The Singer
by  JEB


            Scott Lancer scanned the advertisements in the Sacramento Register.  He wasn't looking for anything in particular - he was just curious.  It could be very interesting to see what people were buying or selling and who'd' lost what or was looking for a lost family member or friend - even a beloved pet.

            A short announcement caught his eye Wanted to exchange: A new Singer Sewing Machine for a Horse. Inquire at the northwest corner of Tenth and E Streets.

            "That's an interesting proposition," he said to himself."Why would anyone trade a brand new sewing machine for a horse?"

            "Talking to yourself brother?"

            Johnny had approached his brother's seat in the lobby of the California House Hotel in Sacramento. The brothers were in the city to meet with a prospective buyer for some of their horses.  They'd brought a string of four - two geldings and two mares - with them to show their potential customer.  If the man was happy with them Lancer would have a new client.

            "Huh? Oh, Johnny."  Scott focused his attention on his brother.  "Yes and no.  I just came across an interesting ad in the paper."  He showed it to Johnny who had virtually the same reaction.

            "That's crazy!" the ex-gunfighter exclaimed.  "A sewing machine for a horse?  Miz Talbot's machine didn't cost nearly as much as a good horse."

            Johnny knew what he was talking about.  He, Val Crawford and his pals of the Prankster Posse, had bought a sewing machine for Maura Talbot as a birthday present a little over a year ago.  All told, with shipping, they had paid one hundred and ten dollars.  A good horse went for quite a bit more if it were a thoroughbred and was well trained.  Or just a purebred or well trained."I think we should check this out," Scott said.  "Teresa's been wanting a sewing machine for a long time and we keep putting the money into livestock.  It's time our sister got something she wants."

            "But trading a horse for a sewing machine?  This has to be some kind of a trick."

            "There's only one way to find out," the blond said as he folded the newspaper and picked up his hat.  "Let's go see what this ad is about."




            The sun was disappearing behind rain clouds as the Lancers walked toward their destination but the threat of the rain did not seem imminent.  As they walked Scott was planning how he would bargain for the sewing machine Johnny was fussing at his brother. 

            "I still say it's some kind of a trick and we're walking into trouble," he complained.

            Scott rolled his eyes.  "I heard you the first one hundred times, Johnny.  I know it could be a scam but if it's not, and we pass up a chance to get a new sewing machine for Teresa we'll never hear forgive ourselves.  And neither will Teresa if she finds out about it."

            They were less than a block away from their destination.  Johnny had been trying Scott's patience with his constant warnings and complaints.

            "You sound just like Jelly with all that talk about traps and tricks."  Scott let out an exasperated sight.  "I'm not committing to anything until we see the machine, have someone check it and get a few answers - like why he wants to trade a brand new machine for a horse."

            The ex-gunfighter was still on edge.  No matter what Scott said he, Johnny, was going to keep his eyes and ears open and pistol nice and loose in its holster.

            Spying a short, pudgy and balding man with a florid complexion standing at the advertised location with a good sized crate next to him, Scott spoke up.

            "Excuse me, sir," the older Lancer said. "Would you be the party who wants to trade a sewing machine for a horse?"

            "Yes, I am," the man replied in a deeper voice than either brother would have expected.  "Phineas B. Taylor, traveling salesman based in Sacramento at your service."

            "Scott Lancer.  This is my brother, Johnny."

             The blond shook hands and introduced his brother to the man.  Johnny shook hands but was not as polite. He just eyed the man and hoped his brother wouldn't be suckered into a bad deal.

            "Are you gentlemen interested in making the trade?"

            "We might be," the older Lancer said.  "I'd have to see the machine first."

            "Certainly, certainly," Taylor nodded. "I'll just take the top off the crate so you can get a look at it."

            With a little help from Scott the man removed the lid from the crate which contained the sewing machine.  Then Scott reached in and removed it from the crate while Johnny flipped the box over so that machine could sit on of it to be examined.

            "It certainly looks new," the blond remarked. "Does it work properly?"         

            "As if you'd know the difference," Johnny muttered to himself.

            Scott heard him but chose to disregard his comment.  He turned his attention back to Taylor and the sewing machine.

            Walking around it the blond looked it over carefully noticing that the machine was bright and shiny with all the parts seemingly in place.  He ran his right hand over it lightly and tested every level he saw to assure himself that all was as it seemed.

            "If this machine is brand new - as it appears to be - why are you trying to trade it for a horse?" Johnny asked.

