The water cascaded around the rim of his
umbrella, creating a small waterfall through which he passively watched the
proceedings. The minister rambled on, but Scott Lancer was miles and years away.
As far back as he could remember, Peter
Sinclair had been there. They were both but four years old when they met, both
garnered as escorts for some silly children's ball. Scott's memories of the
occasion were dim, but he did remember the stiff and uncomfortable suits they
had been forced to wear. Perhaps it was their shared misery that had first drawn
them together. Whatever the reason, they had sought each other out and a
friendship that nothing had been able to destroy had been born that day.
Nothing, or no one, except Peter himself.
Their friendship had ever been a mainstay in
Scott Lancer's life, a life with very little else of closeness. He loved his
grandfather, but Harlan Garrett was a difficult man to get close to, inured by
time and circumstance. Peter had filled the hole left by Scott's absence of any
other family. They had grown up together, and their lives had become
inextricably bound as the years had brought shared experiences and mutual
The War had changed all that. In their naiveté,
they had gone into it with the legends of Arthur and Beowulf resounding in their
ears. At eighteen, they had both forced their charges' consent, afraid of
missing out on the glory. It hadn't taken long for the false veneer of grandeur
to be wiped away, and the true horror of war seen in all its gory detail.
Scott had returned emaciated from a year in
Libby prison, his sleep shattered by nightmares. But whatever he had seen had
obviously not compared to what Peter kept hidden behind the shell-shocked husk
of a man he had become. And whatever it had been, he had taken it to his
A wave of sorrow washed over Scott and it
took all his control to remain outwardly calm. For four years, Peter had cloaked
himself in forced joviality, obscuring the demons that were fighting for
possession of his soul. But Scott had known his friend too long and too well to
be fooled by the mask Peter had taken to wearing. He had tried to break through,
to force the truth from him, without success. He would never forgive himself for
not being there three days before when, alone and in despair, his friend had
finally lost his battle. Instead, it had been Peter's father who had found him,
his brains splattered against the bedroom window that overlooked the Sinclair's
Scott shivered, trying to dispel the gruesome
image. He wanted to remember Peter as he had been, when they had thought the
world was theirs for the taking. He tried to remember the last time they had
laughed together, one of those moments that had come further and further apart
when contentment reigned. The in-between times, before the pall of depression
would once again reclaim his friend. He wanted to hold onto a lifetime of joyous
memories. For twenty years they had been a part of each others lives. Now he was
The creak of straining wood brought his
attention back to the present. The casket was slowly being lowered, the gears of
the mechanism straining to keep it even is it slipped into the mud and pooling
water, settling in place. Scott flinched as the first handful of dirt hit,
splattering against the white burial box. He looked up to see Peter's father,
his face set in stony grief. Scott started toward him, but was stopped by the
glare of hate the man sent his way. Richard Sinclair would never forget who his
son had gone off to war with. Never forget, and never forgive. The older
man wiped his hands and turn away.
Scott waited until the crowd had dispersed
before approaching. He bent down and grabbed a handful of dirt, weighing it as
if to measure its worth. He raised it over the casket and slowly let it filter
through his fingers. He stepped back and with a last long look, left his friend
to his final resting place.
The carriage was waiting for him as he made
his way along the rows of headstones, each a marker of someone's grief. The rain
had slowed, but it was with heartfelt relief that Scott settled into the padded
seat and closed the door on the outside world.
Over the years, he and Peter had talked of
doing a variety of things...most of them unrealistic dreams of travel and
adventure. He rested his head against the back of the seat. What were the
chances of that now?
As for romance....
He clamped down on the hurt that sprang forth
every time he thought about his broken engagement. No man liked to be rejected,
especially in the rather brutal way Julie had done it. In the heat of anger, all
his failings, real and imagined, had been dissected, his life itemized and found
He remembered Peter's surprising reaction to
"You're better off, you know,"
Peter had declared in that slightly sardonic tone he used to such effectiveness.
"I still love her." Scott had sat
dejectedly in the windowseat of Peter's room, his friend propped up on his bed
as the two passed the rainy afternoon.
"No, you don't. You never did. She's not
for you, Scott, and if you'd quit trying to do what's 'right' all the time,
you'd see it, too. She just isn't good enough for you."
