The sheriff cocked his head when he heard the moan and then the creak from the rope frame under the cot’s thin mattress. Val stood and walked to the cell to check on his prisoner, obviously the kid was still asleep so Val returned to his desk and his pan fried coffee.
He hoped it would be a quiet Sunday morning after the chaos of Saturday night, so Val put his feet on the desk and sipped his coffee. A sudden crash as the office door banged against the wall caused Val to jump and dump hot coffee in his lap.
“What the hell…” Val jumped to his feet with his hand going for his gun.
Murdoch stood in the doorway and Val was sure he saw smoke coming from the man’s ears. “Morning Murdoch, lookin’ for someone?”
“Well, how much damage this time?” Murdoch approached the sheriff as he reached for his wallet.
“Ain’t no damage, why ya always figuring the worst when it comes to Johnny?” Val shook his head while mopping his wet and burning private parts. “He didn’t do nothin wrong, just some young idiot who wanted Madrid. Johnny tried to talk him out of it but the kid wouldn’t take no...” Val stopped when he heard a sound coming from the cell.
Both men went to check on the kid but he was still asleep. Val glared at the sleeping kid and walked back to his desk.
Murdoch followed him, “Where is Johnny? I was told there was trouble in town. Our newest hand, Wilber, returned to the ranch this morning but didn’t have much information. Just go to Green River about Johnny.”
Val turned to face Murdoch and nodded his head toward the cell, “The kid waited till Johnny left the saloon and back shot him. Johnny was able to turn and shoot back, Sam patched up the kid and I threw his ass in jail.”
Murdoch paled, “Is he...Johnny...I need to get to Sam’s.” Murdoch quickly turned and dashed out the door.
When Murdoch entered Sam’s office he saw the doctor standing in the doorway of his surgery and wiping his hands on a towel. “Sam, Johnny is he...”
“Yes Murdoch, he’s alive, I’ve removed the bullet and he sleeping.” Sam held up his hand to stop Murdoch from going into the room and closed the door. “He’s going to be okay, but I want him to stay here for awhile. Knowing him and fevers I want him...”
Murdoch rubbed his hand over his eyes, “Of course Sam, you’re right, he needs to be here.” He looked at the closed door, “Please Sam let me just see him, I want to see him breathing.”
“Okay, but then we go to the kitchen for some coffee.” Sam put his hand on Murdoch’s shoulder and gave a little shove, “Just a look.”
A distraught father entered Sam’s kitchen and sagged into a chair. He sighed, rested his elbows on the table, and dropped his head to his hands. “Why does it never end for Johnny?” It came out as a whisper.
Sam watched his friend and wished Scott was back from Stockton, Murdoch needed his older son. The doctor was concerned about his old friend, he knew Murdoch was afraid he would loose his younger son, again.
The fever came on with a vengeance and the two men spent hours bathing Johnny’s hot skin. A worried Sam asked Val to bring some ice from the saloon. Then they filled a tub with water and ice and lowered Johnny in taking care to keep his head above the water.
While Sam checked Johnny to make sure he didn’t get too cold Murdoch gently bathed his son’s face. Val stood to the side and silently waited and watched his friend.
Finally Sam announced the fever was going down. A relieved Val, Sam, and Murdoch lifted the unconscious Johnny from the tub and wrapped him in towels. Once he was in bed, Sam checked his vital signs and smiled, “The fever’s down, I think the worst is over.”
Val smiled, “Well never could keep him down, don’t worry Murdoch he’ll be up and raising hell in no time.”
Murdoch and Sam laughed, the tension finally released.
Murdoch stood and stretched his aching back then looked down at his son, surprised to see two blue eyes staring at him. “Welcome back son, how do you feel?”
Johnny tried to talk but couldn’t, his mouth was too dry.
“Wait a minute and I get you a drink of water.” Murdoch took the glass from the bedside table. “Here son let me help you.” He put his hand under Johnny’s head and lifted enough for him to drink without choking.
Johnny sniffed the water then drank. Murdoch smiled, he knew Johnny was checking for the hated medicine. As Murdoch lowered his son’s head Sam entered the room.
“Well, I see my patient is awake. Let me in there Murdoch.”
Murdoch stepped back and Sam sat on the stool to check out his now awake and soon to be demanding young patient. “Any pain? Not that you would actually tell me.”
Johnny bowed his head but peeked at Sam, “Okay, ain’t feeling to good.”
Sam grinned and patted Johnny’s shoulder, “Murdoch wait in the outer room.”
Sam’s word was final and Murdoch knew it. “Alright, I be right outside Johnny, if you need me.”
Sam shook his head and started the examination, “Your father has been worried sick about you, he never left your side.”
“He ain’t mad about Madrid and the gunfight?” Johnny asked surprised at what Sam had told him.
“No not mad, just worried. Give him a chance Johnny just like I have asked him to do with you.”
“Okay, I’ll try.”
Sam smiled and patted Johnny’s knee then stood, “I’ll send him in.”
Sam sat in his kitchen and sipped his coffee. The Lancers had been talking for several hours, had to be a good sign that there was no yelling. Yep, it was looking good, Murdoch had his boys back and they were on their way to being a family.
It was always possible that Madrid may again barge into their lives, but as long as Madrid keeps Johnny safe… Well the alter-ego would be welcome as far as Sam was concerned and he was sure deep down Murdoch felt the same way.
Sam placed the cup on the table and moved to the porch, the sunset was beautiful. Yep, life is good.