(Third story in series: Discovery and The Long Overdue Talk)
Murdoch relaxed in his leather chair and sipped his favorite Scotch; the hot bath had relieved his aching back. First thing tomorrow he would have the chair removed from the attic and burned.
Earlier he had told Johnny and Teresa to make themselves scarce after supper because he wanted to talk to Scott privately. Johnny nodded and before Teresa asked why she was elbowed in the ribs by her brother. As awareness hit her she grinned and rushed into the kitchen.
When Murdoch heard the French doors open he looked up, shocked at the sight. “Son, what happened to you?”
Scott was covered in dried mud, his hair stuck out in every direction, and he had an impressive bruise forming on his cheek. “One of your… our…” He raised his arms and let them drop to his side. “Now I know why Johnny says cows are the dumbest critters God ever created.” He stood in the doorway the image of defeat.
“Son, head to the bath house and I’ll bring you some clean clothes.” Murdoch rose and turned toward the stairs as Scott left the Great Room.
In the bath house a very sore Scott lowered himself into the steaming bath water. With a long sigh and a soft ah, he slid under the water and let the heat soak in for a moment. When he surfaced he saw his father standing by the door, he was smiling.
“How does it feel?” Murdoch placed the clean clothes on the bench.
“Wonderful.” Scott leaned back against the tub and closed his eyes.
Scott opened his eyes, “Yes, Sir?”
“Son… After supper I was hoping we could talk.” Murdoch grabbed a towel and placed it next to the clothes.
“Is there a problem?” He wondered why Murdock lingered, he usually just dropped off the clothes and left.
“No, Son, no problem.” He realized his actions must seem strange. “I think we are overdue for a talk about the past.” There he had said it and it wasn’t so hard.
“Yes, Sir.” Scott wondered why now.
The two men stared at each other for a few uncomfortable seconds.
Murdoch cleared his throat, “I’ll let you soak in peace.” Then he turned and left the bath house.
L * A * N * C * E * R
A few minutes later the bath house door opened again and Scott peeked over his shoulder to see who was interrupting him now. “Johnny?”
“Hey brother, Murdoch said ya had a run-in with a Lancer cow.” Johnny chuckled as he shoved the clothes and towel aside then plopped down on the bench. “Nice bruise ya got there.” He started to reach for it when Scott pulled back.
“He said he wants to talk to me.” Scott wrung out the wash cloth.
“Yeah, he does.”
“Why?” Scott placed the cloth against his cheek.
“We talked earlier, I think he’s wanting to set the record straight with you.” When he saw the doubt forming on Scott’s face he raised his hand. “It helped, it hurt too but it helped, Scott.”
“Really?” Scott didn’t sound convinced.
“Yep, just give him a chance.” Johnny stood, “He’s holding supper till ya get done in here, so hurry up I’m starving.”
“You’re always starving. Tell them I be done in a few minutes.”
Johnny tossed the towel at his brother’s head.
L * A * N * C * E * R
Murdoch and Scott sat in the now quiet Great Room and sipped their drinks. The silence was grating on both of them but neither was sure how to start. Finally Murdoch opened the conversation, “Son, Johnny and I talked earlier and it helped him understand why his life…”
“He told me.” Scott stared into his glass.
“I… We…” Murdoch was fumbling for the right words and his older son’s natural aloofness wasn’t making it any easier.
“I know you must wonder why…” Murdoch cleared his throat. “Why you grew up in Boston.”
Scott looked up from his glass, “I have.”
“I have always wanted you here, Son, where you belong.” The words seemed hollow even to his ears.
Scott merely stared at his father.
“Son, how do I convince you I mean it?” This conversation was falling apart quickly.
Scott didn’t want to come across accusatory, but he wanted some answers to his questions. “When I told you I was going back to Boston, why did you just accept it without a fight? Johnny certainly didn’t accept it.”
“You are a grown man capable of making your own decisions. Harlan and I had agreed that we would not try to influence your decision. I know now that he had no intention of keeping that promise. I know now, that it was a mistake not telling you I wanted you to stay.”
Scott took a sip of his drink, he was doubting this conversation would settle anything. So far he was not impressed. “When I was leaving you acted like you were wishing an acquaintance a safe trip?”
Murdoch nodded, “I… I didn’t want you to go. I didn’t know how to tell you.”
“You just say, please don’t go.” Scott downed the rest of his drink and placed the glass on the table. “It’s getting late.”
