The Book of Rules: Epilogue

By Kit 



Not mine; Sam Peeples created the boys, wished he would have written more of the shows.  And shame on Fox for not putting the series on DVD’s! 

After the Homecoming -- from Sacramento; not first person.


04-Book of Rules, Epilogue 

Murdoch Lancer sat behind his desk in the Great Room, an untouched tumbler of Talisker’s sitting before him, his long forefinger tracing a slow circle in the wetness pooling at the bottom of the glass.  He allowed a slow smile, thinking how Teresa would have his hide for risking a water-mark on the otherwise flawless surface.  Funny how the smallest things could create some of the biggest traumas in the household, he thought.

He and the boys had returned to Lancer in the wee, pink hours just as the sun was rising above the hacienda.  They had ridden beneath the arch in complete silence; Scott tall and erect in the saddle in spite of his obvious fatigue, Johnny seemingly more relaxed and riding with his usual ease. 

Arriving just as Cipriano was gathering the crew for the daily work assignments, Murdoch was his usual gruff self.  “I want you boys to change clothes and get fresh mounts,” he ordered, speaking to his sons and seeming more concerned for the livestock; a cold disregard for the young men.  “You’re going to work with Frank and the crew rebuilding the retaining wall on the north pond.”

It was the worst job currently being undertaken by the men; a tedious chore requiring the dredging of the small, man-made lake as well as the reinforcing of the earthen berm intended to retain the anticipated spring rains.   The work would require the hauling of cut timber from the mountains, the hewing and placement of twelve foot lengths of skinned logs; and the back-breaking chore of packing the rocks and soil into place to create the earthen dam.  Then the dredging would begin: the mucking out of the thick layer of silt that had accumulated over the previous winter, necessary to allow the water to flow.

Scott accepted the order with his usual quiet reserve, his face stoic as he dismounted and headed for the house to change clothes.  Johnny was another matter.  He swung down from Barranca, just inches from where his father was standing, belligerence clearly written across his face.  “It ain’t fair!” he shouted, the anger threatening to erupt.  “I’m not fuckin’ goin’!”

Murdoch said nothing for a moment, his gaze sweeping the faces of the men who were still gathered in the yard.  Then, reaching out, he pulled his youngest son to him; keeping the words private.  “This is not about fairness, John.  It’s about obeying an order, and doing as you’re told.”  Then, a bit softer, but even more harshly, “And don’t challenge me in front of the men again!  Now get in the house, and change your clothes.”

Johnny debated for a time; aware he was being watched not only by the crew, but by his uncle.  For the most part, he really didn’t give a shit about the men -- well some of them anyway -- but Cip was a different matter.  His admiration and affection for the older man ran deep, and Cip was old school.  Being disrespectful of his father meant, in Cipriano’s view of the world, he was also being disrespectful to the segundo; something he couldn’t do.

He felt Cip’s eyes on him; burning into him, and he steeled himself for what he knew was expected.  “Yes, sir,” he mumbled.  Only then did the segundo’s gaze seem to relent.  He turned his head, smiling to his uncle -- that warm smile he rarely gave to anyone else -- and did as he was told.

Cipriano remained behind, moving now to stand beside Murdoch.  Yo no supe que los chicos se habían ido, Patrón. Debo haber hecho un mejor trabajo de mantener un ojo en ellos mientras usted estaba lejos.”  (I did not know the boys had gone off, Patrón.  I should have done a better job of keeping an eye on them while you were away.)  The man’s eyes were dancing, the words spoken partly in jest.  There were no secrets between the two men; had never been any secrets between them.

Murdoch recognized the man’s humor.  He reached out, laying a friendly hand on the segundo’s shoulder.  “No, Cip. I should have done a better job.”

The foreman took a pair of small cigars from his vest pocket, offering a smoke to his friend.  “Your trip to Sacramento did not go as expected?”

The rancher leaned forward a bit to accept a light, drawing deeply on the cigarillo before answering.  He never left Lancer without disclosing to his foreman where he was going; where he could be reached in the event there was an emergency.  “At first,” he said ruefully.  “I certainly didn’t expect Scott and Johnny to join me.”  He blew out a thin stream of blue smoke.  “You have sons, Cip.  How do you deal with them when they discover your transgressions?”

