Disclaimer:- I give credit to the original creater of ‘Lancer’, Samuel Peeples, who gave us all such wonderful characters to write about, just for fun.
For Fox:- I made no money from this little ditty and so you got nuthin’ to worry about!
There are some references to Kit Prates ‘Green Broke’ and her ‘When Push Comes to the Shove’ (J) and most recently her Left Hand of God series of stories. Thanks Kit for your wonderful imagination and inspiration… The backstory of Johnny and Val is all kits creation and hers alone, and I thank her for the privilege of being able to include it in my writing.
Thank you Karen for reminding me about comma’s n’ stuff. You’re a doll (did I spell that one right?) LOLOL…Seriously though …thank you very much Karen.
…Hope ya’ll enjoy…
Johnny is 19 and Scott is 25
Johnny was in the saloon. A place he wasn’t meant to be, at least mid-week at eleven thirty in the morning anyway, but Hell he’d had enough of folks telling him where he should or shouldn’t be. So here he was, playing poker with some old fellas, who had nothing better to do with their time, than to slip away their day, sipping a beer or a Tequila or two, playing cards.
The fact that he’d had to threaten to shoot the barkeep in order to get the Tequila he’d wanted, hadn’t softened his mood; his father’s influence reaching as far as Morro Coyo apparently now!
But now that he had just downed his first Tequila, in as long as he could remember, he began to feel the longer ride had been well worth it! Anything to escape the grips of the Sheriff of Green River, who watched him like a damned hawk. He’d never been one to use unnecessary force, but desperate times called for desperate measures. ‘And a man’s got to do, what a man’s got to do. Hell I’ve been drinkin’ Tequila since I was thirteen years old!’ he shrugged, ‘Well when Val wasn’t lookin’ I did anyway…’
It’d been a while since he’d had anything to drink stronger than milk, what with his father riding herd. It had also been a while since he’d even left the ranch! His father’s loud and long decree, that he was bound to the confines of the ranch, until further notice, still ringing in his ears. It had been a real pain in the ass, and since when did Johnny Madrid obey that kind of nonsense anyway? Who the Hell did Murdoch think he was’ He thought about that for all of one second and shrugged.‘Johnny Lancer, that’s who,’ answering his own question. He sighed. He knew in his father’s eyes, he was still just a wet behind the ears, snot nosed kid, in dire need of some parental guidance and it purely drove him crazy, considering who he had been before his return home!
He reflected on that one word for a moment, shaking his head. He tried hard then, to contemplate the cards in his hand, but couldn’t help thinking about how he had bucked hard against his old man these last few months. He realized, without giving it to much thought, that he had broken every single rule his father had lain down. ‘But Hell Murdoch sure didn’t make it easy!’ he thought frowning, becoming suddenly aware of the old men sitting opposite him grinning and thinking of how he was probably holding a shitty hand.
He ignored them and tried real hard to remember what he’d done, this last time for his father to ground him. He remembered his rant, trouble was he couldn’t exatly recall what he had been ranting on about; one punishment pretty much running into the next! Recently anyway. ‘It’s gettin’ to the point, I don’t know whether I’m comin’ or goin’!’
He fingered his cards, and began to wonder why he put up with it, and if maybe he hadn’t just simply lost his balls. Hell if it had been up to his father, he’d of been gelded the same time his old man had gelded Barranca; something he still hadn’t forgiven him for! Still, he did have one colt from the horse, so all wasn’t lost and he intended breeding him when he was full grown.
One thing he knew for sure was Murdoch Lancer was set on ruling the roost and he was equally set on showing him that he would not be ruled! Hence their constant head butting. Seems the old man was just as stubborn as him!
In his recent past, anyone telling him where he could and couldn’t go, or what he could and could not do, had pretty much come to a sticky end. Especially if they had persisted!! Yet here he was, with his ‘yes sirs’ and ‘no sirs’! All of them at his father’s insistence and boy had he insisted!! Hadn’t he learned just recently what those consequences would be, if he showed any signs of resistance or rebellion!
‘Jesus!’ he sighed.
He’d been home for exactly four and a half months now and it had been two months and three days exactly, when his father had finally snapped and taken him to task. Not that he hadn’t pushed. Hell he had pushed real hard, and for a while he’d figured his old man was all mouth. Not that he had changed. Hell, he hadn’t managed to complete a single week without either an ass chewing or at the very least an ear chewing from his old man!! In fact, he figured his ass end hadn’t had so much attention in his entire life. Hell he briefly wondered why he didn’t have any fucking callouses! To this day, he didn’t know why he took it. Not that he could do a damned thing about it at the time. But afterwards?