            "I have no need of the Singer but I am in need of a horse," Taylor explained.  "One of the horses that pull my wagon has gone lame.  The livery owner wants cash which I don't have at the moment and isn't willing to wait for me to get it.  He absolutely refuses to let me pay part of the price for a replacement now and the rest when I come back to deal with my supplier in a few weeks.  I'm losing money being stuck here, in the city.  My route takes me  all around the county and beyond."

            "I see," Scott said.  That seemed logical enough.

            "Did you try all the livery stables?" Johnny asked.  "There's at least three of them in the city that I know of."

            "Yes, young man, I did.  The story is the same at all five liveries I went to."  Taylor sighed.  "The only way I see myself getting back on the road any time soon is to trade this machine, which I don't need - for a horse which I do need."

            "I have to be honest with you, Mr. Taylor," Scott said as his brother rolled his eyes. "I know nothing about sewing machines but I am interested in this one."

            "Scott?  Can I talk to you a minute - in private?" Johnny pulled his brother a few feet away and proceeded to chew him out.

            "What the heck do you think you're doing?  You're practically begging to be swindled!  Nobody trades a sewing machine for a horse!"

            "I don't intend to be swindled, brother.  I'm going to do some research and have someone check that machine out."

            "You think he's going to wait while you 'research' his offer?  I got five dollars says he refuses or switches machines on you."

            "You're on," his brother said and walked back to the salesman.  "Mr. Taylor is there a  seamstress or a tailor who can use the machine to show me how it works.  If we make the trade I'll need to be able to show Teresa how to use it. I'm not certain she really knows but she'll catch on once somebody shows her how to operate it.

            "I believe there is a tailor right over on East Street.  That's two blocks down and one street over."

            "You sure seem to know the city pretty well," Johny commented.

            "I come to Sacramento quite often in my travels, young man.  One of my wholesalers is located here.  One is Stockton and one is in San Francisco.  I travel Northern California quite a bit and I know all three cities quite well."

            "If you know the cities so well there must be some who know you pretty well."

            "There are quite a few people who know me quite well," Taylor agreed.

            "Does that include the law - here and out in the country?"                

            "Johnny!"  Scott was getting very irritated now.  "That was rude.  That's not like you."

            "You remember Glory, Scott?"

            "Yes, I remember Glory.  She is rather unforgettable."

            "You remember what she tried to do?"

            "Yes, I remember how it was Murdoch she tried to con.  I'm the one who was suspicious of her from the beginning."

            "Yeah, right." Johnny was not going to be dissuaded from his suspicions.

            "It's quite all right, Mr. Lancer," Taylor said.  "Feel free to check with any lawman within two hundred square miles.  Most of them know me quite well - either personally or by reputation.  If you're not satisfied with what you learn we'll cease negotiations over the Singer with no hard feelings."

            "Does that make you feel better brother?" the blond asked.

            "Depends on what they say."  Johnny was not convinced by the salesman's claim and his tone of voice showed it.  "I'm going to go do an errand. I'll meet you at the tailor's ok?"

            Scott gave his brother a searching look but nodded his head and assisted Taylor in re-packing the sewing machine.  Together they loaded it onto the hand cart and proceeded to trundle it two and a half blocks to the shop of one Duane Morris.



            Johnny, meanwhile, was asking questions of shopkeepers about Taylor while he made his way to the City Marshal's Office.  Everybody who knew Taylor had nothing but good to say about him.  Still the former gunfighter wasn't convinced.  He wished he knew the marshal here, in Sacramento the way he knew Gabe and Val Crawford.  Those two would give him the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth even if they weren't in a court of law.

            Finally he found the marshal's office and went inside.  It took a minute for his eyes to adjust to the dim interior after being out in the bright sun.

            "Can I help you son?" the marshal, a man about Murdoch's age, asked from his seat behind the desk.

            "I hope so," Johnny said.  "I'm looking for information on a man named Phineas B. Taylor."




            An hour later Johnny met up with Scott at Phineas Taylor at Morris's shop.

            "Hey brother, you satisfied with that machine?" he asked.

            "Yes, I am.  Are you going to agree to the trade?"

            "Sure. No problem.  I figure we can trade the gray - the part Percheron in the string we brought with us and Mr. Peterson can look over the other three."

            Scott was surprised at the change in Johnny's attitude and said so.

            "Why the change in attitude brother?  What did you find out?"

            "I'll tell you later.  Let's get this sewing machine to the train depot and get it shipped.  I figure we can send it to Cross Creek and pick it up when we get back to Lancer."

            "Is that agreeable with you Mr. Taylor?"

            "Certainly.  I don't care what color the horse is so long as it's strong enough to pull my wagon and gets along with Hercules as well."

            Scott's eyebrows went up.  Apparently Mr. Taylor had an interest in Greek mythology.