Soft laughter now.  Cipriano watched as the crew mounted their horses and headed out; nodding his head in farewell to Mateo and Paco.  Their departure allowed him more familiarity with the big man who stood beside him.  “My sons know I am only human, Murdoch.  They know I have been tempted, and that I have sometimes yielded to those temptations.”  He held out the smouldering cigar, studying the amber tip; watching as the grey ash formed.  “It is the way of the world, my friend.  We stumble, and then we go on.”

Murdoch considered the man’s words.  Behind him he could hear Johnny and Scott coming out from the house, and his voice lowered.  “And how do you explain yourself?  Or apologize?”

Cip’s mouth turned down in a small frown.  “I tell them the truth, if necessary.”  If they find me out, he thought.  “If I have wronged them, I try to make it right.  But in the end, I am their father, and they will obey and respect me.”

Unable to stop himself, Murdoch laughed, good-naturedly.  “And when do they become men, Cip?”

The segundo’s laughter was much the same as the other’s.  “When they are married with sons of their own!  Until then…”  He left the rest unsaid.  It was the way in his culture, the paterfamilias always being the head of the family.  In his own opinion, it was also the way here at the hacienda; as it should be.

The two brothers had now reached the place where Murdoch and Cipriano were standing; both of them dressed in their familiar work garb.  Scott gave his father a curt nod, his expression betraying none of what he was feeling.  “We’ll be heading out now, sir.”  He stood before the man, carefully putting on his gloves; Johnny close at his right shoulder.

Murdoch simply nodded.  Both of his sons looked like hell, and for a brief moment he considered giving them a reprieve.  But then he saw the look on Johnny’s face; the utter defiance, and changed his mind.

Together, the two young men headed for the barn and disappeared into the dark interior.  In a relatively short time, they came out, their fresh mounts saddled.  They mounted, and shoulder to shoulder, headed out.


The eight man crew had divided into teams of two, and were steadily working to build up the southern-most end of a natural three-sided depression in the earth that formed one of Lancer’s man-made ponds.  It was grueling work, made more intolerable by a stream of humid wind from the southwest; the only sounds the noises of pick axes, shovels and the labored grunts as the men bent to their work.

Johnny was in the shallow end of the pond; up to his knees in muck, a constant stream of curse words coming as he lifted yet another bucket of mud and stone.  He dumped the mess into the growing heap of rocks and debris that were becoming a part of the earth filled berm.  “Fuckin’ son-of-a-bitch!  He’s prob’ly layin’ up there in that fuckin’ big bed, snorin’ the rafters loose!  And us out here wallowin’ like a couple a Jelly’s fuckin’ hogs!!”

Scott was beside his brother, listening to yet another litany with little opportunity to offer even a short amen.  He straightened, his back cracking in rebellion, and lifted a mud caked hand to his already dirt streaked forehead.  “I doubt that he’s sleeping, Johnny,” he said as his younger brother finally paused to take a breath.  “From what we saw in Sacramento, our father has much more energy than we’ve given him credit for.”  He stooped to heft another bucket of soil into the breach.  “More than likely, he’s sitting at his desk, thinking up an even longer list of chores to keep us busy.”

“Yeah.  Did I forget to say thank you, Boston, for puttin’ my ass in the fire again!?” He jabbed a single finger in the air; as always democratic in his anger.

“I’m sorry, Johnny,” Scott breathed.

Johnny snorted.  His own bucket was full again, and he tossed the contents into the space they were filling; not caring that he missed and his brother was now covered with even more slime.  If he had heard his brother’s words, he was doing a good job of pretending he hadn’t.

Scott tried again.  “Really, Johnny.  I am sorry.”

Johnny paused in his work.  “So help me, God, Scott; you tell me you’re sorry one fuckin’ more time, and you’re goin’ become part of this…” he gestured at the bulwark, “…just like those fuckin’ Chinese you keep tellin’ me got buried in that fuckin’ wall!”

Again, Scott rubbed at his forehead.  If he had a nickel for every time his younger brother had used the word fuck this morning, he could hire the labor to complete their task.  “Well, it’s not as if you were an unwilling participant, little brother.  You could have said ‘no’.”