In spite of what his old man had done, he’d stuck around, and it plain bothered him. He didn’t really understand why he just didn’t tell his old man to go fuck himself and then ride off towards the sun set! No way would he have put up with any of that shit from anyone else!
‘So why do I?’ he thought, thnking on it.
To be fair, he reasoned, his old man had told them both, ‘I’ll call the tune’. Well boy had he learned, pretty damned quickly, in fact, to dance to that tune, respectfully and reverently! And now, one angry glance from his old man was enough to send him scuttling off in the opposite direction, to do his bidding!! He figured that in itself was a relevation, but still he reasoned, it was kind of alright, but when others began to figure they could do the same; others like Cipriano, or Elena his Aunt, or even Maria, the fuckin’ housewife; not to mention Teresa, his ‘think-of-me-as- a-sister’ and his older brother, Scott, started to lay down the Law, then that was when he drew the line. Then, the urge to buck the traces, like now, would pull at him so strongly, he found it impossible not to obey his instincts and simply flee; rebelling against them all, just for the pure Hell of it!
That was why he was sitting in this very saloon playing poker with two old coots he didn’t even know the names of, because Cip had given him orders, he hadn’t liked…
‘CIP!!’ He shook his head! ‘Well hadn’t the old man made it clear who was second in command, when he wasn’t around?’ he shrugged and glanced up at the old man now grinning opposite him. “What you grinnin’ at?” he asked, now a tad pissed.
“You. You got a bad hand there or somethin’ boy, hmmm? You look kinda worried,” the old man pushed. He was looking for a tell, but he didn’t see anything in the bluest of eyes.
“Ain’t none of yer business,” he spat, watching as the old coot winked at his companion, knowingly or so he thought.
He chuckled then, not overly concerned and pretended to look at his cards, which he realized were good. His thoughts however once more returning to his problems and the first time his father had taken him to task.
It had been unexpected, to say the least. No way in Hell had he ever imagined his old man would go that far; holding him down only to take his belt to his sorry ass! He’d tried to fight him off, of course, but Murdoch was a formidable figure of a man. ‘Hell the man was larger than creation itself and built like a fuckin’ bear!’ he thought grimacing slightly at the memory of the confrontation.
It hadn’t ended well, ‘ ..well especially for one part of my anatomy anyway,’ he thought ruefully, making the old coot opposite him, frown! He was however, blissfully unaware how his facial expressions were affecting his companions at the table; his heart not in the game he was playing. ‘Scott’s right, I’m my own worst enemy! But hell ain’t it worth an ass chewin’ every now and then, just to be able to do what I want?’ He wasn’t sure, and once again he frowned and the old men at the table, winked at one another.
When he really thought about it, he didn’t know why he had even fought Murdoch, since he hadn’t stood a chance against him. ‘Why didn’t I get any of his kind of height…Jesus Scott did…Well some of it anyway! It just ain’t fair. Don’t seem to have gotten a God-damed thing from the old man ‘ceptin’ maybe his mama’s eyes…Least that’s what he told me.’
The man had easily pinned him; sprawling him face down on his bed; his hands held at tightly at his back. In that single moment, Johnny had realized that maybe he had pushed the man too far. ‘Too late to save my ass,’ he thought ruefully, as he remembered how Murdoch had warmed it.
Had he learned anything from the experience? Nope, not really, he thought, as later on that very evening, Murdoch was repeating the experience! This time in the barn. And why, because he had shown he had learned nothing!! ‘Mama always did call me a hard head, and Val…’ he reflected, well he didn’t really want to think about what Val had sometimes called him! It had been the first time, his father had taken him to task, but it sure in Hell hadn’t been the last!
His older, wiser, pain in the ass brother had approached him later, in his room to talk to him. He chuckled out loud at that. ‘Lecture, more like..’ His lecture lasting well into the evening!!
“Little brother you really need to learn to pick your battles,” he’d told him.
At which point Johnny had retorted, “Pick my battles huh…? Well I did, big brother, and look how that turned out…” After a while he had lost it, even with Scott. “Look why don’t you just fuck off….” And that particular encounter hadn’t ended well either, with him finally realizing, that maybe he shouldn’t push his brother beyond his limited patience!
Ever since then, he had developed a healthy respect for his elder brother and to a certain extent his old man too, since both packed quite a wallop! Still the battles raged on, and yet he still didn’t know which battles he should pick, or indeed not!
It was a confusing thing this family shit!
‘Yeah right, Scott, great advice!’ He huffed one evening after yet another encounter with his old man, standing by his window, aching. Right there and then, he had decided it maybe wasn’t such a good idea to always challenge his old man, at least directly anyway. He knew he needed to learn when to argue and when to show the man the respect he so richly deserved.
