*Includes the death of a major character.
white-haired man halted the rented buggy on the high bluff, overlooking
the great ranch below. As it had four years before, the white hacienda
majestically filled the valley landscape, secure in the midst of its snow-capped
peaks. Staring down for a long moment, the man put the horse into
motion once again. He had not come this far to see a house, even
one as impressive as Lancer. He had come to be with his grandson,
Scott, on this his 30th birthday.
down the road, Harlan Garrett shivered in spite of himself. Even
though it was December, the temperature was still comfortable, unlike Boston
which had already experienced frosty days and flakes of snow when he had
left over a month before. The long days of travel had taxed his body,
even allowing for short rest stops which he had taken in towns near the
railroad. As uncomfortable as the train had been, the stagecoach,
which had shaken his aging bones, had been worse. At times he would
despair of ever reaching his goal, but then he would take out a small photograph
from the breast pocket of his vest, stare at it for a moment, and go on.
along at a satisfying pace, the slightly-stooped man allowed himself a
measure of pride that he could still handle the reins. Garrett had
not had much opportunity to do so in the last few years, but he was a man
of determination. From his early days in Boston, Harlan Garrett had
worked hard under his father-in-law's guidance to make a name and reputation
for himself in business. Through his wife's influence, he had also
taken a place in society, succeeding in learning its intricacies.
A year after Harlan's marriage to Annabelle Preston, the two had been blessed with a daughter. If for one instant, Garrett had been disappointed at not having a male heir, the feeling had disappeared when he had taken the delicate girl into his arms for the first time. Her cloud of blonde curls and bewitching blue eyes touched his heart as no other person had ever done. After Garrett's wife had died, Catherine had become his whole world--until the day when a tall Scot had taken her to the far-off adventure of California.
two men, so different in appearance, had immediately taken account of each
other. These were men used to getting their own way. If Garrett
was the wealthier and had more prestige in Boston society, it was Lancer's
youth and untamed appeal which had caught the attention of Catherine Garrett.
Lancer's defiance of Harlan Garrett had only added to the allure of a new
life in a primitive land. Realizing that mere words would not penetrate
the cloud of rose-colored romance, Garrett had grudgingly allowed his daughter
to leave, not knowing he would only see her again on her deathbed, along
with the child who would become Catherine's legacy to her father.
That small babe with the blond hair and intense blue eyes had been the
only reason the ruthless businessman had been able to carry on. He
had fled in a haze of anguish, unable to see his beloved daughter laid
to rest in the cold ground.
months the old man had lived in apprehension that Murdoch Lancer would
appear at his doorstep to claim the most important person in Garrett's
life. As the years passed, he began to realize that would not happen.
It was obvious that Murdoch had more essential things in his life than
the burden of a child to take care of. He had possibly even married
again. Then on Scott's fifth birthday, the tall rancher had
shown up at the Garrett residence. Harlan could not understand why
the dour Scot had chosen to visit then. Had he waited until the boy
was at least at a more manageable age or did the rancher truly believe
that he could ignore his son for five years and then just walk into the
great mansion and Garrett would hand him over with his blessings?
Whatever it had been, Harlan had known that the man would have no stomach
for a fight. Murdoch had escaped, comforting himself in his self-righteousness
that he had tried to do the best for his son, only to be vanquished by
the power and money of Harlan Garrett. It was a myth that would last
for more than twenty years.
those intervening decades, war had come to tear apart the country and to
rip away Garrett's crusty facade. Just the thought of Scott's slender body
bleeding to death on some God-forsaken battlefield had driven the old man
to use every means within his power to stop the young man from leaving,
but in the end Harlan had known it was hopeless. Scott Lancer was
his grandson and the son of another stubborn man. How could the Bostonian
have expected any less? He had raised his heir with a sense of worth
and desire to succeed, but the boy had become his own man and would back
down to no one--just as Murdoch Lancer would not beg and his pride would
not bend, not even for his own son.
his own mistakes during his previous visit to Lancer had not come easy
to Harlan Garrett, but the thought that his act of desperation had almost
cost Scotty's life had been eye-opening. Once again, he had had to
recognize that his grandson belonged to no one but himself. The businessman
had returned to Boston determined to repair the damage that he had inadvertently
caused in his relationship with Scott. He would give his grandson
the time to discover for himself just what kind of man Murdoch Lancer truly
was. At that moment, Scott needed to believe that his father cared
about him. He didn't want to see Murdoch as a man who let pride stand
in the way of being with his sons.
that Murdoch Lancer had remarried and had sired another son had answered
one of Garrett's questions when it became evident that the rancher obviously
had needed an heir. Harlan couldn't help but wonder if Murdoch would even
have bothered to visit Boston if his second son had remained at Lancer.
carefully assessing the way Murdoch related to his sons, the white-haired
curmudgeon decided to test the tall man by referring to Johnny Madrid as
a "half-breed." As expected, the Lancer patriarch had said
nothing. There was room for only one passion in the rancher's life--Lancer.
