Disclaimer: Just my imagination unleashed, no actual cowboys were captured, stolen, or imprisoned for this endeavour.
Author’s note: Johnny is just 19 and Scott is 25.
SF did the beta for me…..Thanks SF you worked your magic and gave me a lot of great advice…
An immaculately dressed Murdoch sat at the breakfast table in the Lancer kitchen, reading his paper and enjoying the delights of Maria’s cooking. Without taking his eyes off his paper, he tilted his body to one side, to allow Maria to put yet another perfect egg on his plate, along with another biscuit laced in honey.
“Here you are, Patron,” Maria mumbled, anxiously staring at the staircase fearing Juanito would be late again.
“Gracias, Maria,” he acknowledged. There was nothing better than good home cooking, and Maria’s biscuits were the best in the valley, high and fluffy, the flaky layers easily separated by hand for filling.
“De nada,” she smiled, before returning to her stove.
Elegantly dressed in his Sunday best, Scott sat to his right. The young man was deep in thought about a riveting book he had read the night before.
The two men were lost in their own world, when Teresa sleepily walked into the kitchen and she headed straight for the coffee brewing on the stove. She poured herself some and blew into the cup to cool it down as she shuffled to the table.
“Morning, Murdoch, Scott,” she yawned.
Lowering his paper, Murdoch eyed his ward. “Teresa, darling, you’re up and ready I see. Good morning to you, my dear,” he smiled at the girl but then frowned as he glanced expectedly at the staircase. He huffed in agitation, and snapped the paper as he returned to his reading.
Scott was pulled from his reflections by the loud pop of the paper and immediately noticed his old man’s restlessness. He cringed inwardly at his father’s growing agitation and sudden mood change.
Patience, when it came to his youngest son, was in short supply and Murdoch fairly growled as he removed his watch from his pocket and checked the time, making grunting noises of displeasure as he did so. Flipping the timepiece closed with a snap, he grumbled, “Where’s your brother?”
Johnny was nowhere to be seen, despite having been called three times; once by his father, and then Teresa, and lastly by Scott.
Scott shook his head in resignation; this was their normal routine, his hellion kid brother hated mornings. “Sir, do you want me to fetch him?”
“No, Scott, not this time. If he isn’t here in five minutes ... I ... will get him.” The statement sounded like a threat.
The stern tone of his father’s voice worried Scott but he knew better than to argue with the man all the same.
Murdoch hissed out a long sigh, his patience running out. Johnny was a constant source of irritation and annoyance when it came to routines or punctuality. The young man loved to eat but he liked to do it when he was ready; which was seldom during the appointed hour. He dreaded breakfast, especially on a Sunday morning after a rather exuberant Saturday night!
For Murdoch, the only thing worse, than Johnny’s morning attitude, was his manners; in particular, his table manners, or lack thereof. It seemed he was never far off from lecturing the boy for one thing or another. The Lancer patriarch didn’t understand why Johnny was so ill-mannered. Johnny’s mother, Maria, had been very cultured, indeed a lady of some means and it puzzled him why she had not instilled those same social graces in her son. He couldn’t and wouldn’t ask his son why because he knew his son would see it as more disapproval of his mother but he hoped that one day Johnny would trust him enough to open up to him concerning his childhood.
Since his son’s return home, the Lancer patriarch had been trying to fill in the obvious gaps in Johnny’s upbringing. There were many things that frustrated him and tardiness left Murdoch pulling at his hair. Johnny had no concept of time and was late for absolutely everything. Murdoch’s life was governed by order and punctuality and he demanded the same from his employees, as well as his sons. Johnny just didn’t seem to care but Murdoch was adamant he was going to.
He folded the newspaper and placed it by his plate, and then started to rise from his chair, when the whirlwind that was his teenage son finally danced into the room. Johnny’s step was almost a hop and a skip as he glided gracefully into his chair. Despite his anger at the nonchalant entrance, Murdoch had to suppress a smile. Johnny’s enthusiasm could be catching. When he was in a good mood, everybody felt it but the same rule applied if he was not.
“Hey Murdoch…nice mornin’ huh,” Johnny grinned, despite his actual thoughts. Too fuckin’ nice to be sittin’ in a church for half the day. He glanced in the direction of his older sibling and nodded. “Scott.” Johnny shifted in his chair, aware his father was looking at him. Deciding to try to appease the man he graced him with one of his full blown smiles.
Murdoch’s heart raced and he knew he was probably biased but Johnny he believed was one of the most beautiful boys in the valley and had been since his birth. In fact, Murdoch had to admit, both Maria and Catherine had given him two very handsome boys. Scott was tall with blue eyes and blond like his father, whilst Johnny was dark and smaller in stature but with piercing blue eyes, favouring his mother. Murdoch knew without a shadow of a doubt the ladies of Green River and Morro Coyo would have agreed with his assessment.
Johnny turned to the housekeeper. The scamp had her wrapped around his little finger. He was forever assuring her what an angel of mercy she was, especially when she was cooking for them. A boyishly charming grin appeared on his face as he cooed, “Mornin’ Mamacita.” She turned and instantly put her hand to her heart. His bright blue eyes gleamed with mischief and life. “What’s cookin’, good lookin’?” he teased.
Returning his radiant smile, Maria couldn’t help but reflect; only a few short months ago the boy had been alone and adrift, with no one to call his own. The thought brought tears to her eyes. She cleared her throat. Now he was home and she aimed to keep it that way. She saw it as her job to feed her family and look after them, just like their own mothers would have, or in Johnny’s case should have done. She closed her eyes as if in silent prayer, though her prayers had been finally answered, Johnny and Scott were home.
“Ham, eggs, fresh biscuits and buttermilk,” she answered. “Eat it all, Juanito, you are too thin.” With that said she kissed the top of his head as placed a full plate and a cup of his favourite buttermilk before him.
“Gracias, Mamacita.” It was the ultimate compliment and one that Johnny freely gave.
Maria was a mother with three grown children of her own and she knew that with love came discipline. Her countenance suddenly changed and she shook her head. He was late, again, and she took her responsibilities as surrogate mother very seriously. The need to scold him for his transgressions towards his father; his lack of respect, overcame her desire to hug him to death. “You are very lucky to get breakfast, Juanito!” she admonished. “Your father has been waiting well over an hour for you to come. He knocked on your door some time ago.”
Johnny smirked and dipped his head. Maria didn’t miss his insolence and she cuffed his ear. Johnny’s mood, in a flash, went from light to dark.
“Ow!” Shit! I’ve changed my mind, Maria’s no angel. Murmuring under his breath, he felt the need to defend himself, “Well if… some… one,” he glanced pointedly at his father, “would just get up at a… decent… hour, maybe I’d join him, ‘stead of gettin’ up at the ass crack of dawn!” He turned to level a glare at his father; his temper rising.
Maria’s instinct was to grab for her wooden spoon and mutter words in Spanish and English.
“No respect, no respect at all, niño.” She scowled.
Johnny furiously rubbed at his upper thigh. “What the fu…!” he stopped mid sentence, knowing full well the rule about cussing. His blue eyes widened and he opened his mouth to let it flap again but found himself interrupted by the housekeeper.
“Don’t you dare cuss in my kitchen, John Lancer!” Maria said, spoon in hand, making yet another move to smack him, but this time Murdoch intervened.
