. Did your mother tell you that you have an older brother?” he wished there had an easier way to say it. Murdoch saw the shocked look and started to move toward Johnny.
Johnny could hardly believe what he had heard, mama never told him about a brother. The self-hug dropped and his hand settled on his gun. The big man was getting too close for comfort and he fought to hide behind the gunfighter façade. He knew the ol’ man saw the shock before he could hide it, “Another lie?”
“No, not a lie.”
“Mama didn’t say anything about a brother, why didn’t she take both of us?”
“Your older brother is the son of my first wife, she died in childbirth.” Murdoch’s voice quivered, he was reliving that horrible memory.
Johnny saw it on the man’s face and knew it wasn’t a lie. Maybe what he had been told was lies. ‘Why, why would she?’ Johnny was confused and hurt, these were not feelings he wanted to deal with now. All he wanted to do was get away. He started to turn toward the French doors but stopped when he felt someone touch him.
Murdoch sucked in a breath when he saw the gun pointed as his heart, it had happened so fast he didn’t ever see Johnny move. Stunned Murdoch dropped his hand and waited.
The gunfighter looked at the man before him, the man he came here to kill but he couldn’t pull the trigger. Johnny didn’t know what to do; he needed to get away to think things through. Then he heard the familiar sound.
At the rifle cock, both men turned to see a tall blonde man at the open French door.
“I suggest you holster that gun or I will shoot you. I do not appreciate you holding a gun on my father.” said Scott Lancer.
“Scott, it’s alright. Johnny put your gun away.” Murdoch had to take control and used his ‘I’m the boss’ voice.
Scott lowered the rifle but kept his eyes on the gunfighter. Johnny hesitated and slowly holstered his gun but kept an eye on the stranger.
Murdoch walked over to Scott and placed his arm around his older son’s shoulders, “Scott, he’s your brother Johnny.”
Johnny watched for the other man’s reaction and it didn’t take long.
The shocked expression with some fear mixed in was evident and Johnny was amused and comforted. So this is his brother, the blonde gringo looked like a greenhorn.
Though Scott felt relief his brother was alive he was not sure he wanted this gunfighter to be that brother. So he tried to sound sincere, “We have tried to find you for a long time and now you show up on your own, welcome home little brother.” Scott moved forward and held out his hand.
Johnny didn’t move at first then finally took the man’s hand. He was good at reading people and he had read Scott loud and clear, he didn’t want a gunfighter in the house let alone as a brother. What the hell that was Scott’s problem he sure didn’t care about the greenhorn’s opinion.
Murdoch started breathing again, he hadn’t realized he was holding his breath while he waited to see what would happen between the brothers.
“I think the three of us need to talk, will you listen to us Johnny?” Murdoch asked.
Scott took his father’s lead, “I would like a drink before we start, anyone for refills?” He walked to the drink cart and filled a class and brought the bottle with him to the sofa. “Gentlemen, I think the sofa and chairs would be more comfortable than standing.” Scott sat on the sofa and sipped on his drink while he waited to see if they would join him. He couldn’t help wishing Johnny would refuse.
Murdoch moved to his chair, refilled his class, and sat down. He looked over to see if Johnny would follow him. Murdoch sensed Scott’s reluctance and wished he could bring both his boys together, now he started to have doubts that would happen.
Johnny walked to the ottoman and sat down, he shook his head when Scott offered the bottle. He didn’t want a drink, yet. He also didn’t want to be this close to the two other men. ‘Keep your head clear Madrid.’
Silence was finally broken when Murdoch asked Johnny if he had anything he wanted to ask Scott.
Johnny looked at his ‘brother’. “We sure don’t look alike, do we? We don’t look much like you either ol’ man.” He wanted to see if he could get a rise out of this newfound brother.
Scott didn’t approve of the ‘ol’ man’ title but left it to his father to address it. “I am told I have my mother’s eyes.” Scott knew his brother was testing him but he wasn’t going to give the gunfighter the satisfaction. He merely glanced at Johnny and downed his drink.
Murdoch felt he had to take control, “Johnny you look like your mother, but your eyes are from my grandfather. He and my brother Ian had those same sapphire blue eyes. The minute you opened your eyes I saw…” Murdoch had to stop and take a drink. He was seeing his baby in his mind but before him sat the lost son, the son who was robbed of his life and family. Was all hope lost, could they be a family, and were the boys even willing to try? Scott and Johnny needed to be together, he needed them.
Johnny sat unable to move his mind in such chaos that he didn’t know what to do or say. The ol’ man looked at him with…Johnny didn’t know what the man expected from him. Johnny had hated for so long he didn’t know if he could do anything else. Oh he realized he had lived a life of lies his mama fed him but… “I don’t remember you.” Johnny whispered.
“I know son, you were two-years old the last time I saw you. You never met Scott.” Murdoch spoke softly to his younger son.
