Summary: A “Peril of Johnny” Story
Usual Disclaimers Apply
~ JML ~ JML ~ JML ~ JML ~ JML ~
Johnny made full use of the exterior frame of Ira Trask’s barbershop, obscured from the foot traffic on Spanish Wells’ main thoroughfare. He had nearly darted from Ira’s to cross the road to the mercantile when he spied a sight that made him stop his forward momentum. He gulped with trepidation at the vision yonder at the end of the street in front of Lucy Miller’s dress shop. Employing the agility of an alley cat he edged cautiously to his position of comparative sanctuary. His heart raced realizing that he was festooned in his brightest red shirt and soft leather calzoneras that were adorned with silver conchos down both legs. The only problem was that the conchos flashed from the bright sunlight when he moved. An attention getter without doubt, according to others, only at the present instant these were a liability more than anything else.
“I’m a goner for sure if they see me,” he worried. Maintaining his vigilance over the hustle and bustle of commotion down the street he pondered for how long he would be stuck sequestered behind the building. He much rather would go about his business, which was in actuality his father’s business he was tending to and then get the hell out of town...with his hide intact...if possible.
“Mierda, mierda, mierda,” he groused low. Pushing his Stetson off his head, he let the stampede strings hold the hat in position down his back. He didn’t need the curled brim of his hat giving away his location while he concentrated on inventing a plan. His thoughts jumbled while he eyeballed the congregation noting with mounting anxiety the size of the noisy rabble at the far end of the street has amplified.
“Dios!” Nothing feasible rushed to his brain. Murdoch was expecting him to return with the supplies, not empty-handed with any lame excuses as to why he didn’t follow the tune-caller’s orders to the letter. With his backside to the alley, Johnny felt an unexpected tap to his left shoulder, which made him leap with instantaneous reflexes, cussing even more.
“Dammit all ta hell!” Johnny cursed as he whirled around to face the person who had silently snuck up on him. With lightning fast fluid action his hand reached for his six-shooter. Only instead of his six-shooter he came up with a handful of air. Glancing down at his leg he ascertained that this pistol had been yanked from its hostler by the person who had startled the living crap out of him.
“This ain’t any good, my reflexes suck, never heard that sneaky bastard. I’m losin’ my edge.”
“Whoa! Take it easy, Johnny! What’s going on? Why are you hanging around here? Don’t you have errands to run for Murdoch?” queried a soft voice tinged with an accent that was still foreign sounding to Johnny’s ears. The speaker habitually dropped his r’s and dragged vowels out with a distinct pattern to his speech that was not common to the folks around these parts of California.
Johnny had lived most of his young life in Mexico, in and out of border towns, was use to rolling r’s and the people south of the border speaking with almost a musical quality while the gringos from Texas had soft lazy drawls. However Johnny did not use either of these patterns when he realized who had snuck up on him.
“Fuck it Scott! What the hell are ya tryin’ ta do? Get ya ass shot?” he whispered furiously at the lanky blond, who deftly twirled Johnny’s gun while grinning merrily at his success at out maneuvering the legendary gunslinger that to him was his brother.
“Highly impossible as well as improbable, little brother seeing how I’ve your gun. I’ve learned my lesson not to sneak up on you without disarming you first. What’s so interesting that you didn’t even hear me?” Scott held onto Johnny’s gun, beamed as he tapped the butt of Johnny’s Colt with his left hand.
“Goddamn it, Boston, give me back my gun,” he demanded, hand stretched out. His face flushed with annoyance.
“Tut, tut, tut, not until you tell your big brother what’s got you in a pucker.”
Johnny pondered over this situation. On one hand he didn’t dare draw attention to his secure section of real estate. But on the other hand, Scott was standing there grinning like he plumb lost what good senses he had been borne with, taunting him with his own pistol that he managed to keep out of Johnny’s reach. His options were stuck somewhere between a rock and a hard place, odds that Johnny didn’t care for in the least. Johnny determined to even the playing field.
He shrugged his shoulders at Scott before sighing large, turned, cocked his head to peek down the street. Much to his dismay the crowd had doubled, obviously drawn to frenzied conversation and agitated participants. Johnny knew that they were talking about him; he had heard his name several times, obviously not a good sign. Onlookers had stopped, their own business forgotten, sticking their noses in where they did not belong, listening in on what was taking place between three emotional voices, that were being encouraged from the crowd. A few others or maybe they were members of the mob were consoling the three in the middle, offering moral support while stridently voicing their two cents about Johnny Lancer.