Scott smiled, affection coloring his words.
"The woman doesn't exist that you think is good enough for me."
"Yes, she does. You're just not going to
find her in the rarified air of Boston high society."
Peter had grabbed a pen and paper and
proceeded to list the qualifications of the mystery woman that would complete
Scott Lancer. Within minutes, he had had Scott almost in tears with laughter.
The carriage pulled up to the house and Scott
pushed aside his thoughts of his friend. The rain had finally stopped as he made
his way up the brick walkway of his grandfather's house.
"Scottie, is that you?"
Scott heard his grandfather call him from the
study as he let himself in, and was suddenly glad of the long ride from the
cemetery. It had helped clear some of the melancholy that had descended.
"Yes, Grandfather. It's me."
He took off his coat, hanging it on the rack
in the foyer, and went into the large room that his Grandfather used to do
business while at home. Harlan Garrett sat behind the massive desk that
dominated the study, buried in the books and ledgers of his trade. He looked up
as his grandson entered. "How did it go? Did Peter's father make an
Scott loosened his cravat as he flopped into
one of the over-stuffed chairs in front of the desk. "Yes, Mr. Sinclair was
there. He wouldn't talk to me, though. I'm afraid I'm too much of a reminder for
"You look tired. I'll have Martha bring
you some tea." Garrett picked up the small brass bell that sat on the desk
corner, ringing it furiously.
Within seconds a small middle-aged woman
appeared at the doorway. "You called, Mr. Garrett?"
"Yes, bring a fresh pot of tea...and
something for Scotty to eat." He looked at Scott. "You need to eat
more. You're too thin."
Scott pretended not to hear, turning instead
to address the woman. "Just some toast, Martha. I'm not really
"Yes, Master Scott." The woman
almost smiled, but then looked at her employer and merely dropped a swift curtsy
before leaving the room.
"You shouldn't encourage the woman,
Scottie. Never get too familiar with the help. It incites disobedience."
The younger man sighed and closed his eyes,
pretending, with silence, to agree. He let his thoughts drift back over the
unnumbered times his grandfather had found a way to turn a conversation to
somehow include Murdoch Lancer. Scott had never known his father. And that
ignorance had begun to fester over the last few years. Ever since returning from
the war, his body and spirit battered by the year spent in a Confederate prison,
he had found himself wondering about the man who had given him away.
The hate that had sustained him through
childhood had lost its power when confronted with the true horrors of what men
could, and did, do to one another. Now he had nothing to hold on to, nothing to
stop the wonderings that kept him awake at night. Who was Murdoch Lancer,
really? Why had the man abandoned him, not once coming to visit, or even write?
Not once showing any concern for his own son?
The soft clank of the serving tray on the
credenza pulled him back, and he opened his eyes to watch the woman pour him a
cup of tea. She walked over, the cup in one hand, a small plate of toast in the
Scott studied the script scrawled across the
envelope. Barbara Grayson's handwriting was unmistakable. She had what was
thought of as a flair for the dramatic. He opened it, the waft of perfume
"From the Grayson girl, I presume."
"Yes, she's having some sort of
fete." Scott continued to read, ignoring the look of interest on his
grandfather's face. "Her timing couldn't be worse." He put the letter
aside and picked up his tea. The warmth felt good on his hands.
"You're not going?"
"I just came back from my best friend's
funeral, Grandfather. I don't think a celebration would be the most appropriate
behavior on my part."
"You want this girl, Scottie?"
Scott looked at the older man in surprise.
"Don't looked so shocked, my boy. You're
a man of the world now. It's your due."
He continued to stare at his grandfather.
"Is it, Grandfather? I don't think Barbara's father would agree."
"The man's a fool. He thinks he has a
commodity to be sold...or traded. But that girl is a liability, one he needs to
rid himself of as soon as possible."
"Is that the way you see women? As
something to use, instead of someone to love?"
Harlan leaned forward, clasping his hands on
the desk. "That's the only way to see them. When you marry, you'll
see. It's not all candlelight and romance. Eventually, you have to come down out
of the clouds. When you do, you'll need someone who can help you socially,
someone you're not going to have to worry might embarrass you. Someone like
Scott took of a sip of his tea, gathering his
nerve. "And what of my mother?"