“Thank you, Maria but I will deal with this.” He pried the weapon from her hand and held onto to it. Then turning to his son, whose mood had drastically changed, he asked, “Do you have something you wish to say son?”
Johnny warily shook his head, which was now bowed, resting on his chest. “Nope.” He cringed, he knew his father wanted more and it grated. What the fuck is it with this, no sir, thank you, sir shit? He thought sneaking a peek at his father and finally uttering a reluctant but immediate, “No sir. Sorry.”
“That’s better, now eat, we have church and time waits for no man,” Murdoch declared as he handed the wooden spoon back to Maria, smiling at the woman. He knew she loved Johnny and Scott almost as much as he did.
Johnny was squirming and toying with his food. His usual rehearsed excuse was not forth coming and for once he couldn’t think of anything. Out of sheer desperation, he went with the religious angle… again!
“Erm, Murdoch, I was thinkin’.”
His long suffering father closed his eyes. Oh God give me strength. What now? “Thinking what, my son?” The older man looked directly at his boy, giving him his full attention. In that instance, he saw his squirming toddler, the face as cherubic as ever. Taken back to another time, he inhaled deeply.
To see both his sons, sitting at the breakfast table, here at Lancer, still gave the older man goose bumps. He had never worried about Scott, Scott had at least been loved, protected, that much he knew, but Johnny had been a very different matter. At times he feared if he closed his eyes, he would open them only to discover it was all a dream. Murdoch smiled, despite the many headaches his youngest son gave him, he was glad he was home…no thrilled.
After studying his father for quite some time, he became aware he was deep in thought and so Johnny nudged him gently. “Murdoch?”
The older man looked up and his eyes narrowed. What are you up to now boy?
“Pa, are you still amongst the land of the livin’?” he joshed cheekily. Murdoch frowned. Somehow, Johnny could tell he was on thin ice with his old man but shrugging his shoulders, he soldiered on anyway.
“Well…bout me goin’ to your church…you know, ‘bout me bein’ Catholic and all.” He thumped his chest. “I don’t think I should even be sittin’ in your church. I think it might even be a mortal sin.” He frowned trying hard to remember the word his older, more educated bother had used. It came to him in a flash of inspiration. “You know that blasphemy thing.” He was shaking his head now. “Nope, more I think on it… Pa.”
Oh you’re good, boy, you’re very good! Murdoch thought.
“It’s a wonder Jesus hasn’t struck me down dead before now.” Johnny sighed wistfully, as if he were expecting to go straight to Hell for his transgression.
It’s a wonder Jesus hasn’t struck you down dead for a lot more than just sitting in a Protestant church, my son! thought Murdoch as he clasped his hands in front of his own chest. In his mind he was wrapping them around his youngest son’s neck. He took a deep breath. “Since you are not a practising Catholic, John, I am sure Jesus will forgive you. After all, praise is praise, in any form and is therefore a good thing.” He paused to see his son’s reaction; there was none, except resignation. “And like I told you before… this father,” he pointed to his chest, “gives you permission to go; in fact, he insists. Now hurry up and eat your breakfast, or we’ll be late and you know how I get when we are late, don’t you, boy?” Murdoch fixed him with a look that said it all.
Johnny gulped. Oh boy, did he know! Once when he was riding behind the surrey alongside Scott, he had dropped back and taken a detour. He’d gotten lost, least ways that’s what he’d told his father. By the time he’d arrived, the congregation was singing the last hymn. Murdoch had been furious. Rather than interrupt the service, he’d stood outside and waited. He still didn’t like to think about what Murdoch had done to him. Val hadn’t exactly been sympathetic either; suffice to say life had been uncomfortable for a few days and it had been enough to make him never do it again!
Murdoch returned to reading his paper and breakfast continued in silence, with an occasional scowl from him, in Johnny’s direction, for eating with his mouth open or not minding his manners. Murdoch very carefully folded his paper and turned to his youngest son.
Jeez what is it about the old man and Scott that they have to do everything in order and so precisely? Johnny smirked at the action.
“What you need son, is a lesson in culture.” He took a deep breath. “You need to see another world; how the other half lives, as it were.”
“Pfft, don’t need any of that sh…stuff,” Johnny sassed.
Murdoch’s eyebrows rose into his thinning hairline. “Son,” he warned.
“I know, I know, sorry,” Johnny sighed, holding up both hands to halt the impending lecture. Shit there isn’t a day when the old man isn’t on my case and it’s gettin’ pretty damn old.
Murdoch rubbed at his neck, deep in thought. I could take my sons with me the next time I go to San Francisco. They could witness firsthand how I conduct business… not a bad thing and certainly a thing Johnny would benefit from. We could eat out maybe take in an opera or something equally cultured. Satisfied with his idea and sighing, he said out loud, “Yes, that’s a very good idea.”
Johnny was merrily chomping away on a piece of ham. “What’s a good idea, Pa?” It always helped to toss in a ‘Pa’ every now and then, especially when Murdoch was in a mood with him.
Murdoch cleared his throat, something that got everyone’s attention. “Boys, I have a surprise for you.” Both young men looked up. Scott’s face was neutral and Johnny looked decidedly worried.
“Yeah, what’s the surprise then, Pa?” he asked warily, tossing in yet another Pa just to keep the old man happy.
“The next time I go to San Francisco on business, I have decided that you boys are coming with me.” Murdoch was pleased with his idea and it showed. But his pleasure was short lived when he saw the expression’s on his sons’ faces. “What’s wrong, John?” He used the abbreviated John because he felt slightly irritated by his youngest son’s lack of enthusiasm for the trip. Not waiting for an answer, Murdoch then glanced at his older son but he saw his smile had disappeared also.
Scott decided to speak up. “Do you think that’s a good idea, sir? I mean you do remember Sacramento, don’t you?”
Johnny scowled, the last thing they need to talk about is fuckin’ Sacramento! Shit, Scott, you and your big mouth. He was still paying for the damage caused by the water.
Murdoch’s eyes clouded over. “Yes, son, I do remember Sacramento.” He glanced at his youngest. “But I also feel this time your brother will be on his very… very,” he emphasised the word, “best behaviour, won’t you, John?” He said, fixing Johnny with another one of his famous ‘looks’.
Johnny began rocking in his chair. “Well, I’ll try, but I can’t promise anythin’ cause you know I don’t know how to behave in them places.” He knew damn well his father’s reasons for taking him and he didn’t like it one mote.
Murdoch got up and tossed his napkin onto the table. “Then it’s decided. Come on, boys, we’d better get going.” He pulled Johnny up from his chair and proceeded to back him out of the kitchen and into the hallway. “Get your hat, John.” Gesturing with his hands, he instructed his son to proceed.
His father’s tone of voice, was commanding. There was no way in Hell, Johnny was going to turn his back on his old man; he could be pretty damned sneaky with that hard hand of his. The youth was about to protest when he felt his brother’s hand cover his mouth. Pissed he decided now was as good a time as any to chomp down, so he did.
“Oww!” Scott yelled!
“Why, you little shit!” He growled, shaking his abused hand and flexing his fingers at his little brother.
Johnny grinned from ear to ear, pointing an accusing finger at his older sibling. “Tsk, tsk, tsk, Scott,” he gloated, “and on a Sunday too.” Turning to his father he teased, “Did ya hear that. Pa, he cussed.”
