Disclaimer: Yeah. Right.
Warning: I think the “f” word might have gotten tossed in here.
Johnny was half-in, half-out of the Great Room, one hand resting solidly against the arched doorjamb; as if he wasn’t really sure this was where he wanted to be, and -- if he had to -- he could still make a run for it. He was watching his father, who was standing at the window behind the desk, his nose stuck in a ledger. “We got to talk,” Johnny announced.
Murdoch didn’t even look up; just simply raised his hand to stall any further conversation from his son. “I agree with Scott,” he said, wetting the tip of the pencil with his tongue before making a notation. “You asked your brother to loan those clothes to Val, and it’s up to you to see to it they are replaced.”
The youth frowned. Shit! Like a little bit of axel grease can’t be scrubbed out. And it’s not like Scott even wears those damned ruffled things anymore. He shook the thought away before his mind turned to bigger problems, like what Val would have done to him if he’d tried to get him to wear Scott’s plaid pants. “It ain’t about the shirt,” he said. When it looked like his father still wasn’t paying any attention to him, he stepped down into the room and headed for the desk. His fingers drifted across everything he passed before he reached the drink table and his left hand closed around the glass stopper on the bottle of tequila. “How come Scott’s got a room in the annex now, and I still gotta sleep in the room upstairs?” He changed his mind about pouring a drink when he saw his father’s left eye begin to twitch narrow.
“Your brother needs his privacy,” Murdoch answered. He’d put the ledger down on the desk, but he was still writing in it.
“So how come I don’t got a room in the annex?” Johnny asked.
“Phhht!” Murdoch muttered. “You’ve got a perfectly good room upstairs, right next to mine.”
Right. Can’t even cut loose with a fart without you knowin’ about it. Johnny’s left hand was still busy with the glass stopper. “What about my privacy?”
This time, Murdoch actually looked up. “And you would need privacy why?” he asked.
Johnny’s head snapped up. He wasn’t quite sure how to answer this question; at least not provide an answer his father would want to hear. He tried a different tact. “For the same reason Scott needs privacy?” he asked, angry with him self when his voice seemed to rise and squeak. “C’mon, Murdoch,” he whined.
“Your brother is old enough he has interests that lay beyond Lancer, Johnny; and a need to be able to pursue those interests. He doesn’t need us watching over him, tracking his comings and goings. And there is the chance he might want to entertain an occasional guest, without the usual interruptions and intrusions.” This time, Murdoch speared his younger son with a look that was a good indication of just who might be the one who was guilty of those particular transgressions.
Well, ain’t that just fuckin’ fine for big brother, Johnny fumed; twice angry when he realized the double-meaning of what he had just been thinking. Fuckin’ fine, indeed. “Those guests you talkin’ about females?” he asked. “‘Cause if you are, Old Man, it might be a good idea to remember some of them ladies he got himself tangled up with.” He met his father’s gaze. “We all know how that worked out: Violet, Pearl, Polly,” he was ticking the names of with his fingers, tapping them against his thigh;” Glory, Barbara, Julie, Sara, Moira, Sarah, Jenny, Zee.”
Murdoch picked up the litany without missing a beat. “Anna Barr, Callie, Catha, Dorrie, Jessamine, Laura, Lucrece, Lucy, Melissa, Tallie, Tiffany.”
Shit! Shit, shit, shit! The Old Man was listing his little peccadilloes, and he had the nerve to do it in alphabetical order. He pondered for a short moment. And who the hell was Anna Barr? Shrugging, he shook the thought away. “Okay. So I ain’t all that much smarter about women than Boston, but it still don’t seem fair.”
Murdoch snapped the ledger closed and tucked it under his arm. He was headed in Johnny’s direction, and the younger man instinctively stepped aside. When his father strode by him he fell in behind. “So where we goin’?”
“To see your brother,” Murdoch answered without breaking stride. “I have something I need I need to discuss with him.”