“Why didn’t mama tell me about Scott?” Johnny figured she had known about the gringo son.
Murdoch looked to his older son, “She never saw Scott. She knew he was in Boston and that I wanted to bring him home. When Scott was 5-years old I went to Boston to bring him to Lancer so the two of you could grow up together.” Murdoch hesitated then continued, “It was after I returned… Well things were different with your mother and me then one day you both were gone.”
Sensing his father was at a loss for words Scott took up the story. “Johnny, my grandfather took me to Boston after my mother died and kept me from Murdoch. He lied to me about my father, told me I wasn’t wanted. I grew up with lies too. When I was older I learned the truth and sought out my father. We have built a relationship, one that could be shared with you. Will you give us the chance?”
He looked to Johnny, not sure if a relationship was possible or if he really wanted one. He had so many doubts and wished he could have discussed them with Murdoch, alone.
Murdoch was grateful to Scott for telling the difficult story and coming from brother to brother it was a shared experience of a life of lies. They could help each other if they were willing to try, he wasn’t sure either one of them was willing to take that step. He may want them to be a family but he couldn’t force them to feel the same way.
“Your abuelo lied about him?” Johnny nodded toward Murdoch, “Did you hate him?” he asked.
“I didn’t hate him, I was disappointed that my father didn’t want me without even knowing me.” Scott finished his drink and poured another, he wasn’t comfortable sharing this information with a brother he didn’t know.
Johnny looked at both men and knew that they were waiting for him to say all is forgiven let’s be a family. He didn’t know if he could. Well they don’t know what they’re asking, and I don’t think the greenhorn will accept it. Oh well, time to drop the bomb and see who survives the explosion.
“I don’t think you will want me in your precious family once you know who and what I am.” Johnny was in gunfighter mode for self-protection.
Murdoch and Scott spoke at once, “What?”
Murdoch spoke first, “Johnny it’s obvious you are a gunfighter but you can change your life. I’ve never heard of a gunfighter named Johnny Lancer so I’m sure you can leave that life behind you.”
Johnny shook his head then looked at both of them. They have no idea. Oh well get it said and head out, all this talk of family will end when they find out.
“What makes you think I used the name Lancer?” Johnny sneered. “You both say you want me back, well be careful what you ask for because this is going to bite you. Ever heard of Johnny Madrid?”
“Of course he’s infamous.” Murdoch replied.
“Do you know him?” Scott asked.
Johnny waited a second, “Yeah you could say that, I’m Johnny Madrid.”
This news was shattering and it showed on their faces. Johnny waited and watched their reactions.
Murdoch had heard of Madrid. How could his son be Madrid, Madrid was a cold-hearted killer, sold his gun to the highest bidder, no it can’t be. Johnny can’t be the infamous gunfighter. Murdoch shook his head and poured another drink that he drank in one gulp.
Scott had read some cheap novels that had been left on the train during his trip west. Some of stories had the name Madrid in the titles. The stories were horrible and Madrid was one of the worst killers, he was dangerous, and he was supposed to be the best and fastest gunhawk alive. Johnny at Lancer could bring in other of his kind to the area no one would be safe. Murdoch had told Scott about gunfighters but he had never met one and he didn’t want to meet one and wanted even less to have one as a brother.
Johnny waited and watched their reactions and knew he was right, they didn’t want the likes of Madrid at Lancer. At least he’d had his say now it was time to move on, “Guess that means you know who and what I am. I’ll be movin’ on so ya’ll don’t have to worry about me fucking up your good reputations.” Johnny stood up, “Don’t worry no one will know I have anything to do with Lancer.”
Johnny waited for them to say something, but nothing. “The hell with both of you.”
Murdoch was lost in the thoughts of his baby boy as a hired gun. They had lost so much, why?
Scott was lost in his thoughts that his brother was a hired killer. He was dangerous and how long before he killed them if he got mad?
They were so lost in thoughts about themselves and what they felt was their loss that neither one heard Johnny’s parting comments or noticed when Johnny slipped out of the room.
Johnny headed for his horse, maybe mama lied to him about his father but Johnny knew she had loved him. Johnny was sure he couldn’t say the same about his father and brother.
Johnny mounted Diablo and rode toward the Lancer arch and he never looked back.
Johnny pulled up his black stallion and looked down on the older man, his voice was full of anger, “Time for pay back.”
The shot was deafening. Murdoch’s shirt was turning red as he fell to the ground. He looked up at the gunfighter he didn’t recognize and asked, “Why?”
Johnny looked down at the man he hated for so many years and said, “I’m Madrid, you made me ol’ man.”
“I don’t understand…” Murdoch gasped as he passed out.
Madrid turned the black stallion and headed for the Lancer arch, he never looked back.
Murdoch awoke gasping for air and rubbed at the pain in his chest. “Why?”