Having an opinion of his own was just fine and dandy, as far as Scott and indeed his father was concerned, as long as he voiced it respectfully and with the proper amount of decorum. ‘Well,’ he figured, ‘I am learning. I am more diplomatic? Hell I haven’t been to the barn in ages…Well ages for me!’ he thought huffing. ‘Impressive Madrid,’ he grinned.
That all said and done, the simple truth was, he enjoyed watching his old man’s jaws flex. He kind of liked the attention he got when he angered him. ‘Course he didn’t much care for the consequences of making those same jaws flex! However he was getting to know when he should back down and give it up, before he’d end up over them strategically placed bales in the newly built woodshed! Placed there, just for him, Scott had told him more than once, smirkin’.
Recently he’d timed it just right. Again Impressive! He grinned. ‘So, guess I am learnin’ then?’ He shrugged.
All he knew was, he wanted to avoid, at all costs, the inside of that fucking wood shed! Yet here he was, disobeying his old man’s Segundo; his Uncle no less! ‘Shit why can’t I just do as I’m told? Maybe if the old man cut let me loose every now and then, I’d be fine…Nope,’ he thought, in his heart knowing with him, it was only a matter of time, before he found himself, once again placed over those damned bales. So much so, he now deeply regretted telling his Uncle Cip to go fuck himself, at the fence line, earlier that very morning!
Cip had been wild with anger at his lack of respect and use of profanity. So much so he’d known to get the Hell out of there as fast as he could. He knew it was only a matter of time and Cip would tell his old man and then… ‘Jeez before the day would be out, everyone on the ranch would know he’d been disrespectful, again. Fuck it!’
Apparently his Uncle felt he had the God given right to lay into him, and not only with his tongue! It hadn’t been the first time! Cip had recently taken him to task; using a God-damned quirt of all things and in front of God and everyone else for that matter and it had been mind-numbingly embarrassing. So much so, he had promised himself that he wouldn’t rush to repeat the experience anytime soon..Yet here he was, again! ‘Shit! Shit! Shit! Maybe I ain’t learnin’ after all ‘cause it sure didn’t stop me from givin’ the man lip this mornin’.’ He shook his head now! ‘Shit Johnny!’
Now, not only was he gonna get it from his old man, but he was gonna hav’ta ‘pologize to his old bastard of an Uncle as well. ‘Scott’s right, I really do need to think before I open my big mouth, no matter how frustrated or angry I get!’
He thought about his most recent trip down woodshed Hell and winced. Scott had come into his room later, like he always did and had once again ragged on and on at him…‘He’s real good at that.’ He grinned, just a little, because despite everything, he knew he loved his brother more than life itself.
The old men at the table simply looked confused…First the boy frowned, then he grinned, then he chuckled and then he frowned again…What the hell was goin’ on? Johnny’s head actually canted from side to side when he remembered what his brother had told him. ‘You really do need to learn to mind your elders, little brother; you need to find a balance when dealing with our father. It’s not what you say necessarily, Johnny, it’s the way you say it… Yep, he tore me a new one… blah, de blah, de blah!!’ He sighed, remembering he had dared to roll his eyes, eliciting his brother’s wrath, which was almost as bad as his old mans.
He’d been really trying, in more ways than one, according to his old man!! But as far as he was concerned he really had tried to obey him, but there were just simply too many rules that he enjoyed breaking!
Anyway, hadn’t he once been told, he had perfect balance? So what the hell was ol’ Boston raggin’ on about? All this findin’ a balance with the ol’ man, shit?’ He sure as hell, didn’t know what the Hell he was talkin’ about. Now, balance with a pistol, he understood. He grinned. That dance he had a real understanding for, but the kind of balance Scott had gone on, and on, and on about, well he hadn’t a damned clue….Didn’t much care either! After all, wasn’t it his job, as the resident ‘hellion’ to break the rules?
Gives ol Scott somethin’ to do; old man too, breaks the boredom? He snickered to himself, knowing his logic was skewed, but Hell hadn’t he watched the twins with their older brother often enough to know, they made it their mission to wind him up, and that was putting it mildly!! Hell they drove Reese crazy, most days anyway and compared to them, he considered himself an angel.
They had ‘winding older brother up’, down to perfection! Wasn’t like they hadn’t had years of practice. Now me, well I got a lot of catchin’ up to do with my older, wiser, pain in the ass brother.’ He smirked.
Never mind that most of the mischief they got into, recently anyway, was his idea in the first place. Usually orchestrated by him and more often than not, planned and led by him as well. ‘Course it helped that most times, the twins were only too happy to go along for the ride!