Scott doubted that. He knew from his own
experience how the chafing of the reins his grandfather held on him had only
caused him to rebel...more than once. And he had heard it all before, anyway.
Murdoch Lancer, the ogre from Scotland who Catherine had had the audacity to
love. He wasn't in the mood to hear it again.
He finished off his tea and rose. "I
need to freshen up, get out of these damp clothes. Maybe I'll go to this thing
after all." He picked up the invitation, tapping it against his hand.
"It might be interesting."
His grandfather only nodded his head and went
back to his work. Scott proceeded out and up the stairs to his room. He really
didn't want to go tonight. He knew Julie would be there, and after this morning
he felt vulnerable. His defenses were down, and there would be no one there to
watch his back, lend support when his mood faltered. He felt a welling of grief
as his loss came back to haunt him. He missed Peter.
Things were in full swing when Scott arrived.
He stepped out of the carriage, tipping the driver and adjusting his tie and
cape. He could hear music filtering out from the house. He walked up to the
entrance and the door swung open to him. The Grayson's butler took his cape and
hat, and he proceeded into the crowd that milled around the large ballroom to
the right of the entryway.
"Lancer! Surprised to see you
here." Leonard Grayson, Barbara's younger brother approached with his hand
Scott shook it and gave him a derisive smile.
"Couldn't miss out on your sister's latest extravaganza, now could I?"
Grayson laughed. "She never would have
forgiven you." He turned around to scan the crowd. "She's around here
somewhere; being the social butterfly as always, I'll warrant."
Scott grabbed a drink from a passing tray.
"I'll just mingle for now. I'm sure I'll run into her eventually."
"All right. Well, glad you could make
it. But I better make sure everything is going well. Certainly can't leave it up
With a wink the younger man moved off, and
Scott found himself slowly moving through the crowd, nursing his drink. He saw
Julie at a distance. She was surrounded by a group of admirers, and looked like
she was holding court. Don't go there. It's not her fault. He saw her
notice him, but he turned away, going in the opposite direction. Julie would be
solicitous, and the last thing he needed was to hear her commiserate over a man
she had never cared for.
He drifted from one person to another, and
the whole night seemed to pass in a haze. He answered questions properly, making
witty remarks and generally holding up his side of whatever conversation he
found himself in. In between dances he drank, and eventually the gaity he forced
himself to almost became real.
At the end of the night, he wasn't surprised to find himself in Barbara's boudoir.
She leaned over him, her studied attempt at
seduction almost amusing. He was hard, but knew that any satisfaction he got
tonight would be transitory. He didn't love her, perhaps, didn't even like her.
But he needed someone, something to remove the emptiness that threatened
to drown him. He set his drink aside and pulled her to him, the press of her
breasts against his body deepening his arousal.
The pounding at the door brought the woman
out of his arms. "My father!"
"Barbara, open the door!"
"My father. Please, my father." Her
panic growing, the young woman tugged at him, her worldly demeanor fleeing in
the face of her father's displeasure.
Scott quickly rose, heading for the balcony
and escape, but then turned and headed back into the room. "My cape."
"Hurry, hurry!" Barbara was
practically shoving him out of the room.
"Much as I hate to eat and run..."
He grabbed an apple from the bowl on a serving table and made for the balcony.
He swiftly leveled himself over the railing and dropped to the ground. He donned
his cape and hat and brushed himself off. Walking away from the house, he could
hear her father's tirade as he was finally admitted into the room. It sounded
like it was a well-traveled path for both of them.
He took on a nonchalance he was far from
feeling as he casually strolled onto the sidewalk, and began whistling softly.
Seconds later, he was confronted by a small man in a bowler hat.
"You're Scott Lancer?"
"And if I am?"
"The son of Murdoch Lancer?"
"So I'm told. Never met the gentleman
myself." He took the card the other man had pulled from his coat pocket,
scanning it absently.
"Walby's the name. Pinkerton office. We
"I haven't lost any. So as much as I've
enjoyed our little conversation...." He started to walk away.
"Your father wants to see you, and he's
willing to pay for it. All expenses paid to California and one thousand dollars
for one hour of your time," the man called out to him.
He stopped dead with a rush of adrenaline. He
didn't want this, didn't need it. But somehow he found himself turning back to
the man, afraid, but desperate to hear more.