“Please Son, stay, I need to tell you why I made the decisions I made.” Murdoch sent up a silent prayer that Scott would listen.
Scott rose and went to the drinks cart; he returned with a bottle and refilled both glasses. Then he sat down and waited.
For several minutes the only sound in the Great Room was the ticking of the Grandfather clock.
Murdoch took a sip of his drink then sighed, “You heard the story about Judd Haney?” After Scott nodded he continued. “I was so worried that your mother would be hurt. I didn’t want to either of you to be hurt.”
Scott placed his glass on the table. “I know you did what you thought was right.”
Murdoch inwardly cringed, his son wasn’t going to give an inch, but what else should he expect. He realized he had made so many mistakes with Scott.
“Son, I only wanted you both to be safe. I wanted Harlan to stay with her, not take her to Boston. They were supposed to go to San Francisco until Haney was defeated and I could come for her.” Murdoch swallowed the hurt of remembering. “Catherine went into labor, it was too early…” He fought his emotions to continue. “I never dreamed he would take you away. He didn’t even wait to see Catherine buried-”
“What?” Scott was shocked, his grandfather never told him that part of the story.
Murdoch was taken aback by Scott’s outburst, not sure if it was against him or Harlan, but he needed to set the story right. “Harlan was in a hurry to take you away before I could get there. The midwife told me he paid for the burial before he left town.” Murdoch downed his drink in one swallow. “She told me Harlan wouldn't let her help Catherine with the birth, maybe if he had your mother wouldn’t have died.” Murdoch closed his eyes and tried to fight back the tears.
“He never told me that…” Scott’s voice cracked, then saw something he never expected, tears.
Murdoch finally gained control and opened his eyes. “I’m not surprised.”
“Why would he lie to me?” Scott was still defensive.
“Harlan lied to you and me; that’s what he does to get his way.” Murdoch didn’t even try to keep the bitterness from his voice.
Scott nodded, “Grandfather always had to have things his way.”
Murdoch nodded his agreement and waited.
Scott sat quietly, too many thoughts were running through his mind. Finally, the question he always wanted to ask wouldn’t be denied any longer, “Sir, why didn’t you come for me?”
“When?” The doubt obvious in his voice and on his face.
“It was your fifth birthday party.”
“Grandfather’s business acquaintance… I thought you were a giant.” The sudden remembrance caused Scott to stare at his hand. “You shook my hand.” He looked up at his father, “I remember how big your hand was next to mind.”
“I wanted to take you with me but Harlan said he would drag me though the courts, make you testify, and then he would send you to Europe.” Murdoch’s hand shook slightly as he poured two more drinks.
“I wrote to you often and always sent birthday and Christmas gifts, did you receive any of them?” Murdoch already knew the answer.
“No, Sir, I never received anything from you.” Scott took a sip of his drink. “What did you write in the letters?” He rolled the glass between his hands.
“How much I loved you and your mother and how sad it made me to lose both of you. I told you about your little brother and how much I wanted you home at Lancer where the two of you would grow up together.” This time Murdoch didn’t stop the tear that rolled down his cheek. “When your mother died and Harlan took you to Boston…” He choked on the words. “Son, I felt my heart break.”
“Murdoch, you don’t need to continue.”
Murdoch shook himself. “Yes, I do. I want you to understand.”
“No, Son, you don’t.” Murdoch leaned back in his chair. “I left you there because I didn’t want you placed in the middle of a bitter court battle, and Harlan would have sent you to Europe…” Murdoch closed his eyes, a moment later opened them, “I had a friend in Boston who wrote to me about how you were doing. If you went to Europe I would lose that connection.”
“Who.” He couldn’t imagine Murdoch having friends in Boston.
“Dr. Alex Chandler.”
“My doctor?” Scott was surprised.
“Dr. Chandler and your mother were old friends. Alex and I became friends after I rescued him from a robbery attempt when he had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Murdoch smiled, “That’s how I met your mother and the three of us spent many happy times together.” Then his smile faded. “Alex was aware of how Harlan felt about me; so he helped Catherine arrange our meetings.” Murdoch wasn’t sure of Scott’s reaction to what he was going to say next, but it needed to be said. “Alex also knew how much we loved each other and that Catherine wanted to go to California as much as I did.”
Scott remained silent, he needed to hear everything.
Murdoch feared the bomb he was about to drop would end the conversation. “Alex helped your mother and me elope-”
Murdoch stopped suddenly at the expression on Scott’s face.