            "Yes, well, Mr. Taylor it appears you have a deal.  We'll take the Singer and give you the horse."

            When all was said and done the sewing machine was back in the crate with plenty of padding to protect it.  It left Sacramento on the one-thirty train and Phineas B. Taylor, traveling salesman, was on his way.  The Lancer brothers met with Arthur Peterson who was happy with the three remaining horses and paid cash up front.  Scott pocketed the money and they all shook hands before the brothers went to the telegraph office to wire the money to Green River where it would be deposited in Lancer's bank account.  After a good night's sleep at the hotel the boys retrieved Barranca and Ranger from the hotel stable and headed for home.



            "Welcome home, boys," Murdoch said as they rode into the yard the next afternoon.  "How was the trip?  Did you meet up with Peterson all right?"

            Scott banged his hat against his pant leg and jacket in order to get some of the dust out of his clothes. He returned his father's smile with one of his own.

            "We saw Peterson and sold him three of the horses we took with us."

            "Only three?" Murdoch was surprised since they hadn't brought any back with them.

            "We traded the fourth one to a traveling salesman," Johnny told him with a grin.  "What we got is a secret until we can get to the train depot at Cross Creek tomorrow."

            "Trust me, sir," his older son said. "You won't be sorry and Teresa will be..."

            "Teresa will be what, Scott?" Teresa asked.

            The young lady of the house had come out to join them just as her name had come up.  Both boys greeted their "sister" with hugs and a kiss on the cheek which she gladly reciprocated.

            "What will I be, Scott?" she asked again.

            "Pleasantly surprised when Johnny and I get back from a short trip to Cross Creek tomorrow."

            Murdoch was curious but reassured by his son's manner.  Teresa was curious and full of unasked questions because she honestly didn't know what to ask.  Besides her guardian, and his sons, were extremely closed mouthed when they wanted to be.  Apparently this was going to be one of those times.




            By the time the sun had reached its zenith at noon the next day, Scott and Johnny were at Cross Creek with the buckboard. The station master showed them where their crate was and the boys quickly secured it in the back of their rig and headed for home.

            Once home they carried the crate into the house and set it on the floor in the Great Room.  Murdoch having been made aware of the details of the trade, was beaming as Teresa was getting the long hoped for sewing machine. He had a crowbar handy for his ward, whom he thought of as a daughter, to open the crate with.

            "Miss Teresa, this is from all of us.  Something you've been wanting and patiently given up when it came down to it or investing in the ranch."  Murdoch smiled as he handed her the crowbar and she removed the top of the crate.

            Teresa pried at the corners and the boys removed the lid for her, putting it to one side.  Curious she pulled one enormous piece of material, placed in the crate to protect it while it was on the train and the buckboard, until she had removed all of it and found the sewing machine.

            "Oh Murdoch!" she squealed.  "A sewing machine!  A new Singer sewing machine just like Mrs. Talbot has!"

            Turning to her guardian she flung herself at him to hug him and then turned to the boys to hug them as well.

            "Oh, thank you!  Thank you!"

            "You're quite welcome."  Murdoch was beaming now. 

            "You should have had it a long time ago, Teresa," Scott said. 

            "Yeah.  We're sorry it took so long," Johnny added.

            Teresa hugged them all again and then requested that they put it on the table in the dinning area so she could check it out.

            "I'll go see Mrs. Talbot, tomorrow, and ask her to come give me lessons on it," the tiny little brunette said, brown eyes sparkling with unshed tears.

            "That's a good idea," Scott said, "but I also got written instructions - and something called an owner's manual - operator's manual I guess - that tells you how it works.  It even has diagrams showing you what's what on the machine and what each part does."

            He handed it to her and then, with Johnny's help started to remove the crate and its lid from the house.

            "You never did tell me what changed your mind about the trade," Scott said to Johnny.

            "I did some checking around town and found out that Taylor is as honest as he claimed to be."

            "That's not the whole story, though, is it?  You're holding something back.  What did you find out?"

            "There's a woman involved, too."  Johnny started laughing.  "The problem is she's over six feet   and weighs about two-hundred and fifty pounds and Taylor wants no part of her.  Her father is the livery stable owner that wouldn't trade horses or wait for his money.  He wants his daughter married off so bad he blackmailed the other livery stable owners telling them he'd scare folks away from their businesses if they didn't cooperate."

            Scott was laughing as well as Johnny finished his story by saying, "If Taylor hadn't gotten out of town when he did the marshal was afraid the livery owner would be rousting a judge out of bed some night to perform a shotgun wedding."






Submission Guidelines