(sequel to: Boy Are We in Trouble Now)
It was a quite morning in Green River, considering the number of people who were up and about in hopes of witnessing Murdoch Lancer’s arrival. Last night’s conversations were filled with laughter and retelling of the boy’s high jinks and the sheriff’s anger. There were also bets on the size of the explosion when the master of Lancer got hold of his sons.
Most people in Green River had finally accepted Johnny, having been recipients of his willingness to offer help when needed. Most of the women, including the Widow, had fallen under his natural charm, a fact that caused many a sleepless nights for fathers of young daughters. Scott on the other hand had been accepted immediately, they all agreed he was the perfect son and a good prospect for a husband. Now some were wondering if Scott had been around his younger brother too long and was picking up bad habits. However, they agreed it was good having the Lancer sons home.
Meanwhile at the jail:
Val was threatening to withhold breakfast, obviously his anger hadn’t faded. “Y’all just shut up, missin’ a meal ain’t gonna hurt ya none.” Neither man missed the sneer when pan fried coffee was offered.
“Aw come on Val, we didn’t mean no harm, what happened to your sense of humor?” Johnny almost whined.
Val glared at him and stomped off to the outer office to wait for their father.
“I would suggest you stop antagonizing the sheriff, your constant complaints are only making the situation worse.” Scott sat on his hands to keep from strangling Johnny. He had not slept much with Johnny and Val arguing most of the night and he wasn’t looking forward to Murdoch’s arrival.
“Geez Scott, Val is just…”
“Stop it Johnny, he has every right to mad, I still can’t believe I abetted your escape. If I had known just how far you were going to take this prank I would have stopped you, so…”
“Scott could ya just once talk in plain English.” Johnny was tired too and now Scott was starting to annoy him. “Ya gonna bail on me?”
“No, certainly not, I just think you should apologize to Val and hope you two can make amends before Murdoch gets here.” Scott raised his hands toward Johnny, “It may help defuse the situation.”
“It was just for fun, he wasn’t hurt.” Johnny attempted to defend himself.
“He was hurt and embarrassed, you went to far Johnny,” Scott pinned Johnny with his big brother stare. “You two have know each other for a very long time, he has been a father, brother, and friend to you. Do you really want to risk losing that relationship?”
Johnny returned Scott’s stare, damn he thought, big brother sure can get to me. “You’re right Scott, I’ll apologize.” Johnny bowed his head, suddenly ashamed, and whispered, “One time when I was kid I made him really mad at me…” Johnny hesitated, “I was wrong and caused someone a hurt.” Johnny stopped again.
“What happened Johnny?” concern in his voice.
“Don’t matter now, just he was really pissed at me and drug my scrawny ass into the woods…” Johnny smiled it was not a happy one. “He pulled me over his knee and beat my ass good and proper with his belt. Man it hurt like hell and ridin’ wasn’t much fun either.” Johnny looked up at Scott, “Wonder if he plans the same thing again, or ask Murdoch...damn his has big hands.” Johnny unconsciously rubbed his backside as he paced the cell.
Scott couldn’t help but chuckle at his brother’s action, Johnny’s expression reminded Scott of a guilty little boy. In many ways his brother was still a boy and in need of his father’s guidance. However, being the big brother he would always be there for that special person he loves more than life itself.
“I don’t think you need to worry about a trip to the woodshed but I have a feeling they will devise a penalty that is sure to cause pain, just not a physical pain.”
Johnny dropped to his bunk and they sat in silence, after a several minutes Johnny sighed, stood, and called Val.
The sheriff stomped into the cell area, “What do ya want?”
Johnny stepped up to the cell door, “Val I want to apologize, I didn’t mean to embarrass you. What ever you want to do to me I won’t fight it.” Johnny extended his hand through the bars and hoped Val would take it.
Val stared at Johnny and saw that his friend meant what he said. “Okay, I accept the apology.” Val was not ready to let his friend off the hook, “I’ll let you know what I want, later.”
Johnny was a little uncomfortable at Val’s smile, he knew just how devious his old friend could be and knew it wasn’t going to be pretty.
“I assume that means we will be released?” Scott had high hopes only to have them dashed.
“Nope, y’all are waiting for yer daddy to come pay the damages and bail.” Val chuckled as he headed back to the office, he was starting to feel better already.
Scott glared at his brother, too angry to talk.
