(aka Catherine's Clock)
I just wanted you to know this story revolves around a
clock. I got the idea from a
distant childhood memory of mine, and although my memory wasn’t a clock, I
thought it would make a “timely” backdrop for this story.
So if you want a story with a lot of action and “cowboy” stuff,
don’t read this. But if you want
to read how Johnny continues to deal with his new family, and some thoughts on
how Maria may have met the gambler, then this is for you. So sit back, relax, and enjoy. . . . .and don’t worry about
the “time.” LVE
PART ONE—FAMILY LIFE
Scott and Johnny Lancer were making their way back to the
hacienda they shared with their father, Murdoch, and "sister," Teresa,
after eight days of being out on the range.
They were tired, sore, needed a bath and a shave, but most of all, they
were hungry. For one of Teresa's
delicious meals. And desserts.
"You know, little brother," Scott
commented, "I sure hope Teresa doesn't think the only reason we like her is
because of her cooking. I don't
want her to think we take her for granted."
“Oh, Boston," Johnny replied with his drawl,
"I think she knows we like her because she's... .well because she's Teresa.
Besides, she brings some. . .what does Murdoch call it?"
"Feminine charm," Scott replied.
"Yeah, she brings feminine charm, whatever
that means, to the ranch. That's good, right?" Johnny questioned.
"Yes, brother, it’s good.
Could you imagine the ranch if there wasn't a female around, to keep it,
you know, tidy and pretty?"
Johnny thought about it, and frowned, just a
little. "Well, I hope she
doesn't go crazy with her redecorating, all the new stuff Murdoch let her buy.
I liked the house they way it was."
Scott agreed. "I did too, but Teresa felt it
was time for a change, for new furniture and things, and I guess Murdoch thought
so, too. He told me he hadn't
thought a lot about the inside of the house this past
year, with us coming home and all, but they both feel new furnishings
will be a fresh start for all of us."
"I wish Murdoch would buy a new dining room table. It still kind of bothers me to know that every time you sit
down to a meal, that's where he dug Pardee’s
slug out of me."
Scott was a little surprised.
"Really, I didn’t realize it bothered you, little brother.”
“Yeah, well, it wasn’t you who was sprawled
across the table in all his glory,” a rather embarrassed Johnny growled.
Scott reassured his brother.
“I don’t even think about it, and I don't think anyone else does,
either. Must be the fancy
tablecloths Teresa keeps on it all the time."
“Yeah, to hide the blood stains."
"Oh, Johnny. . .. ."
Both brothers laughed as they dismounted their
horses and walked into the house. They
were taken slightly aback when their eyes caught sight of the new furnishings
adorning the great room that were delivered in their absence. Two large couches, a smaller couch or loveseat, and two
large, overstuffed chairs replaced the previous furnishings. Various expensive knick-knacks adorned the new end tables and
coffee table. And
two golden candelabras on either side of the mantle complimented the
picture of Scott and Johnny that Teresa had placed in a beautiful new gold and
silver frame. The picture had been
given to Murdoch from his sons on their sixth-month anniversary of coming to
Lancer, and it was Scott’s idea, much to Johnny’s chagrin, to have a
professional picture taken of them for their father.
Teresa felt the special frame would be perfect with the golden
candelabras, and for the other item she had planned for placement on the
mantle—if Murdoch would give his blessing.
“Hey, where’s my couch?”
“It’s out in the storage room,” Teresa replied.
“And what do you mean, your couch?”
“Well,” Johnny explained, “that couch and me go
back a long way. . .it was kind of molded to me, ya know?”
Johnny and “the couch” became good friends during his recovery from
being shot by Pardee. When he was
finally allowed up and around, he took from sleeping in his bed to sleeping on
the couch, and in the eight months he and Scott had been at Lancer, Johnny
matter of factly let it be known that the couch was “his” property.
“Well, guys, how do you like the room?” Teresa asked, expectantly.
“I love it!” Scott exclaimed.
Actually, it was much more comfortable looking with the old furniture,
he sighed to himself. “Can
I sit down?” Scott asked.
until you both have cleaned up. And,
no laying, sleeping, or eating on this furniture.
And no propping of feet up on the table, do you hear me, Johnny
Madrid?” Teresa always used the
name Madrid when she wanted to get a point across to Johnny.
guess so. But it’s sure gonna be
uncomfortable sleeping on that hard floor,” Johnny whined.
Johnny, if you’re that tired, then just go to bed,” Teresa scolded. Then Teresa berated the two youngest Lancers for their total
lack of knowledge in the fine art of interior decorating. “And you, Scott Lancer, I thought would be much more
appreciative of these fine furnishings, especially since they’re from
Carter’s in San Francisco.”
With a look from their father, who had been chuckling
throughout the entire conversation, the two Lancer sons figured they better stop
teasing their “sister” and let her know they really did like her efforts and
she really did have exquisite taste.
After the teasing had stopped, both young men sat on the
floor, not daring do dirty the new furniture.
“I think it’s great that Carter’s has moved this far west.
I knew they had stores in Chicago, but I didn’t know they were in St.
Louis until I stopped there on my way here, and I just found out they were in
San Francisco when we went there for our trip a few months ago,” Scott
“Is Carter’s one of them ‘fancy’ stores?”
“Well, brother, it had it’s roots in Boston and New
York. My grandfather’s entire
home is furnished with things from Carter’s.
It’s a very nice store.”
It’s one of them fancy stores, Johnny smirked to himself.
Later that evening, the two youngest Lancer men, clean,
shaven, and looking very handsome, joined Murdoch, Teresa, and Jelly for dinner.
Jelly had become an integral part of the Lancer family.
Jelly loved Teresa for her sweetness, Murdoch for his gruffness, Scott
for his patience and common sense, and
Johnny, well, he loved Johnny for special reasons known only to the two of them.
Johnny had often confided his innermost secrets to Jelly, secrets he felt
he couldn’t share with Scott, even though they were close, and definitely
couldn’t share with Murdoch. Ever.
But Jelly, being the neutral third party, listened to Johnny bear his
heart out, and, although Jelly wasn’t an educated man, the old timer was able
to give the young man his wisdom and experience on life, and acted as a sound
board when Johnny felt the need to vent.
When dinner was over, Jelly approached Teresa.
“Did ya ask him yit?”
not yet Jelly,” Teresa responded. “I
would kind of like to wait until he’s alone, when Scott and Johnny have gone
to bed. They should turn in early
tonight, they’re pretty tired after being gone all week.
When Murdoch’s in a mellow mood, I’ll ask him then.”
jist lit me know if ya need my help ‘morrow,” Jelly told the young woman.
will, Jelly, and thanks,” Teresa responded, as the old-timer left for his
quarters on the ranch.
Teresa was right.
After being gone for eight days, Scott and Johnny were tired, and decided
to turn in early. “Might as well
go up to bed, seein’ there’s no place down here for a man to sleep
anymore,” Johnny whined, still put off by his missing couch.
chided his youngest son. “John,
quit acting like a two-year old. If
that couch is that important to you, you can take up residence in the storage
shed with it.” Scott laughed,
Teresa giggled, and Johnny, tired and annoyed at his father, stomped up to his
room to bed.
“Did he whine this much on the range?” Murdoch asked his oldest son.
“Oh no, Murdoch.
Johnny acted very mature while we were gone.
Acted like a ten-year old,” Scott teased. “Well, I’m turnin’ in myself.
And Teresa, we really like what you’ve done with the place.
We love the furniture and everything.
And don’t worry. We’ll make sure we don’t have any dust on us when we sit
down on it.” With a wink and a
brotherly kiss for the pretty brown-eyed girl, Scott turned in.
Murdoch chuckled to himself.
He loved the banter among his family; the teasing of his youngest son by
his oldest, the teasing by both sons of the young lady he considered his
daughter, and the way she scolded both boys and knew they would never scold
back. He even loved the whining of
that youngest son of his. It still
amazed Murdoch how Johnny could, at
times, act like a two-year old; then when the need arose,
be a mature, level-headed adult beyond his years;
then, could act like a 16-year old with his head in the clouds.
His sons had been with him for eight months now,
and the past six months had been the greatest of Murdoch Lancer’s life. The
first two months his sons were home had been difficult for everyone.
Protecting Lancer from Pardee; Johnny being shot and his long recovery;
the signing of the partnership papers; and everyone adjusting to everyone else.
The vacation to San Francisco that Murdoch had treated his sons to had
helped immensely; it took them away from the pressures of the ranch and allowed
them to get to know one another, and to have some fun.
He remembered the night the three of them took in one of San
Francisco’s popular saloons, and being with his two sons, Murdoch himself felt
like a 20-year old. The next
morning, though, his aching head reminded him that he was, after all, almost 50,
and he needed to act like the father of Scott and Johnny, not like their
brother. But it had been
And there were still difficult times. Murdoch and Johnny had gotten into it several times and
Johnny had taken off, but had always returned.