‘Ain’t I just bein’ a little brother; givin’ Scott somethin’ to do; givin’ him memories to talk to his own kids about, when he has ‘em? It’s my job and ‘sides, it makes him feel good when he has to pass on some big brotherly advice.’ He giggled just a little at his own analogy. ‘It’s my duty to give the man a reason for livin’. And Hell, it’s fun and I ain’t had a whole lot of that in my life…’ he sighed.
“Don’t my opinions count, Scott?” he’d once asked, his eyes pleading.
His older, brother, had simply smiled at him, real affection in those slate blue eyes, as he’d addressed him; which had been the only reason he had listened.
“Sure they do, Johnny but you need to learn to negotiate and not just blurt them out, in that way you have…”
Johnny narrowed his eyes then, “What way?”
Scott looked frustrated, and he remembered he took a deep breath before he answered, “John, you manage to sound confrontational, insolent and downright arrogant when you give your opinions and you need to think about that when you’re dealing with, especially our father or your Uncle for that matter. They demand respect and you simply choose not to give it to them. You need to learn how to speak to elders in general, little brother.” His eyes had danced as he’d said the last. “And, I am older than you.” He’d gone on to remind him with a smirk.
‘Course he’d scowled soon enough, when I’d told him to go Fuck himself!’ He giggled a little at that. The memory of how his older, wiser pain in the ass brother had reacted, quickly bringing a scowl. ‘Respect has to be earned, Scott,’ I’d told him. ‘And they ain’t done a God-damned thing to earn mine.’
That had been good for another long lecture with Scott reminding him of all the times, recently in fact, where they had cared for him; worried about him and tenderly and lovingly, looked out for him.
‘Cip, Murdoch, Elena, Maria, and Teresa too ,’ he sighed. ‘Jesus but Scott knows exactly how to get to me!’
Still, he had to admit, if only to himself, that Scott was able to soothe his temper like no man could; to the point where his very soul was comforted. ‘Course he annoys the fuck out of me as well, with his many lectures…’ But Johnny knew, in his heart, that Scott himself, was just makin’ up for lost time; being the big brother he guessed he’d always wanted to be. It was why he loved him so much, because no man had ever loved him, like Scott did. ‘Not to mention he sees me, as his responsibility. God only knows how I play on it! So, after thinking on it some, and as the sting would wane on his backside, Johnny often decided to take Scott’s advice and at least try to avoid annoying the old man.
Cip though, is another matter! Hell I’ve only recently accepted the old mans authority.’ Johnny shook his head. Not an easy thing for Madrid; answering to no man; bein’ on my own; makin’ my own decision; surviving out there, on my own! Johnny sighed whistfully.
Now it was different. Now he was part of something he had wanted his entire life…A family. ‘I really do need to be, what is it, Scott said again?... Oh, yeah, to be more di…dip..dip..lo..ma..tic, in my approach to my old man!’ He snickered… ‘Cip too…After all, he is Mama’s brother.’ He frowned at that, since that was difficult for him to comprehend. ‘Hell Mama sure kept that one a secret. Amongst other things,’ he realized.
Johnny hadn’t known about any of them! His mother never telling him about her family and lying to him about his old man; filling him with such hate, he had promised himself he would kill Murdoch when he saw him. ‘And a brother?!!’ He thought about that, ‘She never mentioned Scott; she had to have known …Jeez Mama! Seems you lied about most everythin’.’ His eyes watered slightly at that and then in his usual stoic way, they instantly narrowed as he thought of her deviousness; her beauty and, he had to admit, if only to himself, her strength.
She had been strong, in her own way; tough and often, all to often in fact, cold and calculating. He was the same, especially when dealing with an adversary, and all to often to good effect, he reflected sadly. ‘Seems the apple don’t fall far from the tree after all huh Mama. You’re legacy surely lives on, in me…’
That thought brought him no comfort at all.
The old coots once again looked at one other, wondering what the hell was going on with the kid opposite them. “You alrght there sonny? You makin’ yer play anytime soon?” One of them pressed, watching the play of emotions cross the kid’s face.
Johnny didn’t even hear the questions. ‘… Cold lyin’ bitch!’ he thought, laughing out loud now, figuring if he didn’t laugh, he would cry!
“Sweet Jesus, Mama!”
The old coot to his left was a tad concerned now and it showed, “You alright, son?”
Again he didn’t hear him; lost in his own world of thought. He could admit, if only to himself, that he actually liked his old man; ‘No it’s more than that and you know it, Johnny…’ Still, he wouldn’t let the thought that he might even love his old man, enter his mind. Johnny sighed out loud, the sound more than audible.