Johnny picked up his pace; compensating for his father’s longer gait as they headed out the door. “In his room,” he piped. “In the annex…” No way I’m givin’ up on this one, Old Man.
Scott’s room was at the far end of the annex wing. Murdoch reached the door well before Johnny, and actually knocked. Even more, to Johnny’s surprise and annoyance, he waited for an invite before he opened the door.
Murdoch stepped across the threshold, aware that his youngest son was right on his heels. “Scott,” he greeted.
The blond acknowledged his father with a single nod. “Sir.” Then, his gaze drifting to his father’s back -- no, his father’s recently acquired shadow -- “Johnny. Are you here to make reparations for the shirt?”
Johnny’s eyes narrowed. You know what you can do with that shirt, brother. “Wouldn’t a got messed up if Jelly hadn’t asked Val to help with the wagon,” he groused.
Murdoch’s eyes lifted towards the ceiling. “We are not here to discuss shirts,” he muttered.
“That’s right,” Johnny declared, stepping out from behind his father. “We’re here to talk about how come you,” he jabbed a finger at his sibling, “got a room here,” the digit swung down to point at the floor, “and I ain’t!”
Scott did a double take at his brother’s cockiness. In the time they had been living at Lancer, Johnny had come to be a tad more cautious when smarting off in front of their father; a hard taught lesson that had, seemingly, taken a long time in the learning. However, the young man had developed a degree of respect for their father’s long arms and the snake-like quickness he employed when delivering a well-aimed swat to his baby boy’s posterior; especially since the Old Man never missed. “I have a room here,” Scott mirrored his brother’s stab at the floor, “because I’m the responsible one,” he reasoned. His brow furrowed. Then again, it did seem strange he was somehow being eased out of the main house; and lately, a lot of the action.
“Is that right!?” Johnny shot back. Already, his fists were beginning to ball up at his sides.
“We did not come here to discuss who has what room!” Murdoch growled. He pulled the ledger out from beneath his arm, and was holding it now in both hands.
“Oh, yeah? Well, that’s what we’re discussin’ now,” Johnny snapped.
Johnny spun around to face his father; his right hand going to his butt. “What the hell did you do that for?” he demanded; his brow furrowing as he realized the Old Man had popped him on the behind with the damned account book.
Murdoch was opening the book. “I came here to discuss an entry in the accounts,” he declared. He was tapping the open page with his forefinger. “The invoice you paid on the twelfth, Scott. Town of Green River, one hundred dollars, miscellaneous.”
The was a soft ‘poof’ as Scott exhaled slightly. Somehow, it didn’t seem like such a good idea to tell Murdoch his designation of ‘miscellaneous’ in this case was the fine he had paid when he had bailed Johnny out of jail. The sudden look of distress on his brother’s face confirmed the thought. “It was a donation, sir,” he said; feeling not one mote of remorse that he was a gnat’s hair away from being deceitful. After all, that was what Val had called it: Johnny Lancer’s donation to the Silver Dollar’s Plate Glass Window Fund.
Johnny’s look of chagrin suddenly turned into a full out Cheshire smile. “Yeah. So now we can talk about my new room. Here. In the Annex.”
Scott closed his eyes briefly, and scrubbed his hand across his face; pausing to probe at the bridge of his nose where the headache was just beginning. “Let it go,” he muttered, the warning clear. “Just…let…it…go.” He was almost begging now.
Murdoch was even more blunt. “You are not moving into the annex,” he declared.
“And why the Hell not?” Johnny countered. His back stiffened and he knotted his arms across his chest, his weight shifting to his right foot.
“You’re acting like a child,” Scott murmured.
“Am not!” Johnny snapped. He was pouting now, and to make his point, he stomped his foot. Smart move, Madrid, he scolded himself. Feeling a need to redeem himself, he tried again. “Just give me a reason why,” he murmured, making an effort to keep his voice neutral.
Murdoch shot him the look. “Because I said no,” he ground out.
End of discussion.