But once Johnny realized that Murdoch would never stop him from leaving
after an argument, Johnny curtailed his habit and learned to ride out the storm
with his father. Chalk one up
for fatherhood, Murdoch chuckled. And,
Johnny had admitted to his father that although sometimes he liked being alone,
he missed his new family and was glad when he returned.
He had even admitted to missing his Old Man.
And Murdoch thought a lot about Scott, too.
About how much he would miss his older, sensible son if he ever decided
to return to Boston. He knew that if Scott desired, he had a life in Boston, one
of wealth and comfort. And he knew
that when the time came when Scott’s grandfather died, Scott would have some
decisions to make. But Murdoch’s
oldest son had told him he loved it at Lancer and his new way of life was a
challenge that he enjoyed. And
Murdoch knew that Scott was profusely protective of his younger brother.
“Someone has to watch out for that boy,” Scott had said to Murdoch
many times the last eight months. And
Murdoch realized the bond between his mature oldest son and his free-spirited
youngest son was strong, and strengthening every day.
As Murdoch pondered his thoughts about his sons, he
sensed he was being watched—watched by a pair of big, brown eyes from the
pretty dark-haired girl he loved so much. His
Teresa. Not really his, but the
love he felt for the girl was real and strong.
Murdoch had loved her father like a brother, and his death still tore him
apart. But the way she looked after
him and the ranch, and the way she automatically accepted his sons, was still a
marvel to the rancher.
And he would do everything in his power to make sure
Teresa was happy and well taken care of for the rest of her life.
PART TWO—THE REQUEST
“Did you want something, dear?” Murdoch questioned
“Why do you say that, Murdoch?”
Teresa asked, as she pretended to crochet.
you’ve been doing that same stitch for the last ten minutes,” Murdoch
didn’t even think you knew I was
here, you were so lost in your thoughts. They
were good thoughts, I hope?”
“Yes, Teresa, very good thoughts.
Now, what is it you want?”
Teresa knew that Murdoch could read her like a book.
And she was never afraid to ask Murdoch Lancer for anything.
But this request, as small as it was, had her a bit uneasy.
“I want to ask you something, a favor really.
I asked you once before, a long time ago, and you got mad at me.
So, please don’t scold me when I ask you again.”
Murdoch was truly puzzled.
He couldn’t remember a time when he ever raised his voice to Teresa,
except maybe the time she got a little too close to her pony and almost got
trampled. But then, Paul O’Brien
had raised his voice to his daughter as well, and Murdoch backed off.
“What is it, dear?”
began, “ you know I’ve put a lot of work and a lot of thought into the new
furnishings for the house. But
there is one thing that’s missing, that I want to place on the mantle. Something that is already a part of Lancer, that was there a
long time ago but has been stored away for a very long time.”
Murdoch looked at Teresa and had a feeling he knew what
she wanted. “It’s the clock,
isn’t it?” he asked, a bit saddened.
Murdoch. It’s so pretty, and it
doesn’t deserve to be stored away with all the other stuff, including
Johnny’s couch. The last
time I asked you if we could bring it out of storage, I was about 14, and you
got really upset with me. But Daddy
explained that it had belonged to Scott’s mother, and that after she died and
Scott was gone, you had it stored away.”
“Yes, dear, that’s true.
But I really don’t remember being angry at you, and if I was, it was
because I was saddened and I didn’t want to be reminded of my loss.”
After a pause, Murdoch added, “I don’t even know if it still works.
It just stopped one day, and that’s when I had it put away.”
Teresa’s eyes brightened.
“Yes, it works Murdoch. Jelly
spent the last several days cleaning and oiling it, and it works like a charm.
Even the chimes sound beautiful. And
except for a few scratches, it shines like new.”
Murdoch laughed. “I
somehow have a feeling you and Jelly have been conspiring against me for a few
weeks on this, am I right?”
Teresa giggled. “Yes,
you are. I rediscovered the clock
when I was looking for something else, actually, and since I had the new
furnishings on order, I asked Jelly if he could fix it.. . . .and he did.
So, what about it? Can I have Jelly bring the clock in tomorrow?
It would be a nice surprise for Scott.”
Murdoch thought about it for a few seconds.
“Well, that clock did bring Catherine and I a lot of happiness in our
last months together. And you’re right. . . . .I think Scott, as well as all of
us, would enjoy it. Sure, have
Jelly bring it into the house tomorrow.”
“Oh, thank you Murdoch!”
Teresa gushed as she gave her guardian a great, big hug.
“It will compliment that nice picture of
Scott and Johnny on the mantle. It’s
such a good picture.”
“Yes,” Murdoch agreed.
“They do look good in it, don’t they?”
Teresa didn’t need to answer; she just noticed the pride in Murdoch’s
eyes as he gazed at the picture of
his two boys.
PART THREE—SAGA OF THE CLOCK
As Teresa bounded happily up to bed, Murdoch let his
thoughts wander to the story behind the clock.
When his first wife, Catherine, had announced she was going to have a
baby, their first child, Murdoch was elated.
He wanted to buy something very special for her.
He knew she was used to the very best of everything; clothes, jewelry,
and accessories, and that he couldn't afford such luxuries on her, at least not
at this time in their lives. But
the miniature grandfather clock she had admired back in Boston, and was refused
her as a wedding present by her father, would be given to her by her husband for
this very special occasion.
Murdoch obtained a loan from the local bank and ordered
the clock from Carter’s, the finest furniture store in Boston. He received confirmation that the order had been received and
the clock would be on its way. He
didn't tell Catherine about it. Besides
the fact it was to be a surprise, she would have scolded him for spending money
they didn't have for something that wasn't necessary.
The clock finally arrived when Catherine was in her
seventh month. Murdoch was worried
it wouldn't arrive in time; he didn’t want his child to be three years old
when the clock finally came.
Catherine's reaction to her husband's surprise was one
that Murdoch never forgot. The
excited squeal, the laughter, and the tears of happiness from the pretty blonde
mother-to-be were priceless. And so
were the next few weeks.
Murdoch would sit in his chair and admire his pretty
wife; she would be sitting in the rocking chair Murdoch had made for her,
knitting something for the baby, the baby that moved so noticeably in its
mother's tummy. It was so quiet and peaceful, except for the tick, tick,
ticking of the beautiful new clock that adorned the mantle of the great room.
Murdoch noted the silence would soon be broken by the cries of a baby;
Scott, if a boy, and Emily, if a girl. But
it would be cries that both parents were eagerly anticipating.
Murdoch had no way of knowing that this happiness would soon end and the
silence that was so comforting now would be painful to his ears.
Three months later, Murdoch sat in his chair in the great
room, with no wife, no child, and seemingly, no life. His Catherine had died during childbirth, and the baby, his
son Scott, was thousands of miles away with his wife's father in Boston.
The only comfort Murdoch had was the tick, tick ticking of the clock.
As long as it told time, and as long as it ticked, Murdoch felt there was
hope. . .in getting his son back. And
he would. Soon. But right now, all Murdoch Lancer wanted to do was grieve for
what he should have, but for reasons only known to God, he didn't have.. . .his
wife and son, his family.
His thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of his
youngest son, Johnny, as the younger man headed for the direction of the
"Sorry Murdoch, I didn't know you were still up, or
I would've taken the back stairs. Are
Murdoch wistfully replied, "Yes, son.
Just reminiscing. What are you doing up?"
Johnny grinned. "I'm
hungry, Teresa fixed a good dinner, but it just wasn't enough.
I know we don't have any cake, but I think there's some cookies. .
"I swear Johnny," his father laughed, "you
were born hungry."
"Probably," Johnny chuckled. "But, it's good know
that if I'm hungry, there's something for me to eat. There were so many times when I was a kid I'd wake up hungry,
go to sleep hungry, and still be hungry the next morning.
I guess that's why I like to eat, it's. . .kind of a luxury for me, I
guess. . . ." His voice
"I'm sorry son, I meant no ....."
"It's OK Murdoch, really.
Mama tried the best she could, but things never seemed to go right for
her, and I don't know why. Oh,
well, . . . .see you in the morning, Murdoch," Johnny said, as he headed
toward the kitchen, seemingly unmoved by his last thought.
But Murdoch was moved.
Which brought his mind to the second chapter of the history of the clock.
When Murdoch Lancer brought his beautiful second wife,
Maria, to Lancer, he had no idea how she would react.
The house was still filled with the furnishings from his late Boston-bred
wife; crystal, china, knick-knacks,
and the clock. His Mexican bride
was from a totally different background, and her reaction to the home and its
decor was one of awe. He watched
her as she carefully moved around the room, almost afraid of knocking something
over. He noticed as she would
carefully pick up the knick knacks and examine them, almost
fondle them, as if to memorize their appearance and feel in her mind.
Murdoch had no way of knowing that in some 20-plus years,
their son would walk into this room for the first time since he was two,
and do the exact same thing. . .a habit picked up from his mother.