The boy actually managed to look shocked.  “And what?  Not do somethin’ my bigger brother told me I had to do!?”  He frowned.  “Teachin’ me ‘bout bein’ careful!  You..”

Scott held up his hand.  “Whoa!  If I remember right, you failed that particular lesson!!”  He was grinning now.  “‘I forgot.  I left it in her room!’” he mocked.

Unable to help himself, Johnny laughed.  “So maybe it takes more than one time, learnin’ ‘that particular lesson’.”  He turned serious again.  “Ain’t like it was you the Old Man hollered at all the way back home.”  His ears were still burning.

Scott shook his head.  “Please.  Just because I was smart enough to let him chastise me without interrupting him every five seconds, doesn’t mean I didn’t get my fair share of his yelling.  I’m just relieved he didn’t decide to rake Clay over the coals!  I’d hate to lose a valuable friendship over one our father’s tirades.”

Johnny nodded.  “Yeah.  Never can tell when we might need another train ride!”  This time when he chucked the bucket of mud into the causeway, he was a bit more careful.  “Kinda like Porter, Scott.”

Coming from Johnny, those words carried a lot of meaning.  Scott smiled across at his brother; taking a long look, hoping to God he didn’t look the same.  Johnny was painted head to toe with mud, pond slime and flecks of dead grass.  “He’s a good man, Johnny.  Dropped out of Harvard his second year when his father died and he had to take care of the family business.  Didn’t come back to school until my freshman year, kind of made it his job to make it easier for me.  He finished just when I enlisted; and enlisted, too.”

Johnny was climbing up onto the bank, in search of a drink of water.  He pulled the canteen out of the supply wagon and took a long drink of the tepid water, then handed it down to his brother.  “So you served together?”

Scott took a long swallow before answering.  “Yes.  He had more rank than I, and when we were captured, they sent him to another prison.  He doesn’t talk about it, but I know it was bad.”

Johnny thought about that for awhile, wondering how bad it could have been for Porter when Scott had gone through hell.  “We should invite him to Lancer,” he said, his voice soft.  “For puttin’ up with the Old Man!”  Porter hadn’t entirely escaped Murdoch’s wrath.

The sounds of an approaching horse drew both men’s attention.  Scott clambered up the embankment to join his brother, both of them watching as Cipriano drew closer.   

Johnny moved out to greet the segundo.  “Tio.”  He resisted the urge to reach out and touch the man or his horse; his hand far too dirty for close contact.  Instead, he rubbed the knuckles of his right hand against his thigh.

Cip remained mounted.  He dipped his head in greeting.  “Your father wants you to come back to the house,” he announced.

Johnny shot a quick look at his brother, and then swung his gaze back to his uncle.  Struggling to keep his temper in check, he looked up, meeting the elder man’s gaze.  “What’s he want now?  Got himself another list of fuckin’ grunt work?”

There was a subtle sound as Cipriano shifted slightly in his saddle; the comforting creak of leather.  It was clear from his expression he was not happy with the younger man’s tone, or his profanity.  "Yo no estoy en el hábito de inquisitivo el Patrón con respecto a sus planes, Juanito. Yo sólo sé que él quiere lo que y su hermano para regresar a la casa. Ahora."  (I am not in the habit of questioning the Patrón regarding his plans, Juanito.  I only know that he wants you and your brother to come back to the house.  Now.)  He addressed his nephew in Spanish, speaking slowly for Scott’s benefit.  When he swung his gaze to the elder son, he knew he had been understood.  “He visto ya a la calefacción del agua en la casa del baño y en el plano de Maria su ropa limpia.”  (I have already seen to heating the water in the bath house and Maria will have laid out your clean clothing.)

Scott shaded his eyes as he took a quick look at the position of the sun.  There was no way he was going to dig into his pocket for his timepiece; sure that the only part of him that remained reasonably clean was the interior of his pants pocket.  He judged the time to be close to two; too late for lunch, and far too early for supper.  “Johnny.”  He nodded towards the supply wagon.