Murdoch didn’t even have to think about it and he cuffed Johnny on the ear.
“Hey!” The boy yelled, rubbing at his now hot ear and pointing at his older brother. “Not fair Murdoch, he’s the one that cussed, not me!”
“No son, never you.” Murdoch said pointing his own finger towards the exit.
To say Johnny was dreading the trip would be putting it entirely too lightly.
They’d droned on and on about it none stop for days and he was already bored with the idea. Besides, his idea of fun wasn’t getting all duded up and spending all his time minding his p’s and q’s.
Maria was bustling around his room, packing everything she knew he would need because she was certain he wouldn’t. Johnny didn’t like the invasion. Culture… bah humbug… it wasn’t Christmas but hey the line seemed to fit!
Teresa was being her usual royal pain in the ass self too. She’d wangled her way into coming on the trip and he was pissed…royally pissed.
His younger sister, by less than a year, had just barged into his room, a smile coming to her face as she realized he was naked apart from the blanket covering his lower body. “Johnny, you’d better remember to pack some nightshirts. It wouldn’t do to be in a plush hotel and not wear a nightshirt,” she teased.
He threw a pillow at her and she skilfully ducked.
“Get the f..,”
Glancing at Maria he quickly corrected himself.
“Hell out of my room T’resa.”
In one swift movement Maria smacked his rear end for the language.
Shit! He thought rubbing at his backside. She sure can smack a body! Hell was way better than fuck wasn’t it?
Just then Murdoch came striding through the door and Johnny deflated before Maria’s eyes. “Pa, I ain’t feelin’ all that hot, got me a temperature, need to stay in bed.” He gave out a long wistful sigh just for affect.
Murdoch immediately saw a Johnny plot brewing and reached out to feel his sons head. He had no way of knowing that his mischievous younger son had held a candle up to his forehead before they had all entered his room.
Murdoch frowned. Johnny’s forehead was sweating and did indeed feel very hot. Perhaps, this time he wasn’t lying!
“You do feel rather hot.” He declared. Hell! Murdoch thought, and on the day were meant to be leaving.
Johnny gagged just for affect. Yep, I have the old man now
“SCOTT!” Murdoch bellowed.
The explosive call caused Johnny to jump and then he heard his brother run along the upper hallway.
“Yes, sir,” Scott replied upon entering the room.
Yep… suck ass!
“Go get Walt and tell him to ride to town to fetch Sam. Johnny’s ill,” Murdoch ordered.
Scott’s eyes narrowed. He spied the look of panic on his brother’s face.
Shit! There’s no foolin’ Sam and when he tells Murdoch, what I’ve been up to my ass will be toast! Johnny thought warily.
“Eh... Pa, don’t bother with Sam. I’ll be fine in a few days. Just got me a funny belly is all.” He rubbed at it for good measure. “You, Scott and Teresa just go on without me. I’ll just rest here,” he said flashing Maria a half hearted grin and sighing wistfully. “Maria will look after me.”
Maria blinked and held back the tears. The boy it seemed had complete faith in her healing abilities. She smiled at him affectionately, and then thinking about earlier, a frown appeared on her face. He hadn’t been so ill earlier on in the morning, when he’d argued with me and fought with Teresa. What’s going on?
Before Johnny could react, she marched to his bedside and felt his neck and harrumphed. “Feel!” she ordered. “Normal,” she declared.
Murdoch stretched out his large calloused hand. “Johnny!! Why... your neck is perfectly cool. What on earth are you playing at? Why is your forehead so hot?”
Johnny was furious. Fuckin’ bitch! Why’d she do that? Nosy old cow!
“How the fu…Hell should I know? I’m ill, remember?” It wasn’t working anymore.
Murdoch didn’t know how or why, but he knew Johnny wasn’t ill. “Get up before I forget that you’re almost…almost… fully grown.”
Johnny hunkered down. “But I’m feelin’ bad, Murdoch!” He pleaded.
“Get up now, John and get dressed, or you will be feeling bad, son. We leave in half an hour.” Murdoch stormed out of the room with Teresa hard on his heels.
The youth turned towards his tormentor. “Thanks a lot, Maria.” he said sarcastically.
“De nada,” she chimed back as she sauntered out of his room. At the last moment, she canted her head. “Oh and by the way, John Lancer, you are now packed.”
The youth threw his other pillow at the now closed door.
Fuck, fuck, fuck!
Walt had driven them to town in the surrey and Johnny hadn’t spoken a word the whole way. His mood grew darker with each passing moment, definitely disgruntled to be all duded up and now waiting for the train to arrive.
Scott wasn’t bothered in the least by Johnny’s bad mood; he was reading his favourite book; least ways his favourite book that week and Murdoch was talking with a group he had just befriended. He was relaxed and happy despite his youngest son’s foul mood. They were going to have a private carriage all to themselves; one with all the luxuries of high society thanks to Scott’s friend and Murdoch was looking forward to the trip. He was roused from his musings by a familiar whine.
“Pa, can I just...?”
“What! You haven’t even heard what I was about to ask.” Johnny whined. He was mad and getting madder.
“And I don’t want to hear it, do I make myself clear?” Murdoch snapped, his own mood beginning to turn churlish.
“But...” Johnny protested.
“No buts, John. Do I make myself clear?” Murdoch demanded, planting his fists firmly on his hips.
Johnny knew he was acting up, but still he couldn’t help it. After all he’d made it perfectly clear ‘he wasn’t good at takin’ orders’ and he was just doing what he did best. “Shit I only wanted to use the fuckin’ jake!” He complained.
“John.” Just the one word was enough to silence his son’s tirade. Then on seeing his son, hop from one foot to the other and then cross his legs, the lancer patriarch cringed and relented. “All right, John.”
Johnny grinned, his I win grin.
“Scott, go with him.”
The grin was gone in an instant! “What the Hell?” He protested.
Murdoch raised his hand. “He is going with you, John. I’m not giving you the chance to squeeze out of a window, ‘borrow’ a horse or just plain run off. Scott will wait outside. Now go.” He signalled.
Johnny went, grumbling with every step; his brother in tow. The old man was getting real good at anticipating his moves, and he wasn’t sure what he thought about that!
“Hey this here train’s real smart, ain’t it?” Johnny remarked.
The youngest Lancer was like a two year old investigating everything. Scott and Teresa were grinning at their brother’s antics. It never ceased to amaze them, how their brother could make them smile.
On seeing his son moving towards the drinks cabinet, Murdoch quickly intervened. “Leave it, John. You’re not having a drink.”
Johnny’s lips puffed and the pout was on big time. “Why not... ‘an how’d you know I was aimin’ to get me a drink?”
“Because I know you and because… I said so.” Murdoch lit his pipe, hiding the smile that threatened to show.
Oh god how he hated those words…because I said so. I mean what the Hell was that about! Undeterred, but avoiding the drinks cabinet he continued with his foraging.
“John, will you just sit down!” Murdoch admonished, finally snapping; his patience at an end.
Teresa giggled and received a glare from her slightly older brother, that screamed ‘if looks could kill’ she would have been stuffed and sitting on a cabinet.