Murdoch told Maria that she could decorate the room in
any way she desired; with her being Mexican, he felt she may want to add a
Mexican flair to what was now her home. But
she had misgivings. What about all
the pretty things that belonged to his other wife?
He had no problems with storing them away, he had told her, and she was
free to keep out whatever she wanted. The
only thing he asked was that the clock remain. It was the most important part of
Maria happily agreed; she agreed the clock was very
lovely and had no problem with it remaining on the mantle.
She did have most of the other furnishings put in storage though, but not
out of meanness or disrespect to the first Mrs. Lancer; she was just afraid she
would accidentally break one of the pieces that she knew meant so much to her
The home had definitely taken on a new appearance and
feeling with the arrival of the second Mrs. Lancer.
The home seemed more relaxed and welcoming with its Mexican rugs,
artwork, and pottery; and at times, the clock seemed out of place with its
majestic appearance and sound. But
Murdoch welcomed the change; the home, and his heart, were alive again in a way
he thought was not possible only a year before. And his new lease on life was further brightened when Maria
told him he was going to be a daddy. Murdoch’s
impending fatherhood came a little sooner than was expected; but the child to be
born of Murdoch and Maria Lancer was definitely wanted—and loved.
The arrival of John Ian Lancer was a joyous occasion at
the Lancer hacienda. Besides the
fact the ranch was beginning to prosper, the arrival of his son, actually his
second son- Murdoch couldn’t forget the first-provided both parents with a
feeling of love and awe neither knew was possible.
From the time he was a few days old, Maria would sit in
the rocking chair, the same chair Murdoch had made for Catherine, and rock her baby.
Murdoch would be working on the range, and the house was so quiet, except
for the tick, tick, ticking of the clock. Maria began to understand why Murdoch liked the clock so
much; besides being beautiful, it was very comforting, and the clock ticking and
Maria’s gentle rocking made her baby very relaxed and content in her arms.
That clock would be a part of her son, Maria thought.
He would grow up aware of the clock’s presence in the house.
The clock’s sound and beauty would be an integral part of his life;
much as the gentle heartbeat of Maria as she held baby Johnny close to her
When this little baby became a toddler, he was a handful.
He was early at everything; Johnny Lancer waked at nine months old.
He never crawled, he went from rolling straight to walking. And his father could tell he was a smart one; at a year and a
half he had already mastered some words, and
the fact that his mother spoke Spanish to him as well as English had this little
boy already attempting a second language.
One of the things that intrigued Murdoch and Maria was
their little son’s fascination with the clock.
He would sit in front of the mantle and look up at it,
and seemingly carry on a conversation with it.
He would giggle, point, and try to tell his parents whatever it was he
found so darn interesting about it. Of
course, Murdoch and Maria were puzzled; was it the golden pendulum that swung
back and forth? Or the ticking sound? Or
the Roman numerals? They just
couldn’t figure it out. “Some
day, when he is to be married, we will ask
him about the clock. And
he will probably say he has two silly parents,” Maria had said to Murdoch.
While Murdoch was taken in with their son, he hadn’t
noticed the restlessness in his young wife.
He was gone much of the day; and when he came home, Murdoch would be so
tired all he would do is eat dinner and play with Johnny.
By the time the little boy was in bed, so was Murdoch, only to be up at
the crack of dawn for another day of ranching.
And whenever he had free time, it would be spent with their child.
Murdoch would take his little Johnny riding on the range, and they would
talk about future plans for the ranch. They
would take trips into town, where the blue-eyed youngster became the darling of
Morro Coyo. The little boy’s mother, however, wasn’t so welcome; many
felt betrayed that such a fine man as Murdoch Lancer would have the audacity to
marry a Mexican woman—to marry beneath him.
But their child, his child, to many, was not held accountable for
who his mother was; at least, not at that time in young Johnny’s life.
Maria knew of the resentment towards her and of
Murdoch’s seeming obsessiveness with their son.
While he truly loved his wife, his thoughts were on building the ranch
into an empire, of having their son grow with the ranch, and always, to regain
custody of his oldest son, his Scott, and have his two sons together, the way it
As Murdoch reflected, he noticed he had been there for
hours, reliving a past he really would just as soon forget. And he noted the time. 3:10
a.m. It was only the time.
But the time on his pocket watch took
Murdoch’s memory back to the night—the night that Maria left with his son,
his life. And the time she had
Murdoch and his young wife had not spoken in days.
The unspeakable had happened days before at a line shack, and the sight
of Maria had sickened Murdoch so much he wanted nothing to do with her.
Her tears and pleadings of the last days had turned on deaf ears. Stubbornness, he realized now.
He had planned on “discussing” the matter with her, but it would be
in his time. But Maria’s
patience had left. The other man
wanted her. He made her feel like
Murdoch had in their first year together: like
she was the sun, the moon, the earth, the whole world.
And he would accept her son as well.
Before turning in that night, Murdoch went into
Johnny’s room and gazed for hours at the sleeping little boy.
God, he loved him. He
memorized every detail of his little body; his face, hands and fingers, feet and
toes, and everything in between. He
had no way of realizing that this memory would have to last him for 20 years,
and that the next time he saw this little child, he would be a grown man.
He went to bed at 1:30 a.m., he remembers, and he thought
she was asleep. Murdoch Lancer had
turned his back to his wife; he didn’t realize she was awake. He was slightly startled by the knowledge his wife was up and
stirring; but in that time between wakefulness and sleep, one usually pays no
mind to such stirring. He remembers
wondering if he should ask her if she was all right, or if Johnny was all right,
but he didn’t. Instead, his two
sleepy eyes looked at the clock beside his
bed—3:10 a.m.—and he brought the covers up around him content that he had a
few more hours to sleep.
Murdoch awoke four hours later, realizing he had
overslept by at least an hour. He
dawdled while washing up and dressing. He
went to his son’s room and when Johnny wasn’t there, he figured Maria was
already up with the child. His
shock over what he had witnessed at the line shack was subsiding, although he
was still hurt and angry. But,
Murdoch decided this would be the day he would confront Maria with what
happened, and hoped like hell he could find his way to forgive her, and to start
But then, he spied the paper lying in the middle of his
child’s bed. Curiously, he picked
it up and read it, and as he did so, the ground went from beneath him.
He broke into a cold sweat; his whole body shook, and a cry came from the
large man that brought the household staff running to his child’s room.
She had left, with another man. . . . .and had taken the most precious
thing in the world with her. . .his precious Johnny.
Days of searching with friends turned up dead ends.
They had been no more than four or five hours ahead; how could they just
drop off the face of the earth? With
many leads to follow, Murdoch had left his friend, Paul O’Brien, in charge of
the ranch, and had made a 5-month search for his family, with no result.
When he returned, a dejected Murdoch Lancer sat in his chair in the great
room at his ranch, and cried. He
noted the silence of the room; there was no tick, tick, ticking of the beautiful
clock. When he looked at the time
it had stopped, he felt like death
had hit him—the time the clock ceased to tick
was. . . . . 3:10.
At that time, when the clock ceased to work, Murdoch
Lancer realized he would never get his Scott back.
And with a heavy heart, realized it would be a miracle if he ever saw
Maria, or his Johnny, again.
Murdoch shook his head and angrily stood up and walked
around the room, bringing himself out of the trance he had been in most of the
night. How dare he, he said to
himself. He vowed after his boys
returned he would put the past behind him.
After all, they were home now, wasn’t that all that mattered? And he had told them to forget the past, too.
He told Scott to quit trying to figure out why he hadn’t written to
him, or try to contact him. And he told Johnny to quit trying to figure out why his
mother left, and not to dwell on his troubles as a child. And, specifically, to forget his past as a gunfighter.
But how could he expect his sons to forget when he couldn’t.
Then he wondered if a silly clock, an inanimate object
with no feeling or soul, could be this upsetting to him, whether it was wise to
bring this object into his life again. But
he decided he could not hurt his Teresa; she had wanted the clock to be a part
of the home for so long. And she
was right; it was Scott’s birthright and he should be able enjoy it as his
Murdoch had decided he would tell the story of the clock
to Scott, Johnny, and Teresa tomorrow after dinner, but only Scott’s story.
The other story belonged to Murdoch’s second family, Maria and Johnny,
but somehow, he didn’t feel that part should intrude on Scott’s story.
So, he made the decision then and there that the second part of the
history of the clock would remain untold, to be locked inside of Murdoch’s
PART FOUR—THE DREAM
where is my friend? Where is my
Juanito, who do you mean?
What lady friend do you mean?
The one that lives in the giant man’s house.
The golden lady.
Little One, I’m sorry, I do not know what you mean. . .
.Don’t cry, let us try to find her. . . . . .
Johnny Lancer awoke from his dream, hugging his pillow,
tears rolling down his handsome, sleepy face.
It was that dream again; the one he had experienced so many times before.
Not a bad dream, more puzzling then anything.