Scott’s warm breath tickled the back of Johnny’s neck signaled the youth to made his move. Catching his brother off guard in a flowing action the younger brother pressed his right shoulder into Scott’s chest, spun around snaring Scott’s pistol from his hostler with his left hand. Scott had misgauged his brother’s intentions, reached down belatedly discovered his hostler vacant of his hardware. Johnny smirked as he rotated Scott’s gun, testing its weight, leverage and sight.
“Turnabout’s fair play, trade ya, Boston, yours for mine. Gimme.”
Scott ignored his brother’s request as he attempted to look around the corner of the weather-beaten building façade to see what had troubled his normally calm, cool and collected brother. Johnny side-stepped him, blocked Scott’s vision, but there wasn’t a thing he could do to prevent the commotion from being overheard.
“Scott, my gun. I’ll be needin’ it sooner rather than later.”
“Okay, brother. You do know that I wasn’t planning on keeping your gun?”
“Yeah. By the way, Scott, the sight on your pistol is off, which is another reason why I want my own shooter back. A man needs ta take care of his hardware. Ya never know when ya need ta pull it out.”
Scott stared at Johnny conjecturing if the youth had meant any double suggestion behind his words, but determined that Johnny was all business over the gun and the hubbub on the street. “Thanks, brother. I’ll stop over at the gunsmith’s and have Ed look at it. But here you go again, changing the subject. What’s got you worried?”
“Nothin’,” he stalled.
“Is that so? Then how come you’re hiding behind Ira’s and not tending to Murdoch’s business? Is there something going on that I should know about?”
“Boston, I’ll go when I’m damn good and ready.”
“When will that be? You know as well as I do that Murdoch expects us back in time for dinner. No delays, no ifs, no ands or any buts about it. “One cold beer after errands then back home,” was Murdoch’s specific orders. “I’ll bet a week’s wages that something’s afoot and you don’t want me to know about it.”
“I’ll go just as soon as that crowd breaks up, Scott. Never did care ta deal with a horde of people, makes me wary, that’s all. Don’t ya fret any; I’m more than ready ta take off.”
Scott grinned, “Oh I highly doubt most of that crap you’re tossing at me, little brother. From the looks and sounds of things, the jig maybe up on all your nefarious activities with the fairer sex.”
Johnny stared at him, “My what?”
“Nefarious, meaning in this situation, reprehensible, culpable, guilty, in the wrong, to blame, responsible.”
“Thanks, Boston for clearin’ that up for me.”
“You’re welcomed, Johnny,” said Scott who stretched his head around Johnny for a look at the throng.
“Looks to me that all your girlfriends are in the middle of that crowd from what I can see. There’s Lucy... and Cassie...and yup Melissa’s there too, all present and counted. You don’t suppose they finally figured out that they aren’t the one and only special gal in your life, do you? Looks like your social life is about to come to a grinding halt, brother, in three towns simultaneously, that’s impressive...quite a feat...very impressive.”
Johnny kicked a rock at his feet; it flew down the alley and bounced against the back of the barber shop. “Shit Scott, this is Val’s doin’.”
“Why in the hell is this Val’s fault, Johnny?”
“He’s the one that said Spanish Wells and Morro Coyo needed their own women’s social societies after Criswell formed the one in Green River. He said that the ladies from Green River might help the ladies from Spanish Wells and Morro Coyo with theirs. Hell I thought he was kiddin’.”
“Johnny, didn’t Val advise you that it wasn’t a good idea to juggle a girlfriend from each town a few months ago? I know I warned you. Just because they live in different towns, doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t ever get together sometime. You should have listened to your older, wiser brother and your amigo. We knew this would blow-up in your face at some point. Women can’t keep quiet when they get together. They like to hear the latest gossip and share their little secrets, makes them feel special having information no one else knows until they let the cat out of the bag.”
“Mierda Scott. Val shoulda kept his big yap shut. But no, Val got ta thinkin’ that he would be the benefactor of more pies, clobbers, cookies and cakes if the women got together from all three towns to arrange socials for all the towns. This is why I don’t like my fun organized...only leads ta trouble. This is all Val’s fault, him and his damn stomach.”