Johnny exchanged a look with his brother, already knowing what Scott was thinking.  Nodding curtly, he moved across the clearing to where Barranca and Remmie were grazing, and began stripping the horse.  Riding bareback back to the ranch house made good sense; and it would save them the work later of cleaning their tack.

Cip watched approvingly as the two youths stowed their saddles and blankets into the forward section of the wagon; beneath the high bench seat.  Scott had a good mind; a sense of practical logic that allowed him to maintain a degree of order and calm in his world, and the segundo admired him for that.  He also felt that the elder Lancer son was -- for the most part -- a good and steadying influence on his wilder, younger brother.  There was affection there, too; a genuine bond between the brothers, who, such a short time ago, had been strangers.  Although he knew the younger man would deny it, Cipriano knew that Johnny needed that kind of nurture and devotion.  It was something he had been denied far too long.

Scott pulled himself up onto Remmie’s back, and watched as Johnny vaulted aboard Barranca.  Even caked in mud and obviously bone tired, there was an undeniable grace in the younger man; the way he mounted and sat a horse instinctive.  He smiled across at his sibling.  “Shall we?”

Johnny’s face was grim.  “Why the hell not,” he breathed.  And then, a trace of something more than irritation -- perhaps trepidation -- in his voice, he faced his brother.  “What the hell do you think he wants, big brother?”

Hesitating slightly to see if Cipriano was going to ride with them, and then being waved off, Scott waited until they were abreast to reply.  “I don’t know, Johnny.”  He shared his brother’s concern.  Both of them had been subjected to Murdoch’s ire on past occasions, but nothing quite like what they had experienced on the train ride home.  “At least, with a bath waiting, we aren’t going to catch hell for dragging,” he gestured at his pants and shirts, “half the pasture into the house with us!”

Johnny kicked Barranca into a trot, and then a gentle lope.  “Yeah,” he called back over his shoulder, “at least when they lay us out in those pine boxes, we’ll be clean!”

Scott laughed.  Leave it to his younger brother to look on the bright side.



Murdoch’s voice boomed from beyond the closed doors.  Johnny looked across at his brother, his right eyebrow arching slightly.  Usually, he could read a man’s voice as well as he could read a man’s face, but when it came to their father…  He shuddered slightly and took a deep breath, strangely comforted when he realized his brother had done the same thing.  He reached out and opened the doors.

Together, freshly bathed and wearing clean clothes, the brothers stepped across the threshold and moved down the stairs.  Murdoch was seated at his desk, leaning back slightly, his expression unreadable.  The first thing Scott noted was the absence of the usual glass of scotch.

“Close the doors, please.”

Johnny felt the usual sense of panic that came with being in what he considered a confined space.  He watched as Scott did as their father asked, waiting for his brother to join him before moving forward.  Shoulder to shoulder, they approached their father.

“Sit,” he ordered.

Scott waited a heartbeat.  Like Johnny, he hated the two chairs sitting directly in front of their father’s desk.  There was no comfort in those chairs, strips of unyielding leather instead of the generous overstuffed upholstery of the other furniture within the Great Room, something -- no doubt -- his father had planned when he placed them there.  It was like the damned desk; the massive piece of well-polished dark oak that served as an effective barrier between father and sons.   “I’d prefer to stand, sir,” he declared, recognizing the advantage in making his father look up to him.

Johnny’s shoulders straightened.  “Yeah.  Me, too.”

Murdoch’s eyes narrowed as he surveyed his boys, his gaze finally settling on the eldest.  And you told me I don’t have one inch of give, he mused.  He shoved back his chair and stood up, nodding toward the collection of liquor bottles on the table behind the couch.  Without waiting for an acknowledgement, he strode across the room; poured himself a tumbler of scotch, and a second one for his older son.  “Here, then,” he said, nodding at the couch as he took his own place in the large leather chair next to the fireplace.

A smile touched the corner of Scott’s mouth.  “All right,” he agreed.  With a measured stride, he crossed the few feet to the table and picked up the glass.  Then, knowing his brother was right behind him, he moved to the large sofa, and sat down.