“Hey Scott, I apologized but he ain’t about to let us off without Murdoch takin’ a bite out of my ass.”
“It’s not like you don’t deserve it.” The words escaped his mouth before he could stop them. The hurt look on his brother’s face softened Scott’s anger. “I’m sorry Johnny that was uncalled for, I am not an innocent party in this fiasco.”
“What? Never mind it’s okay Scott I shouldn’t dragged you into this mess, sorry brother.”
They decided to sit in silence and Scott for one felt that was for the best.
Out on the street:
The formidable figure of Murdoch Lancer had arrived and was headed for the jail. The onlookers smiled and tipped hats and generally tried not to break out into laughter. Mr. Lancer did not look happy.
Murdoch stopped in front of the jail and slowly dismounted. His back ached but he wouldn’t show it and thankfully his anger gave him the energy he needed.
When he opened the door he saw Val with his feet on his desk, a cup of coffee in one hand, and a wanted poster in the other. “You here to bail out those two out?” Val asked without looking up from the poster.
“Yes, how much damage was done?” Murdoch reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet.
“Not that much property damage but…” Val glared at Murdoch, “They insulted the office and me.”
Murdoch realized Val was getting angry and decided he should try to defuse the situation. “I’m sorry Val, what happened? Believe me, they will make amends.”
Val nodded, stood, and ushered Murdoch to the cells.
When Murdoch entered the cell area Scott stood and bowed his head toward his father. Johnny on the other hand peeked up at his father and slowly got to his feet.
“I can explain Sir…
Murdoch interrupted his older son and glared at Johnny, “I think I want to hear it from my younger son. I am willing to wager that he is the party bearing the majority of the responsibility.”
Oh boy, Johnny thought, when the ol’ man starts talkin’ like Scott he knew he was in trouble. “Look Murdoch, it’s all my fault, Scott only got drug into it after I…”
Murdoch held up his hand indicating he wanted his son to stop talking. “Before you start with excuses, dare I ask what you did?” Also why you felt the need to involve your brother?”
Johnny looked from Murdoch to Scott to Val, “I’m dead.” He whispered to himself.
The whole sorry tale: (background information first)
It all started when Harlan sent Scott a box of memorabilia from his childhood in Boston. Among the items was a small painting of Scott in school clothes, now that might not sound so bad but he wore short pants, a ruffled shirt under the jacket, and a wide brimmed hat with a ribbon hanging down the back.
Murdoch loved the picture, of course, but poor Scott was embarrassed. Yep you guessed it Johnny howled with laughter. (Y’all had to see that coming.)
Immediately Johnny began forming a plan. (Y’all know this won’t turn out well.)
Last month Val had arrested Johnny for fighting in the saloon and made him stay in jail till Murdoch paid the damages. The result was no trips to town for a month and extra chores. (And we all know Johnny has needs.)
Johnny remained seated on the bunk, head bowed, and prayed he would survive the day. He looked up and saw Murdoch standing in the cell doorway, arms crossed over his chest, he wasn’t happy. Val was just inside the cell next to Murdoch, he glared at Johnny. Scott sat on the opposite bunk, hands under his thighs, and prayed his little brother would survive the day.
“Well, Johnny, let’s hear it.” Murdoch uncrossed his arms and moved to the bunk and sat next to Scott.
“I was mad at Val for arresting me and having to do all those extra chores and no trips to town.” He stopped and took a breath.
“When I saw that painting of Scott in that silly outfit, well I got to thinking I…” Johnny looked at Val, “Sorry amigo.”
Val just stared and waited.
“I talked to some of the ladies at Lancer and they made up duds like Scott wore. Then I took them with me when Murdoch sent me in town to get supplies. I know Val likes to spoil himself once a month with a bath and shave…” Johnny stopped when he heard Val snort.
“I really am sorry Val, and I meant it, whatever ya want to do to me.”
“Anyway while Val was in the tub getting shaved I snuck in and took his clothes and left the outfit the ladies made. I also took all the towels so he wouldn’t have anything to cover up with.”
“And?” Murdoch asked.
“Well, when Val went looking for his clothes and couldn't find them he saw the duds I left for him.”
“How did he know they were from you?” Murdoch looked from Val to Johnny.
“I...well...I guess...I sorta...left a note.” Johnny bowed his head.
“You did what?” Murdoch bellowed, he seriously doubted his younger son’s sanity.