Johnny sat but his fidgeting began immediately. Bored with the grandeur already, he let out a long drawn out sigh. After all it wasn’t completely new to him. He and Scott had taken a train that time they’d gone to Sacramento and gone to the fancy bordello where he’d met Justice Duvalier. He decided to bring it up.“Hey, Scott, member that time we went to Just…”
Knowing exactly where the conversation was going Murdoch intervened. “JOHN!! Be quiet, we don’t want to hear about that now,” he warned sternly; glancing in Teresa’s direction and actually blushing; his face turning a bright pink.
Johnny dipped his head and grinned. He loved it when his old man got all red in the face, especially when it wasn’t followed by something more sinister.
He was sitting with his legs stretched out and his ankles crossed. His arms were also crossed in a self hug and it wasn’t long before the movement of the train made his bored eyes droop. With all the nervous energy he had expelled before, tiredness came to claim him and his eyes closed as sleep overtook him.
Murdoch sent up a silent prayer, that his young son would sleep the whole way but he knew in his heart it wasn’t going to happen.
Sometime later, Johnny woke up to find Murdoch, Teresa and Scott had also dozed off. He was immediately on the prowl and could almost taste the freedom of not being watched. Alert to any changes in the sounds, he heard a woman laugh out loud; the sound coming from the next carriage. He decided he would go to investigate. Someone was having fun and he aimed to find out who.
The youth slipped quietly out of their private carriage and took in a lungful of fresh air. He then stepped over the adjoining metal work and froze. If he just played with the large metal hook, maybe he could wangle the rail car free, and then Murdoch, Scott and Teresa would come to a stop. Naw, that’s not a good idea, we’re in the middle of nowhere! Without their horses and with Miss Prissy Britches T’resa with em they were likely to die of exhaustion or thirst. Murdoch would probably kill me. Snickering at the thought of Teresa hobbling in the middle of nowhere, with no water; he was sorely tempted to pull at the hook. Then distracted he heard the laughter that had drawn him in the first place and continued on with his investigation. She sure sounded young and pretty.
Melissa was playing with her ear ring, whilst a young man was making nice, when Johnny stepped into the public carriage. They both glanced in his direction. The man giving him little attention, but the young woman giving him plenty as she fluttered her eyes, smiling. It wasn’t every day a good looking boy walked into her life.
Johnny grinned returning her smile; winking at her. She sure is pretty He began a slow walk towards her when a mountain of a man blocked his path.
“Can I help you, son?” he rumbled.
Johnny glanced up… and… up. Shit, why do I have to be so fuckin’ small? “Nope,” he replied insolently, forgetting all about manners and respect for his elders.
The giant moved forward, angered now by his lack of respect. Despite Johnny’s clearly expensive clothing, the much older man made a decision concerning him. “This is not your compartment, boy, and we don’t want trouble but you’ll find it soon enough if you stay. You’re kind are not welcome here.” Gently but firmly, he pushed Johnny back.
Forget my manners! Where the Hell are yours you bastard? Johnny seethed his temper rising.
“Take your fuckin’ hands off of me,” he sneered, the mask of Madrid firmly in place. This was more than he was prepared to take. Hell the man didn’t scare him one little bit. Well, maybe just a little but he wasn’t about to show it, he was good at hiding his feelings and putting the fear of god into his opponents…It was a skill he’d honed and used countless times before to avoid a fight in the first place, and it often worked.
Sean McIntyre was slightly unnerved by the boy’s cockiness; his presence. “Now son there’s no need for the attitude.”
Attitude, attitude... I’ll show him fuckin’ attitude! With a confidence that belied his youth, he moved forward and although it was obvious to the man Johnny was young, he had to admit, he was pretty intimidating.
Johnny rubbed his hands together; Hell he was just warming up but before he knew it he was facing off two men. The older man and the young buck who’d been sniffing around the girl. He backed up a pace or two and found himself colliding with something solid.
Holy Shit! He about jumped out of his skin!
“What’s going on here?” Johnny sighed. Murdoch was at his back.
“Nothin’ I can’t handle Murdoch,” he replied his voice shaking with anger.
It was instantly very clear Johnny had lost fast his temper and Murdoch wanted to know why. “No, John, you’re not handling anything on your own anymore, remember, we discussed this? Now, I demand to know what’s going on.”
Johnny wilted before his eyes; the mask of Madrid disappearing as swiftly as it came, revealing the boy within.
Relieved at this turn of events, Sean McIntyre held out his hand. “Name’s McIntyre, Sean McIntyre. I take it… this …” he poked a finger in Johnny’s general direction, “belongs to you?”
Murdoch’s eyes narrowed. “He does. What seems to be the problem?”
McIntyre tensed a little. “This… boy… sauntered in making eyes at my girl here. She’s already spoken for and when we asked him what he wanted all we got was a healthy dose of his arrogance.”
Murdoch flinched. He knew how Johnny could be and he squared him with a look that left Johnny in no doubt how he felt. “John, is this true?”
“Jeez, Murdoch, how was I supposed to know she was spoken for, or that she was his daughter?” He fidgeted.
The tall Scot was struggling to keep his voice below bellow.
“You’re not even supposed to be here, John. If you’d stayed where you we’re meant to, these people would not be upset and neither would I!”
Fuck this is getting out of hand. I only went for a walk... for Christ’s sake. What the hell am I, a dog on a leash? “Murdoch I…”
His father raised his hand. “Apologise now, John!”
“I will not! I didn’t do nuthin’!” He argued, almost stomping his foot.
“John!” his father growled.
Johnny was adamant. “NO!”
Murdoch had, had enough and reaching out to his son, he grabbed him by the nape of his neck. “Rest assured, sir, I will deal with my son. I’m sorry he bothered you and your daughter.” It was then Murdoch looked at Sean’s daughters face and right at that moment, she was looking anything but bothered. She did look however, almost disappointed!
Sean nodded and left Murdoch to drag Johnny back to their private carriage. Johnny tried to put up a fight but Murdoch just gripped him all the harder and he soon realized it was a futile attempt.
It was a rather subdued Johnny that sat at the window, looking out at nothing. Least ways that’s what he thought. He was bored out of his mind and still smarting from the ear chewing he got from Murdoch about leaving their carriage without permission. He let out a long drawn out sigh! He’d been sneaky, his old man had accused, waiting till they were all asleep and he had to admit he was right.
In spite of all the luxury, their private car was his prison and a major sulk was in order. Scowling at everyone including Teresa, who had been minding her own business for once, meant that all got a measure of his mood.
Later, when they went to the first class dining carriage, Johnny was made to apologise to the girl and her father, much to his annoyance. He hadn’t minded apologising to the girl but her father was another matter, but swallowing his pride he did it anyway. Murdoch had then proceeded to talk business with the man.
It had helped that he got a chance to chat to the girl. After all, he found out she didn’t even like the young man, she was supposedly betrothed too. And as far as the other young man was concerned, he found out he was just a family friend, or at least his father was, and that was the only reason she’d been talking with him. And besides he’d already left at the last station. The girl’s revelation perked Johnny right up. Hell he liked her, she was funny and she made him laugh.
Murdoch was concentrating on his discussion and he didn’t see Johnny collect a note from the girl. She stayed in San Francisco and he thought it only proper manners that he should pop in for a visit!