“Oh no brother, this is unadulterated Johnny’s fault. The way Val and me figured sooner or later the truth would be exposed. This situation reminds me of the expression, “Oh the tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive. Fits perfectly.”
“It was still Val’s dazzlin’ idea that brought ‘em together. I wasn’t deceivin’ ‘em...just seein’ a gal in each town. Ya can’t tell me that there’s a thing in any friggin’ rule or law book that says I can’t do that, is there?”
“No, little brother, nothing legally binding that I’m aware of. However, you simply cannot discount the unwritten code book that each female carries near and dear to her own selfish, conniving, mercenary heart, especially concerning any unmarried, eligible bachelors within a hundred mile radius. Like you said turnabout is fair play and you wouldn’t want any of your girlfriends to be courted by another other man would you?”
“Well, no, I guess not. But how in the hell was I suppose ta know they’d get together and figure out anything?” grumbled Johnny, looking downward. He spied another rock and feeling the need to expel his frustrations out on something swung his leg, fiercely kicking the rock, sending it flying down the alley.
This rock carried some weight and the solid impact with Johnny’s booted toe caused the lad to jump up and down on one leg as he grabbed his foot, from the sudden sharp pain to his toe from striking the rock. Bad as that was the rock was not finished extracting its toll on objects in the alley. It rocketed from Johnny’s toe sharply flying off the wall it struck but instead of gravity pulling it back down to the ground the rock ricocheted off that wall, flew up and over towards Ira’s. The rock’s path ended with the unmistakable sound of shattering glass as it flew through the barbershop’s backdoor window pane.
“OH SHIT!” both brothers exclaimed, Johnny from his sore toe, Scott from the sound of glass breaking.
Scott grabbed Johnny’s shoulders, “If you stick around here long enough Johnny I think you’ll get educated in more of the ways and whims of the fairer sex. And get an earful from Ira over that broken window. Better move brother, those women must have heard that. They’re looking this way. I’ll hold them off as best as I can and square things with Ira.”
“Thanks, Boston. I’ll owe ya one. Just don’t stick around too long. They’ll liable ta chew ya up and spit ya out, seein’ as how you’re my brother, brother.”
“I’ll bear that in mind. Too bad Barranca tossed a shoe on the ride in. Meet me at the livery and we’ll see if we can’t get out of here in one piece. Check with Morissy, see if there’s a horse you can borrow until Barranca’s bruised hoof heals. Best we get your butt out of town while the going is good.”
“’kay,” nodded Johnny.
Johnny moved as quickly as his sore foot would allow him, down the alley and along the back of the Gunsmith’s shop, the bank, the Last Chance saloon and the town jail that old Charlie Wingate had built under the watchful eyes of Johnny and Scott a few months back. Johnny loped to reach the rear of the jail. Pausing to check the path he peered around the corner of the jail before heading to the livery. He planned on circling around to the rear of the livery stable instead of heading straight for the double-wide doors. The coast was clear.
~ JML ~ JML ~ JML ~ JML ~ JML ~
Looking up from his desk, Sheriff Gabe got up to check what had made the loud breaking noise he had heard. He made the decision to take the back way, hoping to catch red-handed whoever had created the commotion in his town. Gabe was very familiar with the McPherson brothers’ favorite pastime of wrecking havoc in his town and then sneaking around the back of the buildings to getaway undetected. Believing this was one or both of those boys behind the current situation, Gabe hurried to investigate.
The McPherson brothers were unruly, wild, and hard-headed and both strongly in need of a father’s hand. Fifteen year-old Cal was always the instigator who stirred trouble to a boiling point and only to eager to corrupt thirteen year-old Willie as he pulled him down the well-honed trodden path to hell. Widow Mae McPherson struggled to keep her family together which included seven year-old Rosie and five year-old Damien. Regrettably, Mae McPherson had zero control over her older sons, who knew it and took advantage of her and the town at every opportunity.
If Gabe established whatever was going down was from the hands of those boys, whoa be it to them. He told them just last week to keep their noses out of trouble or he’d be giving them some western styled justice that they would not like, he guaranteed them. To drive home his point he pulled from this desk drawer an old razor strop from Ira Trask’s barber shop. While it was no longer serviceable to sharpen straight-edged razors it was perfect for strapping boys needing to learn how to mind their manners.
