Disclaimer: These characters are not mine. I’m just borrowing him.
Short Story: Johnny’s thoughts on his first day at Lancer.
Johnny made an effort to hide the feelings that were rampaging though him. He was calling on every speck of self control to get himself through the most intense conversation he’d ever had. More nerve wracking than his first gun fight, he was surprised to admit.
His first look at his father had been a real eye opener. ‘Tall,’ Popped into his mind. He couldn’t help but wonder what his mother saw in this ill tempered giant of a man. From the first moment Johnny laid eyes on him he’d been disagreeable and Johnny had responded in kind.
Johnny’s well honed instincts drove him to try to get the upper hand with this man. Make Old Man Lancer lose his temper and show his hand. Johnny was an expert at making men fighting mad with his insolence and smart mouth. If he pushed them, they’d draw on him in rage and frustration.
It had worked like a charm on his father. No surprise when the old man ground out, “I don’t care what you heard,” to Johnny’s claim he’d heard a different story about his mother leaving.. ‘Fine old man’ Johnny thought, give me my money and I’m out of here.
Once the cash was in his hands, he felt a bit better. He half expected the old man to renege on the deal. Once he counted it, he became aware of the confrontation between Scott and their father.
He found himself somewhat amused that the dandy could dish it out too. “What do I call you? Father seems…”
The old man can handle himself pretty good too come to think of it, Johnny thought. “Call me whatever you like. We’re strangers to each other, maybe that’s my fault, maybe it isn’t…”
“No apologies necessary.” Scott conceded.
Johnny smiled thinly as their father’s barked back, “You’ll get no apologies from me.”
Johnny leaned back in the hot bath water as he let his thoughts wander over the rest of that tense conversation. Each of them posturing for position, unwilling to let their guard down. Johnny found himself interested in his father’s problems with Pardee in spite of himself. The old man thinks he’s got trouble with Pardee and savin’ his ranch, well he don’t know the meaning of trouble until he’s tangled with me.
Johnny closed his eyes and leaned his head back as he made his plans for tomorrow. He’d ride into Morro Coyo and get the lay of the land. Might even run into ole’ Day, see what he’s got planned. Can’t count on the Dandy. He’d probably spend all his time changin’ clothes and bein’ polite. We’ll, bein’ polite and smellin’ pretty don’t get the job done…not out here anyway. Johnny smiled in amusement at the toll the fire took on his brother’s fancy suit. He won’t be wearin’ that again anytime soon.
Johnny allowed himself to smirk. Man this bath feels good, only thing missin’ is a shave and a beer.
Johnny’s thoughts drifted back to his father’s proposition. The fire bell had interrupted their conversation about the partnership. Have to earn it first. Wonder if the old man’ll keep his end of the bargain. We’ll so far he has. I guess I won’t be out much if he doesn’t. Take the thousand dollars and high tail it out of here…well as long as I can anyway.
Pushing that thought out of his mind, his thoughts returned to his father’s words. ‘Take a good look at it. This is the third field Pardee has destroyed. I told you you’d have to fight to hold onto this place. What do you say?”
“I’ve already given you my answer.” Scott responded.
“What about you boy?”
That ‘boy’ rankled and Johnny was tempted to answer in kind, but something made him answer honestly, “I’d hate to see my property go up in flames.”
“Our property.” Scott had corrected.
Johnny didn’t miss the smile on his father’s sooty face. Well if he thinks it’s going to be that easy, he’s got a big surprise coming.
Johnny’s thoughts were interrupted by the door to the bath house opening and Teresa telling him to hurry. Supper would be ready in twenty minutes. While there was a partition between the tub and the door, it still made Johnny uncomfortable to have her barge in.
“Teresa! I ain’t decent!”
“Oh think of me as a sister. Just hurry.” Before he could think of anything to say, she was gone. Johnny just smiled and shook his head. Things were definitely looking up. Johnny levered himself out of the cool bath water and stood in the tub letting the water cascade down his body.
Thirty minutes later Johnny found his way down to the dining room and stopped short at the array in front of him. The table was set with bone china and silver at each place setting. He’d never seen anything so fine. Most places he was used to didn’t even have matching plates much less a whole table full. An elderly Mexican man and a middle aged Mexican woman were bringing in trays and platters of enough food to feed an army.
Scott was already seated across from Teresa and Johnny moved to the only other unoccupied place next to the girl. He looked at Scott’s outfit and noted he didn’t need to worry about Scott’s suit being destroyed as he was all decked out in another one. A man owning one suit was bad enough, but two! That was more than Johnny could contemplate and he barely stopped himself from rolling his eyes.
Murdoch began slicing the roast beef and serving it steaming hot on plates. Teresa held a bowl of green beans to Johnny and waited for him to take some. “Uh no thanks, Teresa.”
“You don’t like green beans? They’re fresh from my garden.”
“I’ll have some.” Scott offered
Johnny’s stomach churned as he waited for someone to start eating. Out of the corner of his eye he saw his father begin to cut his roast beef into bite sized pieces, so Johnny began to follow suit.
The candelabras flickered light as the tallow spit and sputtered casting shadows on his father’s face as he ate his meal in silence. Teresa kept glancing at Scott and finally asked in a strained voice, “So did you have a good trip Scott?”
Johnny heard Scott answering, but he couldn’t recall what he said moments later. All his senses were attuned to Murdoch Lancer as he ate his super as though he were the only one at the long table.
Try as he might, Johnny just couldn’t puzzle it out. Teresa had said he wouldn’t tell them how much it meant to him that his son’s were here. She was sure right about that. He seemed down right mad earlier today and now was studiously ignoring them. Still in all, the old man paid a bundle to bring him here. He could have hired a good gun for a lot less so maybe it was true, maybe he wanted them.
Johnny became uncomfortably aware that they were all looking at him and he had no idea why. Murdoch was holding up a wine carafe, so Johnny took a chance. “No…thanks, but I would like some of that milk.”
Teresa passed him the pitcher and he poured himself a glass ignoring the faint smiles on the faces of the other three.
Johnny drained his glass as Murdoch offered cigars and brandy in the living room.
“If you don’t mind sir. I’m going to turn in, I’ve had a long day and I suspect tomorrow will be even longer.” Scott declined the offer politely.
“Me too.” Johnny said quickly in order to avoid being stuck alone with the old man. Truth told, Johnny was used to staying up late. He usually had a meal around nine pm and stayed out until well after midnight most every night. Most of his business was done during the middle of the day so he didn’t need to be up every day at the crack of dawn.
Johnny lay fully dressed on the unfamiliar bed with his arms propped under his head. He stared at the ceiling and let his mind wander over the events of the last week. A week ago he thought he was dead. He still couldn’t wrap his mind around the fact that something happened and here he was. Everything happened so fast, just like his whole life it seemed. Split second decisions made the difference between life and death so many times for him.
He and God hadn’t been on speaking terms lately, but he had to wonder if He hadn’t been trying to tell him something. Johnny unconsciously felt for the Saint Frances medal he’d worn for years. A treasured, rare gift from his mother, who in spite of her hard life kept her faith and tried to instill it in her son.
With a sigh of regret, Johnny turned down the lamp and rolled over to sleep. Tomorrow was a new day and he’d deal with things as they came up. No point in worryin’ about it. Johnny Madrid was soon asleep in the bedroom he hadn’t occupied in 18 years.