The ledger book snapped shut, and Murdoch made an abrupt about face, heading out the door.
Johnny stared after his father. He turned slightly, facing his brother. “What the Hell kind of reason is that?” he asked, throwing up his hands.
“The only one he needs,” Scott answered. He nodded towards the doorway. “I believe that’s the dinner bell,” he said; hoping the idea of food would appease his brother. Taking a long stride forward, he crossed the threshold.
“This ain’t over,” Johnny declared stubbornly. “I got a whole bunch of other questions I’m gonna ask, dammit; and I’m goin’ to get me some answers!”
Scott said nothing. He simply squared his shoulders and marched on.
Behind him, Johnny was at full bellow. “Here’s the first one,” he shouted. “How come when we first got here, there was three steps leadin’ down into the Great Room, and now there’s just one? And another thing. How come when I’m on Barranca, and I’m about to toss a rope, he changes color: goes almost all white, like he’s scared shitless and thinks I ain’t gonna make the catch, or something?” Or like maybe I’m gonna catch something I shouldn’t. “Or on some days he’s all curried up and lookin’ fine, and the next time I look it’s like he’s a whole different horse?” He paused to take a breath. “And what’s this shit with bein’ so damned rich, and I got like three different shirts and only one or two pairs of pants? Hell, when that Cassidy guy showed up, T’resa changed shirts three times! Same stupid pants, but different shirt!
“And my damned bed? Chad shows up, and I’m layin’ in this stupid bed with a roller thing at the head. But when Callie was here, the damned bed frame was brass. I mean, I was blind for awhile, but I wasn’t stupid! Damned room was all changed around. Hell! It wasn’t even the same room!
“Yeah. And when I was chasin’ that damned wild stallion, he let himself get caught so damned easy, and I could walk right up to him; almost no trouble at all. Not to mention, Old Man, your horse was runnin’ with that bunch! Explain that one for me, huh?” The look of consternation on his face increased. “And another thing. If I’m the great gunfighter, Johnny Madrid, how come every damned time something happens, some yahoo gets behind me and knocks me in the head and takes my gun away?”
Scott felt a sudden need to march in double time. His pace increased.
So did Johnny’s volume. “And don’t think I ain’t got some questions for you, big brother! Just what the hell was that thing with Zee? It didn’t hit you as sort of funny just how much she looked like that gal that was runnin’ with that McGloin family?” The boy was on a roll. “Chad,” he hollered, deftly changing the subject. “You left me damned near alone for two weeks -- two long weeks -- havin’ to deal with that big lummox and his crazy sister. And his singin’, ‘till the last of the feudin’ kin lay dead, witch woman said’. Then the two of ‘em showin’ up here and Murdoch buyin’ into that Lancer/Lancre bullshit! Just where the hell were you then?”
Even Scott had to admit, thinking about it, that entire episode had been totally unbelievable. He was, however, wishing the walk from the annex back to the main house wasn’t quite so long.
Johnny was undeterred by the long hike. Didn’t bother him none. Except, last time he took a walk like this, they didn’t have a dining room anymore when he got into the house and someone had built a wine cellar. It was like the fuckin’ Lancer “L”; one minute it’s a big round circle; and the next time you look, it’s a fuckin’ shield. Hell, there was a lot of questions that still needed askin’. Like what happened to that trip to Fort Bowie me and Murdoch were ‘sposed to be takin’? Arizona, for Christ’s sake! The territory was crawlin’ with cattle, what with the Texans crowdin’ in after the War lookin’ for new graze; and the Spanish had been there a long time before that. He shook the thought away, just in time for another question to pop into his head.
He hurried to catch up with his brother; a move that didn’t go as planned because Scott’s legs were longer, and he was already walking like he was marching off to war. “And tell me, big brother, you and the Old Man bein’ so damned smart and all; how come is it nobody ever thinks to lock the fuckin’ doors? You’d think after that thing with Cassidy and Morgan Price…”