“Borin’ you, are we sonny?” the other whiskered old coot, to his left asked, trying once again to engage the youth, they were playing poker with. They hadn’t a clue what was going on with him, but they had long lost all interest in the game they were playing. Watching the kid fight with himself, was far more interesting.
Finally roused from his musings, Johnny glanced his way; his eyes going suddenly cold, as the familiar and all to comforting mask of Madrid, covered him like a shroud. He smiled, but only with his mouth, “Nope,” he shrugged, “I was just thinkin’,” he answered him truthfully.
The two much older men grumbled at one another. “Well think faster. Were growing older with each passin’ second and we’ll be dead and gone ‘fore you make up yer mind and play yer hand, kid.” He chuckled then at his own joke, looking directly at his companion. “Don’t know ‘bout you, but I’d kinda like to know what he’s got in that hand of his, ‘fore they lay me into that pine box, that’s awaitin’.”
The other nodded in agreement.
Johnny momentarily turned his attention to the man to his right, a pained expression on his face as he took in the old, craggy face. The man seemed older than creation itself and it saddened him, but then old age always did; scared him too. However since he’d never believed, ‘til recently, that he would ever get to be old, he hadn’t given it a whole lot of thought.
“I’ll play my hand when I’m good and ready, old man and not before.” He told him, coldly.
It was enough to make the wise old man, quit his teasing; the two of them freezing for a moment. They had heard about this boy; of how was a mixture of good natured fun and deadly force, given the right circumstances. He was a kid to watch.
Johnny relaxed a tad, his right shoulder hitching slightly, “ ‘Sides, I’ve kinda worked things out in my mind anyways,” he declared solemly. These old men didn’t deserve his eere and so he decided to cut them some slack.
They visibly relaxed, at Johnny’s softening mood, “Well thank the good Lord for that.” The old man chuckled, along with his companion.
‘The simple fact is, Johnny boy, you know where you’re best off; don’t be denyin’ it.’ he told himself. ‘If only I could get my old man to cut me some slack!’ he snorted out loud.
“Well shit! Pigs’ll fly ‘fore that happens!” he all but spat!
“You say somethin’ kid? Somethin’ troublin’ you? You in trouble with the law, maybe? Ya seem to be a might distracted.”
Johnny laughed then realizing he had said the last out loud,“Nope..” he shook his head vigorously before finding himself finally admitting, “…well there is some…”
“…Some trouble?” the other offered. “The Sheriff’s a might strict I’ll admit…Can’t get a drink past ten durin’ the week,” he grumbled, making Johnny laugh.
“Yeah, that’s Gabe alright.”
“You know ‘im?”
“You could say that.” He smiled, that sly smile that always lit a fire in his old man, when he used it on him coming. “But I know the Sheriff in Green River a whole lot better.” He declared smirking then, and taking a quick look at the swinging doors, as if he half expected Val to come stormin’ in. He’d chosen this town and this saloon for a reason and avoiding Val had been that very reason!
“Then what is it boy, you been distracted ever since ya sat down. Yer hearts not in this game is it?”
He looked at the kindly old man and his eyes reflected what he suddenly felt, “It’s my Uncle. Well,” he sighed, “… he ain’t to pleased with me and I figure my old man ain’t gonna be to pleased with me neither, when he gets to hear all about it. And,” again he sighed, “… he will get to hear about it, soon enough,” he heard himself say. He laughed then, as he was reminded how news travelled fast in the valley.
“Hell boy, when yer as young as you are, its kinda normal to piss of family from time to time, don’t worry about it. ‘Fore ya know it, it’ll be all over.” the old man told him.
“Young? Me?” It was a funny thing, since he didn’t see himself as young but when he thought about it, he knew he was, in age anyhow. He had just never thought of himself as being young before, was all. Quite the opposite in fact. He hadn’t been able to consider himself a youngster before coming home.
The old men nodded… “Yep you,” they chuckled. “We’ve all been your age kid. Hell when you’s a teenager, you think you know it all.” He laughed then, winking at his companion. “Ain’t that right?”
The other nodded.
“Family kid, what can ya do? They can be troublesome but ya don’t ever wanna be without ‘em, sonny. Tell me, what ya done?”
Johnny’s head snapped up. “Why are you assumin’ I done anythin’?” he asked, slightly miffed now.
“Well ya have, haven’t’ya…I mean, you’ve had this guilty look ever since ya sat down, kid. Like you shouldn’t be here…That it? You oughta be someplace else?”
Johnny lowered his head. “Well yeah, kind of,” he answered, whispering now, a little guiltily.