The sun was starting to rise when he finally
arrived home. Four hours of walking the streets of Boston had done little to
sort out the conflicting feelings making a battlefield of his soul. Thankfully,
his grandfather wasn't up yet, so Scott was able to slip into the house and up
to his room without having to deal with the old man. Not yet, anyway. He had no
illusions as to the fight he would have on his hands if he decided to go to
The lamps remained off as he removed his tie,
unbuttoning the ruffled shirt and pulling it loose from his waistband. Sitting
on his bed, he pushed off his shoes and leaned back into the down comforter. He
was so tired, mentally as well as physically.
Why, of all times, did this new complication
have to come into his life? A week ago, he would have had Peter to help him deal
with this. His friend would have sat patiently listening to him as he argued the
pros and cons. After Scott had exhausting every angle, Peter would have cut to
the heart of the matter and then stood behind him no matter what his decision.
In his heart, he knew exactly what his friend would have asked him now. Do you
want to go?
Did he? As much as it scared him, the answer
was yes. All his life he had wondered how he had ended up where he had. His
grandfather had given him his side of the story. But there were gaps,
inconsistencies that he never dared question. Well, he was questioning them now.
He rolled over, facing away from the light starting to filter in through the sheer curtains. His eyes began to close, heavy with sleep. He felt better now, the decision made. But he knew the real battle was waiting for him downstairs. Harlan Garrett would not sit quietly by as his only grandson took himself off to the wilds of California. His last thought before sleep took him was that he hoped it would be well worth it.
Scott entered the dining room and headed
toward the buffet. The smell of bacon, eggs and a variety of other fare would
normally have had him grabbing a plate and digging in. But last night's
champagne had not sat well, and he was still trying to deal with the headache
that had taken up residence at the back of his head. He poured himself a cup of
coffee and went to sit next to his grandfather.
The old man was already finished, his own
coffee getting cold as he perused the morning paper. He looked up, studying his
grandson and the obviously disreputable figure he made. "I didn't hear you
come in." He pushed his paper aside, giving Scott his attention.
"It was late." Scott studied his
cup, blowing on the steaming liquid and then taking a sip.
"How was the party?" Garrett's
words were laced with a slightly libidinous undertone.
"I left early." Scott didn't look
up. "I had other things on my mind."
Garrett only stared at him. His grandfather
knew him too well. He knew there was more to it.
"I...I ran into someone. A Pinkerton
"Yes." He took a deep breath and
looked up at the old man. "He said my father sent him."
Scott had seen his grandfather mad, upset,
enraged. But he had never seen the look that passed over Garrett's face now.
Part fear, part obstinate determination, it boded ill for Scott's plans. But
instead of starting the familiar rantings against Murdoch Lancer, he surprised
the younger man by calmly leaning back, a thoughtful expression on his face.
"What does he want?" Garrett's
voice was studied, almost serene.
"He wants to talk to me. He's willing to
pay my way, plus a thousand dollars for my time."
"Are you going to go?"
"I think so." Scott's voice
lowered. "I think I should."
"I see. Tell me, Scottie," Garrett
leaned forward, his arms folded on the table. "Is there something I've not
given you, something missing from your life?"
"I...I don't know what you mean,
"I mean, is there something you're
looking for? That you feel you need to go thousands of miles to find? I'm sorry,
my boy. I thought I had done a better job of things. Apparently, I was
"No...that's not it. Not at all.
Grandfather, I..." He brought his hand up and rubbed his forehead. "I
just need to meet him, find out..." He trailed off, realizing he was only
getting in deeper.
"Find out what? Why he didn't want you?
Why he just washed his hands of you? Left you for me to raise? Do you honestly
think he's going to tell you?" Garrett's voice had remained calm, either
unaware or uncaring of what his words were doing to his grandson.
Scott leaned back, closing his eyes. "I
don't know. I just know I need to do this. Please, Grandfather, don't make it
more difficult than it already is." He opened his eyes and slowly rose, any
thought of a discussion over. "I'm going. Whether you understand it or not,
A quiet descended on the house, and Scott
wasn't sure if he was glad of it or not. This wasn't the reaction he had
expected from his grandfather, this guarded hurt and martyred continence. Anger,
surely, if not out and out rage. He didn't know how to deal with this, and so
found solace in retreat. The next day he bought his ticket and was going through
his things, deciding what would go and what would stay, when he was interrupted
by the quick rap on his door.