With a resounding thud he had slapped the leather to the desktop, not taking his eyes off the McPherson brothers standing in a slough fashion with crossed arms. However, he noted with satisfaction both had appreciatively swallowed the lumps in their throats at the sight of that strop, then they blinked and jumped back a foot or two, bumping into their mother who held tightly to Rosie and Damien when the strop whistled through the air, striking the wood with a whack.
“Yes, sir,” they both answered much to the shock of both Gabe and their mother.
“Sheriff Gabe, I promise you that my boys will not give you or this town any further grief. But if they do you have my blessing to take whatever measures you determine are necessary.”
“I plan to Mrs. McPherson, just making sure everyone in this room understand the next step, if there’s any more trouble in my town. I believe Cal and Willie are smart lads. I don’t believe they will stir-up any further troubles in Spanish Wells. Will you boys?”
“No, sir,” said Cal biting his lower lip.
“Not from me, Sherriff,” Willie said as his eyes followed the motion of that strop as Gabe flicked it a second time.
“Hope not,” Gabe said giving them both an extra long stare before releasing them to their mother’s care. “Just remember this will be the next step.”
~ JML ~ JML ~ JML ~ JML ~ JML ~
“Dammit, now what?” Sheriff Gabe yelled as he ran smack dab into...not a McPherson brother but a Lancer brother. From the impact of their collision both men ended on their backsides in the dirt.
“Oh hey, Gabe,” said Johnny as he stood up, spitting out some dirt that drifted inside his mouth. He reached down, offered Gabe his hand who shook it off.
“Johnny, you didn’t happen to see anything going on back there did you? Or anyone, like a McPherson boy running away from that crashing sound?”
Johnny brushed the dust off the seat of his calzoneras, continued spitting out dust, “McPhersons? Nah, Gabe haven’t seen ‘em. What have they done now?”
“Don’t know yet. To what do I owe the pleasure of running into you?”
“Scott and me are in town pickin’ up supplies, gettin’ a few other things done. See I got a haircut.” He lifted his hat. “Every since Zeke raised his prices in Green River been letting old Ira do the honors. He doesn’t do a half bad job.”
“Thanks for the update...but do you have any idea of what happened down the alley?”
Johnny toed the dirt, eyes downcast, “Uhh, yeah. That was me. I kicked a rock and it broke Ira’s back window.”
“And you’re running away from Ira?”
“What? Oh yeah, guess it kinda looks like that...but not from breakin’ the window. I’ll pay for that, honest Gabe. I took off ‘cos...”
“THERE HE IS GIRLS! GET HIM!” Melissa hollered. She lifted her long pleated skirt and petticoats to run towards Johnny.
“Later, Gabe. Gotta go!”
“JOHNNY, WHAT IN THE HELL IS GOING ON?” he yelled after the disappearing boot heels of the youth.
Gabe spun around in time to witness a herd of women rush at him, shrieking like banshees, the legendary spirits seen as omens of death, were in hot pursuit of Johnny. “OH SHIT! This can’t be good,” Gabe thought.
In a swirling wild frenzy of long skirts and petticoats swishing past, around and over him, Gabe received an excellent education in what it must feel like to be caught on foot in a cattle stampede. He felt as if the entire female population of Spanish Wells, Morro Coyo and Green River collectively had tossed, trampled, pushed, prodded and knocked him flat to the ground like a child’s discarded rag doll with its limbs ripped off.
Gabe landed this time face first into the dirt, as he was stomped on by more than one pair of delicate slippers as the women continued in waves to rush over him. The volume of their shrieks and yelps grew. He somehow had the preservation to protect his head with his arms as he sprawled in the dirt until the women and the noise departed.
“I am going to kill him! If it’s the last thing I do!” Gabe moaned, holding his side.
~ JML ~ JML ~ JML ~ JML ~ JML ~
Scott knelt next to Gabe, turned him over and sat him upright, “Gabe, let me guess, Johnny came this way? Followed by a group of livid women?”
“Your brother’s ass is mine, Scott,” croaked Gabe as held his side. “What the hell did he do to make those blasted females pissed off at him?”
Scott shrugged his shoulders, tried brushing some of the dirt away from the Sheriff’s clothing. Gabe pushed his hands away, he ached all over and the very last thing he needed was anyone slapping at dirt on his clothes.