The two men chuckled. “Boy, you take me back. When I was your age, my Pa and me locked horns near every day. I figure you to be about,” he narrowed his eys, “… what seventeen..?” He asked suddenly.
Johnny looked at him and did what he always did when he was asked his age…Lied. “Nope, twenty one.”
“Pfft, I’ll wager, you ain’t even seen sixteen yet!”
“I’m nineteen!” Johnny blurted out indignantly, making the old coots laugh out loud.
“Nineteen, huh? Well ain’t you the grown up!”
“Listen, old man, you don’t know me!” he said, sitting forwards, now a tad pissed. “You don’t know what I’ve done; what I’m capable of. So don’t you go makin’ decisions ‘bout me, that might bring a sticky end to ya!” he threatened. “I don’t need you or anyone…I can make it on my own.”
The old coots glanced at one another, amazed at the sudden mood swing; from light to dark and back again, “Now, now, no need for you to git yerself in a pucker! We’s just jawin’. I’m sure you can, look out for yerself that is. Question is, do you wanna, ya know, look out for yerself; make it on yer own…?”
It was a valid question and one that made Johnny think and glance at the smiling man’s eyes, warm as they were.
“No, guess not. That’s just it…I guess don’t! Not anymore, but…,” he sighed.
“But what? But nuthin’, kid! You just answered yer own question. Now all ya got ta do is git on home; sort it out with yer Uncle first, and then yer Daddy.”
“No shit!” Johnny snorted. “Tell me somethin’ I don’t know, why don’t’cha?” he huffed.
“Well now, ain’t no need for ya to be takin’ that attitude with me…I’s just tryin’ ta help.” He chided.
Johnny once again looked into the old man’s eyes and dipped his head, “Sorry, old timer …it’s just that sometimes I just wanna up and….”
“…run away? Is what yer thinkin’?” the man interrupted.
Johnny laughed, feeling suddenly like a school boy… “Well I wouldn’t a put it that way…No ride off, you know, feel the wind in my face....”
“But runnin’ is what yer talkin’ boy…any which way ya cut it. Runnin’ off from yer family; from those that love ya, and fer what? Probably some silly argument, best left to the women folks, or for breakin’ some rule, hmmm?”
Johnny thought about that for a moment. “Yeah,” he admitted. “When you put it that way, it does sound kinda silly.” He shrugged.
“Yep, and I’m right boy…Had kiddies of ma own. They’s all growd up now…You’ll grow up too. You’ll see, sooner than ya know.” The man suddenly looked a little sad, as if he were remembering something himself now.
“That’s kinda the problem …” Johnny moved on. “Cause I kinda see myself as all grown up now, and well it’s kinda lookin’ like they might’a been right all along!”
“Age ol’ problem between fathers and sons…You ain’t no different from anyone else ya know. You might think you are, but you ain’t.”
“Well …you don’t know…everythin’…It’s complicated…” he sighed.
“Know who ya used ta be,” the one to his left said quietly.
Johnny sat straighter in his chair then and looked into the eyes of the one who had said very little, up till then.
“You do huh? We gotta problem? You and I?”
“No son, I didn’t say that.”
“Well you should know not to annoy me, huh?” he said, his eyes suddenly cold again.
However instead of the old man recoiling in fear, as most did, when he displayed Madrid, the old bastard actually laughed. “You’d be doin’ this old man a favor’, sonny boy. Puttin’ me outta ma misery,” he chuckled. “Who you used to be, don’t make no never mind to me. I figure I can say any God-damned thing I please. You’re still just a wet behind the ears, snot nosed pup to me,” he declared, meeting Johnny’s cold gaze head on for the first time, and showing the real measure of the man he had come to be, even despite his age!
Giving it up, Johnny sighed and dipped his head in that shy way he had, when he knew he was beat by a better man. He chuckled,“Well you ain’t got nuthin’ to worry about then have you, ol’ man?” he said insolently, “ ‘cause I ain’t ‘bout ta shoot ya. Don’t like ya enough to oblige!” he lied, making the old coot howl with laughter.
“You got some sass in ya, boy! I’ll give ya that!” he declared, patting Johnny on the back with more strength than Johnny would’ve given him credit for!
He joined in on the laughter, truly beginning to enjoy their company, despite the huge age difference. They were good old sorts!
“So, have ya ever asked yerself, why ya stuck around kid…? Why ya stayed on at yer daddy’s ranch, after that Pardee thing?”
“You knew ‘bout that then, huh?”
“Hell boy, the entire valley knows about… that!” He told him sincerely.