For a brief moment, Johnny wasn’t being watched. Scott was off chatting to another young lady, who he had just met and Teresa was giggling with some other younger girls. He relished in the moment and almost forgot himself as he leaned in for a kiss. Melissa blushed but she wasn’t as pure and innocent as they all thought and when he got close she said, “Later,” and smiled.
Feeling a familiar twitch, he smiled knowingly, for he knew exactly what ‘later’ meant. Perhaps San Francisco wasn’t going to be half bad after all, he thought grinning.
They were just entering the city when they went back to their private carriage and Murdoch pointed out where the girl lived. Suddenly Johnny’s interest was peaked. Later, Johnny spotted the waterfront and immediately wanted to see what was going on there.
Guessing what his younger son was thinking, Murdoch told him, “John you will not go down to the harbour area, it’s not safe and I’m not spending all my time here worrying about you.” It was as if he was waving a red flag at the boy, making the harbour area all the more attractive.
“Jeez Murdoch, I can look after myself, ya know; been takin’ care of...”
Murdoch broke off his tirade, “I know, I know, I’ve heard it all before, John. Absolutely NO, is that clear?”
Johnny threw his hands up into the air. “Jesus Fuckin’ H Christ, Murdoch, you gotta let up on the leash. It’s fuckin’ chokin’ me right now!”
Again he was silenced by a very harsh glare. “John Lancer, what have I told you about that mouth of yours? Teresa is right here or have you forgotten?”
Johnny glanced at the girl, who looked like she’d swallowed at bug. “C’mon, T’resa it ain’t like you haven’t heard it before.”
“John!” Murdoch barked.
He was sorry about cussing in front of Teresa, he didn’t really like upsetting the girl but heck she’d heard it before, so what was the problem? Still his old man was pretty insistent.
“Lo siento, T’resa.” He whispered hoping it was enough.
It wasn’t and he knew it. Murdoch and now Scott glared at him; he could feel there eyes bore into his neck and so he took a deep breath and started again.
“Sorry for cussing and for upsetting you, Teresa.”
She blushed. “Thank you, Johnny.”
He turned to his father insolently.
Murdoch reached out and smacked his poorly protected backside, hard.
“Whoa!” He backed up. “That hurts ya know!”
Before Murdoch could strike again, he decided that maybe sitting down was a good idea; figuring it was probably better not to give his father a target.
A buggy from the hotel awaited them, complete with a driver. The driver put their luggage in the back and Johnny, being Johnny, helped him. It wasn’t long before the boy and the driver were talking freely and he was getting tips on the best places to visit, at least the best as far as he was concerned.
The waterfront was sounding more and more interesting. He’d even managed to slip the driver a little something to sweeten the man, just in case he should need his services. Johnny was no fool and he used every resource available to him and the driver was a resource, he decided he might use.
Johnny had asked to sit upfront with the man and Murdoch was now beginning to regret his decision. He was completely oblivious as to what Johnny had been discussing but it was clear he’d been discussing something that he found very interesting and it worried the older man.
Finally, they pulled up outside the plush hotel and Johnny jumped down and let out an excited, “Whooeee!”
Then patting his old man on the back, he shouted, “Hot damn, Papi, we ain’t livin’ here, are we? I mean will they even let the likes of me in?”
He knew that simple statement would alert his old man to any form of racism he might encounter, and he was convinced he would encounter it there.
Murdoch proceeded into the foyer, motioning for his brood to follow. Scott was right behind him, eager to wash off the dust from their travels but Johnny held back and was just about to disappear when his brother turned around and grabbed him by the arm, yanking him forward into the foyer.
“Oh, no, you don’t, little brother! You get your skinny backside in front of me now!” He commanded.
Johnny laughed, hanging his head and reluctantly putting himself in front of his brother but he made damned sure he remained out of his reach. Scott could also be pretty Goddamned sneaky himself and he tended to get real mad when he had to chase him all over a city.
It was always, Scott, Murdoch would send to look for him. In a way, he felt a little bit sorry for his older brother. He had drawn the short straw, being the older one.
Murdoch, in military style, marched his family in the direction of the reception desk.
“May I help you, sir?” the concierge asked, casting a disparaging glance at Johnny.
“Hey how ya doin?” Johnny asked leaning over the desk and smiling when the little man ignored him.
Murdoch brushed his son aside and stiffened, stretching to his full height when he caught the condescending look the man gave his younger son. His glare dared the man to say anything, anything at all and wisely he didn’t.
“I have several rooms booked in the name of Lancer.” He finally declared when he figured the man had sweated enough.
“Of course, sir, my bellman will show you upstairs to your rooms. That’s three double rooms, one with en-suite facilities, the others adjoining, isn’t it sir?”
“Welcome to the Hotel Regent.” He looked at Teresa, “Young Lady.”
Then he glanced at Johnny disdainfully before settling his eyes on Scott.
“Gentlemen, I hope you will enjoy your stay with us.”
Murdoch nodded his head. He had noticed that the little man had acknowledged all but Johnny, despite the fact that Johnny had been the only one to say hello. Murdoch cleared his throat, “I am sure we …all…will.” He said, emphasising the ‘all’. Then taking, Johnny by the arm he pulled him forward. “This is my son, sir,” and then taking Scott also by his arm, he further declared, “and this is also my son; both Lancer. I expect them to be treated no differently, do you understand?”
The little man flinched. It was clear he was uncomfortable. “Of course, sir, no differently at all, as you wish.” He fumbled with his register book and began to sweat again profusely. Satisfied, Murdoch turned his crew towards the large oak stairway that led to their rooms upstairs.
They entered the drawing room, with the adjoining rooms leading off and the bell boy stuck around, nervously holding out his hand. That was until Johnny put his arm around his shoulder and smiling to him, showed him the door.
Sometimes it paid not to know the rules, thought Murdoch, his Scottish sensibilities kicking right in. Johnny is going to save me a fortune in tips. He laughed at the thought.
Once the bell boy had left, Murdoch grabbed Johnny by the collar and marched him to the water closet. “John, I’m warning you, you so much as look at the water closet in a funny way and I will personally tear a strip off your hide, do I make myself clear son?”
Johnny hung his head. Shit the old man is never gonna let me forget Sacramento!
“Yes, sir.” He scowled at the laughing girl. “I get it, don’t stuff nuthin’ down the…”
“Good, good,” Murdoch interrupted. “Make sure you use it properly, John and put nothing down there that shouldn’t be down there,” he hesitated, and then added, “If you get my meaning?” Despite his resolve to be stern, he found himself laughing.
Teresa crinkled her nose, she wasn’t too amused and she actually had the gall to admonish Murdoch. “Ewwwww...this talk is getting disgusting!”
Murdoch held up his hands. “Sorry Teresa.”
Johnny was aware of their little dance at his expense. “Murdoch, I won’t do what I did in Sacramento.” He signed sullenly, and then whispered under his breath, “Like I would! What, you think I like gettin’ my ass blistered, cause let me tell you somethin’, ol…”
“Alright, John Lancer, that’s enough!” Murdoch’s rebuke put an end to his son’s mumblings, but he was aware Johnny’s temper wasn’t much improved.