“I…” Scott couldn’t find any words. Finally after a painful silence, “Dr. Chandler never told me,” he whispered.
“How could he son? If Harlan knew Alex was involved in the elopement and worse yet that he was in contact with me, your grandfather would have removed Alex as your doctor. Harlan wouldn’t have stopped at that either, he would have ruined Dr. Chandler’s practice.”
Scott nodded sadly, “Grandfather would have wanted revenge. Now I know why Dr. Chandler was always asking me how I was doing in school and what was I doing with my friends. I also remember he only asked those questions when we were alone.”
“He was very fond of you and offered his help in getting custody of you but… I hope you can understand son, Harlan had hurt enough people and I couldn’t let Dr. Chandler sacrifice his career.” He knew this sounded bad on his part; he was giving p his son. “Neither Alex nor I had the money or power to fight Harlan Garrett. That, Scott, is why I didn’t go to court. You were safe and at least I had a long distance relationship with you.”
Scott was feeling overwhelmed and unsure he could continue the talk with his father. Finding out that his mother might not have died if she had been helped, that he had been stolen from his father, and that his grandfather had resorted to disreputable means to make sure he got what he wanted. He looked into his father’s eyes and knew everything was true. So painfully true. Johnny was right the talk would hurt but would it help?
Scott took another sip of his drink then placed the glass on the table. “I see Johnny wasn’t the only one lied to by a caretaker.”
“Those who should have loved and cared for both of you, failed both of you.” It was a raspy whisper but Scott heard it. “I failed you son, and I am so sorry.”
“No Murdoch, you did the right thing, grandfather would have hurt Dr. Chandler any way he could.”
“I had to believe that as long as I stayed away, Harlan would keep you in Boston where Alex could watch over you. My biggest fear was he would send you away and I wouldn’t know where you were or if you were safe.”
“The same fears you had about Johnny.” Scott thought about the pain his father and brother had suffered.
It never ceased to amaze him how the brothers always thought of each other first. “He asked me why I didn’t spend the money fighting Harlan instead of wasting it hunting for him.”
Scott grinned for the first time, “Sounds like him. I wish we could have grown up together.”
Murdoch smiled in relief, “I am so happy that the two of you have formed such a strong bond. You finally get to be brothers.”
Both men sat and savored their drinks. This conversation had taken a turn for the better.
Murdoch cleared his throat, there was still more to discuss. “I want to tell you about the Doogans.”
“You don’t need to, I know that was a lie too.” Scott bowed his head. “I only wish Julie hadn’t been forced into the middle of this mess. I thought I loved her…” Scott looked at his drink on the table but didn’t pick it up. “That grandfather would threaten a sick, old man… It’s below contempt.”
Murdoch watched his son but remained silent.
Finally Scott knew in his heart what was needed, Murdoch had finally opened up and now it was his turn. “Murdoch, I don’t think my relationship with grandfather will ever be based on trust again. How can I believe in him after all he has done to me and my family?”
Murdoch reached out to Scott. “That’s something only time will tell. I love you son, I want you to stay at Lancer but I will never force you. As I said before, you are your own man and capable of making your own decisions. Just know that from now on, I am here whenever you need me or have any questions.” With his hand still resting on Scott’s arm, “I will tell you how I feel, no more suffering in silence, and no more letting you wonder if I care about you.”
Scott smiled and patted the hand on his arm, “Thanks.”
It had been an emotional and exhausting evening but Murdoch felt he had come to an understanding like he had with Johnny.
“Son, I know not everything came be accomplished in one night but I feel we have made a good start to making this work between us.”
“We have. Thank you, like Johnny said it hurt but it helped.” Scott grinned, “Don’t let my little brother in on that bit of information.”
Murdoch laughed then stood and stretched his back. “It’s been a long day-”
“And mornings come early.” Scott finished.
They walked together to the stairs where Scott stopped and turned to Murdoch.
“Son?” Murdoch questioned when Scott didn’t speak immediately.
“It’s good to be home where I belong with you and my little brother.”
“You’ve made me very happy, son.” He reached out and placed his arm around Scott’s shoulders and pulled him into a half hug. “Both you and Johnny being home… it’s an answer to all my prayers.”
At first Scott was surprised by his father’s closeness but then it felt good; it felt right.
Side by side they climbed the stairs and walked to their bedrooms. Scott stopped at his door and he turned to see Murdoch had stopped at his.
Scott smiled, “Thank you and good night… Father.”