Johnny shrugged, but he knew in his heart why he had stayed. Hell the man had run into the line of fire, to save his sorry ass! That had meant more to him than life itself. In that single moment, he’d known something had fundamentally changed and he looked at Scott in a different light. This man, this new protector, this older brother, was worth his weight in Gold and he was also worth getting to know. Johnny had been through enough in his young life, to know that kind of devotion, came few times in a lifetime, and even then, that was if you was lucky. It was enough to cement a bond between them, that he knew would last a lifetime.
“Scott,” he said, just the one word.
“Yeah, well I ain’t ever had anyone watchin’ over me like Scott does.” He thought about what he had just said and added, “Well maybe one man wanted the job, but I never did let him do it for very long. I never did give him the chance…” he sighed.
“When was this then? An’ why didn’t ya give him the chance? Was he cruel to ya, son? Does he have a name?”
Upon hearing a swinging motion of the batwing doors, Johnny glanced at them, just in time to see Val walk in…He laughed then at the irony! ‘Well what are the odds? Talk of the devil.’
Relief momentarily flashed in Val’s eyes, and he spied the youth and he smiled knowingly…“So, what you doin’ in town, at this time of the day, boy?” Val asked, as he sauntered over to the boy he’d been searching for and known near all his life. “Yer daddy give you the day off or somethin’?” he grinned, a teasing smile reflecting in his eyes. He knew darn well and good Murdoch was looking for him. Hell he’d met the man on the road with a near posse in tow!
“You know better’n that, Val.” Johnny sighed, slumping in his chair. ‘Great Val’s all I need on my ass too.’
“So?” Val prodded.
Johnny’s back stiffened; the bravado that always came when his back was to a wall, kicking in. He was glad of it too, since it gave him the strength he needed to back chat this particular man. “I took the day off, if ya must know. You got a problem with that?” he challenged, glaring hard at the Sheriff.
His attitude only served to make the man that much hotter under the collar. Val studied Johnny for as long as it took for the boy to avert his gaze and then he smirked, “Not me,” he finally said, upon seeing the kid yield to his authority. Then as he once again glanced at Val, Val shot him another look. It was one Johnny recognized to mean,‘go no further with the attitude, boy, or else’!
“Ain’t my ass that’ll be in a sling, when yer old man catches up with you. Cip too…by the looks a things,” Val grinned, as if he were now enjoying himself.
Johnny sighed, chuckling a little to himself now… ‘No shit! Two of ‘em lookin, for blood.’ “Why you here, anyhow?” he asked a tad frustrated! After all he’d ridden miles out of his way to avoid Val. ‘That had worked for shit!’ He thought truly pissed off now.
“Me, n’ Ty was with a posse, chasing a bandito, who’d been,” he smirked his right eyebrow arching, “..a naughty boy..,” he told him, his mouth twitching. “…We ran into yer old man up at the northern line shack and he asked me, if I’d see ya. Well, since we was close, I decided to stop in on Gabe; ask him, if he’d seen ya. As I rode into town, knowin’ ya like I do, I thought I’d just check out the saloon.” He shrugged. “It’s the Lawman in me.” He laughed. “Go figure.”
“Yeah, go figure!” Johnny sighed. “And to think I deliberately gave Green River a wide birth just to avoid you and I run into you anyhow!” Resigned, Johnny turned back to the old man who had asked him who had wanted the ‘job’ earlier.
“I was a kid.” He eyed Val, and then his eyes drifted back to the old timers, “Let’s just say, he’s close by and he was, and is,” he declared, glaring hard at the Lawman, “… a regular pain in the ass!” Johnny said, making Val’s eyes narrow.
As quick as a flash Val retorted, “When you were a kid?” he asked, with a smirk, “Like you still ain’t one?” He tossed back, relaxing a bit now. At least he knew where Johnny was and that he was safe.
Johnny made a face. “Can’t a man enjoy a game of poker, without a Lawman breathin’ down his fuckin’ neck?”
Val frowned at the obscenity, “Yep, a man can, but not a boy! Especially one who’s still on probation, ‘member? And not a boy, who shouldn’t even be in any town without an …adult…present.” He pronounced the word, ‘adult’ to make his point.
Johnny sighed deeply, “Aww Val, c’mon!” He smiled, that shit eatin’ smile, he reserved just for him, when he knew Val was about to take him to task.
“I should grab you up and blister your behind boy, but you know what?”
Johnny shook his head and sighed, “No, what?” Well he had to ask!
“I’m gonna leave that privilege to yer daddy, or maybe Cip. They’re more’n equipped to handle you! Meanwhile, feel free to sit back and enjoy your game, boy.”
‘Yeah like that has a chance in hell of happenin’, now!’ he thought slumping once more in his chair. “Can I get another drink?”
“Nope!” this from the barkeep and the Lawman, simultaneously.