They unpacked, at least Scott, Murdoch and Teresa did. Johnny just proceeded to unload his clothes and dump them into the deep bottom drawer that his brother indicated was his. He didn’t bother to do it carefully and all of his tediously ironed shirts were now a jumbled mess. Never mind that he was going to a fancy restaurant and his clothes needed hanging out to air.
Scott scowled at his younger sibling and hung them up for him, as Johnny knew he would. There were times when having an older sibling was a good thing and this was one of them. There was a method to his madness, only his smart, Mr Harvard educated older brother hadn’t actually worked it out… yet!
“What on earth were you thinking Johnny?” Scott asked, a deep frown marring his otherwise handsome face. It was a question he often asked.
“I wasn’t, ok, big brother?” The sarcasm that laced Johnny’s lips stung Scott like a bee. “And who gives a shit bout them things anyway?”
Scott decided to enlighten his brother. “Here, Johnny, in the city, the ladies like a well turned out man,” he paused for effect, “the emphasis of course, baby brother,” he ruffled Johnny’s hair, “is on the word… man.” He scoffed and quickly danced away, as Johnny took a half hearted swing at him.
“That right, huh? Well, now we all know why I don’t like cities, because I sure in Hell ain’t gettin’ all duded up all the time.” Johnny declared.
“Oh, yes, you are,” stated a voice from behind, “while you are in the city you will wear a suit and tie, John and that’s an order,” Murdoch barked.
Johnny turned towards his father, clearly pissed. “And we all know how I feel about them, now don’t we,” he sneered insolently.
Just the one word had Johnny raising his hands in defeat and grinning to appease his father. “Only kiddin’ Papi, only kiddin’.” And then quickly changing the subject he asked. “So when do we eat?”
Rubbing his hands together in glee, his focus was now totally on the one thing important to him…. food! “Let’s go, I’m fu…freakin’ starvin’!” On seeing his old man’s face, he made a beeline for the door; escaping the outstretched hand of his father, by the skin of his teeth.
Dinner was a quiet affair and afterwards they relaxed in the hotel; Johnny and Scott playing chess in front of the large fire in the lounge and Teresa reading some carefully placed magazines.
Murdoch was contentedly smoking his pipe and drinking his favourite whiskey… Glenlivet. The Lancer patriarch had decided they’d turn in early to recover from their journey. So as soon as Johnny and Scott finished there game, they retired to their beds.
Business attended to Murdoch, Scott and Johnny emerged from the large building. Teresa was still back at the hotel. She’d made a friend, a pretty young girl named Susanna and she had been invited to visit some fancy dress shops. Since she didn’t often have female company Murdoch leapt at the chance for her to go. He gave her a wad of money and off she went, thrilled by the prospect of spending the day with her new friend and her mother.
Johnny wasn’t a very happy boy as he followed in his father and brother’s wake. When he had asked his old man for an advance, his answer had been a resounding no! Now that really pissed him off. Here he was, out of his mind with boredom and his father, his rich father, wouldn’t give him so much as a dime. Bastard! It’s a good thing I raided Scott’s secret stash at Lancer before we left or I wouldn’t have any money for important stuff. But then there’s always his billfold…Hell I did him a favour after all he needs to learn not to keep it in the front pocket of his jacket. He grinned.
Deliberately dragging his feet behind his old man and brother, as they happily discussed the morning’s business, Johnny soon fell behind. When he saw they were distracted enough, he took full advantage of their lack of concentration concerning him and let himself fall even further behind. Grinning he then skipped down a side street, merrily kicking his heels and hot footing it down the alleyway and rounding into another street where he was free to wreak his own special brand of havoc!
When Murdoch and Scott finally turned around, Johnny was gone. They had been in the city less that twenty four hours and Johnny had managed to elude them. They were furious first with Johnny and then themselves.
“God-damn-it!” They cursed in unison.
He crept into the hotel drawing room, in the wee pink hours of the morning. He’d been missing all day and evening.
After he’d left Murdoch and Scott, he’d flagged down a buggy and had gone straight to Melissa’s house; paying the man using the cash he had liberated from Scott’s billfold; which he had skilfully pilfered from his brothers coat pocket, as he’d passed him earlier. As usual Johnny had worked his charm and got to talking with the driver and he’d ended up sharing a small bottle of whiskey with the man. It wasn’t his favourite tipple but it was free and by the time he’d gotten to Melissa’s house, he was mildly inebriated.
Melissa was fairly independent and her father was at work so they’ d taken her buggy and gone on a picnic, but first she’d shown him the sights of the city. He had listening patiently to her banter and then leaned in to kiss her neck. Later, he’d spent a ‘delightful’ afternoon with her in a park and they’d ended up under a bush no less. After….he’d taken her home and they’d parted company, with a promise he would see her again. He kissed her again stirring feelings he didn’t really want at that moment because it was time to leave. He wanted to find out what the waterfront had to offer and so reluctantly, he left for the sights and smells of the harbour.
Johnny spent the rest of the evening drinking with a couple of young men he’d got to talking with and they’d whooped it up till the early hours; which ended with him in the arms of an affectionate young whore. Twice in one day wasn’t bad, even for him and he was pretty pleased with himself. Yep, even ol’ Madrid couldn’t have scored better. Melissa sure had been a shock to the system but a welcome one for sure.
Johnny’s antics had pretty much put an end to any evening of culture Murdoch had planned.
Numbed by the alcohol in his brain, he continued to smile, despite the deep shit he was going to be in when Murdoch woke up in the morning. It was one of the reasons he’d crammed everything into one day, knowing full well there would be little chance of him repeating the experience. Tiptoeing quietly towards his bedroom, he was startled when he heard his father’s whispered voice sound out behind him.
“Well my son, so you finally decided to come back?”
Johnny cringed, his shoulders dropping. “Oh shit.”
He heard his father move towards him. “Boy you’re hide is mine!”
Before he had a chance to blink he found himself tipped over the back of the couch as his father took care of business.
Now if Johnny hadn’t been very drunk he would have been very sore but as it was his whole body was kind of numb, so he wasn’t feeling any real pain and it amused him. He was however sober enough not to laugh out loud.
“Go to bed John and if you ever run off like that again….” The statement was left hanging.
“Yea’s sur,” Johnny slurred, hanging his head and faking a shame, he didn’t really feel. Hell, he’d had the best day ever and he had actually won some money too and all on Scott’s dollar! That kind of tickled him and so he snickered out loud. All in all, it was worth the ass blisterin’ he reminisced.
“Do you have something you wish to add, John?”
“Nah.” He made himself look contrite.
Murdoch was suspicious but it was late and so he let it go. “Good then go to bed, John, all too soon you’ll be out of it again.”
“Yeah ok….” And on seeing his father’s deep frown, he quickly added, “oops sorry….. sur,” and slunk off to bed, rubbing at his now numb ass to try to get some feeling back! Yep it sure had been worth it… well at least my time with Melissa was!
Despite what he’d been told about wearing a nightshirt, Johnny stripped as usual and snuggled down naked onto his belly in his bed and slept the sleep of the innocent.
Breakfast the next morning was a sullen affair. Johnny’s ass was no longer numb. Now he felt every strike of his father’s belt and it hurt like all holy Hell. Goddammit! And to make matter worse, it was as he thought. They were all watching him like a hawk, and it was driving him crazy. There was no escaping the ‘culture’ they intended exposing him to that day.