Murdoch leaned slightly forward in his chair, the tumbler between his palms.  He studied the drink for a time before looking up to glance at his sons.  Scott appeared totally relaxed now; comfortable.  Johnny was on alert, poised to run.  The older man smiled.  “We need to talk,” he said, his voice soft.

Scott nodded.  “Yes, sir, we do.”  He took a small sip from his glass, his lips pursing slightly at the sting.  “I’d like to apologize,” he began; looking directly into his father’s eyes when the older man started to interrupt.  He raised his glass.  “I was wrong to take Johnny to Sacramento, knowing you had told him that wasn’t to leave the ranch.”  Turning slightly, he shared a quick smile with his brother.

There was a soft creaking of leather as Murdoch eased himself back into the deep comfort of his chair.  He nodded.  “Yes, son; no matter what you felt your job was as his older, smarter and better looking brother,” he tried hard to suppress the grin, the words coming with a bit of censure, “the trip was…” he hesitated, “…ill advised.”

Johnny sat in unabashed awe, watching the play between his brother and his father.  He considered putting in his own two cents worth, but changed his mind; content to observe.

“I agree,” Scott nodded.  “However, sir, the fact remains that your reaction to finding Johnny and I in a bordello that you seem more than a bit familiar with…” he paused, more for affect than a loss for word, “… was particularly harsh, and, quite frankly, hypocritical.”  He cast a quick look at his brother.  “Sanctimonious.”  It was a word he had explained to Johnny in the past.

Taken aback by his son’s directness, the elder Lancer was tempted to protest.  Then, mellowing, he chose a different path.  “A man -- even an old man -- does have needs.”

Johnny practically choked.  He wished for a drink, but knew he wasn’t going to get one; at least not from the Old Man.  Reaching out, he plucked the tumbler from Scott’s  hand, took a healthy swig, and handed it back.     

Scott smacked his sibling’s fingers.  “You’re welcome, brother!” he scolded.  Turning back to his father, he came forward slightly, his elbows resting on his slim thighs.  “I realize, sir,” he could feel his cheeks coloring, “that even a man your age…”  He was stumbling, and knew he needed to refocus, so he began again.  “I am aware that even my Grandfather has had occasional liaisons with ladies of the evening…”  truth told, Harlan Garrett was still quite vigorous, “… but he did manage to do so with some measure of decorum and discretion.”

This was too good for Johnny to pass up.  “Ol’ Harlan!” he snorted.  Pictures began forming in his mind; images he wanted desperately to erase.  It wasn’t happening.  Visions of a naked Harlan Garrett romping -- rutting -- with any woman was just too much, and he dissolved into raucous laughter.  In his mind he was seeing a banty rooster pursuing a bunch of Rhode Island Red hens.  “Jeez, Scott!”  Unable to stop himself, he made a fist with his right hand, poking the forefinger of his left in to the hole and enthusiastically thrusting it back and forth.

This time, Murdoch was the one that smacked his son’s fingers.  “Johnny,” he cautioned.  His own mind was being overwhelmed by crude images.

Johnny was on the floor now, doubled over in laughter.  “Sorry, Scott,” he choked, his arms wrapped around his aching ribs.  But he hadn’t missed his father’s soft Johnny, instead of the usual John!  Trying hard to stop laughing, he failed; and jammed his fist against his mouth.  He sat up, leaning back against Scott’s legs; only to disintegrate in yet another fit of laughter when he looked into his father’s face.

Annoyed, Scott bopped his brother on the head, but gently.  “Stop it!” he ordered.  His own brain was beginning to yield to the contagion.  He tried shaking the images away.  Taking a deep breath, he spoke again.  “The fact remains, sir, that you told us you were going to Stockton.”

At this, Murdoch’s right eyebrow arched.  “I did go to Stockton,” he declared.

Scott had no intention of letting it go.  “And then to Sacramento,” he accused, his own eyebrow rising.  “A bit of a deception, if I may be so bold.”  He cleared his throat and downed another swallow of scotch.

He has me there, Murdoch admitted.  But only to himself.  “I wasn’t aware I am obligated to explain my comings and goings to you, or your brother,” he groused.

“Comings…” Johnny breathed; and ducked.

Scott relented, but only slightly.  “We…I…had no idea you would be in Sacramento, sir.”  In a bordello, he mused.