"Come in." He looked up. Martha
stood at the entrance, a small note in her hand. "What is it?"
The woman bit her lower lip before answering
. "It's from your grandfather's office. He's fallen ill."
Scott moved quickly over and grabbed the
note. "What happened? Where is he?"
The woman watched him with troubled eyes.
"They're bringing him home right now. The doctor's with him. The boy who
delivered the note said your grandfather was talking, wanted you to know he was
all right." She looked like she was having trouble saying the words.
"They say it might be his heart."
Scott let the note fall and dropped to sit on
the bed, his head in his hands. "This is my fault."
The woman frowned, her hand almost reaching
out to caress the bowed head. "I'm sure he'll be all right, Master Scott.
He's a strong man."
The maid's words made him look up sharply.
Not so much at what she had said, but the manner in which she had said them.
She twisted the kerchief clutched in her
hand, as if undecided whether to answer him or not. When she finally did, it
wasn't at all what Scott had expected to hear. "Your mother found him to
He studied her for a moment and then sat up
straight, pulling himself together. "Thank you, Martha. I'll be down
She nodded and started out. At the door, she
stopped and turned to him. "I'll make sure your grandfather's room is
"Yes." He stood up, only then noticing that the woman had not left. "Is there something else?"
Scott waited outside his grandfather's
bedroom, alternately pacing the hallway and sitting in the chair placed next to
the door. The doctor was still in there, supposedly making sure that Harlan
Garrett survived. Avery Lewis had been their family doctor for as long as Scott
could remember; had, in fact, delivered Scott's mother. If anyone could see the
old man through whatever this was, it was he.
The bedroom door quietly opened and a
stoop-shouldered gentleman walked out. If Harlan Garrett could be called
austere, this man was the personification of dignity. He handed Scott a piece of
paper while pulling his pocket watch out to check the time. "Make sure you
get this filled. Give him a dose every four hours for the next twenty-four.
After that...we'll see."
"Is it his heart?" Scott read the
prescription, and then looked back at the doctor.
"No, I don't believe so. More
like...stress. If he were a woman, I'd say hysteria."
Scott blinked. Hysterical was the last thing he'd apply to his grandfather. "I don't understand."
"Can I see him now?"
"Thank you, Dr. Lewis," Scott
absently answered, his attention already on the room before him. He let himself
in and sat next to the bed. He took his grandfather's hand, noticing the
manifestations of age for the first time. Death came for all of us, but he
couldn't imagine there not being a Harlan Garrett.
"Scottie?" The voice was whisper
"I'm fine, Scottie. Really. Just a
little over-worked, that's all. Stay awhile."
"A few minutes, then." Scott leaned
back in the chair. He had to admit, his grandfather didn't look sick. Martha's
odd remark came back to haunt him. Had the old man used deceit to hold his
daughter to him?
"Did you get your plans made?" Harlan
"For California; to see your father. I
wouldn't want to have upset anything."
"Don't worry about it, Sir. I can always
rebook." If this was a trick, it had worked. Scott couldn't see himself
leaving until he was sure one way or the other.
"Yes, well, I should be up in a day or
two. I can't leave the office for too long."
"All the more reason to rest then."
Scott got up and moved to the door. "I'll come sit with you after a while.
If you need anything, someone will be right outside the door, all right?"
A week later, Harlan Garrett sat outside on
the east veranda, watching busy Bostonians as they hurried along their mundane
chores. A book sat unread on the table, his only movement the picking up and
lowering of his cup as he drank his tea. He glanced back as his grandson walked
up to him and took the chair across the table.
"How are you doing this morning,
Grandfather?" Scott placed his hat and coat over one of the chairs and
carefully studied the older man.
"Much better, my boy. I feel almost good
enough to make an appearance at the office today. Care to join me?"
"No." Scott looked down at his
hands, locked together as he rested his arms on the table. "You seem to be
well enough. I thought I'd see about rescheduling my trip, go down to the train
station to see when I can leave."
"I see." The old man worried his
lip, his fingers scratching at his chin in contemplation.
"What if he wants you to stay?"
