Safe at Home
by  EJ


(August 22 - 25 is National Safe At Home Week)


When I saw this observance all I could think of was Johnny Madrid.

I want to thank Karen Fedderly for acting as beta for my story, I appreciate all her help and advice.


August 2016


L * A * N * C * E * R


Johnny was bone-tired and the family meal ordeal had just about done him in. It had been only two days since he had arrived at Lancer and already he missed being alone.

He had been blindsided when the girl, Teresa, told him that dandy was his brother. Then… hell, he didn’t like doubting what his mama had told him about his father. 

Finally the ol’ man had announced, ‘mornings come early’. He was so relieved he had nearly knocked over his chair trying to get away before Murdoch changed his mind.

Alone at last, Johnny stood at the open bedroom window. He shook his head and mumbled, “My bedroom. Ain’t that something.” When he heard a nicker he gazed at the corral and the magnificent golden horse. A whistle threatened to escape but he stopped himself in time. Madrid can’t be sentimental.  Instead he soaked in the image of the beloved horse. 

Finally, Johnny turned away from the window and surveyed the room. Nothing familiar, no memories, and no comfort to be found. Well, what did he expect? 

The ol’ man had offered one-third of the place… for his gun. Johnny plopped down on the bed. Oh Murdoch didn’t say gun. No, the ol’ man would never admit to hiring a gunfighter, but Johnny knew only too well why he was at Lancer. He moved his hand to his thigh and pulled the revolver, spun the cylinder, and returned it to the holster. Damn he was tired. He scooted to the head of the bed, plumped a pillow and shoved it behind his back. 

Exhaustion took over and unable to keep his eyes open, he drifted off the sleep.


L * A * N * C * E * R


Dios his back hurt. He tried to turn but those big hands were back and held him in place. He shook his head trying to remove the fogginess, but it didn’t help.

“Lie still Johnny, Sam doesn’t want you to roll onto your wound.” The voice boomed in his ears. He had heard that voice for… how many days? Damn, can’t be lying around, not safe… He tried to turn again; this time he was able to push the hand away.

“Not safe… Got to get up.” Johnny struggled to rise but his arms trembled and he collapsed on the pillow.

“Johnny, you’re safe. Scott and I are here and Pardee is dead.” Murdoch pulled up the blanket to cover his son’s back.

“No, not safe…” Johnny mumbled and passed out.


L * A * N * C * E * R


Scott looked up as Murdoch entered the room carrying a tray with a coffee pot and two cups. “Thought we both could use it.” 

“Thank you, Sir.” Scott accepted a cup and waited as Murdoch poured the steaming hot liquid.

“Did he wake up?” The older man filled his own cup and lowered his large frame onto the chair on the opposite side of the sick bed.

“No, I thought he was coming around but he just shifted around a bit.” Scott blew on the cup and took a cautious sip. 

“He was dreaming and mumbled something in Spanish, but I wasn’t able to understand most of it.” Murdoch sighed in frustration. “I did catch one word.” He looked down at Johnny, “Lies.”

“Lies?” Scott waited for his father to look up. “Teresa told him that Maria left with another man and that you had hunted for them.” 

“How do I convince him that we want him here. That he is safe.” Murdoch placed his empty cup on the tray. “I am afraid he will leave when he is able.”

“Sir, I don’t think it’s just his safety he is worried about.”

“What do you mean?” Murdoch leaned back in his chair. “He said, ‘not safe’ and ‘he’s got to get up’. That sounds to me like he doesn’t feel safe at Lancer.” 

Scott placed his empty cup on the bedside table. “I think Johnny is worried about our safety, your’s, Teresa’s, and mine.” Scott leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees. “He thinks by staying at Lancer there is the risk of other gunfighters coming after his reputation, and he doesn’t want one of us being hurt.”

“Most people believe Madrid is dead.” 

“Unfortunately the people in Morro Coyo, Green River, and Spanish Wells know Madrid is not dead.” Scott pushed off his knees, stood a moment looking at his brother then meandered to the window. “People talk.”  

Murdoch slowly rose and moved to his older son’s side. “I know, but they realize that you and Johnny saved the valley.” He rested his hand on Scott’s shoulder. “Eventually they will forget Madrid and see him as Johnny Lancer, a rancher.”

“I hope so.” Scott nodded.

Murdoch gazed at the figure on the bed. “I don’t want to lose him again.” He squeezed his son’s shoulder, “I don’t want to lose you either.”


L * A * N * C * E * R


Sam stomped down the stairs and let out a long sigh as he entered the Great Room. “That boy would try the patience of a saint.” 

“Drink?” Scott grinned and pointed to the drinks cart.

“Yes, and make it a big one.” Sam plopped onto the sofa glaring at Murdoch. “He… has to be the world’s worst patient.”

Murdoch chuckled, “You aren’t telling us anything we don’t already know.”

“Would you like me to bring the bottle?” Scott handed Sam his drink.

“Not funny, Scott.” Sam took a long swig of his drink. “And yes, bring the bottle. By the way Murdoch, are you going to invite me to spend the night?”

“Of course, Sam.” Using his glass to hide his grin. “I wouldn’t think of sending you home in the dark.”

“Good thing.” Doc picked up the bottle and topped off his drink.


L * A * N * C * E * R


“Come in.” He recognized his father’s knock.

“Johnny, I want to talk to you.” An apprehensive Murdoch dropped into the chair next to the bed.

“What about?” Johnny was sitting on the bed, pulling on his boot.