And it would always end with his mother Maria hugging a young Johnny and
wiping away his tears, and Johnny would awaken feeling very close to his mother,
like she had actually visited him in his sleep.
He noticed it was almost dawn, almost the start of a new
day at Lancer. He spied one
of the cookies he had taken to his room earlier, when he remembered his
father’s presence downstairs in the great room in the middle of the night had
spoiled his mission to try to remember something of the time, many years ago,
when he lived at Lancer.
After Scott and Johnny’s return to Lancer, the
subsequent hectic weeks that followed “the battle,” as it had become known,
and the signing of the partnership papers, the two Lancer sons began the task of
learning ranch life and becoming a Lancer.
It was difficult for both sons, but in different ways.
Scott had found it a challenge. He
excelled in learning the books and reviewing contracts, and his riding skills
proved beneficial on the range. Scott’s
military training at taking and giving orders were invaluable, and his cool head
and patience were a compliment to his father’s stubbornness and
But Scott had problems with everyday ranch life.
He had never been around cattle, had never lassoed a horse, and he found
it difficult conversing with many of the Mexican hands, since his knowledge of
Spanish was limited to “Si” and “Gracias.”
Because of the language barrier, many of the hands found him to be
stand-offish and were reluctant to take heed of his directions.
Plus the culture shock of the fine Boston theatre to the hoe-downs of
Morro Coyo took some getting
Johnny’s situation was just the opposite.
The Mexican hands loved him and protected him; they felt like he was one
of them, and many an off-color story, relayed in excellent Spanish by Johnny and
the hands, were shared. He could
ride, lasso, handle the cattle—although, as he told his father, “cattle are
only good for eatin.” But most importantly, Johnny had proven himself with the
bullet in the back he had taken to protect the empire known as Lancer.
Proven himself to everyone except his father, or so he thought.
While Scott worked on improving his relationship with the
hands and learning some Spanish, he gained the approval and respect of Murdoch
Lancer. Johnny, however,
always felt like he let the Old Man
down. But the feeling wasn’t
entirely Johnny’s fault. The
bond that Murdoch had formed with Johnny from his birth until he was taken away
by Maria was still strong, on Murdoch’s part anyway.
And Murdoch still felt, and maybe even wanted,
Johnny to be the adorable two-year old he remembered and loved so much.
During those first few weeks of the newly-forming
relationship between father and youngest son, during the times they would be
alone together, just chatting, Murdoch would often ask Johnny if he had any kind
of memory of the ranch , or of him, from when he was a baby. Johnny had always said he didn’t, and one day, annoyed at
the Old Man’s persistence that he remember something, anything, Johnny blurted
out, “Old Man, do you remember anything from when you were two years old?”
When Murdoch replied he didn’t, Johnny angrily asked him, “Then why
do you expect me to? I don’t remember anything until I was about four, and
I don’t think you want to hear about that.
It had to do with my mother—and a man.”
Murdoch’s expression was one of shock, then sadness, but he never again
pushed Johnny to try to remember something he couldn’t.
But Johnny had that feeling—he had let his father down.
If only he could remember something, anything, no matter how trite, it
would make Murdoch happy, and maybe earn Johnny some respect from his Old Man. If only Johnny realized what Murdoch Lancer felt for Johnny
Madrid Lancer was not only respect, but strength, courage, and love.
Then the second telegram arrived a few hours later—from
Johnny in Grand Junction, a days ride from Lancer.
It read: “Murdoch-Hi.
Could you please wire some money to me in Grand Junction, care of the
Grand Junction Hotel? STOP. I’m
a little under the weather and plan on staying over a few days. STOP.
Nothing serious, just caught a bug. STOP.
Murdoch and Scott immediately went into town and of
course, wired the money. Did Johnny
need either or both of them to ride to Grand Junction?
If so, they were on their way. Johnny
wired back no. He had seen a doctor
and was given some medicine to calm his stomach.
Besides, the manager of the hotel had a lovely daughter named Rosemary
who “promised” to keep an eye on him. And,
he would wire them when he left. And
Don’t worry, Murdoch
snorted. I’ve done nothing but
worry about that kid since he was born.
Johnny spent the remainder of the day and that night
sleeping, and the next day, Rosemary made sure he stayed in bed and gave him hot
soup, tea, and the latest issue of the Grand Junction News to read.
Johnny took a liking to Rosemary, and she to him, and the two young
people decided they would like to continue their relationship, even though the
distance might cause a problem.
On the third day, Johnny wired Murdoch advising
he was on his way home, and should arrive late in the evening.
But Rosemary and her father insisted he stay beyond breakfast, which
turned into lunch, so Johnny never started for home until mid-day.
Because he still wasn’t feeling up to speed, and the fact he didn’t
push Barranca, the ride home took longer then he liked, and it was past midnight
when a tired Johnny Lancer arrived home.
This was one of the few times Johnny let one of the hands
take care of Barranca upon his return, and as he walked into the hacienda, he
felt a coziness as he noticed two lanterns were left on as if waiting for him. He
removed his boots and took the paperwork from the Foster deal from his
saddlebag, which remained open on the couch, and placed the paperwork on
Murdoch’s desk; then, he removed his jacket and draped it over the chair of
the desk. As he did so, he noticed
the telegrams he had sent; they had been handled a lot, as if the recipient was
anxious of what they contained. Then
he noticed the telegram from Mr. Foster, with Murdoch’s handwritten note,
‘GOOD JOB, JOHNNY’ and a smile crossed the tired former gunfighter’s face.
Hmmm, what a nice thing for Mr. Foster to say, Johnny thought.
And what a nice thing for the Old Man to think—about me.
Johnny knew where he wanted to be. In bed. But the
couch looked mighty inviting, and a lot closer, so he decided he would rest
there, for a few minutes anyway. If
Teresa finds out I’m laying on her couch, she’ll kill me, Johnny
chuckled to himself. But at that
time, he didn’t really care. He
thoughtfully took one of the quilts and placed it over the couch before laying
on it. He got comfortable, and
began to relax.
Within a minute or so, he sensed the presence of someone
looking over him, and he knew who it was. He
opened his eyes and saw the giant silhouette of his father in the dimly-lit
room. “Hi Old Man,” Johnny
laughed. “It’s good to see
“Are you all right, Son?
Your brother and I were ready to send the cavalry out after you,”
Murdoch laughed, but his concern was real.
In his soft drawl, Johnny responded. “Yeah, I’m fine. I’ll
tell you I don’t know what the hell I caught, but it sure wasn’t fun.
I’m feelin’a might better, but I’m still kind of achy. . .and
chilled. Murdoch, could you hand me
the quilt over there please?”
Murdoch reached over to the other couch and retrieved the
quilt, which he thoughtfully placed over his son.
“Will you be sleeping here or are you going up to bed?”
Murdoch asked, mock sarcasm in his
“I think I might lay here for awhile before turnin’
in. I just hope Teresa doesn’t
know I’ve been laying on her new couch,” Johnny stated, a bit annoyed.
“Well son, if she has any problems with that, she’ll
have to deal with me,” Murdoch advised.
Hmmmm. . .the Old Man taking my side over Teresa.
That’s a first, Johnny
gladly thought. Then Johnny
said to Murdoch, “Oh, the paperwork from Foster is on your desk.”
“Good, I’ll look it over in the morning,” Murdoch
replied. “I understand you made
quite an impression with the. .difficult Mr. Foster.”
“I don’t know why you had such a problem with him,
Murdoch. He’s really a nice guy,
for someone old, anyway,” Johnny stated,
quite serious in his opinion.
Murdoch couldn’t help but laugh, as Mr. Foster was two
years younger than himself. That
boy does have a way of getting under my skin, he thought, quite lovingly.
“Do you need anything before I go up to bed, John?”
“No,” Johnny tiredly replied.
“I’m just really glad
to be home. See you in the morning,
“Sleep well, Johnny,
I’m. . . . glad you’re home, too,” Murdoch responded, as he turned
and made his way up the stairway to his room.
Johnny felt good. He
was warm. And safe.
And cozy. And as he drifted
toward sleep, the gentle tick, tick, ticking of the clock hypnotized him, and
Catherine’s Clock, as he had secretly named it, was the last thing in Johnny
Lancer’s consciousness before he settled into a contented sleep.
PART SEVEN—MEMORIES FOUND
The gentle ticking of the clock may have lulled Johnny
Lancer to sleep, but three hours later, the chiming of the clock calling the
dawn of a new day abruptly woke the young man.
Annoyed, he briefly considered throwing one of the couch pillows at it,
but with his aim he would of hit it and probably broken it, and would have been
banished from the Lancer family forever.
But he realized he was awake and decided a hot cup of tea
sounded good. His friend Rosemary
had given him an herbal tea while he was in Grand Junction, and he remembered
Teresa had the same tea in the kitchen.
And although he didn’t consider himself a “tea person,” he had to
admit to liking it when he wasn’t feeling well.