First, they went to the art gallery where all the artists were pointed out to him and he had laughed at some of the sculptures. The ones that particularly got his attention were the ones of the naked ladies and his older brother thumped him when he caught him cupping one of the statues breasts, as he made rude comments. Teresa’s face had looked thunderous and Murdoch had once again lectured him concerning his inappropriate behaviour in front of the young girl.
Then they’d gone to the library, where he was made to read for a while, out loud to make sure he did, and then there was the fancy restaurant at lunch time which was just… perfect… according to Teresa. Johnny didn’t agree!
The museum had been next in the afternoon and Johnny was getting pretty fed up with it all.
Ending the day from Hell, as far as Johnny was concerned, they ate a fancy dinner in the hotel restaurant. Johnny picking at the food, pushing it around his plate. None of it looked familiar and he wasn’t thrilled to eat something he couldn’t even pronounce, or that was staring right back at him. Not to mention he wasn’t in a hurry to finish as he was being dragged to an opera afterwards. Whatever the Hell that was? Nope right at that moment if someone had offered to hang the young man, he’d a gone and got the rope!
“Come on Johnny or we’ll be late!” Murdoch scolded, his impatience showing.
Johnny was looking for yet another shirt and tie, clean ones, after a spill during dinner. Shit, I hate ties! Well at least I’m gettin’ good at… tyin’ ‘em. He snickered at his own joke.
Murdoch had pulled out all the stops and had purchased the best seats in the theatre; right next to the stage. They had a balcony all to themselves and to one side, even more balconies. All plush, with red velvet framed walls and drapes with golden frills, real fancy. He sank into the well padded and comfortable chair, nearest the stage and played with the fringe on the curtain. Yep, the old man was paying the full freight; first class all the way. He was actually looking forward to the show.
Johnny was like a two year old and his eyes were like saucers. Twice his brother had thrown himself forward to stop Johnny from falling into the stalls below; giving his father a near heart attack!
But it pleased Murdoch no end to see his youngest son so excited at the prospect of a night out at the opera. He was unaware that Johnny knew practically nothing about opera or that he thought he was going to see some cabaret girls or hootchi-cooch dancers.
As they were waiting for the …show…to start, Johnny made a friend. Frank was sitting with his family in the adjoining balcony. He was a little younger than Johnny, maybe… say… two years or so and he was also fidgeting; trussed up also like a turkey. Both boys were scratching, their woollen suits causing them to itch and squirm as they acquainted themselves.
Johnny noticed the lamps being extinguished one by one and the audience fell into relative darkness and silence. Whispering to his new friend, he informed him, “Show’s about to start.” Well he was older after all and he felt he had to keep him right.
It was a huge shock to his system when a rather large lady and a man dressed up in costumed finery walked onto the stage. It was an even bigger shock when they opened their mouths to sing.
Johnny covered his ears and looked at his brother, his eyes wide with shock. SHIT! What the fuck is this all about and what the Hell is all that screamin’ and screechin’ for? He had lots of questions but none he felt he could express aloud. The noise increased and Johnny was alarmed. “Is she alright, brother?” he whispered, real concern in his voice.
Scott had to cover his mouth to stop the laugher, and then he snorted. He told Johnny that it was opera and they sang like that and if he paid attention, they told a story. He told him he had to concentrate on the interaction between the singers, and the gestures with their hands.
Johnny nodded. Yeah, like I’m gonna be able to concentrate with all that screechin’ goin’ on. Shit!
By intermission, Johnny and Frank were bored and looking for some form of entertainment. They couldn’t understand a word of the opera. It was all in Italian and according to his Boston educated brother, all opera’s were. It wasn’t fun at all so Johnny decided to make his own or to at least get a chuckle out of his new friend.
He found his particular brand of fun in the shape of some nuts and dried peas. The peas were Frank’s, who’d managed to smuggle his pea shooter in with him. The nuts were his idea, bought for him by Murdoch, from the lady who’d made eyes at him, despite the fact she was old enough to be his mother. Scott had been quick to intervene and had bought some things from her tray.
Murdoch made sure he didn’t have anything sweet, saying the last thing they needed was Johnny on a sugar high. He sulked while Teresa ate her chocolate and shot her furtive looks that sent chills through the girl. That had earned him a smack up aside the head. Scott, the smart ass, had abstained in support of his younger brother. Ass kisser!
The lights were extinguished again and the two boys canted their heads together. Johnny snickered. “Look down there.” He pointed a single finger to the ladies in the seats below them. “See all them ladies sittin’ there with their tits all pushed up like there wantin’ to explode out of their dresses?”
Frank nodded. “Yeah... so?” he shrugged.
“So we’re goin’ to drop nuts,” Johnny laughed at the double meaning, “get it, nuts?” he giggled, Frank didn’t.
“Down the front of their cleavage,” it was a word Scott had told him. Frank frowned again. “Down the front of their dresses,” he clarified. Frank nodding as Johnny took aim.
The lady in question looked up suddenly, her face flushed, even in the subdued lighting they could seen that much. They watched snickering as she fidgeted and fumbled with her cleavage. The boys quickly disappearing and hid behind the rail; there bellies aching as she glanced up. They were trying hard to suppress there laughter when Murdoch tapped Johnny on the back of his head.
“Behave,” he admonished. “Ssshh!”
“Sorry Papi.” He smiled looking positively angelic and making Murdoch frown.
He didn’t like the look on his youngest sons face. Experience was teaching him the more innocent he looked, the more guilty he was likely to be of ….something….Hell anything.. He would bear watching.
Johnny and Frank sat still long enough for Murdoch to be distracted by the singing again, which he seemed to love. The last thing Johnny needed was his father working out what they were doing!
Yet another nut fell into an unsuspecting lady’s cleavage and again the woman squirmed and looked up, confused as to where the object now lodged in her bosom had come from. Again the culprits disappeared ducking behind the front of the balcony.
“You aim’s real good, Johnny boy,” Frank exclaimed; snickering. They were at last having some fun.
Then Johnny had a flash of inspiration. “Give me your shooter, Frank.”
“Sure, Johnny, what do you want it for?” Frank asked, looking puzzled. He wasn’t the brightest light in the night’s sky.
“You’ll see,” Johnny responded. A moment later he was loading it up and taking aim.
The teens snickered out loud when the male singer flicked at his face, as a pea hit him squarely on the jaw.
“Johnny, shush!” Murdoch admonished yet again.
The man’s flicking had gone unnoticed by Murdoch and indeed most of the audience. But Scott was none to happy with his brother and he secretly wished Frank wasn’t there. Johnny didn’t need an ali and he gut sure knew they were up to something. As for Teresa well she was just enthralled by all the dresses.
Again Johnny turned towards his father. “Sorry, Papi,” he replied contritely. Whispering, he leaned in towards his companion. “We have to stop all the laughin’ out loud Frank,” he advised, jerking a thumb in his father’s direction. On seeing the scowl on Murdoch’s face Frank agreed.
A moment later.
Again the male singer brushed at his face whilst Johnny and Frank’s shoulders shook in silent mirth.
What happened next would go down in San Francisco’s history and made the next days paper.
The pea went straight into the fat lady’s mouth while it was wide open in mid wail. Instinctively, she gagged.
And all Hell broke loose!