No one--wife, child or friend--could ever replace that consuming obsession.
the events of four years before no longer troubled Harlan Garrett as only
one concern filled his mind on this December day. Relieved that he
had finally reached his destination, Harlan Garrett pulled the carriage
to a stop. He had taken great care to determine that the others would
not be around. This time his visit would be successful.
Entering, he found his grandson. It didn't seem possible that it had been thirty years since he had held that small blond baby for the first time. So much had happened in those three decades. Haltingly, Garrett confessed, "I brought you some presents for your birthday. I. . .I also wanted to make sure that you weren't alone today. Please understand why I have to do this. All the necessary arrangements have been made." Even though the words came out in a terse manner, they were heartfelt. Nothing mattered more to the old man than that he and his Scotty should be together again.
only for an instant, Garrett took out the two small presents and a sheet
of paper. "I had to know what happened, Scotty. The telegram
only stated. . .that you. . .that you. . . . Laying down the two
gifts with care, Harlan clutched the paper in his left hand. Looking down,
Harlan Garrett calmly announced, "It's time, Scotty. I love you."
shot echoed out over the small, sheltered field. Its report startled the
horse, which Garrett had already unhitched, sending him into a mad race
lifeless body dropped down onto the mound of brown earth, Harlan
Garrett's fingers released the crumpled paper which had so broken his heart upon its arrival. In concise words the Pinkerton agent had filled in the requested details:
This is the report that you asked for. After interviewing several witnesses, this is as accurate as I am able to determine. On December 28 of last year, Scott, Murdoch, and John Lancer arrived at the town of Trench Gap to secure the bodies of two men. While the two younger Lancers were making arrangements for the exhumation of the men, Murdoch Lancer rode out to the ranch belonging to Grange Parker. I do not know what was discussed, but the only ranch hand who would talk to me, said that Lancer and Parker almost came to blows.
older Lancer then rode back to town. An hour later after their wagon
had been loaded, the three men started towards the saloon, presumably to
have a drink, when a shot was fired at them. Lancer Senior grabbed
his younger son, forcing him to the ground. Another shot was fired
after which Murdoch and John Lancer jumped up and started firing back.
Then, they pursued the shooter. Unfortunately, they were unable to
track the person down.
Madrid returned to the scene of the shooting first where he found your
grandson lying in the middle of the street. When Mr. Lancer returned,
he discovered John holding Scott in his arms, trying to stop the bleeding.
According to one of the witnesses, Scott's last words were to his father.
To the best of my knowledge the words were 'Thanks for keeping your promise.'
Of course, I have no idea what that is in reference to. Please accept my condolences on the loss of your grandson. He was buried at Traveler's Rest Cemetery, next to a Miss Sarah Nicholson.
The single sheet was picked up by the wind which carried it east until it fell into a small, peaceful lake, sinking out of sight.
days later Johnny and Murdoch Lancer along with Teresa O'Brien returned
to the ranch. They had spent two weeks in San Francisco for Johnny's
twenty-seventh birthday, but were now quite happy to be home.
two young people had immediately headed to their rooms while the patriarch
sat down at his desk for a moment, riffling through the mail that had been
delivered. Picking up one of the envelopes, Murdoch puzzled at the
unfamiliar writing. At first, the words didn't register, but after
reading them for a second time, the lined face took on a contented look.
tall man just sat back in his chair for some time until a voice jarred
him back to reality. "Murdoch, you wanna come out and have some coffee
and cookies with Teresa and me?"
I'll be right out. . . .You know I've been thinking, Son. It's only three
days until a new year begins. What would you say about having a small party
here for New Year's Eve?"
would mean a lot of work."
but I have a feeling that 1875 is going to be a wonderful year for Lancer
so let's go consult Teresa. I feel like celebrating." Murdoch wrapped
his arm around the shorter man as together they headed into the kitchen.