When the tea was made, Johnny returned to the couch and
wrapped the quilt around him. He
sipped the hot liquid and realized how quiet it was, except for the ticking of
Catherine’s Clock. As he sat with
his eyes closed, he listened to the rhythmic ticking of the clock and thought
how much it sounded like a heartbeat. His
mother’s heartbeat. He could
remember, when he was a small boy, lying with his mother, close to her breast,
and hearing the beating of her heart; so strong, so comforting, and how it would
lull him to sleep. Those times,
however, had been few and far between. When
one of her men were around, a young Johnny would stay out of sight
and would hate the man who
was in the bed with his mother, feeling her warmth and feeling her heartbeat.
That was his place, her little boy’s place, not theirs.
As he tried to understand why his mother sought out the company of such
men, his thoughts turned to Murdoch--his father. The only decent man she had, and she left him, Johnny
As his eyes opened, they were automatically set on the
clock. As the darkness faded away
and the light from the new day slowly inched its way into the great room,
shadows of orange and gold spread throughout the room.
The light from the approaching day made its way to the clock, and Johnny
stared at its beauty, thinking that someone as beautiful as Catherine Garrett
Lancer undoubtedly was could claim something this beautiful as hers.
Then Johnny considered his mother. Did Murdoch Lancer have a story to tell him?
Did he buy her anything special when he found out she was going to have a
baby? His baby?
Or was the fact he agreed to marry
the young, pregnant, Mexican woman
his “gift” to her. To have the
young, well-respected, and up and coming rancher Murdoch Lancer honor her by
taking her as his wife.
Johnny had to stop these thoughts. He was finally coming to terms about his mother leaving his
father, about what tore his parents, hell, his family, apart.
And while he loved his mother, always did and always would, he was
beginning to have real thoughts about his old man as well.
It was hard at first. The
Old Man’s gruffness didn’t make things easy, for Johnny or Scott.
But deep in his mind, Johnny could remember his father’s presence while
recovering from Pardee’s bullet,
and how, deep down, he knew his father did love him.
And Johnny could actually feel love, yes love, growing for the man he had
hated for so long. And really, for
no reason other than his mother’s seemingly unhappiness with her life at
Johnny dozed off for a few minutes, then awakened
quickly, his eyes gazing at the clock. He
took a sip of tea; it was lukewarm now and he decided he would make his way up
to bed. With one last look at the
clock, it was 5:45 a.m., his eyes noticed a design in the middle of the face of
the clock surrounding the hands that he hadn’t noticed before.
With a lock of awe, he recognized an old friend.
It was her---his Golden Lady. “Well,
I’ll be damned!” Johnny said to himself, out loud.
“It was the clock the whole time.” He
studied the face of the beautiful clock; how many times had he looked at it in
the week or so before he left on his trip?
Looked at it yes, for the time. But
really looked at it, no. Not
until now, when he was tired and the light had shone on it a certain way.
Yes, you really had to look at it, but the design in the middle of the
clock face was gold, and if you used your imagination, it resembled a lady’s
profile, like a cameo pin that Johnny had often seen Teresa, and other ladies,
wear. He remembered his mother even
had a similar pin, and he never really liked it much.
But it did remind him of the golden lady in the picture in the giant
man’s house. No wonder his mother
never knew what her little boy was talking about, for it wasn’t a picture at
all, it was a clock face with a design that to a child, looked like a lady.
And then he thought of the giant man.
Johnny knew of only one “giant” man—his 6’5” father.
And the giant man’s house? Why,
the hacienda at Lancer, of course.
Johnny was finally making sense of the dream he had
throughout his life. And realized
that the dream was, probably, a memory of his very early life at Lancer. With his mother. . .and his father, the Giant Man.
He remembered the clock, and realized pictures he had always had in his
mind of a large window was that of the
window in his father’s study. And
the memory of a desk?
Why of course, Murdoch’s “famous” desk.
He spends more time sitting at that desk looking over his kingdom then
he does anything else, Johnny thought, amused.
The only thing he couldn’t put a finger on was riding on a train.
“Maybe I’ll ask Murdoch about that,” he thought out loud.
He suddenly felt very warm, as though he finally had
something he could share of his early life with his father.
But would it be enough? After
all, they were only fragments of memories, no earth-shattering revelation or
anything like that. Just little
snippets, and for some reason, the design on a beautiful clock that to a small
child looked like a lady was the thing he remembered most of his life at Lancer.
And to think, it was Catherine’s Clock that he remembered.
Could Catherine’s gentle spirit be helping her son’s
younger brother make some sense of things?
As if to say that maybe, she loved him too?
Johnny, quit thinking like that.
It’s just a clock. I’ll
talk to Murdoch about it. . .someday. But
right now, I just want to go to bed.
And at that thought, Johnny Lancer made his way to his
room, having an answer to at least one of the many questions he had about his
mother, his father, and his early life at Lancer.
PART EIGHT—BROTHERLY TALKS
Scott Lancer sat in the chair next to his brother’s bed
and watched him sleep. He had done
it before, when he helped take care of Johnny after he was shot helping to save
their ranch. But this sleep was
better. His brother looked
peaceful, and content, and happy. Scott
thought about the bond that had developed between the two of them the past
months, and wondered how he got along in life without his brother, his kid
brother at that, at his side. Not
only his brother, but his playful tormenter, his protector, his friend. And he thought about how much he had missed him this past
week, and how the ranch wasn’t the same.
And about how even Murdoch, the one man that could make Johnny as nervous
as a cat, seemed sort of lost
without his youngest child around.
Scott thought about the time, early on in their
relationship, when he asked Johnny how he could find it in his heart to love his
mother. Especially when he learned
that because of her, the life Johnny was meant to have evaded him, and instead,
the life he was dealt was one of poverty, hunger, anger, and hate. In that early moment of their brotherhood, this one
time, Johnny had lashed out at his brother.
“Scott, you don’t know nothin’ about mothers ‘cause yours died,
and I’m sorry for that. But I
knew mine. She might of done some
stupid things, hell, we all have. But
my mother was kind and gentle. . . and beautiful.
And when I did wrong, she let me know it.
And she said I was the best thing to ever happen to her. And it’s not her fault I turned into a hired gun, that was
my doin.’ I was old enough to
make other choices, but that’s the one I chose.
And I don’t think she’d be happy in my choice. So, don’t blame her for my life.
I don’t. Hell, I don’t
even blame Murdoch anymore. It just
happened. So if you’ve got a
problem with that, well, I guess you ain’t really my brother, are you?”
At that moment, Scott knew Johnny was right.
He didn’t, couldn’t know about a mother’s love.
Couldn’t understand about the bond between a mother and child, or
mother and son. And at that moment,
Scott envied his brother. Despite
his life, Johnny understood about the special bond between mother and son, for
he had had it. And Scott hadn’t.
Johnny shifted in his sleep, sighed blissfully, and
opened his sleepy eyes to the sight of his brother.
As Scott began to pour a cup of coffee for Johnny, and offer him some of
the remaining biscuits from breakfast, Johnny remarked, “You been watchin’
me sleep all mornin’ Boston?”
Scott laughed. “No,
I’ve just been here a few minutes. I
was here a few other times, though, but you were really out of it.
I just thought you might like some coffee and biscuits in bed, that’s
“To what do I owe this privilege?” Johnny questioned, as he sat up and drank the hot coffee
offered to him by Scott.
“Well, I missed you, little brother. And you did good on that trip, so I thought I’d spoil you a
little. You feeling better?
Murdoch said you were still a little sick last night.”
“Yeah, as a matter of fact I do.
After some coffee and biscuits and a hot bath, I should feel dandy,”
Johnny cheerfully replied.
“Teresa’ s fixing you your favorite dinner. . .roast
beef and potatoes. Hope you feel
“I sure do. Especially
my favorite meal.” After a pause,
Johnny asked “Murdoch’s not mad at me for sleepin’ in, is he?
It must be way past noon by now.”
“No, he’s the one that told me to leave you alone and
let you sleep. And it’s after
two, and Sunday,” Scott stated.
“Oh yeah, I forgot about today bein’ Sunday.
Guess I was more tired than I thought.
I got up here around six this morning.
Probably would’ve slept all night on the couch, but that clock woke me
up around five.” Johnny gasped
and quickly asked, “Does Teresa know I slept on the couch last night?”
Scott laughed. “No.
Murdoch folded up the quilt you laid over the couch before she came down
this morning. He destroyed the
Johnny laughed too.
“Good. I really didn’t
feel like dealing with Miss Teresa today.”
After a few more minutes of bantering between the two
Lancer siblings, Scott decided to head downstairs and give Johnny a chance to bathe and get ready for dinner, since
after all, the coffee and biscuits were just a snack before the main meal.
But before Scott could leave, Johnny called to him.
“Hey Boston, can I ask you something?”
“Sure, little brother.
What is it? Anything
“No,” Johnny chuckled.
“I was just wonderin’ something.