“Gabe, seems they discovered that he’s been seeing more than one of them...at the same time.”
“At the same time? Has he lost his frigging mind?”
“Apparently. Either that or just not well educated in what pisses off women.”
“Well, I’ll educate him if those jezebels, she-devils raging hussies don’t get to him first. Where did he high-tail it too?”
“The livery, we’re going to try and make a fast break out of town if possible. Barranca’s got a bruised hoof, lost a shoe on the way in. We’re not sure if he’s good to go or if Morissy’s has another mount.”
Gabe slowly stood up, brushing at the grime that covered him from head to toe. Dirt covered his hair, his face, his clothes, only his flashing eyeballs stood out from the dust. Scott noticed that there were several footprints on the back of Gabe’s dark vest and the seat of his britches. He winched wondering how many of those dainty little feet had stepped on top of the man.
“You go get that brother of yours and bring him over to the jail. I’ll somehow distract those females away from the livery stable. However, if my mood doesn’t improve when I’m finished with him then they can have what’s left of his mangy hide.”
Scott laughed, “Gabe, somehow, I don’t think Johnny has that in mind.” He dug into his pants pocket, pulled out several bills. “I’m sure Johnny didn’t take care of this so give this to Ira...for the window. I’ll collect from Johnny later. I’ll find him and get him out of here.”
“You do that. Scott, be sure to tell Johnny I better not lay eyes on his ass the rest of today. If I do he’ll be the first to test out my razor strop. Been waiting to see how well it works, his ass is as good as a McPherson brother’s ass,” grimaced Gabe as he rubbed his side, he lifted his shirt and noticed a bruise was forming.
“Better take care of that, Gabe,” Scott pointed at the bruise, “I’ll be sure to tell Johnny what waits him. I’m quite certain he’ll be even more enticed to leave town.”
~ JML ~ JML ~ JML ~ JML ~ JML ~
Johnny outran the brood of woman to the livery stable, slammed the double-wide doors shut and barred them with the wooden brace. He sank to the earth, inhaling the musky smells of the livery, breathing heavily as he caught his wind. His sides ached from running. His toe throbbed from the rock he had launched.
“Johnny?” asked Morissy, holding a red-hot iron in his hand. He had come in the side door that was still hanging open. “Barranca isn’t ready yet...he needs to rest that hoof, the bruise is deeper than you thought.”
“DAMMIT! Morissy if you value your life, close and bar that door, NOW!”
Johnny jumped to his feet, “Never mind, I’ll do it.” He rushed over to the door, slammed and bolted it tight. Perfect timing as Lucy and Melissa had just reached the side door, began banging on it, shrills and screams rang out in the air.
Johnny was sure he heard more than a few cuss words coming from their not so lady-like mouths. He pressed his forehead against the wood of the secured door. He was sure one of them called him a bastard...which was not true. Another one called him a pissant. He’d been called that before, by Val, so no worries there. “Sticks and stones, break bones, words will never hurt me,” he thought.
Their pounding on the door continued.
“Johnny, what in the hell is going on out there?” asked the astonished man.
“Women!” he explained in the simplest terms he knew, cocking his head to one side he pressed an ear to listen to what else they were tossing out about him and at him.
His attention solely upon the shrieking women, Johnny decided to relax and wait them out. He back pedaled away from the door and directly into the red-hot iron still in Morissy’s hand. The poker seared his leather calzoneras, which thankful offered him some protection, but after all red-hot even momentarily making contact is going to sizzle against tender skin.
“YOWL!” cried Johnny as he reached down to the source, fanning at the seat of his britches.
He jumped up and down, bruised toe and all. He unfastened his britches to ease them away from the burn. His fingers gingerly sought the burnt skin that was hot to his fingertips. He continued fanning at the spot. A hole in the leather pants had been burned through by the poker but that was secondary to Johnny’s burned bum.
“WATER! WATER! WHERE THE HELL IS IT??”
Morissy stared at Johnny, felt really sorry for the lad but not knowing what else he could do, he pointed to the barred door, “Out front in the trough.”
“Any inside here?” he gasped, fanning the burn, trying to see how bad the mark was by looking over his shoulder.