“I want to know if you are going to stay. When you were so sick… you said you needed to leave.” Murdoch reached out for his son but hesitated when he saw Johnny draw back.

“I want you to stay, this is your home.” He waited but there was no response. “We are family, we care about each other.”

Johnny, head bowed and arms across his chest, hissed . “It ain’t safe me being here. A gunfighter leaves when the job is done.”

Murdoch flinched. “You are not a gunfighter.”

Johnny dropped his arms and face his father. “Yeah, I am. Look Murdoch, I’ve been Madrid a hell of a lot longer than I was Lancer.” He pulled his gun. “This is all I’ve had to keep me alive and safe.”

“You are safe here.” He hesitated when Johnny frowned and shook his head. “Please son, give it a chance. I know we can make this work.”

“You don’t understand. No one is safe around me.”

“I’m not giving up. I hunted for you for so long and now you are home where you belong.” Murdoch leaned to touch the gun, but Johnny pulled it away. “I know with your reputation you can’t hang up the gun… but you are a rancher now.”

“No, Johnny Lancer would have been a rancher, but he doesn’t exist anymore.” Johnny shook his head and whispered, “Mama made sure of that.”

Murdoch let the father in him take over; he rose and sat beside his son. When Johnny didn’t move away, he placed his arm around his son’s shoulders. Relieved his son didn’t shrug him off Murdoch forged on. “You are safe here, you have family who will make sure you are safe. Please give us a chance.”

Johnny peeked up at his father. “Ya have to promise me somthin’.”


“Someday there will be a gunfighter, or some snot nose kid lookin’ for a rep. They could show up in town or maybe here at Lancer.” Johnny looked up, sighed, turned to stare at Murdoch. “If that happens you, Scott, Teresa… ya gotta stay out of it, back away, and don’t say anythin’.” He looked down at his gun. “Please, it could get me killed if I’m worryin’ about any of you. Worse it could get you killed.” Johnny jumped up and paced, finally stopping at the window. He leaned his head against the glass.

”Please ya gotta promise me, if you can’t, I gotta leave.” He looked down at the corral. “I’m goin’ for a ride. Think about this before you make a promise ya can’t keep.”


L * A * N * C * E * R


Johnny stopped Barranca on the hilltop overlooking Lancer. He dismounted and stood next the horse’s head, “What am I getting myself into? A plaid wearing dandy for a brother, a father who always wanted me, and mama’s lies.” He looked to Barranca but the horse didn’t answer. “Ya ain’t much help, amigo.”

Johnny strolled to a large tree, leaned against the trunk, and slid to the ground. He pulled a blade of grass, and began nibbling on it. What was it about this place? He admitted to himself he wanted to get out of the game. He was tired of always watching his back, and there were only a few people he could call friends. Sure as hell not the glamorous life he hoped for when he was a kid. 

“Why did mama have to lie? Why didn’t she just leave me here?” Barranca looked at him but still didn’t answer. “I don’t know either,” he called to his horse.

Always wanted a brother and now I got one. Damn, the man was not what he had in mind. The father he’d hated his whole life for throwing him out had been hunting for him. 

All the cruelty he experienced at the hands of his mother’s men. Watching her murdered by one of her customers, then forced to kill the man to save his own life. “Hell of a life, Madrid.” He tossed away the chewed blade of grass.

Murdoch offered him a new life, a home, and a family. Did he deserve it? 

Madrid didn’t, but what about whatever was left of Johnny Lancer? 

He looked down at the hacienda. “I want to stay.”


L * A * N * C * E * R


Murdoch and Scott sat in the Great Room pondering the consequences of the promise Johnny required. 

“I know there are dangers but I am willing to do whatever it takes to keep my son at Lancer where he belongs.” Murdoch downed the last of his scotch.

“I agree. Now, how do we convince Johnny.” Scott refilled their glasses from the bottle on the table between them.

“Just say y’all promise.” Both men jumped and turned. Johnny was leaning against the door frame.

Murdoch and Scott collided as they both rose.

Johnny straightened. “Whoa, don’t knock yourselves out.” He raised his hands when they rushed toward him.

“I promise.” Murdoch held out his hand. Johnny took it, returning the handshake.

Scott bumped shoulders with his brother. “Me too.”

“It ain’t gonna be easy but guess it’s worth a try.” Johnny stared at the two men, they were grinning like fools. 

“Well, this deserves a celebration.” Murdoch patted both his sons’ shoulders.

“Naw, I don’t like my fun organized.” Johnny raised his hands and backed away.

“Alright, how about a special family dinner and we’ll only invite Sam.” Murdoch beamed.

“Yeah, that’ll be okay. Maybe Mexican food.” Johnny’s voice sounded hopeful.

“Anything son, you pick the menu.” Murdoch couldn’t stop smiling.


L * A * N * C * E * R


The family dinner was not an ordeal this time, and the Mexican dishes had reminded Johnny of happier days. 

Finally everyone was ready to turn in for the night. Unfortunately, Sam stopped Johnny’s retreat and insisted on checking him over before he would be released to go back to work. The ex-gunfighter was sure the ol’ Doc loved keeping a man from his horse, and was forced to endure a lecture about his earlier ride.

Alone in his room, an exhausted Johnny yawned and slipped into his bed. He sighed. Sure was nice having clean sheets.

It had been a good day, one he would never forget. He glanced around the room to make sure all was well. His gun belt hung from the bedpost, he reached for the gun to make sure it was within easy reach. Then he slid his hand under the pillow to make sure the spare gun was there. 

Johnny closed his eyes and drifted to sleep. 

He was home with his family and he was safe.






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