Do you remember anything, from when you were real young, I mean.
Like two years old, maybe?”
Scott looked a little puzzled.
“Well, I don’t know about two. I
remember my birthday party when I was five, you know, the one that Murdoch met
me at. Funny thing, though.
I don’t remember meeting him, but I do remember the cake and presents,
and that for once, I actually had some fun. . .as a kid.”
Now Johnny looked puzzled.
“I thought you had all kinds of fun as a kid.”
“Yeah, a five-year old going on twenty,” Scott said,
“But do you remember anything before that?”
Johnny asked, expectantly.
“Well. . . .I do remember my great-grandfather, he died
in a fire just before I turned three. And
although my memory of him is very fuzzy, I do remember he had a white beard, and
SPIN used to tell me I called him Santa, much to my grandfather’s displeasure.
But from what she told me, Pappy, as he was known, loved it when I called
him Santa. So yeah, I guess I do
have a vague memory of my very young childhood.
Why do you want to know?” Scott
Johnny considered whether he should tell Scott about his
newly found memories, especially since he didn’t understand them himself, and
that the object that triggered them was Scott’s mother’s clock.
But he decided to relay a little bit of information to his brother.
“Well, I think I might remember something from when I lived here when I
was little. I always had a feeling
about the window in Murdoch’s study, and the great room, like I was there
“Déjà vu,” Scott remarked.
his confused little brother.
“Nothing,” Scott laughed.
“So you think you remember living here as a kid?
I always wondered if there was anything you remembered.”
Johnny continued. “Thing
is, none of my memories make sense.
They’re kind of jumbled,
like a dream. And I’d like to
tell Murdoch, but I just don’t know what I would tell him, just that I have a
feeling, but nothing makes sense.”
Scott advised, “If you let Murdoch know what you
remember, maybe he can fill in the gaps. Or
at least, help make a little sense of it. Are
they good memories, I hope?”
Johnny sighed. “Yeah,
I think they are. Boston, don’t
tell Murdoch about this. I want to
tell him in my own time, in my own way. If
I ever decide to.”
“OK brother, I
won’t say anything.” Another
don’t tell Murdoch story, Scott mused.
“Now go clean up for dinner. We’ve
missed you this past week.”
As Scott left Johnny’s room, the younger Lancer son
realized that he would know the right time to tell Murdoch, his father,
about his memories. Scott was
right, maybe Murdoch could help Johnny make sense of the pieces of memories he
PART NINE—KEEPING WATCH
Through the next several weeks, life went on as usual
with the Lancer family. Besides the
daily business of running an empire, there were always the simple, everyday
happenings that made being a Lancer interesting.
Scott and Johnny went into town to celebrate the birthday
of one of the Lancer hands, and both sons returned home, late at night, a little
drunk (and happy), much to their Old Man’s displeasure. Then, a few nights later, a friend of Murdoch’s from a
nearby town stopped in for a visit, and Murdoch took him to dinner in town.
The Old Man returned to the ranch, late at night, a little drunk (and
happy), much to his sons displeasure (and teasing).
Teresa left for a week to visit her mother in San
Francisco, leaving the hacienda to the three Lancer men, and Jelly.
The four of them had a lot of tidying up to do before the “Boss
Lady,” as Johnny sometimes called her, returned home.
Scott received one of his wonderful letters from his
Grandfather, threatening him not only with bodily harm, but total disinheritance
if he didn’t return to Boston. . .AT ONCE.
When will he learn I’m happy here and I don’t want to go back to
Boston? Scott sighed and sought out his brother for another one of their
famous ‘Don’t tell Murdoch’ talks the two of them so often
Johnny fell in and out of love.
His long-distance relationship with Rosemary fizzled out almost as soon
as it began, but Murdoch became concerned when he saw his youngest son looking
at wedding rings in a jewelry store catalogue he borrowed
from a friend.
“Murdoch, I didn’t know wedding rings were so
expensive,” Johnny had said.
getting married?” Murdoch
“Abigail and I are talking about it,” Johnny said
heck is Abigail? And what happened
to Rosemary?” Murdoch asked, exasperated.
met last week, and this is it, Murdoch. We
really love each other.”
looked at his youngest son and realized this is one of the times he was acting
like a 16 year old. “Johnny, you
don’t marry someone you’ve only known for a week.”
looked at his Old Man. “Well, you
did. . .you married my mother, and how long did you know her?
A day?” sarcasm in Johnny’s attitude.
replied, “Well you see where that relationship went.
Except for you, nothing good came out of it.”
rolled his eyes. It wasn’t anger
on either man’s part; just
sarcastic humor, the kind father and youngest son often shared.
And Jelly. . .well, Jelly was just always around,
offering his often unwanted advice to the Lancer family.
But they wouldn’t have him any other way.
And through all these happenings, Catherine’s Clock
kept watch on her family, assuring they were on time for meals and
chiming her musical cue that it was time to turn in for a well-deserved rest
after their always busy days. She
also shared her majestic beauty with each member of the family, who had
their own thoughts and secrets not so much with the clock, but with the
spirit of the lady whose very being had made the present day Lancer family
possible: Catherine Garrett Lancer.
PART TEN—OF FATHER AND SON
Saturday morning, and everyone had their own plans for
the day. Scott was going to town
with Teresa, he to help a friend inventory supplies, she to meet her girlfriends
for a day of shopping and “girl talk.”
They would both return home later in the day.
Murdoch and Johnny were going to stay at the ranch to catch up on some
small projects that there wasn’t time to work on during the busy week.
After a pleasant morning, father and son completed their tasks and
decided to have lunch—courtesy of Murdoch.
One thing that Murdoch shared with his youngest son was
their love of Mexican food, and
they never missed an opportunity while traveling to stop off at some little
cantina for a good Mexican meal, or while at home to cook up some Mexican dish.
Early in their relationship, Murdoch had cooked up a dish for his son,
and told Johnny that Maria had taught him to make it.
It was a beginning for them.
It was during lunch that Johnny decided this would be the
perfect time to talk to his father about his memories and to tell him what he
remembered about Catherine’s Clock. Murdoch
could sense Johnny wanted to speak to him; he just wasn’t sure what was going
on inside his son’s head.
“Something on your mind, son?”
Murdoch asked, curiously.
“Ah, Murdoch,” Johnny drawled, “what makes you
“Because I’m beginning to learn to read you, and I
can tell when you want to talk about something, but you’re just not sure how
to go about it.”
Johnny grinned that irresistible grin, sapphire eyes
sparkling. “Well yeah, Murdoch, I do. But
it’s a good thing, I think.”
“You’re not still getting married, are you?”
Murdoch asked, dryly.
“Oh no, Murdoch. That
was last week. Abby and I decided
to slow down a little. But she’s
still might pretty,” Johnny said, glowingly.
“Well,” Murdoch replied, “I would like to have her
to at least one dinner here at Lancer before she’s my daughter-in-law.”
Both men laughed. “So,” Murdoch continued, “what’s this ‘good
thing’ you want to talk about?”
Johnny took a deep breath, and felt a bit nervous and
excited at the same time. “Remember
when I first came to Lancer, and you wondered if there was anything I remembered
about living here when I was little, and I said I didn’t remember anything?”
Murdoch nodded that he did.
“Well,” Johnny advised, “I lied.
It wasn’t really a lie though, it’s hard to explain.
I always sensed something about this place, especially the big window in
the study, and. . .your desk. Like
I’d been there before.”
Murdoch laughed. “You
used to sit in front of the window and look out.
Especially when the sun shone through, I think you liked the warmth.
And you used to take great pleasure in spinning my chair around, and
hiding under the desk. Whenever
your mother and I couldn’t find you, we’d know to look under the desk, and
there you’d be, happily playing, or sleeping contentedly.”
Johnny noted the dreamy look in his Old Man’s eyes and
voice, and he noticed, for the first time, a softness to his father, the gruff
exterior temporarily leaving him as he thought about his son as a toddler.
“And there’s something else I remember. It’s always been with me, I just didn’t know what the
heck it was. All my life, I’ve
had a memory of a picture of a lady that looked like one of them Cameo pins, you
know like Teresa and other ladies wear? But
my lady was golden, and lived in a giant man’s house. And I used to ask my mother what happened to the picture of
the lady, and I can honestly say she had no idea what I was talking about.
But to this day, I’ve had dreams about that picture. . . . .and I
finally found it. It was here, at
Lancer, all along.
In the giant man’s house. . .”
Murdoch intercepted his son’s thoughts. “Was I the giant man?”
Johnny laughed. “Yeah,
you were. Hell Murdoch, you’re a
giant to me now. How do you think
you were to a two-year old?”
Both father and son laughed.
“And what was the picture, Johnny?”
Murdoch asked, a bit puzzled.
“It wasn’t a picture.
It was. . .the clock. The
one you bought for Scott’s mother,” Johnny said thoughtfully.