Scott shook his head. "Why would he want
that? He's never shown any interest before. No, Grandfather. Whatever Murdoch
Lancer wants, his son in his life is probably not it."
Scott watched as his grandfather shuffled in.
As the days had gone by, he had become more and more sure that the illness had
been a ruse. He wished he knew for sure though. If something were to happen
while he was gone he'd never forgive himself. Scott grimaced. That was probably
the response the old man had counted on.
He had browbeaten the old clerk to let him
see his file, going through the papers to find some means of balancing their
power; anything he could use as leverage to loosen the grip Harlan Garrett had
over his life. To his surprise he had found a second birth certificate,
predating the one his grandfather had filed by several weeks. The good people of
Carterville had forwarded the one made out by the midwife who had seen to his
mother. Blazoned across it was his true name. Scott had used it to force their
lawyer to have his name changed to show Lancer on all legal documents. He had
been fourteen at the time.
For months after his grandfather had badgered
at him, trying to force him to change it back. Threats, bribes, punishments;
nothing had worked. For the first fourteen years of his life he had been known
as Scott Garrett. From that day forward he refused to answer to anything but
Scott Lancer. It would be the first of many battles of will fought between them.
Scott prayed that this one would be the last.
At first he hurried, in a rush to reach his
destination. But eventually he slowed his stride, taking in the sights and
sounds of his home for the last twenty-four years. He contemplated the dwellings
as he walked past, wondering how different things would be at his father's
house. California was almost like the other side of the moon, strange and
unknown. He didn't even know what his father looked like, much less what kind of
home the man had made for himself a continent away.
A few blocks further into his walk, he
faltered to a stop. On the left sat the Sinclair home. The windows were still
draped in black, and the house was a brooding edifice, the door draped with
wilted flowers. He thought about just continuing past. Peter's father had made
it perfectly clear that he would not be welcomed. But if he was truly leaving,
this was one place he needed to say his goodbye to.
Crossing the street, he opened the front gate
and walked up to the porch. He stopped at the bottom of the steps and vividly
recalled one particular time they had played here along the vines and rosebushes
that served to block the porch from the view of passersby. He and Peter had
known each other a few years by then, and the bonds of friendship had grown
strong. There had been a light drizzle, but for two small boys it had been of no
consequence. He remembered getting in trouble for coming home caked in mud, the
outcome of his and his friend's day of "sailing the Main." He smiled
at the large oak that had stood as crow's nest for their very own pirate's ship.
Sword fights with gladiolas pulled from the garden had deteriorated into a
wrestling match in the fine topsoil lovingly tended by the Sinclair's gardener.
He closed his eyes to stop the tears that
threatened. So many memories, so much left unsaid, undone, in their rush to
manhood. Why, Peter? Why?
A soft cough broke his reverie, and he turned
to see Peter's mother standing at the open doorway.
"Did you want to come in?" She
pushed open the screen door, welcoming him.
"I don't know if I should. Your
"Is not home. Please, Scott, I'd like to
talk to you."
He nodded and made his way up the steps and into the house. It was dark as he entered, but when she led him into the drawing room he realized that this part, at least, had been allowed to rejoin the living. The windows were uncovered and the doors thrown open to catch the morning breeze.
"What it is?" He studied it, an
intricately carved wooden box with a hinged top. It had scars on every side, the
signs of rough or ill-use.
"It was Peter's mystery box."
Scott almost dropped it as the years pulled
back and he was suddenly twelve years old. He and Peter had been out foraging,
looking for who-knows-what in the deserted house that had stood at the end of
the street. The owner had died a few years before and had left no will. Breaking
one of the study windows, they had pried it open and scurried in.
They felt like they were in an ancient
temple. The man had been a collector of antiquities, and much was still left to
be guarded by the stray cats and field mice that were making a home here. Clouds
had gathered, darkening the interior even more, and the wind had continually
blown through, making the house creak like a thing haunted. They hadn't been
afraid, not exactly. But an excitement had thrilled through them at the idea of
doing the forbidden. One of the things taken away with them was a box Peter had
claimed for his own.
"Open it," she gently prodded.
With trembling hands Scott opened the box.