Johnny turned to the barkeep, his eyes narrowing, “So suddenly your brave huh?” he sneered.
The barkeep ignored him, knowing what he had said was true.
Val took a seat by the batwings.
“So, you raisin’, callin’ or foldin’, kid?” The old timer finally asked, pulling Johnny’s attention from the barkeep, and Val, back to him.
“Huh..?” he looked confused momentarily and then defiantly, he turned to look at Val.
“Hell, I’ll …eh…raise ya. A dollar,” he declared, that cocky smile coming once more. A least he would have the pleasure of beating the pants off of a much older man, in poker.
“Well, God damn-it all to Hell!” The old timers cursed, as Johnny laughed out loud, laying down his straight flush.
Val got up and strode purposefully for the table. Leaning forward he then grabbed up all the money. “I’ll take that!” he told Johnny.
Mouth agape Johnny asked, “What? Why?”
“To pay the fine, I’m gonna be enforcin’, for disobeying your probation order, boy!”
Just then Ty came rushing in.
‘Fuck he’s all I need!’ “Fuck off, Ty!” Johnny’s snapped his mood getting worse by the second.
Ty smiled, when he saw Val with Johnny. He ignored Johnny’s outburst and smugly asked, “What you want me to do, Val, arrest him?”
“Yeah? Try it, Ty…Just try it an’ see how that goes, ” Johnny threatened, his eyes mere slits now, as he caressed his pistol tantilizingly. He’d never been overly keen on the half breed.
Val laughed, “Johnny get that hand off of that pistol of yours. You know you ain’t gonna be shootin’ Ty.” He ordered, turning to Ty, “No Ty, what I want you to do is ride out. See if you can’t find Lancer, again. Tell his old man, his baby boy’s in Morro Coyo and that he’s been misbehavin’!” he smirked making Ty laugh,
“Sure thing Boss, it’ll be my pleasure!”
‘Fuckin’ bastard.’ Johnny seethed as he watched the young man leave. He snuck a look at the exits, and noticed immediately Val had moved, to place his body between him and the batwing doors; strategically. Johnny snickered. He knew there was a back door, but the bartender, he’d threatened earlier, was now blocking that exit too, a shit eating grin on his face, as he now felt confident enough to challenge him.
Val came back to his side, “I’ll be takin’ that pistol on yer hip now, boy,” he declared. “Hand it over, Johnny.”
“Aww, c’mon Val, let me keep it.” He all but whined. He knew he was no match for Val and before he could blink, Val was on him, pulling him to his feet, his right hand slipping his pistol from its holster; slick as you like, “You’ll do as you’re told. I ain’t Murdoch, Johnny boy…It’s me, Papi!” he grinned.
Johnny swallowed and his response was almost immediate, as he was shoved roughly back into his seat, now pistolless.
“Lo Siento, Papi,” he said, knowing it would piss the man off, since he’d always gone on, and on, about him speaking in only English! ‘Fuck him.’ He thought, uncharitably.
The old men watched the confrontation, amused now as realization hit, “Val Crawford…Well, well, well, he the man you was talkin’ about huh, kid?” They chuckled. “That sure does explain, things.” They nodded at each other, knowingly.
Val turned to them now. “Can I count on you old timers to keep it to yerselves. We’d kinda like to be the ones ta break it to old man Lancer.”
The men in the saloon nodded. “Sure Val, don’t you worry none ‘bout us. Hell, we hear talk all the time, sitting here…Most times, it goes in one ear and out the other.” They laughed. “Yer secrets safe with us.”
Val nodded. “Thanks.”
The old timer to his right, leaned towards Johnny’s ear. “Kid, why’d ya run from a man like Val Crawford? Weren’t he good to ya?” His voice was soft, as he asked the question, so’s only Johnny could hear.
Johnny glanced at Val and said loudly, “Because he’s an ornery cuss,” he spat, then quieter he added, “… yeah, he was good to me, but he had too many rules,” he declared whispering.
“Ahhhh hah!….” this from both old timers…!! “So you don’t like rules…?”
Johnny shook his head. “No!”
“Well now, rules is part of growin’ up, boy. We, all of us got to learn to obey ‘em…Ain’t no gettin’ away from that.”
Johnny sighed. “Yeah, I’m kinda learnin’ that.”
The old man patted him on the leg… “Well good…So you are growin’ up then, after all.”
“I am?! How’d you make that out?”
“Well you just admitted you were learnin’ you gotta obey the rules, didn’t you?”
Johnny grinned, “Yeah, I did, didn’t I…?”
“Well now, see?!”
Johnny laughed out loud, but his… ‘frustration was evident’ …never the less!
By Heather M…