“I left a note.” The response just above a whisper.
Murdoch looked up to Val and the sheriff nodded his head.
“Son, did you really consider…” Murdoch rubbed his chin then ran his fingers through his hair. “Why did you think that was a good idea?”
“I wanted him to know it was from me and I was still mad at him.” Johnny looked over to Val then to Murdoch. “Guess it wasn’t my best idea.”
“No son, it wasn’t.” Murdoch sighed and leaned against the bars of the cell. “It’s a good thing I am sitting down.”
“Why?” Johnny was confused.
“Well son, you see, when I have this massive stroke I won’t have so far to fall.” Murdoch quietly replied.
Scott and Val snickered.
Johnny was shocked, “Murdoch, do you need Sam?” Johnny was obviously worried.
“No son, I’m fine, please finish this sad tale.” Murdoch now realized why Scott was sitting on his hands.
“Val didn’t have a choice and had to put on the outfit I left him.” Johnny unconsciously smiled at the memory. “He sure did look funny in the short pants with his hairy legs and boots. Course the ruffle shirt didn’t look so bad but the hat…” Johnny couldn’t stop the laugh. “Oh man that hat really did it.” Johnny almost fell off his bunk, he was laughing so hard.
Val was not laughing and looked ready to choke his prisoner.
Murdoch and Scott just stared at Johnny.
“Son…” Murdoch reached out and shook Johnny’s shoulder and commanded, “Stop it.”
Johnny snapped out of it, “Geez Val, I...sorry. I shouldn’t laugh. Sorry.”
To break the tension Murdoch asked, “How did this involve your brother.” Not sure he really wanted to know but he felt he needed to intervene to keep Val from strangling Johnny.
“Well, Val spotted me standing at the window and took off after me, I was running through the alley when Scott spotted us. He grabbed me and pulled me into the street.”
Scott looked at Val, “I didn’t think you would follow us where people would see you.”
“Val was just too mad at me, he came after us and...well there were people...and...they saw…” Johnny stammered.
Murdoch looked at Val, the sheriff was mad and embarrassed. He could understand how the man must have felt.
“Sheriff I am sorry. Then what happened?” Murdoch had to ask.
“They ran down the street and ducked into another alley. I knew they would try for the livery so I went to Higgs store and grabbed a pair of pants.” Val nodded to Murdoch, “That’s part of damages you owe.”
The miscreant resumed the story, “Scott and me hid behind a store to catch our breaths.
Scott saw the Bella and Elena working on the outfit and asked me why they were making it. When I told him, well, he warned me not to do it.” Johnny looked a Scott, “Should’ve listened to you.”
“It’s what big brothers do Johnny, we try to keep our little brothers safe.” He smiled at Johnny.
“Well, we headed over to the livery and snuck in the back door. Really thought we made it.” Johnny almost sounded hopeful.
Scott took pity on Johnny and continued, “Val caught us and marched us to the jail. I am afraid we did not represent ourselves well, I am sorry sheriff.”
Johnny shook his head, “What Scott is saying is Val got us, threatened to shoot us and hauled our asses off to jail. All the people laughing at us didn’t help, think it made him madder.”
“Enough, I am ashamed of you Johnny. Scott, you should not have helped your brother’s escape attempt. Sheriff whatever penalty you require…” Murdoch stared at Johnny, “Will be done.”
“Mr. Lancer, if you don’t mind I think I’ll dole out the punishment this time.”
“All right sheriff.” Murdoch nodded to Val. “Scott would you join me for breakfast?”
“Yes Sir.” Scott patted Johnny on the shoulder and left with their father.
The jail was very quiet, Johnny sat on the bunk, his head bowed. Val still stood by the cell door and stared at the forlorn figure of his amigo. However, he would not give in, he wasn’t going to put up with this foolishness happening again.
“Yeah.” Johnny answered, his head still bowed. “What do you want me to do? Walk through town in the outfit?” It would be humiliating but he would do it to get his amigo back.
“Do you remember Nogales?”
“Stand up, meet me in the office.” Val turned and left the cell.
Johnny remained on the bunk, his head in his hands. After a few moments he sighed, stood, and walked to the office.
While he had waited for Johnny, Val pulled down the blinds and locked the door.
When Johnny finally entered the office he stopped by the desk, “Where do you want me?”
“Over the desk.”
Val removed his belt.