Then he continued, “ If you look at it a certain way, the design on the
face of the clock surrounding the hands sort
of look like a lady’s profile, like one of them Cameo pins.
At least to me, anyway.”
A glow came over Murdoch’s face and a smile as if
he finally had an answer to some long buried question.
“So that was it all along. I
remember once thinking it looked like a person.
But being an adult, I didn’t think anything of it.
But in a child’s eyes. . . . . “
Johnny was puzzled.
“But I thought you put the clock in storage after Catherine. .
“Well, Johnny, after Catherine died and Scott was
taken, I spent a lot of time in the great room, and the only friend I had was
that clock. It’s ticking sound
relaxed me and gave me hope that I’d get Scott back soon.
Anyway, when I brought your mother to Lancer, she liked the clock too.
And you were absolutely fascinated by it, although we couldn’t figure
out why. You would sit on the floor
and laugh at it, babble and point at it, and as adults, your mother and I
couldn’t figure out what intrigued you so about it.
But I guess you could see, as a child, what an adult couldn’t. . .your
imagination was working, even then. Anyway,
the clock stopped working one day, and I put it in storage.”
Murdoch again left out the
part about banishing the clock to the storage room; he felt no need for either
of his sons to know that detail.
“There’s something else I remember, too,” Johnny
said, concentration showing on his handsome face.
“Murdoch, did we, you, Mama and me, ever go anywhere on a train?”
Murdoch took a deep breath.
“Yes son, the three of us took a little trip to Sacramento, shortly
after you turned two. Do you
remember that, Johnny?”
“Well, not exactly.
I mean, I remember being on a train, looking out the window and
everything going by very fast. And
I remember being held by somebody really big, with large arms. . . .and blue
eyes.” And softly he added,
“The giant man. You.”
Murdoch nodded affectionately.
Johnny continued. “But
whenever I asked her about it, she said I’d never been on a train, that I must
have been thinking of a stagecoach. And
when I was older, I got kinda mad at her and told her I knew the difference
between a stagecoach and a train.” Johnny
chuckled at that memory. “But
it’s all really jumbled. Do you
know what I’m talking about Murdoch?”
Murdoch could see the look on Johnny’s face and in his
eyes; the look of wanting an answer to his jumbled childhood memories.
And while Murdoch had been hoping his youngest son would reveal some sort
of memory, the Sacramento trip was certainly not the one he would of hoped for.
So, Murdoch told Johnny about the trip they had made to
Sacramento. It was a
business/pleasure trip, and was supposed to be just Murdoch and Maria. But neither parent could bear the thought of
being away from their blue-eyed whirlwind, so Johnny was taken along, with the
Senoria Cipriano as his babysitter. The
business part of the trip was completed, and the rest of the trip Murdoch
devoted to his wife and son. He
told Johnny about the circus that was in town, and how much mother and son loved
“But Murdoch, did you two have any time alone?”
Johnny asked, one eyebrow raised and a devilish grin on his face. “I mean, I wasn’t along the whole time, was I?”
Murdoch, amused at his son’s question, simply replied,
“No son. You stayed in the room
with the Senoria, and your mother and I had
our time after you were safely tucked in for the night.”
Johnny sighed a relived sigh.
“That’s good. I didn’t want to think I intruded on your, well, you
know. . . “ Johnny blushed.
An uncomfortable silence came upon Murdoch, and Johnny
felt that something happened on that trip that was unpleasant for Murdoch.
He pondered whether to go on further with the conversation if it would
make Murdoch uncomfortable. After
all, many times a conversation between father and youngest son had undoubtedly
led to something in Johnny’s past, and the former gunfighter would clam up.
And Johnny always silently thanked his father for not pushing the issue.
But Murdoch saw the look in Johnny’s face, and decided
that he, as Johnny’s father, had the responsibility of allowing his son some
knowledge as to the relationship between his parents.
After all, even though both men were adults, Murdoch was the father and
Johnny still the child, and Murdoch realized he had to be man enough to confide
in his son. And he hoped that
someday, with trust and maturity, Johnny would be able to return the confidence
about his past to his father.
Murdoch took a deep sigh and relayed to Johnny what had
happened in Sacramento.
“On the last day of our trip, I ran into some
acquaintances who wanted me to join them for a beer.
Your mother wanted to do some shopping, so she told me to go ahead.
You were napping and the Senoria stayed with you for the afternoon.
We were all going to meet for an early dinner before preparing to leave
the next morning.
Apparently, while your mother was walking down the
street, she was threatened by some local riff-raff.
She was a young, pretty Mexican girl walking alone in Sacramento, and
they cornered her in an alley. From
what I understand, her temper was able to keep them at bay for awhile, but when
two more ganged up on her, she knew she was in trouble.
From what I was told, a lot of people, a lot of the local men folk, just
stood and watched. No one would
help her.” Murdoch clenched his fists, and Johnny felt scared. . . .and angry.
He didn’t like to think of his mama in this situation.
“No one would help her except. . . . .him.”
Murdoch’s pronunciation of the word “him” caught Johnny by
“The gambler,” Murdoch replied, glumly.
“No one would help your mother except for him.
He saved your mother’s honor that day and became her hero.
While I. . . .I sat in the saloon with a bunch of men I would never see
again and drank beer.”
“But, she was OK?
They didn’t. . . .” Johnny didn’t finish his question.
“She was fine, Johnny.
Scared and shook up, but no, no one touched her.”
“It wasn’t your fault.
You didn’t know that would happen.
If you would’a been there, you would’a taken care of them too,”
Johnny said, defending his father.
Murdoch continued his story.
“When I found out what he had done, I invited him to dinner with us.
He was so charming, and handsome. I
knew he was a gambler, but I didn’t care.
He had been there for Maria when I wasn’t.
He had a way about him, he even held you on his lap.
To your credit though, you started to fuss when he held you.”
Johnny smirked at that comment.
“About a month later, I noticed him in town.
Said he was just passin’ through.
I bought him a drink to be friendly.
The thought crossed my mind that it was odd he would show up in a small
town like Morro Coyo, but. . . . .I put any thoughts out of my mind.”
Murdoch became very quiet and still, and Johnny realized
he had never seen his father like this. This
must be so hard for him. . . maybe I should tell him to stop.
But, I want to know. . . . .Johnny said to himself.
God help me, but I want to know.
“I had no way of knowing they had been in contact with
each other during that month. He
had finally left town, or so I thought. It
wasn’t until two months later I caught the two of them, together. . . . . .”
Murdoch just shook his head.
“They were. . . . .” Johnny stopped in mid-sentence.
“Yes,” came a quiet, remorseful reply from the Giant
God, he caught them together.
My father found my mother, his wife, making love to another man.
How awful it must have been for you, Papa, Johnny thought sadly to himself.
“Where, and how?”
Johnny wanted to know.
Murdoch couldn’t go on.
“That’s another story, for another time. I can’t go there now,” Murdoch simply told his son.
Johnny nodded that he understood.
A long silence overtook the kitchen, where they had been
talking for hours. Suddenly, a
small smile came over Johnny’s face. “But
the rest of the trip. . . . . .we did have fun, didn’t we, Murdoch?”
Murdoch gently smiled.
“Yes, son. It had been a
great trip, up to that time. I
remember the night before. It was
the last time your mother and I. . . . . . ., well, it was a wonderful night.
One that I’ve always treasured, and always will.”
Thank you, Murdoch, for sharing that with me.
It helps me to understand things, about her, you, and me.
Maybe someday, I can begin to tell you some of my secrets.
Someday, I hope. . . . .Johnny
sighed to himself.
The moment was broken
by the chiming of Catherine’s
Clock, which brought both father
and son back to the present. The
present—where they were together, a family, with Scott and Teresa. And wasn’t that all that mattered, really.
“Well, look at the time.
Scott and Teresa will be home soon, and we haven’t even cleaned up from
lunch yet,” Murdoch said, trying to lighten the mood. He looked lovingly at his youngest son. “Are you all right son?
I know that probably wasn’t easy for you to hear.”
Johnny responded slowly.
“Yeah, I’m OK. I know
that wasn’t easy for you to talk about, either.”
“No, it wasn’t.
But it’s about time I did. It’s
about time I talked about a lot of things.
With you. And Scott,”
Murdoch said, a decisive tone to his voice.
“Now, let’s get something together for dinner.
Let’s surprise Teresa and prepare dinner for her for a change.”
“Sounds good to me,” Johnny said, trying to sound
enthused, but Murdoch knew his son was upset at what he had been told.
Still, they managed to surprise Teresa and Scott with a delicious dinner.
Johnny crept down the steps into the great room and looked around.
No one was there. He wanted
to be alone with his thoughts, and didn’t want to take a chance of intruding
on Murdoch, like he had done that night months ago.
This was the time Johnny would often reflect on the
events of his life, especially the last few,
beginning with his rescue from the firing squad, to the battle with
Pardee, to the realization that he had. . . .a family.