A collective gasp was heard throughout the audience, as her companion slapped her back, hard. She was doubled over, clearly in some distress.
Johnny and Frank sat motionless, wide- eyed and mouths open. Then they glanced at one another clearly in shock and Johnny immediately dropped the pea shooter.
Catching movement on the floor out of the corner of his eye, Scott bent forward and picked up the shooter. Distracted by a sudden shouting, he dropped the thick straw into his pocket, and quickly stood up.
“DOCTOR, DOCTOR, is there a Doctor in the house, we need a Doctor?”
A split second later a man was seen rushing from his seat and leaping onto the stage and grabbing the woman from behind. He seemed to be trying to lift her and panic began to overtake the house.
“Fuck, he’ll be lucky to get that heifer lifted,” Johnny blurted out, snickering as he watched the spectacle. Frank fell over guffawing out loud.
Despite the seriousness of the predicament, Johnny couldn’t stop himself and he held onto his stomach as they howled with laughter. The doctor on the stage was huffing and puffing and grunting as the large singer’s eyes bulged and her face turned blue, until she sank to the floor, unbalancing the doctor, who fell on her stomach. All of a sudden the pea shot out of her mouth and into the orchestra pit. A loud whoosh sound filling the air as she gasped for breath.
The opera was over and as far as Johnny was concerned, what had happened in the last few minutes was the most entertaining part of the show.
Eyes narrowing, Scott dug into his jacket pocket and held up the peashooter and without saying a thing he watched as his father turned an ominous shade of purple. The older man immediately knew what had happened, and just who was responsible!
“JOHN LANCER!” He bellowed.
Both young boys jumped.
Murdoch’s booming voice was enough to alarm the people around him and embarrassed, he grabbed for his youngest son. “Let’s get out of here, Scott.” He hissed.
The blond Lancer didn’t need to be told twice as he took his sister’s arm.
Teresa was miffed because she didn’t want to leave. The show was cancelled, and apologies made to the audience, who hadn’t a clue why the woman had choked. Apparently the main singer was now in shock and needed to rest.
Johnny didn’t know what all the fuss was about, she was alright. He also didn’t know how he got outside, he just knew he was and his father had him by the scruff of his neck. Murdoch shook him like a puppy being corrected for leaving a puddle of pee on the floor.
The newspaper men were all over the place, asking how a pea had got lodged in the lady’s throat. Johnny remained quiet and since the lady seemed to be fine Murdoch decided discretion was the order of the day and kept quiet also. He marched his recalcitrant son towards a buggy with Scott and Teresa in tow.
“You just wait until I get you back to the hotel,” Murdoch whispered into his sons ear. Panicked Johnny knew exactly what he meant and began to struggle in a desperate attempt to get away.
“Don’t you dare fight me on this boy!” Murdoch exclaimed. Immediately Johnny stopped knowing full well it was futile to even try and resigned to his fate, he relaxed in his fathers iron grip.
Upon arriving at their hotel, Murdoch instructed Scott and Teresa to stay in the lounge while he escorted Johnny towards the front desk to retrieve his key.
The clerk at reception looked up. “You’re back early. Did you have a nice evening,” he asked innocently, mildly confused on seeing the tight grip Murdoch had on his youngest son.
The older man scowled and grabbed at his key. Scott decided to intervene. “Um, there was an incident at the theatre, the main singer became…ill… so the opera was cancelled,” Scott explained, clearing his throat.
“Oh, I’m terribly sorry to hear that, sir,” he replied, turning to the younger blond man.
Murdoch still had Johnny by the scruff of his neck and a good handful of hair too, causing Johnny to squeak out a yelp! and a lem’me go!
The concierge watched, alarmed, as Murdoch marched off with his son in tow. “Is your father alright? He seems terribly upset.” He asked turning to Scott.
Scott shook his head. “He’s just fine sir. Right now, he’s just a tad upset with my little brother,” he explained. “He behaved… shall we say… quite badly at the opera.”
It seemed that one statement said it all and the clerk nodded his head knowingly.
Sometime later, Scott and Teresa were instructed to come upstairs. Johnny was already in his nightshirt and tucked up in bed. He wasn’t sleeping and he looked very uncomfortable.
“Are you alright, Johnny,” Scott inquired.
“Leave me the fuck alone, brother,” Johnny sneered. “You showed him the shooter. He’d a never guessed it was me, if you hadn’t shown him. I ain’t talkin’’ to you anymore. Ever,” he sulked. Big brothers could sure be a pain in the ass! Literally!!
Breakfast the next day was an embarrassing affair. The papers reported the choking incident and the fact the culprits were still being sought. The staff at the hotel had their suspicions but kept quiet. Murdoch was being a bear. He knew damn well and good they suspected Johnny had something to do with the incident the night before.
With a growl he put down his fork and knife, a clear sign he wanted their attention. “We are all going home.” He said looking directly at Johnny. “After breakfast, you’re going to start packing and if you so much as breathe out of place, John, I am going to strangle you, clear?”
Johnny swallowed, hard. It was very apparent Murdoch was pissed with him and he knew better than to rile the man with any kind of protest, anyway he was secretly pleased. “Yes sir, clear,” he said without even looking up from his ham and eggs.
Teresa harrumphed. “John Lancer, you are such a spoil sport. You do know that, don’t you? It’s all you’re fault that this trip has been cancelled.” She whined looking like she was going to throw a Lancer sized fit.
The dark haired youth glared at his little sister and made a ‘phht’ sound and decided to get in his two cents worth. “Like you ain’t a fuckin’ royal pain in the ass too,” he exclaimed. “You and your…”
Before he knew it, he was being marched up the stairs once again by his very angry father.
Aw no! Shit Goddammit!
The culture trip was over and they were headed for home, lucky not to have been arrested. Johnny’s ass ached like it never had before… and … as for the culture, well he reckoned they could keep it. One thing he’d decided though, he didn’t like San Francisco and aimed never to go back. His ass end temporarily forgotten, a sudden smirk appeared on his face …all be it briefly… but I did like the girl.. wow.. what a memory!
The news of the opera incident reached as far as Morro Coyo and Green River. No one knew how a pea had got stuck down her throat. Frank had obviously kept his mouth shut and Johnny… well it seemed he was famous, or rather… infamous. He was just itching to tell someone but Murdoch had made it pretty damned clear it was their little secret, so he didn’t dare!
All good things must come to an end and they were finally home and as far as Johnny was concerned home was the best place in the world. And the culture? Well they could keep their damned culture, as far as he was concerned. He didn’t need it or even want it. And it seemed his father didn’t either….well not anymore anyway.
A chuckle escaped Murdoch Lancer as he contentedly smoked his pipe watching the sun approach the horizon; his thoughts turning to the recent events in San Francisco. Now that he was home he saw the funny side…but still. Johnny surely did make life…well interesting! That boy could cause mayhem in a church and… he grimaced... frequently did! But would I have it any other way?
He thought about it for less than a second… absolutely not…He loved his sons and was just happy they were both home with him now. And as for ‘culture’, again he chuckled, well Johnny could be instructed at home by his brother and myself on the finer points of ….culture… and there is always… books! It was much safer that way!
Maria appeared with a small plate and fork; a piece of chocolate cake sitting atop it. Handing it off she listened to the story of San Francisco unfold and shaking her head, she had to agree!