A Little Conversation

By Rosalind 

500 Word Ficlet.


‘So where were you?’  Scott asked idly. He had been giving his brother a slightly droll description of his meeting, in Boston, with the Pinkerton agent who’s abrupt message had changed his life and it seemed like a logical question to ask at the end of it.  

He took a random flick at the ever-present flies that buzzed around his horses head.  Absorbed in the recurring pattern of the persistent insects he barely registered his brothers reaction to his casual query or noticed the rather grim look that crossed the younger mans face.

‘Where was I when? 

Scott blinked a bit at the icy tone but he was becoming accustomed to this strange and sometimes surly brother of his and decided to persist with what seemed to him,  a pretty harmless question, although he knew, by now, that Johnny did not like personal enquiries.

‘When your Pinkerton agent told that your –er—old man.’ Scott mouthed the epithet distastefully.  ‘Was willing to give you a thousand dollars for an hour of your time?’

‘Well now!’  He had been right.  Johnny did NOT like personal questions.  ‘Ain’t THAT a question?’ 

Scott reined in, his head cocked slightly to one side as his brother, who had dropped a few paces behind him, fetched up alongside and also brought his horse to a halt.

For a moment they simply sat, looking at each other: a pair of strangers who had discovered a family connection and were also discovering a lot more. 

Johnny broke the silence.

‘He didn’t tell you?’

‘If, by he, you mean Murdoch…’  Scott pushed his hat back on his head in exasperation, then almost without realising it,  pulled it forward again.  ‘When does HE  ever tell us anything—except what to do?’




‘Yeah.’  Johnny chewed at his lower lip.  Damn Scott and his questions—always so polite too—but he was learning that this ‘back-east dandy’ was, in his own quiet way, as determined to get his own way as anyone Johnny had ever met. 

It was, he was learning, easier to give a little than it was to resist a great deal. 

‘In trouble.’  He tried what a minimal response might do.

‘Surely not.’  Scott laughed.  ‘How many of ‘em was it this time?’

Johnny didn’t laugh. He would never truly forget that day.  He still had nightmares about it. 

Five of them—four of them in the firing squad and the fat el capitan, to shout the orders.  Glancing at Scott’s raised brows and hopeful gaze, he made the decision to throw it at him.

‘Five of them’.  He said it aloud this time. ‘Four of them in the firing squad—and El Capitan to shout the orders’.

The expression that crossed his brother’s face was almost funny in its dismay.  He certainly had not been expecting THAT one.

‘F-firing squad?’  Scott stammered.  ‘What—do you m-mean Johnny?’

Johnny tipped his hat back from his forehead.

‘It’s a long story.’ He said, in resigned tones.




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