These middle of the night reflections used to be frequent after his
arrival at Lancer, but as the months went by, they became less and less.
Except on a night like tonight, when so much was going through his mind
he couldn’t sleep. He used to
enjoy the absolute quietness, the stillness of night.
But now, as he reflected on things, the silence was broken by
Catherine’s Clock, ticking her encouragement through the night, and he
realized what his father had learned many years before—just how comforting the
ticking of the clock, or was it Catherine’s gentle spirit, really was.
He thought about his father like he never had before.
About how, as a young man, he had a dream, left his family and home and
crossed the dangerous Atlantic to pursue that dream.
And how he and Catherine found each other; and how Catherine
had loved the tall Scotsman and left the comfort of her home, and
probably alienated her father, by following her man on his dream.
And how their love had created Scott.
And how her untimely death had left the door open for Murdoch to fall in
love again. With Maria.
And how their love had created him.
Johnny was sure now; his father had loved
his mother. And Johnny couldn’t begin to imagine how it must feel for a
person to lose two wives, and two sons. To
seem to not be able to hold onto anything. But Murdoch Lancer had held onto something.
Lancer. It was his. And
when all was said and done, the Old
Man was willing to share it with the two most important people in the world to
him—his sons. Johnny realized
this now. His Old Man might be
gruff, and bullheaded, and tough on everybody, especially Johnny, but when it
came right down to it, Johnny knew his father would put his life on the line for
his sons. Just as Johnny would put
his life on the line for his family. All
And that, Johnny
Madrid Lancer realized, was what
family, and love, was about.
PART TWELVE—THE GIFT
Scott and Teresa waited anxiously for Johnny’s return
from town. The youngest Lancer son
had been sent, on purpose, to town to pick up unneeded supplies so he would be
gone for the day. A delivery was
expected at Lancer, and his brother and sister didn’t want the gunfighter
turned rancher around, since it was kind of a surprise for him.
“Do you think he’ll
like it?” Teresa asked, anxiously.
“He might be a little overwhelmed,” Scott replied.
“He made that comment to me month’s ago, and it might have been off
the cuff, but yeah, I think he’ll like it.
We needed one anyway. I like
“And so do I,” Teresa commented.
Jelly bounded into the house.
“He’s coming! He’s jist come through the gate!”
“OK, Teresa, we’ve got a plan.
Go get Johnny when he comes through the door,” Scott said.
Johnny bounded off of Barranca, and was puzzled when one
of the hands insisted he enter the house immediately.
Johnny became concerned; he thought someone might be sick or injured.
He entered the house quickly and deliberately, concern etched on his
handsome face. Teresa ran up to him
and placed her arms around his neck, and gave him a sisterly kiss.
“What’s goin’ on?”
Johnny asked, curiously.
“Hi, Johnny. How
was your day?” Teresa queried.
Then, “I have something to show you.
Close your eyes and follow me.”
“Teresa, what are you doing?
I feel stupid,” Johnny whined. And
it was a comical, albeit, cute sight; Teresa leading Johnny by the arms, his
eyes closed, arms out in front as to not run into anything.
It brought back a forgotten memory to Murdoch; a time
when as a toddler, Johnny would, for whatever reason, find joy in walking around
the great room with his eyes closed. And
what was more amazing, the Old Man remembered, the child would never run into
anything. He must have had a
sixth sense even then, Murdoch thought, affectionately. Laughter from his family brought him back to the present.
“OK, sit down,” Teresa ordered.
Johnny was pushed into the dining room chair, where he sat, eyes closed,
puzzled, and a bit embarrassed.
“This isn’t funny, Miss Teresa,” Johnny said, a bit
“OK, open your eyes,” Teresa commanded.
Johnny opened his sapphire eyes and saw Murdoch, Scott,
Teresa, and Jelly smiling at him. They
look like the cat who swallowed the canary, Johnny thought, a bit annoyed.
“What are you people up to?” Johnny
questioned, exasperation in his voice.
“Look down at the table,” Scott said.
Johnny looked down and saw a new, shiny, mahogany dining
room table. “It’s. . .a new
dining room table,” Johnny observed. “Its’
quite nice. New chairs, too, huh?
I thought it felt different when I sat down.”
He was very puzzled. “So.
. .what’s going on?”
Scott explained. “Well,
Johnny-Boy, I knew you weren’t exactly fond of the other table, after your
little episode when Murdoch removed
Pardee’s slug from you, so we thought you might appreciate a new table.
Besides, the old one had had its use long ago.”
Johnny was taken aback.
“Boston, I wasn’t serious when I think I mentioned that to you, a
long time ago. . .about, you know. . . .” then he whispered, “being
embarrassed about. . . “
“Well, son, Scott’s right. It
was time for a new table, and I have to admit that it did remind me of when I
removed Pardee’s bullet from you. . . and .I’d rather not be reminded of
that awful day any more than I have to.”
The Old Man sounded regretful over the whole incident.
“I really don’t remember much of what happened after
I got shot, but what I do remember
isn’t pleasant,” Johnny advised.
“Johnny, I have something else for you, too,” Murdoch
said to his son, as he presented him with a gift-wrapped box.
Now Johnny was more confused then ever. “It’s not my birthday or anything. . . . ., God, do
y’all know something I don’t? Am
I in trouble? Did I do
something?” Johnny questioned,
Everyone laughed. “Jist
open the box, young’n,” Jelly ordered.
Johnny carefully opened the box and inside was a
beautiful crystal horse, similar to Barranca.
The crystal horse was in a full gallop, and looked free-spirited, much
like Johnny himself.
“It’s. . . .beautiful,” Johnny was able to say.
He was totally surprised. And
humbled. And like his mother years before, he examined it, very
carefully, and almost seemed to fondle it in his mind.
Then he put it down. “Delicate
things like this scare me. . .
.I’m afraid I’ll break it,” he
said. Just like his mother.
“But what’s the occasion?”
Murdoch explained. “Well,
son, I got to thinking about the clock that belonged to Scott’s mother and the
story behind it. And I thought that
you should have something of your mothers for you to keep, or hand down to your
family someday. After our talk the
other day, I remembered about the crystal horse. I had bought it for her when we were in Sacramento.
I thought it was so like her—free-spirited.
I gave it to her when we got back home and she really liked it.
She placed it on the mantle, right next to the clock.”
Then, to himself, Murdoch said softly, “I don’t know why she didn’t
take it with her, when she left. . . . . .”
After a silence, Johnny spoke quietly to his father.
“She was afraid she’d break it, I would think.
She was kind of clumsy sometimes, you know.”
Murdoch chuckled. “Yeah,
Johnny continued. “She
never forgot it though. I remember,
she used to look at pretty things through store windows, and one time she saw a
horse similar to that, made from crystal, and she told me she used to have one
like it. When I asked her where it
was, she got kind of sad, and never answered me.”
Jelly broke the silence that overtook the room.
“Well, young’in, where do ya plan on puttin’ your purdy horse
Johnny looked up, a puzzled look on his face as he was
deep in thought and didn’t quite catch Jelly’s question. “Oh, the horse. I
don’t know, if it was on the mantle once before, maybe it would like nice
there again. This horse is too
proud to be stored away in a box. Scott,
if you wouldn’t mind. . . .maybe I could put it next to the clock?”
Johnny asked, almost child-like.
“Little Brother, I would be honored to have that
beautiful crystal horse next to the clock.
Sort of brings our mothers together, don’t you think?”
Scott had a slight tear in his eyes, but Johnny’s sapphire eyes, by
this time, were very teary, and he struggled to keep his emotions in tow.
“I tell you what,” Johnny stated.
“You people are gonna make me an old softie. If someone would’ve told me a year ago I’d be sitting in
front of my family getting weepy over a crystal horse and a clock, I would’ve
told them they were crazy. But I do
want y’all to know that y’all are very special to me.
All my life, all I ever wanted was to be normal, to have a family like
everyone else. Someone I could care
for, and would care for me. I had
my mother, but she’s been gone. . . . .a long time. And I know sometimes I can be pain in the butt, but I’m
still learning about this family thing, ya know?”
By now there wasn’t a dry eye in the house, but the
biggest sob came from Jelly, the “adopted” family member.
“Johnny, I know hows ya feel, son . . .y’all are special to me too. .
Johnny asked Teresa if she would please put the crystal
horse on the mantle. Her tiny,
delicate hands gently lifted it as she walked over to the mantle. “I think it would look nice if I put the picture of
you and Scott in between the clock
and the horse, what do you think?” she inquired.
“I think that’s a fine idea, Teresa,” Murdoch
replied. Scott and Johnny nodded
This story is dedicated to the wonderful actors who
brought the Lancer characters to life. But
particularly, to James Stacy, whose brilliant portrayal of the tough, kind, and
vulnerable Johnny Madrid Lancer brought a young teen-age girl a lot of joy some
30 years ago. And that joy
continues through my stories. . . . . . . . .Thanks Jim!