“Sorry Johnny, I came in here when I heard you slamming shut the doors; don’t normally have an iron in my hand inside the barn. Fire hazard, you know,” he couldn’t help it as he snickered this last part. His sympathy already ebbed for the sight of Johnny Lancer hopping up and down with his drawers heading south was a sight to behold. Not something one sees every day and he was howling to beat the band, accompanied by a group of pissed-off women banging on the door.
Johnny yanked his britches back up over his burned nether region, fastened them then unbarred the wide double doors, slipped outside and ran. He continued running until he reached the next nearest watering trough, which was between the jail and the Last Chance saloon. Looking over his shoulder, he saw that he had about 30 seconds to dunk his ass and take off before the chasing women reached him.
He dipped his hot bum into the water, feeling instant relief. Ahhing in appreciation at the coolness of the water, he saw that the women were getting closer.
“JOHNNY LANCER, YOU STAY RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE!” yelled Lucy.
Melissa screamed, “WE WANT TO HAVE A WORD WITH YOU, JOHNNY LANCER!”
“JOHNNY LANCER, YOU HAVE SOME EXPLAINING TO DO!” hollered Cassie.
Jumping back to his feet Johnny took off, now down the back alley running as quickly as his legs, sore toe, dripping butt with a noticeable rip in the seat, hat flapping from side to side against his back could carry him. Darting out to the main street, this time at the opposite end of the town, Johnny spied another trough. He repeated his motions and dipped his bum into the water, keeping his eyes scanning the horizon for the crazed women.
For the moment it looked like he had lost the angry horde of women or they were waiting to bushwhack him elsewhere. Johnny gritted his teeth at his discomfort, soaked his hind end for as long as he dared. He hung on to the sides of the watering trough, ignoring the looks and laughter from some of the other townspeople. Suddenly a rope lassoed him, a circle of imprisonment tighten around his body, followed by a quick yank that pulled the surprised youth ass-backwards into the watering trough.
Sputtering he came to the surface wiping away the water from his face. He struggled to free himself as he stood up.
“Got you now, Johnny!” said a miffed Sheriff Gabe. “My office, march.” He carried a double-barreled shotgun, nestled in the crook of his right arm, booking no resistance from Johnny or anyone else.
“Fine, gotta be more peaceful than anywhere else in this friggin’ town, Gabe. Take me away before those bitchy females find me,” Johnny said as he climbed out of the trough.
Johnny sloshed across the street to the jail. Scott leaned against the building, his arms crossed, one raised leg against the building, a smirk on his face, greeted his water-logged little brother.
“Nice to see it’s just another peaceful, uneventful, relaxed day around you brother,” he said. “Don’t know how to explain this one to Murdoch. Oh wait...I don’t have to explain this one. This one is all yours, Johnny. Lucky for you that you didn’t do too much damage to the town this time. Looks like your rump got the worst of it. That’s somehow paradoxical.”
“Shut up Scott.” Johnny shoved opened the door to the jail. He bent down to remove his boots, dumping water from one onto the boardwalk.
“Cheer up Johnny; at least you know how to bust out of this jail since saw it being built, little brother.”
“Shut up Scott.”
“I’m just saying...”
“Well, I just saying, shut up, Scott unless you want ta tangle with me anymore, ya keep pushin’,” he held the other boot menacing in his hands trying to make-up his mind if it was worth it to dump the water over Scott’s head.
“I wouldn’t if I were you,” Scott pointed to the boot.
“Boys, boys, now let’s not have any more of this crap. Both of you inside. Scott shut the door and locked it. Don’t let anyone in here.”
“Gabe, am I under arrest?” asked Johnny.
Gabe sank into his chair, “Sit down while I mull that idea over.”
“I’ll stand if ya don’t mind.”
“What exactly happened back there?” asked Scott, pointing to the missing section of Johnny’s pants.
“Morissy was holdin’ a hot iron, backed into it.”
“Ouch, that must hurt like hell’s fires I’ll wager,” he winched as he got a look at the red mark across Johnny’s right cheek.
“Yeah Scott, now I know what it feels like ta be branded like a steer. Save your money, that’s a sucker’s bet. Of course it hurts like hell.”
Gabe listened to the brothers, “Johnny anything ever go uncomplicated for you, boy? How can anyone create the trouble you do in such a short period of time?”
“Ain’t my fault Gabe.”
“Johnny...Johnny...Johnny, any man alive will tell you, you can’t go around courting more than one gal at a time,” Gabe explained. “That’s just asking for trouble. This is entirely your fault.”