“And you think I expected to find you there?” Murdoch countered.  “If memory serves, I left you in charge of the ranch, as well as your brother, and I certainly wasn’t aware that you had any plans of leaving…”

Johnny looked up.  So it was Scott’s fault he was in trouble!  “Yeah, big brother!”  He smacked his sibling’s knee.  “And you take me off somewhere to teach me ‘bout bein’ careful!  Some plan!”

Murdoch was mid-drink when his younger son spoke, and the scotch went down the wrong way.  “And one that apparently didn’t work,” he observed, his voice hoarse.  “I believe your brother said you failed that particular lesson!”

Johnny’s face brightened.  He raised his right hand.  “I promise to do better next time!”

“NEXT TIME!?”  This, in unison, from both older men.

The elder Lancer was shaking his head at his youngest son’s cheekiness.  There was still, however, a need in him to clear the air.  It was time for both of his sons to grow up a bit.  “This is the last time we are going to have this discussion,” he said, raising his hand to stop any objections.  “I will, when I choose, continue to make occasional trips to Sacramento.  Jess Simmons and I -- and Ethan Farley -- are grown men and are entitled to our privacy.”  He swept both young men with his eyes, pinning them in place as he continued.  “Whatever occurs while we are together is a private matter, and I will not apologize to either one of you for what I may or may not do while I am away.  It is also a matter you are not to discuss beyond this house, and certainly not with their sons.”  He was looking directly at Johnny now, thinking of his close friendship with Jess Simmons’ twins.  “That is a matter for their fathers to discuss, if they choose to do so, and no one else.”

Johnny’s eyes narrowed.  “So you’re goin’ again?  When?” he demanded.

Murdoch met his son’s scrutiny head on.  “When is the next time you plan on sneaking off to see Rosie at the Silver Dollar?”

The young man’s mouth dropped open.  How the hell did the old man know about Rosie?  He frowned.  “That’s my business,” he snapped.

“I rest my case,” the older man snapped back.  He finished the last of his scotch.  “What I’m saying, sons, is that we are all entitled to a measure of privacy.  I am quite sure that neither one of you have been completely honest with me about your…activities…when you are in Green River, Morro Coyo or Spanish Wells.  And, quite frankly, I really don’t want to know.”  The mere fact he had mentioned the towns where his sons were known to have sampled their own measure of carnal bliss would suffice.

Scott was leaning back in his seat now, the near-empty tumbler slowly rotating between his palms.  He smiled a bit, understanding and even agreeing with what his father was saying.  “And La Maison?” he murmured.

Murdoch looked up, seeing the smile.  “I’m not a complete fool, Scott,” he ventured.  “Justice Duvalier runs a first class establishment; a clean house.  Her ladies are examined regularly by a physician, and her clientele are guests by invitation only.”  He smiled, thinking of just how much influence Clay Porter must enjoy to have gotten his sons on the list.

Johnny was still sitting on the floor, his face pensive.  The fact that his father had mentioned the specific localities where he and Scott normally sought out female companionship bothered him.  Just how much, he wondered, did his Old Man really know about what he and Scott did or didn’t do?  He filed the thought away.  “So, what you’re your sayin’, Old Man, is that all that hollerin’ you did on the way home, and all those extra chores you got us doin’ are goin’ to go away?”  He smiled at the thought.

Murdoch stood up and stretched, and headed for the decanter of scotch.  He poured a measure, and offered the bottle to Scott, who took it and refilled his own glass.  “No, son.  You aren’t being punished because you were in a bordello.  What you’re being punished for,” he gestured with his glass, “is leaving the ranch when you were told not to.”  He canted his head when Johnny started to protest, the memories of his son’s original transgressions -- the trouble in Green River and his insolence afterwards -- still fresh.  “My orders were that you were -- are -- not to leave Lancer until I’ve given you permission.  And my orders take precedence over your brother’s, even when I am not here.

“As for you,” he swung his gaze to his eldest son,  “you will share in those extra chores while you contemplate the consequences of involving your younger brother in what can only be deemed as an ill-conceived bit of unnecessary mischief.  Understood?”