Inside was an assortment of trinkets Peter had gathered over the years. Most of
them Scott recognized. A railroad spike found as they played along the rails;
the old medal Peter's grandfather had received during the war of 1812. He gently
searched through the mementos until he touched a faded and torn blue ribbon.
Scott had won it at a school meet. He didn't
remember the particulars. What he did remember was that Peter had been unable to
keep up. Scott had shot passed all the rest, easily winning. But crossing the
finish line, he had turned to see his friend barely making the last turn, trying
desperately to finish the race.
They had laughed about it later. But something in Scott had known that, for his friend, it was a portent of things to come. He had insisted on Peter keeping the ribbon. What Scott had refused to see, had defiantly resisted on that day and through the passing years, was that he and his beloved friend were not equals. Not in intelligence, not in stamina, and most importantly, not in the willpower that would carry Scott through the triumphs and tragedies of his own life.
He felt a sob tear loose and he tried to
stand, to run from this truth he didn't want. But Peter's mother had always
known, and with all the love she had held for her son and for the young man who
had stood at his side, she rose and pulled Scott into her arms, holding on as
the last of his delusions were pulled away and his grief broke free.
It was almost sunset when Scott found
himself, having made full circle, entering his home once again. It looked
different somehow. He was different. The catharsis of bereavement had changed
him in ways still unknown.
He turned into the study, knowing his
grandfather would be waiting. The lights were turned low as he took the seat
across from the older man. Harlan Garrett's back was to him, as if lost in
"I'll be leaving in two days."
"There's nothing that will change your
mind, is there?"
"No, Grandfather. Nothing can change my
mind." He rose and proceeded to the door, stopping when Garrett called his
"He'll only break your heart. You know
that don't you?"
Taking the stairs two at a time, he hurried
into his room. Suddenly, life seemed to hold infinite possibilities. The last
hold had been cut, because there was one area where Peter Sinclair had been an
absolute success. No man could have asked for a better friend. For left within
the box, among the collection of childhood's reminders, had been a letter Scott
had written to him years before.
Fifteen years old, and banished to an elite
boarding school in upstate New York, Scott had poured out his misery to the only
one who cared to listen. He had vowed that someday the two of them would take
off for places unknown, and brave the wilds of a new world. When Scott had
finally returned home, Peter had made him promise that, one day, they would do
Now, it was time. He would make the trip
alone, but he would make it for the both of them.
The long days of his voyage gave Scott plenty
of time to think. To go over his life as it had been, and what it might become.
He realized that, of all the people and places of his home, the one thing he
would miss most of all was the one thing he no longer had.
Life was so short. But if one was very lucky,
a few were found to make the journey with, those comrades of the soul who
enhanced the trip. Peter had been such a one for Scott. For all his failings, he
had filled an essential role. Scott only hoped that someday he would meet
He was on the last leg of his trip, his heart
pounding though he showed a mask of nonchalance to the world. The stagecoach was
dusty and hot, and when it stopped to let aboard a passing wayfarer, Scott
grimaced in annoyance. The young man falling on him as the coach lurched forward
didn't help matters.
"Didn't mean to mess up your
outfit." The dark-haired passenger gave him a smile tinged with ridicule.
"Can't be helped," Scott answered.
He settled back, ignoring the look. Shortly after crossing the Mississippi he
had grown used to it. The grey suit and bowler hat were out of place in this
They finally made the small town of Moro Coyo,
though Scott felt that "town" was carrying things a bit far. The
stagecoach unloaded and Scott stepped out behind the young cowboy.
"Mr. Lancer?" A young girl
approached, her manner hesitant.
"I'm sorry, which one of you said-"
The girl tried to get their attention.
"I did," they said in unison. They
had both turned to the girl but then looked back at each other in annoyed
"You're Johnny?" Their interrogator
"Then you're Scott Lancer." She
pointed at Scott.
"No Ma'am, he's no Lancer. My mother
only had one kid," the other man interjected.
"Likewise." Scott gave him a cold
stare, his excitement dampened by irritation.
"Oh, well, we didn't expect you both at
the same time. But...but actually, you're right. It's Mr. Lancer who had
"Two what?" Scott asked. The girl
was talking in riddles.
Scott turned to really look at the stranger
behind him, the young man's face lit with an amused smile. Wariness fought with
a dawning foretoken of promise. He had a brother.