“Don’t see why not,” Johnny pouted, gently massaging his injury.
“You’re playing with fire that’s why not. Look what that got you, brother. A branded ass,” he looked closely at the burn. “Hope it doesn’t leave a mark.”
“Everything would have been fine and dandy, had Val kept his friggin’ mouth shut,” reasoned Johnny, not willing to give in. “It’s his fault those women got organized in the first place. Never would have happened if he hadn’t hurt his damn leg saving old Higgs from being robbed and letting that bastard Criswell take over Green River.”
Gabe rolled his eyes upward, seeking his own solution, prayed that the heavens would open up and delivery him from Johnny’s logic. “So really this is all Criswell’s fault?”
Johnny not giving in, smirked, “Yeah, his too.”
“Now I suppose I’m stuck keeping you and your brother inside until those screaming banshees go back to wherever the hell they belong. But I’m warning you Johnny, you step one foot outside this office until those “ladies” go home I’m rescinding your protected custody. Then you’re on your own. Got it?”
“Not good enough Johnny, say it full like.”
“All right, I got you, Gabe.”
“Good. Scott, same goes for you too.”
“If ya two don’t mind, I think I’ll go lay down, been a long day and hell it ain’t even noon yet.” He stripped off his wet shirt and hung it over the back of a chair, followed by his soaked socks. His boots he turned upside down to let the water finish draining, balancing them against the chair’s lower rungs.
“Shit Johnny, don’t stop now, take off those pants too. That cot is about the safest place you can be for now. How’s that burn?” chuckled Gabe.
“Smarts, like gettin’ stung by a wasp.”
“You’ll get no sympathy from me until you get stomped on by a herd of heifers. Tough it out for now. Later on when those females calm down I’ll see if Doc Hildenbrand’s in. If he is I’ll have him come tend to your ass and my side.”
“Ain’t this just great. Scott, I reckon this will delay us gettin’ home on time for supper. Murdoch’s gonna be pissed if ya don’t go get the supplies.”
“Me? Why me? That was your job, little brother, not mine. He’ll be ticked at you.”
“Ya heard Gabe, I can’t step outside of his office.”
“Reckon that leaves Gabe ta go fetch the supplies.”
“Now hold on fellas, I don’t mind you forting up in here. But my job is to protect and serve the community.”
“Ya point bein’ what? The way I see it, ya protectin’ us from those wild females. Now ya can serve us by gettin’ our supplies. We’re part of the community, too. Hell, didn’t we help build this jail? Don’t ya worry any, Scott and me we’ll hold your fort together.”
Gabe looked at Scott. Scott looked at Gabe.
Scott wondered how Gabe would circumvent Johnny’s logic on this one. Johnny was indeed right on one hand; Gabe’s job was to protect and to serve. There was nothing as far as he knew that detailed what the serving part entailed or didn’t. Scott sank his haunches onto Gabe’s desk, titled his Stetson back on his head, crossed his arms and looked puzzled, all except for the sly wink he gave Gabe with his one eye out of Johnny’s line of vision.
“You know Gabe, Johnny’s got a valid point. There aren’t any guidelines that I know of that explain just how you should go about serving the community in a situation like this.”
Gabe nodded at Scott then stared at Johnny, who grinned, thinking he had bested both Scott and the lawman.
“Ya see there, even Boston agrees with me,” smirked Johnny.
Playing along with Scott’s lead; Gage stroked his chin, pausing, pondering the situation. He opened his desk drawer to retrieve the razor strop, figuring that this was the path Scott had directed him to follow. Standing up he drew back his arm and gave his desk a solid whack, scattering papers every which way. Scott would later tell Murdoch that he felt the wind breeze by while the desk vibrated from the impact. It had taken him a great deal of poise not to flinch when Gabe brought that strop down a few times to vibrate the little office with the sound of cracking leather.
“Yep, Johnny, I do believe this will serve me just fine and dandy if you get out of line while I’m protecting you from those females you two-timed. Now you were saying...”
Johnny’s grin disappeared, “Nothin’, Gabe, I said nothin’. Just wonderin’ when this bad day in Spanish Wells will end, that’s all.” He limped off towards the cell and stretched belly down on the cot, promptly falling asleep to the sounds of Scott and Gabe chuckling.
Patti – February 23, 2010