Scott raised his glass.  “Understood, sir.”  He did understand, he just wasn’t sorry.


The younger man stood up.  He was getting restless.  “Yeah.”  And then, looking at his father.  “Understood.  Sir.”  He wasn’t sorry, either.  Except for the part about getting caught; and maybe for throwing up on his Pa’s good shirt.

Murdoch nodded his head.  The aroma of cooking food had begun to permeate the room.  Roast chicken, he mused.  One of Scott’s favorites.  “Any questions?” he asked.

Both young men looked at him in surprise.  Scott shook his head.  What had transpired in this room was as close to an apology as he would ever receive from his father, and for that he was grateful.

Johnny was chewing on his bottom lip, his hands shoved into his waistband.  “So just when do you figure on us bein’ grown up enough to not get hollered at anymore?” he asked.  A bit of a smile played at the corners of his mouth; the sapphire eyes dancing.

Murdoch’s head lifted, an explosion of laughter coming as he remembered Cipriano’s words from earlier in the morning.  “When you are married with sons of your own!” he answered.  “And I will still be your father, and you will still stand up when I enter a room!”  With that, he finished the scotch and set the glass back on the table, upside down.  “I’m going to wash up for supper.  I would suggest you two do the same.”

Scott watched as their father left the room.  He was quiet for a time, his blond hair falling across his forehead.  “That went well,” he said finally.

Johnny moved to his brother’s side.  He wasn’t quite sure what had just happened, but he felt a bit more at ease than he had been feeling when they had first entered the room.  “Hey, Scott,” he sighed.  “How the hell do you think he knows about Rosie?”

The elder man shook his head.  “I think our father knows a lot more than we’ve ever suspected, Johnny.  I’m not sure how.  It’s certainly far more than any Pinkerton reports would have covered.”  If the Old Man knew about Rosie, he wondered, did he also know about Carmen, and Belinda, and Emily Jean…?

“Ain’t so sure I like it, him knowin’ so much,” Johnny grumbled.  He turned to face his brother, something new niggling at his mind.  “Scott, ‘bout Justice’s room…”

“Blue,” the other answered.

Johnny’s eyes narrowed.  Lucky guess, he thought.  Almost every room in the whorehouse was blue, or shades of blue.  “And her bedroom?” he ventured, sure and certain Scott would not know the answer.

Scott’s brow furrowed slightly, and he gave a slow nod.  “Oh.  You mean the mirror above her bed…”  he dismissed the memory with a wave of his hand.

Fuck!  Reaching out, he tapped his brother’s arm.  “So, what d’ya know about Rosie,” he asked suspiciously.

Another smile.  “She has two of the most attractive little moles,” he answered.

Johnny’s mouth opened and just as quickly shut.  He stole a quick glance at the open doors and helped himself to a shot of tequila, using the old man’s glass.  He’d have to remember to rinse it out with a splash of scotch when he was finished; and it wouldn’t hurt to chew on a couple of those cinnamon candies before he sat down to supper, either.

His thoughts drifting, he stood quietly in the center of the room.  His Old Man knew about the mirror above the bed.  So did Scott.  Scott also knew about Rosie’s moles, which weren’t exactly in plain sight.  It got him to wondering if the Old Man knew, too; a thought he found even more disturbing.

He began wondering just how far, and how long, he would have to go before he found someplace his Old Man and older brother hadn’t already been.  Someplace not too far; since he was still having to be pretty careful about where he was sneaking to, and how long it took him to get someplace, do his business, and still get back before anyone knew he was gone.  Yep.  Goin’ to have to do some real plannin’ on this one; findin’ new places to play, fresh flowers to pluck, new fields to plow…


Scott’s soft voice penetrated his thoughts, and he felt his cheeks color.  “Yeah?”

The scent of chicken, gravy and fresh vegetables was almost overwhelming now.  “Thinking of supper, brother?” Scott teased.

Johnny was feeling a growing need, and it wasn’t for food.  He was tempted to scratch, but instead of attacking the itch at it’s source, he lifted his hand and scratched at his collar; just at the place his hair was beginning to curl from the heat.  “Nope,” he drawled.  “Just dessert.”




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